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Funakoshi's Precepts #1

Posted by texperkin on 15 January, 2018 at 1:35

Gichin Funakoshi is often referenced as the father of modern karate since he was the main force that drove karate into the Japanese school system and was the founder of Shotokan, one of the 4 main styles of karate. As I write that there are a number of points we could investigate there and I'm happy to discuss however one of the great things Funakoshi did was write prolifically. Amongst these writings, Funakoshi laid down 20 precepts for karate and it is these that I would like to explore.

1: Karate begins and ends with courtesy

I have seen the original translated as 'bow' rather than 'courtesy' but I think the intention is that you need to be courteous. This is the first precept for a very important reason as it should underpin all of your training.

In most dojo, students and teachers alike bow as they enter and exit. This continues through solo training, with a partner in drills, in sparring and grappling and even (especially!) in pressure testing and reality-based training. The reason should be obvious in this context however to be clear, training courtesy and respect for yourself and your fellow karateka helps ensure relevant, safe, and effective progression. We need to be able to trust each other and that we each have the ultimate well-being and improvement of the others in mind with everything we do. Seniors need to be patient and forthcoming rather than looking to ‘win’ and newer students need to be mindful and attentive in order to be able to assimilate knowledge and to progress. Similarly, trying to ‘score a point’ on a senior student won’t do anyone any good.

Following on from this, being attentive to others’ limitations, well-being and physical and mental state helps keep everyone safe. Surely the reason we train is to keep mind and body together, running smoothly and injury free. Yes, this is true if we’re ever in danger outside the dojo but what irony to be injured inside the dojo in the pursuit of safety.

Finally, Funakoshi often extended karate outside the dojo. In fact his eighth precept can be translated as “Do not think that karate training is only in the dojo.” Taking these two precepts together, I would contend that Funakoshi would say that in order to be a true karateka, you must use courtesy in every single aspect of your life. Not only is courtesy a better way to diffuse a potentially violent situation when confronted by a thug looking to ruin your day than mirroring his anger and discourtesy but being courteous is not a bad idea in business, family life and any other relationship.

Therefore, when training (and when not) it really is necessary to give your own and your partner 100% of your focus, showing yourself and others respect and courtesy.

Categories: General Karate