The Philosophy of Dojo Kun

(Shotokan Code of Ethics)  


The philosophy of Dojo Kun (shotokan code of ethics)

•    One, to strive for perfection of character.
•    One, to defend the paths of truth.
•    One, to foster the spirit of effort.
•    One, to honor the principles of etiquette.
•    One, to guard against impetuous courage. 

These Dojo rules were laid down by the Okinawan master of karate (Sakugawa Shungo) 1733-1815 . He based them on the Chinese dojo kun, which dates back to the time of Budhidharma .

These rules are recited at the end of training session (keiko) by the highest ranked student (sempai), and are then repeated by the other students (kohai). Following this is the salutation bow : first to the altar of the ancestors (shinza), or to the front (shomen), and second to the instructor or master (sensei) . In some dojos there is also a third bow to each other (otagai) .
There are certain precepts of all traditional Karate styles which are, in many cases, displayed in the dojo on a sign.  These precepts are the code of the school - Dojo Kun.

The true way of martial arts such as Karate-Do is summarized by the precepts of ; Character, sincerity, effort, etiquette, and self-control.
The Dojo Kun, which may be repeated either at the beginning or end of class, could be summarized as follows :
•    Seek perfection of character.
•    Be faithful.
•    Endeavour.
•    Respect others.
•    Refrain from violent behavior.
Although these precepts are repeated one after another, they are equally important and should each be exemplified by the students of the dojo at all times.

The following brief explanation may help you to develop your understanding of the ideas of each aspects of the Dojo Kun.

Seek perfection of character:
The first, “seek perfection of character” indicates that Karate-Do is more than just physical.  Through rigorous training, the spirit to improve and succeed will be developed.  Along with this fierce competitive spirit one should come to the realization that your strength is great, and to use it and your karate against the uninitiated is unjust.  Karate-ka should seek to focus their minds as well as their body movements.  Forging of the spirit in the face of adversity will provide a lifetime of benefits.  Even in old age, when the body is no longer able to perform well, your character will continue to grow.

Be Faithful :
 To “be faithful” reflects the strong samurai traditions and by extension a Confucianism in the martial arts. In sense, the faith to be shown is faith in your instructors and seniors.  Students must always be faithful to them and just as the samurai followed their feudal lords. While this may seem unusual today, it is unreasonable to expect instructors to extend themselves fully and teach all they know to students who are likely to leave for the slightest reason.  The faith extended to instructors will be rewarded by a continued transfer of knowledge to students.  This bond between teachers and student is extremely valuable and is the basis of the learning relationship.

Endeavour :       
The “Endeavour” of the Dojo Kun refers to the complete dedication to the efforts necessary to achieve
Mastery of Karate-Do. In no case is mastery possible without strenuous effort on the part of the practitioner. The endeavor must be sincere and not just a pretence.  Serious students are easily recognized by instructors.

Respect others:
Respect to others is common to all Japanese fighting systems.  Martial arts begin and end with courtesy, reflecting the normal nature of the Japanese people, and are observed in the manner in which they conduct themselves in training sessions and generally in the presence of one another.  Dojo etiquette is particularly well defined ; requiring that all that enter the dojo pause and bow to the memory of past masters, whose photographs or paintings are usually at the front (the West facing wall).  Prior to the beginning of class, students and instructors line up before the photographs, kneel, and mediate (mokuso).  They bow to the memory of past masters and then to one another from the kneeling position (seiza).  This courtesy continues throughout the training session.  Whenever an exercise , drill, or kata that uses two people or more is performed, it always begins and ends with a bow (rei) .

Additionally, the bowing ceremony is repeated at the end of training after a closing period of meditation a review of the session (hansei). 

Refrain from violent behavior :
 It is the responsibility of all trained Karate-ka to “refrain from violent behavior” since a trained fighter can inflict serious injury upon others. The goal of karate training is self mastery, including mastery of your own behavior.  In some situations where it becomes necessary to defend yourself, no non-violent alternative may be possible.  However, the tradition handed down by great teachers indicates that after a life of training, they felt they had failed if they were forced to resort to violent action against their fellow man, no matter how justified such actions might have been.

      In the present day, refraining from violence is often hard to explain.  Many people take up the art of Karate-Do with the purpose in mind of hurting others and they wish to learn how to do so as quickly as possible.  It is therefore necessary for students to remember the Dojo Kun and to impress it upon their juniors.

Understanding the principles and philosophy of traditional karate-Do isessential for all its participants.  Karate is often sensationalized by some people as a brutal method of fighting.  The purpose, objectives, and goals of karate should not be limited to its physical appearance.  The relationship between a lifetime of martial art and the necessity of using karate skills in a mature and responsible way has been taught for many centuries.

Unfortunately, sensationalism and commercialization of martial arts together with accelerated exportation of instructors to the West, seems to have resulted in a loss of these concepts all too often.  Karate should not be practiced solely as a fighting technique. In order to make effective use of the fundamental techniques and to maximize development of Karate as an art of self defense must not only be recognized but must also play a prominent role .

Traditional Karate is a martial art and students should train with an appropriate attitude exemplifying the goals and principles of the martial art.  A strong emphasis should be placed on metaphysical aspects of the art rather than on the physical techniques.  Proper training must apply to the body and the mind in conjunction.

Traditional Karate systems emphasize character building aspects as a foremost principle with respects for instructors, colleagues, and opponents alike.  Principles taught to students can be summarized by the following words : character, sincerity, efforts, etiquette, and self-control. This is the true way for a martial art such as Karate-Do.

Consequently, a true follower of Karate-do should strive for perfection in both the philosophical and physical aspects of the art. This will particularly enhance all athletes’ abilities in the execution of Karate techniques in practice, competition, or self-defense.

Karate-Do (the way of the empty hand) implies more than is immediately obvious.  In an often quoted passage Gichin Funakoshi described the state of mind and body to which the Karrate-Ka (karate practitioner) should aspire.  He used the image of a mirror :

“As a mirror’s polished surface reflects whatever stands before it; and a quite valley carries even small sounds, so must the students of Karate render their mind empty of selfishness and wickedness in an effort to react appropriately to anything they might encounter.  This is the meaning of Kara in Karate. “ 

As a result, the name Karate was chosen to convey the ideas of emptiness since students are expected to empty their minds of all thoughts and emotions in pursuit of their Budo (martial art way, or way of warrior). An incorrect mental attitude would inevitably have an adverse affect on even the most skilled technician, and Karate-ka must train to the point of automatic reaction where external considerations will not interfere with their calm mental state of impassivity or emptiness .

This is not to say that Karate training is done in a mindless state, but rather is free from inhibiting thoughts of doubt, confusion, or fear.

Analogies to water are also referred to in many martial art readings, such as:

“Smooth water reflects the image of all that is whit in its range. If the Karate-ka’s mind is in such a state, they will be able to immediately comprehend their opponent’s movements and respond appropriately. However, if the surface is disturbed, the result will be a distortion of the images it reflects with the equivalent results on the Karate-ka’s mind. “

Another analogy refers to the mind as being like the moon :

“As the moon shines on everything within its range the Karate-ka is  to be constantly aware of the totality of the opponent and their movement.  If the cloud were to block the light, a correct appreciation of the opponent’s movements would become more difficult to asses and the right approach would escape.  The will must connect mind and body so that the mind does not function in isolation and there can be a physical reaction in unison with the order given by the mind.”

Twenty precepts of karate-do

twenty_preFunakoshi Gichin (1867-1957) is known as the “Father of Modern Karate-Do” for his part in forming a doctrine in the art of karate-do .  It was probably in the early 1930s that he composed the following :

(1)   Karatedo begins with Rei (courtesy-respect) and ends with   Rei  (courtesy).

(2)     There is no first attack in Karatedo .

(3)     Karate supports righteousness.

(4)     Know yourself first, and then others

(5)     Spirit first ; techniques second .  (the art of mind is more  important than the art of techniques ) .

(6)     Always be ready to release your mind. (the mind needs to be freed) .

(7)     Accidents always come out of idleness (negligence) . (trouble is born of negligence).

(8)     Do not think that Karate training is only in the Dojo .

(9)     Karate is a lifetime practice .

(10)   Put your everyday living into karate and you will find enlightenment; insight (myo).

(11)    Genuine karate is like hot water, it cools down if you do not keep on heating it .

(12)    Do not have an idea of winning,  while the idea of not losing is necessary.

(13)    Victory depends on your ability to distinguish vulnerable points from invulnerable ones . (transform yourself according to the opponent) .

(14)    The outcome of the fight is according to how you maneuver guarded and unguarded.

(15)    Imagine one’s arms and legs as  swords .

(16)   Once you leave the shelter of  home, think that you have numerous opponents   waiting for you . It is your  behavior that invites trouble from them

(17)    Beginners must master low  stance and posture; natural body position for advanced

(18)    Practicing a kata is one thing, and engaging in a real fight is another

(19)    Do not forget the control of the dynamics (of power) , the elasticity (of body),  and the  speed (of technique) .

(20)   Always be good at the application of everything that you have learned .

image027Master Funakoshi Gichin called people vain if they took pride in physical demonstration of brute strength, like breaking boards or smashing tiles, or if they exaggerated their destruction of the human body. He professed that they knew nothing about the noble art of Karate-Do. He compared it with playing around in the leaves and branches 0f a great tree without the slightest perception of the main trunk .