distasteful ad in a magazine called Oriental Combat and Self Defense offers
"the deadly art of kung-fu" and says these "secrets" have been
hidden for centuries "lest they fall into the wrong hands, such as
revolutionaries, oppressed people, criminals and unsavory types." While the
Oriental Devil Fighting Society's mail-order course is no threat to any other
society, the Americanization talk suggests that some ghetto residents may be
interested in something beyond Moving Zen...A Way to Gentleness, to cite the
title of C. W. Nicol's book ( Dell, $1.50) on his two-year progress to
black-belt status. "To quote an old Oriental maxim, 'The ki may follow an
evil path.' " McAndrews says, "and even in the most respectable dojos a
committed student who hopes to emerge as a man of peace goes through a
precarious transition—usually at the brown-belt stage—when he wants to test his
ki and his focus in a real-life situation." That is when the Oriental
spiritual restraints demonstrate their full value.
Is there any
point, then, in a person's taking up one of the "hand arts" solely for
purposes of self-defense? No, says McAndrews, unless he or she is prepared to
give it at least two years of heavy effort under expert supervision and at the
same time recognize its physical boundaries as well as its psychic rewards.
"After all my years in karate," McAndrews says. "I find myself
thinking more and more about weapons.
"Some of my
friends in the art will say I'm selling out when I suggest weapons may be
needed for self-defense, but I know the limitations.... I've been there. Karate
won't stop a bullet or deflect a knife unless you get better at it than I am,
and that puts you in the dojo forever. Unless, of course, you're a real budo, a
warrior prepared to put your life on the line at any time—to hell with the job,
the wife, the kids, let's go for broke."
McAndrews' pretty wife Linda proposed a pub-crawl through Honolulu's shadier
saloons? Could he defend her and himself if any trouble developed?
said Mike McAndrews. "At least karate has given me confidence enough to
handle that kind of proposition. We wouldn't go."
So, in the short
run, at least, "avoidism"—a philosophy proposed in a Manhattan saloon a
score of years ago by comedian Roger Price—may be the best defense. But in the
meantime hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Americans will walk into dangerous
situations, certain they have been prepared to cope with their assailants
through the aid of the U.S. Postal Service and a bargain-price booklet. In the
words of Ray Sons, the sports editor of the
Chicago Daily News: "I get the
impression this [martial-arts boom] is the modern-day equivalent of the old
Fred Astaire and Arthur Murray dance studios, where they'd hook you into a year
or two of lessons under contract. In a happier day, the lure was popularity
with the opposite sex. Here, the lure is a yearning for safety in a perilous
society. You can make a buck off it, either way."