Sunday, August 9, 2015

Should Women Take Karate?

"Japanese Bridge" original sketch - copyright by D. Hausel

Yes, all women should take karate! Why?

Some people attend local gyms to access aerobic kick boxing classes. These are nothing more than aerobic classes that don't provide much insight into self-defense - they burn a few calories, but not much more. While teaching at Gold's Gym in Mesa, Arizona, one karate instructor was asked to take over a kick boxing class, which he did out of curiosity. After talking to the women in the class, they were surprised to find they could not defend themselves with that kind of training.

For aerobic value, examine a table of calories burned verses types of martial arts activities: it is interesting that kick boxing not only does not come close to self-defense effectiveness of karate, but it also burns less than half the calories. If you need a calculator for calories & exercise, we found one on the Internet. This gives a general idea of the energy burned during martial arts training, but is so generalized that the calculator does not differentiate between different types of martial arts. For example, if you train in tai chi, you stretch your muscles slowly, but don't expect to burn many calories. Tai Chi is nothing like the 'hard' systems of martial arts such as karate or judo. But when it comes down to self-defense, karate in many cases is the best choice for a woman who wants to learn self-defense and burn calories.

Why would anyone learn karate? Karate has many health benefits and provides a person with personal self-defense. For example, translated from Japanese, "Kara te" means "Empty hand"and one interpretation of empty hand is a method of self-defense using no weapons - in other words, this is a personal form of self-defense. 

Why not just carry pepper spray? This is not a bad idea, but what happens when you are attacked on the beach wearing a bathing suit, or attacked without warning and can't get to your bottle of spray fast enough. Most serious attacks occur without warning!

White crane kung fu (copyright sketch by D. Hausel)
Recently, Grandmaster Hausel at the Arizona Hombu taught a self-defense clinic for a group of women organized by one of his female engineering students. Amanda was concerned for her friends' safety. In particular, one of her best friends jogs at night after work and was recently mugged while jogging. She had a bottle of pepper spray, but never took it jogging with her because she indicated that it got in the way! The nice thing about karate is that you always take it with you!

White Crane martial arts (copyright sketch
by D. Hausel).
All women should take karate and kobudo and all public schools should be required to teach karate and kobudo! These are traditional martial arts that teach discipline, honor, physical fitness and self-defense. Wouldn't it be nice to see kids today with manners?

Kobudo can be a valuable as karate as it teaches how to use tools at hand as weapons - such as car keys, coins, rocks, etc. Recently, a clinic taught a group of librarians in Chandler, Arizona how to use hands, feet, elbows, knees, staplers, paper weights, credit cards, coins and even books for self-defense! Unfortunately, only a few karate instructors are educated in kobudo even though kobudo was created before karate and eventually became part of every karate system until after World War II. Only in the last 50 to 70 years has most Japanese, American and European karate schools avoided kobudo probably because of complexities - but it is nothing more than an extension of karate and uses the same stances, blocks, strikes, etc.

If we were all equally armed, there would likely be fewer attacks on the street. I am reminded of a couple of thugs who recently tried to rob an Internet cafe in Florida. One thug carried a gun, the other a baseball bat when they ran into a 71-year old senior citizen who ruined their day.

One of several ways to use car keys for protection. Note the
leather strap attached to the keys - this is also used in a variety
of ways for self-defense - such as a Japanese weapon known
as kubotan or kusari fundo. It can also be used like an
Okinawan nunchaku if you are experienced.
So what happens when you take your first karate class? Karate classes are as different as gyms. Each instructor (known as a sensei in Japanese, or sifu in Chinese) has their own idea on how to teach, but most important is experience. Look for someone with evidence of good credentials (look at their diplomas on the wall of the school) and search the Internet for evidence of a resume. It is likely more than 50% of martial arts instructors with commercial schools have no certification, no history, and are self-appointed. We've heard from some legitimate martial arts associations that as many as 80% are not certified. SO INVESTIGATE the INSTRUCTOR.

When you first start karate, you will likely learn how to tie your belt (obi in Japanese) and put on a karate uniform (known as gi in Japanese). Then you will learn how to stand and move. Then your instructor will start you on blocking, punching and kicking. If it is a traditional (an original form) martial art, you will likely learn to bow, when to bow, etc., and then you will start learning kata. If you are shy, first watch a class at a local dojo (karate school), take a friend, your mother, daughter or grandmother and decide if it's for you. And when you start, try to begin an affirmation that you will train for the rest of your life - for health and self-defense. Often, people start, set a minor goal, and then quit. To keep karate effective, one must always practice, no matter what rank you earn.

Kata are liken to Asian dance forms in that they have set patterns designed to teach muscle memory. And if you have a good instructor, you will learn to use every single movement in kata for self-defense (these are known as bunkai in Japanese).

White Crane karate can be beautiful as well as deadly. The
rare art mimics movements of the white crane. Dr. Teule
and Sensei Martin train in White Crane at the University of
Wyoming.
As you search for a school, look for either (1) Sport Karate or (2) Traditional Karate. Sport karate focuses on tournaments while traditional karate focuses on the individual and self-defense. Some schools declare themselves as traditional, but take part in tournaments. A true, traditional karate school will not because tournaments are a recent invention. 

There is a long history of women in martial arts. One of the more powerful forms of Chinese kung fu was developed by a lady who watched the movements of white cranes. Her style became known as Fujian kung fu. This style was later picked up by some Okinawan students who converted it to Hakutsuru karate (White Crane Karate) which has been incorporated into many Shorin-Ryu styles of karate.
Professor of Martial Artrs, Soke Hausel, Hall-of Fame Grandmaster of Shorin-Ryu Karate teaches White Crane Karate at the University of Wyoming. Professor Hausel also taught similar arts at Arizona State University, University of New Mexico and University of Utah, and now teaches at the Arizona Hombu in Mesa, Arizona.