Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Karate—The Sport of Thugs? by JL Merrow

Here’s one of my favourite uniforms: the black belt is definitely not optional!

It’s not, of course, the way a karate suit, or gi, looks—even I would have to admit that, far from being an outfit to strike fear into the heart of one’s enemies, it’s more reminiscent of something you might wear at a spa.  It’s all to do with what it signifies—the black belt most of all.

To be trained in karate is something because karate is a vicious thing. If you are any good at it, you can kill somebody with it. It is a vicious way to fight. ~Thomas Foran



The ultimate aim of Karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants. ~ Gichin Funakoshi

So what is karate?  Tuition in mindless thuggery, or zen-like character building?

In my latest novel, Hard Tail, my hero Tim’s hobby is karate. He’s a very new black belt—in fact the belt itself still has folds in it from where it was in the packet—and he’d be the first to admit he hasn’t quite mastered the perfecting-the-character bit.  However, he’s streets ahead of the sparring opponent he meets when he moves down to Totton, a rather aggressive fellow known unaffectionately as “Pit-Bull”.

The thing about karate is that it attracts all sorts.  You get a lot of people who want to learn a bit of self-defence. There are kids who’ve been bullied at school, and whose parents want them to gain a bit of physical confidence. Karate is very good for that.

And then there are the men (and it usually is men) who just like to hit people. They’re rarer than you’d think, but Pit-Bull is one of these.  I knew a Pit-Bull at a class I used to train at. As Tim says,

They’re the ones who, when they go through their basics, give it 100 per cent power all the time. They punch the air like it just mugged their granny, and when they kiai you need earplugs to avoid permanent damage to your hearing. Their gis are stained with sweat and pulling at the seams over steroid-enhanced muscles. They tend not to be black belts, because a key requirement for passing your black belt is the possession of control.

I used to hate sparring with this guy, when he was a brown belt. But you know what? Since he got his black belt, he’s been a different person. The chip’s gone from his shoulder, and he no longer acts like he’s got something to prove.

That’s the thing about karate. If you stick with it long enough, it ends up teaching you how NOT to fight.

***

What do you see when you look at someone in a karate suit? A confident, tough guy? Or a prat prancing around in pyjamas?

And if the latter—would you dare to say so to his face? ;)

***

JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea.  She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again.  Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.

She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and the paranormal, and is frequently accused of humour. 

Find JL Merrow online at: www.jlmerrow.com

All commenters will be entered into a draw for winner’s choice of an e-book from my backlist, PLUS a gift certificate for $25 from Amazon (or the e-book retailer of your choice). The more blog tour posts you comment on, the more chances you get!  See my website here for full itinerary.

Finding love can be a bumpy ride.

His job: downsized out of existence. His marriage: dead in the water. It doesn’t take a lot of arm twisting for Tim Knight to agree to get out of London and take over his injured brother’s mountain bike shop for a while. A few weeks in Southampton is a welcome break from the wreck his life has become, even though he feels like a fish out of water in this brave new world of outdoor sports and unfamiliar technical jargon.

The young man who falls—literally—through the door of the shop brings everything into sharp, unexpected focus. Tim barely accepts he’s even in the closet until his attraction to Matt Berridge pulls him close enough to touch the doorknob.

There’s only one problem with the loveable klutz: his bullying boyfriend. Tim is convinced Steve is the cause of the bruises that Matt blows off as part of his risky sport. But rising to the defense of the man he’s beginning to love means coming to terms with who he is—in public—in a battle not even his black belt prepared him to fight. Until now.

Product Warnings: Contains an out-and-proud klutz, a closeted, karate-loving accountant—and a cat who thinks it’s all about him. Watch for a cameo appearance from the Pricks and Pragmatism lovers. May inspire yearnings for fresh air, exercise, and a fit, tanned bike mechanic of your very own.

Hard Tail is available from Samhain Publishing at a reduced price for a limited time only.

* * *

Links: my website: http://www.jlmerrow.com/

26 comments:

  1. Not had much to do with Karate but I suppose i think any practicioner would be focused and controlled, and I'm not sure why, but trustworthy too - probably to do with committment levels to get all the way to a black belt but i suppose there are not so good people alonf with the good ones in eveerything!
    Rambling a bit today.
    Suze
    Littlesuze@hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes, it takes a lot of commitment to get to black belt, and you really do notice a difference in people when they get to that level. :)
    Thanks for commenting!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Looks like an awesome story. I flunked out of karate after getting my yellow belt so I have much respect for anyone with a black belt also. :)
    elliscarrington@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, the great thing about karate is you can always take it up again! ;)
      Thanks! :)

      Delete
  4. I've always thought karate would be the sort of thing I would enjoy, but I've never tried. I admire the combination of fitness, speed, grace, and control of the body required, but even more so the control of the mind and emotions. There's something so bad-ass zen Boy Scout about it that I completely love. So definitely no laughing at the guy in the gi. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. *bad-ass zen Boy Scout*
    I love it! And it's so true - karate teaches respect and discipline.

    The guy in the gi thanks you! ;)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I guess I always assume "master of Zen self-control" when I see someone in karate gear, because of a lifetime of Karate Kid movies (the OG versions with Macchio and Morita, thank you very much). Ridiculous, I know...

    vitajex(at)aol(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mmm, not that ridiculous, in my experience! Although the real thing are less about the flashy moves. :)

      Delete
  7. Being the uncoordinated klutz that I am, I've never been drawn to learning karate but I doff my cap to those who have the drive, discipline and determination to acquire a black belt!

    qbeeqt@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You might surprise yourself if you went along to a class! ;)
      But yes, becoming a black belt takes a lot of grit.

      Delete
  8. Well I tried Taek Won Do once and after witnessing my friend hurting herself badly didn't go to further lessons.

    As to the question I would also assume a lot of self-control and well who cares how the uniform looks, if he has a black belt(that's kind of hot!)

    anzuazura (at) yahoo (dot)de

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sadly, injuries can happen in any sport. :(
      The worst injury I ever had was on the elliptical m/c at the gym, though! Yup, guaranteed no-impact exercise, but I managed to tear a calf muscle. I'm not sure what hurt most: the injury, or the embarrassment! ;)

      Delete
  9. I have a lot of respect for people who take martial arts. It takes a lot of time, effort and dedication to advance up the belts.

    Jess1
    strive4bst at yahoo dot com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely! And most people at that level are involved in teaching, too, which adds an extra level of maturity to even the youngest.

      Delete
  10. I always think of Jackie Chan...racist, I know. But still that is what I think of! And I would never tell that to anyone but Jackie Chan!
    OceanAkers@aol.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. *g* I think movie icons stick in a lot of people's minds.

      Delete
  11. For some reason the white gi makes me think of wanna bes... The black ones are HOT though.. not sure what that says about me :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually, I'd have to say it was a bit of a revelation for me when I saw my karate sensei in a black Kendo gi, brandishing a sword... ;)

      Delete
  12. When I see someone in a Karate uniform, I think of them as a disciplined, confident individual. Someone trustworthy and strong. I don't mean strong in strength, but strong in spirit and soul.
    I love the study of martial arts like archery and judo and all that, and the over all goal isn't to be strong to defeat your opponents but to be able to defend or protect when you would need to.
    I absolutely love that concept and is why I respect anyone (I see wear the uniform) and that study's any and all martial arts.

    Judi
    arella3173_loveless(at)yahoo(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, absolutely. :) Karate really is all about defence, not attack. There's a humility, and a respect for others about it that really appeals to me.

      Delete
  13. I have a couple thoughts when I see someone do Karate, one is they're out to prove something especially if they look like they want to pounce right off the bat. The other: it's the confident ones who don't show their attitude that I think study Karate for self-control.

    penumbrareads(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think karate can attract guys who have something to prove. The great thing about it is that by the time they reach black belt, they've generally got their priorities thoroughly straightened out. :)

      Delete
  14. I earned my black belt in taekwon-do about three years ago and it does bring about control. When people find out, they usually ask me to fight them or show them my skills and I always turn them down because it's not about the fighting. I don't show off for the sake of showing off. If I ever do demonstrate moves for someone it's to teach them, not look cool. In fact, one of the best things that came out of taekwon-do isn't the black belt but the confidence. I live by myself now and I feel safer knowing I could defend myself if I had to. I admit some people do it for the wrong reasons but most of the people who stick with it till black belt are doing it for the self-control and confidence.

    tiger-chick-1 (at) hotmail (dot) com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, absolutely! I couldn't agree with you more. And kudos on the black belt! :)

      Delete
  15. I took Judo in college but didn't keep up with it. Hated the uniform but did like the self-confidence it brought :-)

    smaccall AT comcast.net

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you found it a positive experience, even if you didn't stick with it. :)

      Delete