At a dojo, especially when practising kumite, the issue of behaviour inevitably arises. As a result, teaching about fighting techniques mixes naturally with learning about values such as respect and self-control.
Studying the art of fighting is closely linked to ethical, philosophical and sometimes even religious issues. As evidence of this overlapping, in this section we will look at dojo kun, the teachings of Funakoshi and a handful of quotes. Finally, we will try to understand the relationship between Zen and Karate.
1 Dojo kun
The origins of the rules of dojo (dojo kun) are unclear.
Each of the five rules is as important as the other, which is why they all begin with “first”.
First: Perfect your character!
First: Follow the way of truth!
First: Foster the spirit of endeavour!
First: Be courteous!
First: Guard against excessive feelings!
(Refrain from hurtful behaviour and impetuous bravery).
2 The 20 principles of karate-do according to Gichin Funakoshi
1. “Never forget that karate begins and ends with respect (rei)”. Respect for teaching, your friends and life is paramount.
2. “Never be the first to attack”. Blocking the attacks of your enemy with force develops patience and fortitude.
3. “Karate is an aid to justice”. Be true to yourself and others.
4. “First know yourself and then learn to know others”. According to master Itosu: “If you know yourself properly and if you know your opponent, you will never lose”.
5. “Mental technique comes before physical technique”. The individual performs a technique and not vice-versa.
6. “Let your mind roam freely; do not let it settle”. Learn to control your mind, and do not let it alight on an object. If you do not, you will diminish your ability to react.
7. “Misfortune arises from negligence”. Stay alert (zanchin). Many of life’s accidents arise from a lack of caution.
8. “The practice of karate is not limited to the dojo”. Karate is not just about learning fighting techniques; it also aims to build character and lasts twenty-four hours a day.
9. “Learning karate is a life-long pursuit”. Even on his death bed, Funakoshi continued to mentally recite katas and endeavoured to improve himself.
10 “Put your everyday life into karate: this is where you will find the truth about the art”. Practising at the dojo will forge you physically and mentally. This can help you to face life, its joys and difficulties. If is for you to find the many parallels between karate and your life.
11 “Karate is like boiling water: if you do not heat it constantly, it will cool”. It is continuous practice that will ensure that you do not forget and that you develop.
12 “Do not think about victory but about how not to lose”. The desire to win at all costs can lead to destruction. Remembering not to lose fosters common sense and prudence.
13 “Adapt to your opponent”. Technique must be appropriate to the right person and at the right time.
14 “When fighting, adopt nature’s strategy”. Act in accordance with nature, analyse and adapt.
15 “Think of your hands and feet as swords”. Karate is not just about training your feet and hands but about becoming aware of their terrible potential.
16 “Pass a door as though you were going to face 10,000 enemies”. Always remain vigilant and do not take anything for granted. With age, for example, you will discover new enemies and new challenges.
17 “The beginner must learn a stance before it becomes a natural state”. Practice stances so that they will eventually seem natural to you and suitable for a given situation.
18 “Practice katas properly. Engaging in a real fight is something else”. Katas help to develop essential qualities such as muscle strength, reflexes and explosiveness, but a real fight requires other things.
19 “Never forget what your strengths and weaknesses are, as well as the limits of your body and your qualities relative to your techniques”. If you know yourself, you are on the road to victory.
20 “Refine your mind continuously”. This means getting rid of anything that is superficial so that you can understand the nature of things. It also means exercising your mind and reflecting on what is new (keeping an open mind). The aim is to be able to adapt yourself to any mental and physical obstacles that may arise.