Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate

In 1917 Gichin Funakoshi, an elementary school teacher and Okinawan-te master, traveled to mainland Japan in a preliminary effort to introduce his fighting art to government officials and members of the Butoku Kai martial arts ministry. Five years later he returned to begin a tour of demonstrations held at universities. He reasoned, correctly, that learned men tended to be physically unfit. His main pitch was that a regimen of karate training could produce health benefits in addition to skills in self-defense. His student base grew quickly and by the 1930s the "empty-hand way" (as it was now called) had a larger following in Japan than on Okinawa.*

Funakoshi made fundamental changes to karate in Japan that included adopting the belt-ranking system from judo and its introduction as a do form, or life art. Thus karate-do was born. More than just a method of fighting, karate skills could be actualized in many aspects of everyday living as exemplified in the following list of aphorisms that was first published in 1938:

1. Karate-do begins with courtesy and ends with rei (respect).

2. There is no first strike in karate.

3. Karate is an aid to justice.

4. First know yourself before attempting to know others.

5. Spirit first, technique second.

6. Always be ready to release your mind (or heart).

7. Accidents arise from negligence.

8. Do not think that karate training is only in the dojo.

9. It will take your entire life to learn karate, there is no limit.

10. Put your everyday living into karate and you will find myo (subtle secrets).

11. Karate is like boiling water, if you do not heat it constantly, it will cool.

12. Do not think that you have to win, think rather that you do not have to lose.

13. Victory depends on your ability to distinguish vulnerable points from invulnerable ones.

14. The out come of the battle depends on how you handle weakness and strength.

15. Think of your opponents hands and feet as swords.

16. When you leave home, think that you have numerous opponents waiting for you.

17. Beginners must master low stance and posture, natural body positions are for the advanced.

18. Practicing a kata exactly is one thing, engaging in a real fight is another.

19. Do not forget to correctly apply: the strength and weakness of power, stretching and contraction of
the body, and slowness and speed of techniques.

20. Always think and devise ways to live the precepts of karate-do every day.

* Donn Draeger 1974. Modern Bujutsu & Budo. Weatherhill, Inc.

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