By Susan Elrod
A few of us were sitting around after class discussing the idea of sparring versus self-defense. One of my friends, another karate student, said, “Wait, how are those separate? Isn’t sparring the same thing as self-defense?”
With sparring, you have a responsibility to ensure your partner’s safety as well as your own. You absolutely do not strike to the joints. You avoid all contact to the face. In some styles of sparring, head strikes of any kind are prohibited.
None of those things are true for self-defense. In self-defense, your only concern is your safety. If someone has threatened your physical safety, their well-being is forfeit.
For self-defense, especially a woman threatened by a man, all the things you should avoid for sparring are among the first things you should do. Go for the eyes, the throat, and the knees if you can manage it. As a student in my woman’s self-defense class said recently, “Go for the soft bits.” Use elbows, knees, teeth, anything that will brutally disable your attacker as effectively as possible. As a Yoshukai student, I know that I can rely on the principles of Yoshukai to help protect me. Being prudent in action and speech are among the best ways to avoid a confrontation.
However, it’s important to realize that one’s Yoshukai techniques alone may not be sufficient to dissuade an attacker. A smaller person may not be able to fight off a larger attacker using head-high kicks and/or body strikes alone. Those abilities combined with the willingness to “fight dirty” by attacking areas typically prohibited in sparring is what may allow for greater likelihood of safely removing oneself from a dangerous situation.