In the original Karate Kid movie Pat Morita says to Ralph Macchio that “Karate for defense only”. It is a long regarded principle that despite training to defend oneself, one should never use the Arts for attack. But must the Martial Artist wait to be struck or physically attacked to defend him or herself? The answer to this question is not as simple as it appears. Let me explain. The true Martial Artist who lives a life of benevolence and follows the Code of Bushido never will use the Arts, for offensive aggression. Any Martial Artist who believes in the Code will walk away from any and every confrontation if it is possible to walk away without being injured. There is no ego here. He or she derives no pleasure from hurting anyone and would certainly never argue or fight over a parking spot for example.
So if that’s the case, when would it be considered reasonable to “strike first” and why would a Martial Artist react in that manner? In answer to the first question, it is considered reasonable to strike first if the belief is that there is no way to avoid the confrontation. For example if someone approaches and demands money and the belief is that you could be hurt if you don’t act, then strike first. Protecting one’s safety and the safety of one’s loved ones, must always take precedent over injuring or killing the aggressor. Please note, a push or a punch never justifies unjustifiable force. But Martial Artists are not average citizens. We train our senses as much as our bodies. Being aware of one’s surroundings is as important as knowing a Judo throw or a rear mule kick. Very often, acute awareness is the first, best defense. Many conflicts can be avoided by avoiding a potentially unsafe situation.
In answer to the second question, the reason for striking first other than the obvious, is to avoid being a victim. So many things happen physiologically when a victim as opposed to being in control of a confrontation. For example, when confronted by an attacker, or danger in general, the human beings’ heart rate quickly elevates. He or she undergoes an adrenalin dump. Tunnel vision results. All of these are our natural animalistic responses to danger. But they don’t necessarily aid you in your defense. In fact, they can be highly detrimental causing you to freeze. It could cause even a trained fighter to not fight well. However, when confronting danger and attacking first, all of those responses can be limited or avoided because you are no longer in danger but neutralizing a potentially dangerous situation before it occurs. Attacking is far more effective because you are forcing the aggressor to answer what you put out there. And if well-trained, the conflict ends quickly, without seriously injury or worse, killing the attacker. In fact, one might say it’s incumbent upon the Martial Artist to act this way. Therefore the use of force or aggression in a defensive situation has merit and is in fact warranted.