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"Ideally, your self-defense will never get physical. Avoiding the situation and running or talking you way out - either of these is a higher order of strategy than winning a physical battle." - Wise Words of Rory Miller, Facing Violence: Chapter 7: after, subparagraph 7.1:medical

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Isn't Karate Supposed to be Fun?

Fun, FUN, karate don't got to give no stinkin fun!
I recently read the following quote, "The main emphasis is on having fun while getting fit, strong and learning practical self defence," and had to give this some thought whereby the above question/title occurred.

I really don't feel a classical/traditional form of karate-justu-do is supposed to be "fun." I would allow that for me the entire process has been the most enjoyable and beneficial endeavor ever - for me, but not strictly "fun."

When I think of fun I think of those times running and swimming at the beach, the diving and swimming at my favorite swimming hole or the time I sat on an old log with my cane pole dipping into calm waters striving to catch catfish.

Even if I turned this toward say basketball. Yes, you can have fun with that sport or you can enjoy that sport or you can not have fun and spend the time, effort and determination in becoming the best basketball player ever which I can say may involve some fun but more hard sweaty not so much fun "work."

My practice inspires me, it helps me to grow and it provides some periodic enjoyment - fun, it is not fun.


  1. During the seminar with Iain Abernethy last month, he mentioned the reasons that people study martial arts. Different people have different reasons for wanting to study Martial Arts. Abernethy then listed three general reasons why (or contexts in which) to study Martial Arts, and how they can be used.

    1) As a Martial Art - I do this because I like, I think its fun,, it makes me feel good, I do it for the sake of the art and because I enjoy it.

    2) For Fighting to a Conclusion - This can include both monkey dancing/bar fighting type stuff and sport context such as sparring. It is a fight that I agree to have, and is fought to a conclusion.

    3) Self Defense - I do NOT agree to have this fight and I will do anything in my power and use all my training to fight to escape and survive.

    Abernethy went on to point out that it is even ok to use all these contexts in the dojo at different times. If your students are in fight or flight, I must escape or die mode all the time, its not good for them. Likewise if you only practice in a sparring context, you do not learn the real self defense aspect of it. Finally, if there is no enjoyment to be had out of anything you are doing in the dojo, people are not likely to come back.

    Its ok to goof around some days and work on things like throws that are pretty, but not very functional outside of the Martial Arts context. There will also be classes where you sweat and you work hard and hold your stances till your muscles burn and your legs shake. Which for some people is not fun. Personally, I enjoy the challenge, I like feeling like I worked hard and accomplished something. So I have to disagree when you say that you cannot have fun at the same time you put the time, effort and determination necessary to become the best. Yes its a lot of hard work; its blood, sweat and tears. But I really genuinely enjoy it, for me, it IS fun. Which is not to say that my practice and work can't inspire me, or help me grow, because I think it does, just that I happen to find it fun and enjoyable more often than not.

    Finally, I would like to state that, in the world today, there are very few people who will seek something out and do it for the sake of doing it. Even if Karate isn't fun, or shouldn't be fun, or was traditionally meant to be fun, I think that schools use those kind of marketing tactics because they have to. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. The general populous is going to respond better to "Come get in shape, learn self defense and have fun doing it!" then they will to "Come work your ass off, practice kata till you drop and punch the makiwara till your knuckles bleed!"

  2. SG, you make some excellent points, thanks for the feedback :-)

  3. Taking this a bit to the end of the spectrum it occurs to me that to take a martial practice and to make it fun initiates a mind-set that could be a detriment to self defense.

    Since my views are mostly on making it work in real-world fights, threats and assaults - to name but a few - it would go that my posts such as this might seem to most as a bit to far.