This is a piece I wrote some years ago now while still practicing Karate alongside Tai Chi – which I did for at least 10 years – and it was actually the way that Tai Chi added to my Karate and was a major contributing factor in my 4th Dan grading that ultimately convinced me to focus exclusively on Chen style Tai Chi. Looking back I find my thinking on this is still much the same – but with the complication that few people understand just how very effective Tai Chi can be as a martial art whereas many people have some understanding of it as an alternative health activity – it is thus much more acceptable socially to practice Tai Chi. In that sense Tai Chi even more than Karate encapsulates the paradox I describe – I would pose one question in addition ” Why would a long term committed martial artist switch styles apparently so fundamentally?”
So to the piece –
As a 4th Dan Shotokan and a Tai Chi practitioner, I am intrigued by the unusual position of martial arts in society and the ambivalent view that people often take of activities such as Karate.
This is exemplified by the response “Oh if you do Karate, I’d better be careful what I say.” Generally voiced with a degree of respect and humour, but clearly a lack of understanding.
Like it or not the serious martial artist (and certainly in my experience most senior grades are serious people) is looked at rather sideways by society at large. Indeed often also by our own students until they have progressed and gained a measure of understanding.
Since I believe that martial arts and associated activities have a great deal to offer people at many levels, I should like to address this issue in a general way.
For me these unusual aspects of martial arts were highlighted when I went with my daughter to an archery club, where we had six weekly introductory coaching sessions.
For the first time in many years I was able to compare my own experience as a student in a martial arts class and was surprised how used I had become to a high level of care and detailed instruction.