The second principle of the niju kun is: In karate-do, never strike first. Now, I know what you might be thinking..."NEVER?!?!" and you'd be right to question the use of that word. Physically speaking, I believe, and train others to believe that if you are in imminent danger of being attacked...as in it's definitely going to go down...then yes, you should strike first. The likelihood of that happening though is slim.
I don't believe the idea of never striking first has anything to do with punches and kicks though. Rather, I think that the idea behind this has more to do with our awareness of our surroundings and our interactions with others. Hear me out on this one...
First, one stark difference that I noticed when traveling, training, and teaching in Ukraine was how focused everyone was there. There were very few people (young or old) that were plugged in to their smartphones while in public. I also noticed that a great majority of the people there walked with their heads held high, rather than looking at their shoes as they walk...something that I notice a lot around here. Watching a screen or looking at the ground, or even listening to music in a public place can be a distraction from what's really going on around you. You are, by focusing on something very small, ignoring the big picture...the stage production going on around you.
By really being aware of where you are, what you're doing, and what is going on around you, the likelihood of you having to strike at all drops significantly. I distinctly remember a time walking through Washington, D.C. with my family when I noticed a potential altercation that was about to take place about 100 feet in front of us. By being aware of what was happening, and about to happen, we were able to calmly cross the street and avoid things altogether. We can avoid striking first by being aware.
Now, the odds of you needing to avoid some kind of incident in public are small, but I guarantee that you're much more likely to talk with another human being today. It's very easy, especially when discussing politics, religion, or relationships, to strike first with our words. I do it. I do it all the time. Heck, I'm writing about this today as a way to hopefully help improve in this area. What does striking first in our relationships look like? Some of the behaviors that I show, to my shame, are:
- always having an answer
- listening to respond, rather than listening to understand
- using logical fallacies
- shutting down...yes, shutting down is just as much of a relational strike as a punch to the stomach
So, is there hope? Of course! Like any positive growth though, it's going to take a bit of conscious effort. Effort to plug into your surroundings instead of your phone. Effort to listen with the purpose of understanding your spouse, friends, or coworkers. Try it. Just for one day, let's commit to being at peace with our surroundings and living in peace with those around us. This is budo karate-do which transcends the dojo.