Perceptions of Safety

Samuel Foster


Zan Ra Ku (to cut down the hilt) is a simple sword, spear kata. (Deceptively simple, as most kata are.) After clearing up any immediate questions, my training partner and I proceeded to run through the technique. Becoming more confident in our ability to execute the kata, we began to gradually increase the speed of the movements. This allowed certain variables to creep into our practice. As distance and timing began to alter, the kata, (which had originally ended with a cutting action to my throat), now suddenly terminated with myself hitting the mat and seeing stars. (I had hoped that the next time something like this happened, I’d get tweeting birds, but such is life).

Accidents will happen, and in the martial arts, it would be foolish not to expect a bruise, bump, or break from time to time. Since my early years at college, I have, for personal reasons, maintained certification in American Red Cross standard first aid and CPR. This sort of thing tends to give one a sense of confidence (as well as apprehension) in dealing with incidents of this nature, and I had few doubts that I could handle these small facts of life. However, I was now the ‘injured party’, dependent on the tender mercies of others. Until that moment, it had not occurred to me that those around me, may or may not, be prepared for accidents in the dojo. I’d always assumed that my peers and superiors were equally (if not better) trained.

Lying on the mat, wondering if my glasses were okay, (what’s this red stuff on my face and why is everyone looking so worried), I began wondering who in our dojo was confident in their first aid abilities. Should the situation arise, could any of us tend to those in need? Or, for that matter, ourselves? Dealing with my injury fell to our Dojo Cho, who quickly assessed my situation, (how many fingers am I holding up? What’s your name? Etc.) Cleaned me up, and packed me off (with escort) to the nearest medical facility

As we practice budo arts, we are exposed to the concept of injury, both giving and receiving. Meting out damage to our antagonist in the form of kata with our fellow practitioners, we gain a sense of respect for our art and an understanding of the frailty of the human condition. We must also come to terms with the idea of the potential damage being inflicted on ourselves and others and the repercussions of our actions. That my instructor can handle these kinds of incidents, I have no doubts. My peers, however, may or may not be prepared and must consider this to be a gap in their abilities. Be it a standardized form of first aid, more advanced form of medical training, or kappo (resuscitation techniques practiced in judo), skills of this nature are a necessary benefit in protecting ourselves and those around us.