I get asked this question occasionally. This is an important question to ask though I must confess, I hate to answer it sometimes. As an adult you never want to advocate violence, but at the same time you don’t want any child to get hurt in any way. This is a question that needs answered, so I will answer it twice – once for kids, and once for adults.
I tell kids that if they encounter someone who is picking on them or someone who cannot defend themselves when they are at school, they should follow these steps:
1. Tell a teacher.
2. Tell the school counselor.
3. Tell the principal.
4. Tell your parents.
If nothing happens then the child needs to ask the parents to contact the school system to look into it. If the trouble still does not stop, then, and only then is it okay for them to use their Karate.
I also tell children that these guidelines can be skipped if it is a situation where the attacks are of a physical nature, and they cannot get away. To physically fight is the LAST resort. I would never want a child to stand there and let himself get beat up. I would want the child to fight back if he absolutely had too.
Adults are a bit different. I believe it is okay for adults to use Karate when all other choices have failed – period. Adults have more to lose than kids. They must consider and weigh-out the consequences. Adults can go to jail, or worse, for assault and battery.
Adults should be aware of their surroundings at all times. If you feel that you are in a place where trouble may arise, get out of that place if you don’t need to be there. If you cannot leave quickly, then remember that it is always best to be respectful to everyone. That may not stop bad things from happening to you, but it surely won’t make the situation worse.
If someone were to become physically violent with you and you cannot talk your way out or get away, then it is okay to use Karate. If someone is in need of help due to physical violence, then it is okay to use Karate. Basically it is okay to use Karate when protecting yourself or someone else who may not be able to protect themselves. Please remember that it would be much better if you had at least one witness to state that you tried to get away or reason with your attacker.
If someone pulls a weapon on you, odds are they will not use it and you should do as they say. Life is too precious to throw away. However if you feel convinced that they will use it, then you must remain calm and wait for your chance to act. That chance will come, and when it does you must not hesitate to take it. Not too many people can stare anyone down for a long period of time. Everyone blinks, and everyone looks away in conversation. These may be your only chances to act. These moments may occur in less than a second, so it is important to be prepared.
A helpful hint for adults and children alike is to stand tall with your head up high. Walk with confidence. Aggressors will be less likely to pick you as a target. If you walk with your head down and shoulders slumped forward, you may come across as someone who is not very confident. You may present yourself as an easy target.
In conclusion, we learn Karate in the hope that we won’t have to use it, but we are ready to defend ourselves and others when left with no other reasonable option. As the Kenpo Creed states, “I come to you with only Karate, my empty hands. I have no weapons, but should I be forced to defend myself, my principles, or my honor, should it be a matter or life or death, of right or wrong, then here are my weapons, Karate, my empty hands.”