I think it's partly because Americans are so competitive. To many, a martial art is just another sport. You move up the ranks from one belt color to another until finally you're at the top and you're a black belt in karate. It's also good exercise. Many of us don't get nearly enough exercise. But if we can engage in a little friendly martial arts tournament and work out at the same time, we can really get into that.
In the East where all the martial arts came from, it's a bit more than just a sport or a way to exercise. Martial arts are the physical part of an entire spiritual discipline designed to teach us to live as better and happier people. They believe that our bodies must be healthy temples for our spirits. Monks in monasteries learned the martial arts. I don't know of any comparable practice in Catholicism. Do you? There may be, but I have never heard of it.
In karate, and all the martial arts, we bow to our opponent before and after the match. Why is that? Any martial arts student from any decent school can tell you that you are honoring the other person. You honor them for their skill. You honor them as another spiritual being on the planet. You honor them for giving you the honor of the match.
I think practicing karate and other martial arts is really adding something sacred to our American understanding of people. And yes, we get to compete and get a little exercise in, too.
About this writer
Aiko Mettarod moved from Japan with his parents as a child. His father was his first karate teacher. You can read more articles about martial arts at