Philosophy of Shotokan Karate

The philosophy of Shotokan Karate is centered upon Gichin Funakoshi's precepts. Funakoshi talked about Twenty Precepts of Karate (Niju Kun). These principles are derived from Zen and Bushido. As with most traditional martial arts, karate seeks to develop the character and esteem of its students.

The individual practitioner (karateka) can develop respect, control, calm temperament and humility. Dojo Kun are a set of five rules which may be recited at some point during a class in order to set the atmosphere for training with a correct attitude. Each Dojo Kun begins with the number one. This signifies that no one precept is more important than another. Funakoshi's literature talks about the higher importance of dealing with spiritual issues over physical ones. Karate-do (the way of karate) is a beautiful art when practiced with the correct attitude however it is open to abuse. This is why a student should try to understand the philosophy of karate at the same time as learning to use the skills and techniques. One particular quote illustrates this, 'to win a hundred battles is not the highest skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the highest skill.'

20 Shotokan Karate Philosophy precepts: Gichin Funakoshi's hand written 20 precepts are pictured (right). 1) Karate training is more than just the dojo 2) Training begins and ends with a bow of respect 3) Never attack first unnecessarily 4) The practitioner follows a just route 5) Know about yourself before you can know others 6) Spiritual development is the first focus, and then later technical ability 7) Empty or release your mind 8) The lazy will not have good fortune 9) Lifelong journey and training 10) Use karate principles in everything 11) Karate like hot water, needs heat otherwise it cools 12) Do not think that you must win, but alternatively that you don't have to lose 13) Victory can come from knowing how to differentiate vulnerable points from invulnerable ones. 14) Move according to your opponent 15) Respect your opponents hands and legs as being like sharp swords 16) Be alert to opponents in all areas 17) Ready positioning for beginners and natural position for advanced 18) Kata and real fighting are different entities 19) Strength and weakness of power, expansion and contraction of body, speed and slowness of technique 20) Devise at all times

Variations to these philosophies There are a number of other variations of the Shotokan Karate Philosophy precepts as follows: 1) Karate-do wa rei ni hajimari, rei ni owaru koto wo wasuruna. (Karate begins and ends with courtesy) 2) Karate ni sente nashi. (There is no first attack in karate.) 3) Karate wa gi no tasuke. (Karate is an assistance to justice.) 4) Mazu jiko wo shire, shikoshite tao wo shire. (Know yourself before you know others.) 5) Gijutsu yori shinjutsu. (Spirit before technique.) 6) Kokoro wa hanatan koto wo yosu. (Be ready to free your mind.) 7) Wazawai wa getai ni shozu. (Accidents come from inattention.) 8) Dojo nomino karate to omou na. (Karate training is not only in the dojo.) 9) Karate no shugyo wa issho de aru. (You will never stop learning karate.) 10) Arai-yuru mono wo karate-ka seyo, soko ni myo-mi ari. (Make karate part of your life and you will find more.) 11) Karate wa yu no goto shi taezu natsudo wo ataezareba moto no mizu ni kaeru. (Karate is like hot water. If not given continual heat, it will go cold.) 12) Katsu kangae wa motsu na makenu kangae wa hitsuyo. (Do not think you must win. Instead, think that you do not have to lose.) 13) Hito no te ashi wo ken to omoe. (Think that your hands and feet are swords.) 14) Danshi mon wo izureba hyakuman no tekki ari. (Be aware of your actions so as not to invite trouble.) 15) Kamae wa shoshinsha ni ato wa shizentai. (First master low stances, then natural posture.) 16) Kata wa tadashiku jissen wa betsu mono. (Practicing kata is no substitue for the real thing.) 17) Chikara no kyojaku, karada no shinshuku, waza no kankyu wo wasaruna. Tsune ni shinen kufu seyo. (Think of ways to apply these precepts every day.) Other Shotokan Karate philosophies As with most martial arts, Shotokan has the potential to act as a deadly fighting system. A number of Shotokan Karate philosophies have developed around this concept: 1) Avoidance of dangerous situations is the best form of defense 2) Leave a volatile situation whenever possible 3) Use reasoning to alter a situation where possible 4) Execute techniques with control unless in a real life and death situation 5) Use force against other force