sensei

It's a difficult subject, but perhaps I'm finally old enough to examine it with some objectivity — and with some insight that's worth sharing. The issue, of course, is when one should retire in karate or other forms of budo.

A quick clarification: No serious martial artist "retires" in the sense that the person ceases to train, study and explore life by traveling along a martial way. There's an expression in Japanese that one should live one's life as a kara kyohi, a dry husk, one that's used up completely. In other words, one should leave nothing left undone. There is no retirement from any martial art; they all represent a lifelong path.There is a moment, however, if a budo teacher lives long enough, when he or she must contemplate retiring from a position of authority. More accurately, the person must be willing to step back, to allow a new generation to take over the active teaching role.
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One question martial artists hear all the time is: "Do you think you can beat them up?" followed by the asker pointing to the biggest, baddest-looking person in the room.

There's also, "Could you break that tree/board/desk/etc. with a chop?"

And of course, there's the question that commonly follows the demonstration of a self-defense technique: "But what if…. (insert some random occurrence that's less likely to happen than winning the lottery while being struck by lightning) happens?"

(The answers usually are, in order, "Why would I," "Why would I," and, "Well, then, I guess you're toast – but I think the odds of you being attacked by a rollerblading BJJ master who's wielding double shotguns are comfortable low.")

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