‘ There is no first attack in karate’
This is normally incorrectly taken to mean that in a fight a karate practitioner should not strike first. Instead he or she should wait until the opponent has struck the opening blow to begin the fight and then react to this using their karate skills for “self defense”. There is the obvious impracticality with this in that true self defense will not purposely put the defendant at risk by not reacting as soon as a situation occurs. It is down to the Karate Practitioner’s training and skill to assess a situation and take steps to ensure that the ensuing violence is kept to a minimum to control the situation safely, this may well be to strike the first blow or instigate physical contact/restraint. The practical martial artist would say that the first strike is metaphorically thrown at the point where your opponent considers the option of violence.
Having said this, I believe that Funakoshi’s second precept means not to start a fight at all (as evading an encounter is preferable), the moral debate above is therefore irrelevant. Within the ideals of the practice of karate, we should avoid conflict and look to prevent violent situations. Karate is both the physical practice to gain fitness and ability for where we have no choice and the psychological study to assess situations, opponents and ourselves and the way that we respond to others.
By Karly West