Conceal Your Secret Karate Identity

Do not reveal your true nature
A genuine man does not reveal his true nature.

When the karateka receives his first belt promotion, he rushes out to tell everyone.
After he receives his shodan certificate, he exits discreetly through the back door.

This saying reflects the humility of a mature, well-trained Karate expert. More importantly, it contains practical advice for martial artists of all stripes: let your skills remain secret; revealing them indiscriminately can only bring trouble.

Upon learning that you practice Karate, strangers and casual acquaintances will call upon the crooked wisdom imparted by a hundred Hollywood movies and TV shows, to draw kooky conclusions about your character and identity. Sooner or later, you will hear variations on all these themes:

  • That karotty stuff doesn’t work in a real fight.
  • So…what if I do this? (Followed by a sudden attack.)
  • Where is your chi ball?
  • Guess I’d better not pick on you, huh?

Such hackneyed attempts at comedy can be annoying—especially if you’ve heard them every month for the last ten years—but they are also telling. (A person who doesn’t bully you because you know Karate, for example, should be watched carefully.)

The greater hazard, however, is posed by what they erroneously believe but never speak aloud. Your pre-supposed violent tendencies, or your imagined love for ritual and role-play, will color their perception of everything you say and do. It is not just your actions, but also your subjective persona that determines whether you get that second date, the promotion at work, or even a criminal prosecution.

Fortunately, the solution is straightforward and easy to implement: conceal your Karate identity. Always present yourself as one of us (good), not one of them (bad). We hate drugs, but love coffee and beer; we hate exercise, but love watching sports; we hate foreign martial arts, but love…yoga!

If anyone asks where you went yesterday evening, or how you got that bruise on your forearm: just say yoga, and say no more.


  1. I have heard all of those comments 100 times but I disagree with your conclusion. I love martial arts. It’s one of the things I’m most passionate about in my life.

    Because of that, most people around me know I study just because I’m excited to talk about it with people. I rarely tell anyone I meet that I study anymore because before I get a chance to, someone ELSE will say something about it.

    “You don’t want to start something with him.. he’s a second degree black belt”

    Which usually prompts the statement of “So.. you could kick my ass?” and I smile and say “I don’t know if I’d win… but I’m sure it wouldn’t be a pleasant experience for you”

  2. I agree with some of this – for example I keep my online profiles hidden / restricted to prevent someone from seeing my info at a social networking site. OTOH I have to say something about myself – like what do I like to do etc. If I don’t tell people about wushu then they really know nothing about my life. That’s fine for colleagues but not so great for friends or people you are dating. Incidentally this is another reason not to socialize with co-workers. At the end of the day I do modern & traditional wushu because of the connection to concepts of chinese medicine including chi etc. So wushu is a part of who I am, furthermore I don’t really see how this stuff can benefit your whole life if you don’t have that point of view. Martial arts don’t teach self-discipline – you need self -discipline to do them from the beginning. Same with fitness, flexibility etc.
    As far as people wanting to fight me that doesn’t happen too much. I dress well and I don’t associate with low-lifes. I don’t go to bars that serve dollar drafts. I find that fighting for purposes of ‘proving something’ is pretty much limited to lower middle class and lower class people. So-called “tough” areas are really just concentrations of losers that want to share their unhappiness. If people ask me why I practice I say “for health” which again is what anyone should say. If all you want is fighting go do MMA.

  3. Wayne,
    I remember a conversation I had awhile ago, about a local flu outbreak. My colleague said he should visit the doctor, and I agreed it was a good idea. Surprised, he said something like “don’t you people hate Western doctors, and only use homemade herbal medicines?” I could only laugh.

    Odds are you’ve already experienced some subtle forms of discrimination as a result of your martial arts evangelism, and you didn’t even realize it.

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