Kyoshi's Technique of the Week

June 19th, 2016

This week's thought is from Sensei Rob Neff, Yon-Dan

Midtown Ueshiro Dojo

Muhammad Ali, the Karate Creed & Lethal Force


Onegai shimasu Hanshi, Kyoshi, Sensei & fellow Deshi,

Muhammad Ali passed away on June 3rd leaving the world to discuss the “Greatest” boxer to ever live. As students of Ueshiro Shorin-Ryu Karate USA we can look at this man through many lenses. He was a great fighter who knew how to “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee,” rooting down with his powerful punches.


What struck me as much as Ali’s ability in the ring were his principals outside of the ring. As karate students we follow the karate creed as quoted in the Shorin-Ryu Okinawan Karate Question and Answer Book.


“I come to you only with karate. My hands are empty, but I fear no man. Should I be forced to defend myself, my honor, or my principles; should it be a matter of right or wrong, life or death – then here are my weapons, my empty hands.”


Kyoshi Mackay recently had the Midtown Black Belts think about under what circumstances they would use “lethal force.” This is something I think we should all contemplate. Ironically, as one of the greatest fighters in the world, Ali refused to be a party to lethal force used during wartime. Ali was convicted of draft evasion, sentenced to five years in prison, fined $10,000 and banned from boxing for three years. He stayed out of prison as his case was appealed (he was eventually acquitted). Whatever your political views, we should respect the fact that Ali carefully considered his values and then stuck to them. Many years later, Ali wrote in his autobiography:


“I love boxing and it did a lot for me. But sometimes it made me think how savage human beings could be to each other. That wasn't the kind of boxer I wanted to be. My strategy was to be as scientific as I could when I fought. I didn't want to be seriously hurt, and I didn't want to do that to anybody else either.”


We may or may not agree with Ali’s positions regarding lethal force at different times of his life. This is not what matters. What is important is that we know for ourselves when we would use lethal force to protect our loved ones or ourselves. There is no correct answer to these questions, but it is important that we think about them ahead of time, to know how we may respond in a life or death situation.

Domo arigato gozaimasu,

Sensei Rob Neff, Yon-Dan

Midtown Ueshiro Dojo