The Baseball Bat Parable

Hidden truths about karate.
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The Baseball Bat Parable

Postby HanshiClayton » Thu Feb 05, 2009 6:14 pm

This one gets deep, and it might upset you pretty badly.

Here's a mind game for you to try out. It may put you in touch with something important about your karate.

    Imagine that you are working late one evening. You need to get ahead on your work because you have to appear in court as a witness the next day. You're going to testify against a gang member who shot someone right in front of you at a restaurant. You aren't looking forward to it, but it is your duty.

    You lock up the office and walk out into the parking lot. The lot is almost empty. Your car is at the far end. There's a battered pickup truck parked off to the side.

    Suddenly you notice two men standing in the shadows next to your car. They start walking toward you. One of them, you can see, is the brother of the man on trial.

    You wisely decide to go back inside, but as you turn around, two more men materialize out of the darkness behind you. They step into your path, cutting you off from the office.

    The men close in slowly, savoring your fear. You back up a step at a time, until you bump into the side of the old pickup truck. There is no place to run.

At this point, ask yourself this question: How do you feel about this situation? Most people would agree that it is pretty frightening.

    Looking around for a way out, your eye falls on something in the bed of the pickup. It is a baseball bat, just inches away from your hand.

How do you feel about finding the bat? Are you relieved? Would you grab the bat and use it? Most people would.

Here's the problem. Traditional karate is the martial art that turns your body into a weapon. It makes your hands as deadly as swords. A person who has truly walked this path doesn't need the baseball bat. The bat is no deadlier than his hands, and it is a great deal slower.

If you eagerly seized the bat and swung it at the gang members, something is wrong with your karate. You have not achieved confidence in your art. You don't believe that you can kill with your bare hands. If you don't believe it, then you probably haven't learned to do it.

You can't reach that level by punching the air and practicing dance steps. You have to study your basic principles with grim determination, and then use them to strike heavier and heavier blows until you know what you can do with your hands.

When you achieve that level, the only reason you would pick up the bat would be to throw it out of reach. No sense letting the bad guys use it.

There is one other alternative, which is a part of karate's historical tradition. You could pick up the bat and walk over to face the gang leader. Drop the bat at his feet.

"Pick it up," you say. "You're going to need it."

If you are the guy who doesn't need the bat, you know what comes next. If you don't know, then your aren't that guy.
Bruce D. Clayton, Ph.D.
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