Dojo Kun 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 of end of class, is as follows:
Seek perfection of character.
Refrain from violent behaviour.
Refrain from violent behaviour.
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.
An Okinawan Karate master, Sakugawa Sensei (1733-1815) is often credited with the origin of the Dojo Kun.
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.
To “be faithful” reflects the strong samurai traditions and by extension a Confucianism in the martial arts. In a 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.
The “Endeavour” of the Dojo Kun refers to the complete dedication to the effort necessary to achieve mastery of Karate-Do. In no case is mastery possible without strenuous effort on the part of the practitioner. The endeavour must be sincere and not just a pretence. Serious students are easily recognized by instructors.
Respect for others is common to all Japanese fighting systems. Martial arts begin and end with courtesy, reflecting the formal 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 meditate (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 behaviour
It is the responsibility of all trained Karate-ka to “refrain from violent behaviour” since a trained fighter can inflict serious injury upon others. The goal of Karate training is self-mastery, including mastery of your own behaviour. 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.
Master Gichin Funakoshi’s
Twenty Precepts of Karate-do written to help the student understand how they should conduct themselves in karate, and in everyday life.
1. Never forget: Karate begins with rei and ends with rei. (rei has the meaning of courtesy, respect).
2. There is no first hand in Karate. (There is no first attack in Karate.)
3. Karate supports righteousness.
4. First understand yourself, then understand others.
5. The art of mind is more important than the art of technique.
6. The mind needs to be freed.
7. Trouble is born of negligence.
8. Do not think Karate is only in the dojo.
9. The training of Karate requires a lifetime.
10. Transform everything into Karate; there lies the exquisiteness.
11. Genuine Karate is like hot water; it cools down if you do not keep on heating it.
12. Do not hate the idea of winning, while the idea of not losing is necessary.
13. Transform yourself according to the opponent.
14. The outcome of the fight all depends on the maneuver.
15. Imagine one’s arms and legs as swords.
16. Once you leave the shelter of home, there are a million enemies.
17. Postures are for the beginner, later they are natural positions.
18. Do the kata correctly; the real fight is a different matter.
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.
Gichin Funakoshi also wrote:
"Master Gichin Funakoshi called people vain who took pride in physical demonstrations of brute strength, like breaking of boards or smashing of tiles, or people who 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 of a great tree without the slightest perception of the main trunk."
“The ultimate aim of Karate lies neither in victory nor defeat but in the perfection of the character of its participants.”
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