I've been taking martial arts classes for about a month now with my 6-year-old daughter and just recently found out that the style we're using is called American Freestyle Karate.
Of course, I had never heard of this, so I did a little research.
The word karate means "empty hand" in Japanese. This clarifies some things I'm learning about what the martial arts are all about -- self defense. The most important thing to remember about self defense is that the best thing to do when danger comes is to RUN or GET OUT OF THE WAY, if you can. The other blocks, kicks, and other techniques are tools to use if you simply MUST fight.
One of the teachers in the class, who has earned a black belt, told me that he has actually never been in a fight. Imagine having all that skill and discipline and never having the necessity to use it. That's a wonderful thought.
I, on the other hand, have been in a couple of fights. I know the value of being able to protect yourself from harm -- I wasn't always able to do it.
One of my fights was a childhood tussle and the other also happened when I was a child. It was a dreadfully serious situation in which I had to fight off an attacker. It's not a pleasant memory but everytime I think about that situation I'm reminded of my strength and will to survive. This is perhaps one of my reasons for being so interested in the martial arts.
The style that we're studying -- American Freestyle karate -- includes techniques from various cultures including Japan, China, Korea and The Philippines. Work with the sword comes from Japan. They also stress hard punching with the fists. Korea emphasizes kicking and the Filipino style involves highly proficient stick fighting. The American style uses all techniques or whatever works in the given situation -- punching, kicking, grabbing, pulling, weapon techniques, etc.
The important thing is to be prepared for whatever comes your way.