The Twenty Precepts of Gichin Funakoshi

Sensei Funakoshi wrote the Niju Kun (Twenty Precepts) to help karate students transform their art into a way of life. Each line contains superficial meaning as well as deeper truth that could take a lifetime to fully understand. The original Japanese text is terse and meant to be thought provoking. Accordingly, English translations vary with individual interpretation. Below is a synthesis of a number of these interpretations.

1. Karate-do begins and ends with a bow (courtesy).

2. There is no first attack (move) in karate. (In karate the initiative does not exist).

3. Karate is a great assistance (an aid) to justice.

4. First you must know (control) yourself, then you can know (control) others.

5. Spirit is more important than technique.

6. Always be ready to release your mind.

7. Misfortunes arise out of negligence (laziness).

8. Do not think that karate training is only in the dojo.

9. It will take your entire life to learn karate.

10. Put your everyday living into karate (put karate into everything you do) and you will find "myo" (the subtle secrets, the ideal state of existence, exquisite beauty).

11. Karate is like hot water; if you do not heat it constantly, it will again become cool water.

12. Do not think about winning; think rather that you do not have to lose.

13. Move (change) according to (depending on) your opponent. (Victory depends on your ability to distinguish vulnerable points from invulnerable ones.)

14. The secret of combat resides in the art of directing it (clever fighting, trying every strategy).

15. Think of the hands and feet as swords.

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

17. Beginners must master basic stances; natural body positions are for the advanced.

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

19. Do not forget to correctly apply: light and heavy application of power, expansion and contraction of the body, and slowness and speed of techniques.

20. Devise at all times. (Always think and devise ways to live the Precepts every day.)

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