Shoto Niju Kun

Shoto Niju Kun

Master Funakoshi explained his philosophy of karate, in greater detail, in the twenty principles called the Nijyu Kun.

1. Karate begins with a bow and finishes with a bow

Karate-do wa rei ni hajimari rei ni owaru koto a wasaru na

2. In karate, never attack first

Karate ni sente nashi 

3. One who practices karate must follow the way of justice

Karate wa, gi no taske

4. Know yourself first, then you can know others

Mazu onore o shire, shikashite ta o shire

5. Spirit and mind is more important than technique

Gijitsu yori shinjitsu

6. Be ready to release your mind

Kokoro wa hanatan koto o yosu

7. Misfortune comes out of idleness

Waza wai wa ketai ni seizu

8. Don’t think that what you learn from karate can’t be used outside the dojo

Dojo nomino karate to omou na

9. It will take you entire life to learn karate

Karate-do no shugyo wa isssho de aru

10. Put karate into your everyday living; that is how you will see its true beauty

Ara yuru mono o karateka seyo; sokoni myomi ari

11. Karate is just like hot water; if you do not give it continuous heat, it will become cold

Karate Wa Yu No Gotoku Taezu Netsu O Atae Zareba Motono Mizuni Kaeru

12. Do not think that you have to win; think, rather, that you do not have to lose

Katsu kangae wa motsuna; makenu kangae wa hitsuyo

13. Move according to your opponent

Tekki ni yotte tenka seyo

14. In conflict you must discern the vulnerable from invulnerable points

Tattakai wa kyo-jitsu no soju ikan ni ari

15. Consider you opponent’s legs and arms as you would lethal swords

Hi to no te-ashi wa ken to omoe

16. Be aware at all times that you have millions of potential opponents

Danshi mon o izureba hyakuman no teki ari

17. For full awareness in natural stance, you must practice ready position as a beginner

Kamae wa shoshinsha ni atowa shizentai

18. Practicing kata is one thing; engaging in a real fight is another

Kata wa tadashiku, jisen wa betsumono

19. Do not forget: (1) strength and weakness of power; (2) contraction and expansion of body; and (3) slowness and speed of techniques

Chikara no kyojaku tai no shinshuku waza no kankyu

20. Always create and devise

Tsune ni shinen ku fu seyo

Throughout his life, Master Funakoshi emphasized the importance of spiritual over physical matters, and he believed that it was essential for the karate student to understand why—not only for training, but in the way the student lives every moment of his life.

In his book, Karate-do Kyohan, Master Funakoshi discussed both the positive and negative aspects of karate, warning us that karate-do can be misused if misunderstood. He felt that those who wanted to learn karate should understand what karate really is—what its purpose, its ultimate objective, should be. Only then could a karate student understand how to use karate techniques and skills properly.

When we get to the very essence of karate, to the ultimate purpose of training—that’s what it’s all about: Improving ourselves as people. If we all try to make ourselves the best human beings we can be, we will make the world a better place. We will help bring peace. That was Master Funakoshi’s ultimate goal—to make peace in the world by helping people develop themselves, as individual human beings, through karate-do. It is every instructor’s duty to help realize this goal. And it is the responsibility of every student as well. When you repeat the dojo kun after class, and you say it from your heart, you acknowledge that responsibility.

The principles of the dojo kun are simple and very basic. They are simply stated, and so require little explanation. Here we will give a brief explanation of each principle, keeping it as simple as the principle itself.

The message behind each of the nijyu kun is often more difficult to understand, however, and so we devote more time to explaining them. As you will see—and as I said before—the basic principles of the dojo kun are reflected in the principles of the nijyu kun. The dojo kun is the foundation of the nijyu kun.

As we explain the meaning of the nijyu kun, you will see the basic, simple ideas of the dojo kun everywhere. And again, the last four parts of the dojo kun reflect the very first, the most important principle of all: Seek perfection of character.

Always remember: The most important thing you can do as a true student of karate is to seek perfection of character. The dojo kun and the nijyu kun explain both how and what it means to do so, not only in karate training, but in the broader terms of life, generally.

Of course there is no substitute for training. Training is the process by which we learn to improve ourselves as people. Training is our path to the spiritual growth Master Funakoshi encouraged us to attain. But it is important to understand why we train. Karate, more than anything else, is a spiritual endeavor. It is a way to develop a person as an individual. If a karate student does not understand this basic objective, then he or she is not really practicing karate.

Helping people become the best human beings they can be is what karate is all about.

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