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Wearing shoes in the dojo

Hello my adoring public,


Hey guys, I have just kicked off my shoes (nope, I don't wear shoes in the house) and I am ready to have another go at the traditions in martial arts. Now, right about the time you saw your first karate uniform (gi) you probably wondered why the heck nobody had shoes on. It can be a little disconcerting at first. I remember as a kid thinking," oh my gosh, it smells like feet in there." What can I tell you, I was a straight shooter even back then. And judging by how calloused and bruised some people's feet got in training, it really made you wonder who thought that bare feet in karate was such a grand idea.


But never to fear, Anthony is here. I am going to break it all down to you, as easy as Sunday morning. Now for those who don't want to contemplate the reason, I have it right here, easy as cake baby. The reason that nobody practiced with shoes on in the old days is.......wait for it..........THEY COULDN'T! When we think of shoes, we think of the good old adidas, or Nikes, or Reeboks that we know and love so much. Back in the old days, things were a little different. There were no closed toed shoes! They wore sandals. And I don't mean the kind that we get from Big 5 or Nordstrom's. Fact is that practicing in sandals would not have made any sense. One cannot practice the footwork in sandals. I invite you to try. Once your broken ankles heal, you will realize why we don't practice in sandals.


So, why the bare feet? For freedom of movement. To toughen the surfaces used for kicking. And lastly, just because you cannot track dirt and mud from the road into the dojo. that is a major no-no. Sorry to disappoint you folks. If I had a better, cooler sounding reason, I would be all over it. But alas, it was not PRACTICAL( there is that "P" word again) to wear sandals in the dojo.


Now, I am prepared for the heat. I am going to tell you why it is a DUMB idea to go barefoot in the dojo. First of all, let's start with the main reason. If we were ever attacked out in the streets, or even in our home, likely as not we are going to have shoes on. The practical nature of modern martial arts demands that we try to imitate the reality of a street confrontation as much as possible. If we are going to fight in shoes, we should train in shoes. To me that is just about as common sense as one can get.


Fighting barefoot is an outdated concept. Back in the old days when people fought, they could just slip off their sandals, and they were ready to rumble. I sincerely doubt that any one of us would have the time to untie our laces and take our shoes off before a fight. We will just have to move and kick in what we have on. Now that is no disrespect intended for the old masters of martial arts, but just as fighting has evolved, so should our sensibilities.


Training in shoes also helps to develop more powerful kicks. How you ask? Well how about traction? The new technology in shoes allows for more torque. If our feet can grip the ground better in shoes, then there really is not reason to forsake them. Shoes I mean. We should all get used to kicking in whatever type of shoes we regularly wear. If you don't think that it makes a difference, well then ladies, try a roundhouse kick in high heels. Aw heck, I am not sexist, guys you give it a try or two as well. But if you get caught with your ladie's shoes on, I am NOT responsible for the ensuing embarrassment.


But lastly, I would like you to consider the possibility of foot injuries. Anyone who has spent any time in the martial arts has kicked someone in the elbow. Or smashed their toes. If you have not done it yet, keep it up and you will. And let me be the first to tell you that it hurts. I mean REALLY hurts. The" holy crap that hurt, but I can't cry because I am a man" kind of hurt. Or for the analytical folks out there, feel free to check in the Web for the number of foot and ankle injuries that Americans suffer from. It will really make you think about those beautiful bare-foot roundhouse kicks that you have seen your teacher effortlessly throw. But enough about this. I am going to get myself a cold bottle of water, and see who else in cyber-space disagrees with me. Next stop? Full contact striking allowed in the dojo. Bring your mouthpiece!


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