When I started training, I was taught that the meaning of the word Karate was “empty hands.” It was about self-defense without the use of weapons. Hour after hour on the mat we practiced turning our bodies into the weapons. We pushed the limits of how high we could kick, how fast we could spin, or how hard we could palm heel. We didn’t all have the same ability, but our teachers put us on a path of patience and perseverance that awakened the martial artist within.
In between breaking boards and hip throws, we also learned to empty our hearts and minds of vanity and ego. The practice then was truly not about becoming an aggressive person to be feared. While using our hands to punch and throw, we also used them to pull up and straighten our partners when they faltered.
Training has taught me about fighting, the strategic give and take of combat. Understanding my body and what ability it has to inflict pain or subdue has nurtured a greater confidence to actually reject violence. It’s also acquainted me with physical pain and how to deal with it.
It’s taught me how to give, when my hands are truly empty and I have nothing else to offer.