responding in the exact moment of need are pretty slim. People are not going to rape, stab, or mug you in front of a policeman, nor in front of a police station. So to be safe and confident, one needs to be able to truly rely on themselves all the time. The majority of the population cannot rely on themselves and therefore live an existence of denial, or rather a refusal to believe that anything will ever happen to them. That is their choice!
The best way to learn to protect yourself is to practice and to really learn a martial art. This requires a commitment and many hours of devotion, effort, sweat, and hard work. The benefit from such a commitment are numerous. Karate clubs become a second home, a whole new set of friends, a new identity, a place to escape to when everyday live gets to you, a place to grow mentally, a place open for what you want to get out of it. If you should want only to learn karate technique, then that option is open to you as well.
When one first sets out to give karate lessons a try, they need not commit themselves at first. One can come, give it a try, increase their level of physical fitness, increase muscle strength and coordination, increase flexibility, increase cardiovascular fitness, and increase their overall feeling about themselves. How can all that hurt you? Beginners learn very basic skills. The harder skills and drills with partners are not introduced until the student has reached an adequate level of performing fundamentals skills. After you have given karate a 3 to 6 month try, then you can decide appropriately whether it is something you want to continue and really commit yourself to, or if it is something you don't really want to spend all your time doing. Always remember, that there are many other forms of martial arts and other teachers of the same kind of martial art out there available to you that are quite different and emphasizing various philosophies. Talk to your instructor about this and he/she may be able to guide you in a direction within the martial arts that may be more suitable for you as an individual based on your personal attitudes.
The martial arts have enriched the lives of many people. It's a great outlet for energy and emotion, it gets and keeps your physical and mental faculties in good shape, increases your flexibility, increases your self-esteem, increases your social circle, provides entertainment, gives you an opportunity to help others, gives you added identity to your repertoire of roles in life, increases your self-confidence in regard to protecting yourself and your loved ones, gives an added dimension to your life and the list can go on and on for a long time. It meets different needs for different people.
If you are undecided about trying karate (or TaeKwonDo), feel free to talk to an instructor and ask for information, ask any questions, talk to other beginning students already involved in the club and also students of different ranks (colored belts) and most of all don't be afraid. Karate people are really nice people!
Jennifer Payne '83