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Funakoshi's Precepts #4

Posted by texperkin on 28 February, 2018 at 22:35

Continuing our investigation into Funakoshi's 20 precepts, here's my take on the fourth. Any comments more than welcome!


4: First know yourself before attempting to know others


When engaging in any challenge, it is a really good idea to understand what that challenge actually entails. Not knowing who your enemy is in any context means that you’re going in blind. You would likely not take a driving test without a thorough understanding of the road rules, vehicles in general, the specific car you’re intending to drive in the test, the general area where the test will be conducted and many hours or practice. Similarly, it is unwise to consider engaging in a confrontation with an opponent without doing everything you can to understand how that opponent will react and what motivates them. This includes dojo sparring and karate competition as well as criminal and domestic violence. More importantly, you need to know how you will deal with the opponent or the challenge.


Knowing yourself means knowing how you will react to stress, where your physical limits are and what your own underlying motivations. Without knowing this, it is impossible to control yourself and if you cannot control yourself, how do you expect to be able to control a potential opponent. Another way to translate Funakoshi’s quote might be “first control yourself before attempting to control others”. Know exactly where every part of your body is at all times and be able to put it where it needs to be. Be confident that you know you react to the stresses of physical confrontation by testing these in the dojo. Know how hard you can hit. Know your rights. Know your surroundings and your companions. Only then will you be able to react appropriately when someone means you harm, whether this be by de-escalation, escape or violence.


Further to this, it is possible to know your opponent before you encounter them. In a competition context, others will have faced them before even if you have not and they will be able to tell you about their preferred tactics, weaknesses and strengths. With a high level of control, you may thereby will be prepared with appropriate training and tactics.


In an encounter with a stranger who means you harm, you may not know them individually but you can know what you’re up against. Studying the way attackers act, the different threat levels and escalation points, the way criminals act in concert, potential weapons that might be brought to bear and crime and violence statistic arms us with most likely scenarios which we can train for. Violent crime isn’t what television and Hollywood portray and we need to train for what actually happens. There are a lot of myths around violence and we need pragmatism and common sense in our training.


As Sun Tzu says in The Art of War:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Categories: General Karate

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