There is a rule at BYMM, the Bal Yoga Mitra Mandal. The rule is that girls practise karate and boys practise mantras. Karate will bring confidence, stamina and strength to girls, and mantra will make boys a little bit more quiet, a bit more harmonious and a bit more peaceful.
One day, the boys came to me and said, “Swamiji, you know the Munger boys are famous in Bihar for their strength of character, but here our sisters are stronger than we are. It is actually not good for our reputation, so can you include us in the karate classes?” I said, “All right, under one condition: do not treat karate as a martial art; rather, it is an art of gaining sanyam, control, over the body, mind and prana. It is an art of meditation.”
This particular technique of karate was developed by Buddha and his followers to defend and protect themselves. It is an ancient Indian tradition: kara means hand, still today kar means hand, and hata means to injure. Kar and hata together became the word karate, ‘to injure somebody without arms, without weapons’.
When in those days there was a lot of strife in society, warfare and conflict, this was the technique adopted by Buddha to defend himself. It can be used as any vidya, knowledge, and it is neither good nor bad in itself. The application of that knowledge makes it either good or bad.
Our purpose is not to teach the children a martial art. The intention is to give them restraint, control, sanyam - over their body, their senses, mind, perceptions, over their responses and reactions. The intention is to help them be prompt, precise, sharp and alert. Therefore, karate is a practice of dynamic meditation, performed by the children of Bal Yoga Mitra Mandal.
—9 September 2014, Paduka Darshan, Munger