The ultimate aim of karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants. - Gichin Funakoshi

The essential principles of Karate.
Excerpt from Karate-Do Kyohan,
by Master Funakoshi.

The tremendous offensive and defensive power of Karate-do is well known. Karate-do is an art with which one can defeat enemies with a single fist attack or kick, without weapons. [...]

One who truly trains in this do and actually understands Karate-do is never easily drawn into a fight. One attack or a single kick determines life or death. Karate is properly applied only in those rare situations in which one really must either down another or be downed by him. This situation is experienced possibly once in a lifetime by an ordinary person, and therefore there may be an occasion to use karate techniques only once or not at all.

The writer has always told his students, "Art does not make the man, the man makes art." Students of any art, clearly including Karate-do, must never forget the cultivation of the

mind and the body. [...]

Those who follow Karate-do must consider courtesy of prime importance. Without courtesy, the essence of Karate-do is lost. Courtesy must be practiced, not only during the karate training period but at all times in one's daily life. The karate student must humble himself to receive training. [...]

Those who follow Karate-do will develop courage and fortitude. These qualities do not have to do with strong actions or with the development of strong techniques as such. Emphasis is placed on development of the mind rather than on techniques.

The meaning of the word "Karate".
Excerpt from Karate-Do, My Way of Life,
by Gichin Funakoshi

The Japanese language is not an easy one to master, nor is it always quite so explicit as it might be: different characters may have exactly the same pronunciation, and a single character may have different pronunciations, depending upon the use. The expression karate is an excellent example. Te is easy enough; it means "hand(s)". But there are two quite different characters that are both pronounced kara; one means "empty", and the other is the Chinese character referring to the Tang dynasty and may be translated "Chinese".

[...] before I came to Tokyo from Okinawa in the early 1920s, it was customary to use the character for "Chinese" rather than that for "empty" to write karate [...]

Then, a few years after I came to Tokyo, I had an opportunity to express my disagreement with this

traditional way of writing. It came about when Keio University formed a karate research group, and I was able then to suggest that the art be renamed Dai Nippon Kempo Karate-do ("Great Japan Fist-Method Empty-Hands Way"), making use of the character for "empty" rather than that for "Chinese".

My suggestion initially elicited violent outbursts of criticism in both Tokyo and Okinawa, but I had confidence in the change and have adhered to it over the years. Since then, it has in fact gained such wide acceptance that the word karate would look strange to all of us now if it were written with the "Chinese" kara character.

The kara that means "empty" is definitely the more appropriate. For one thing, it symbolizes the obvious fact that this art of self-defense makes use of no weapons, only bare feet and empty hands. Further, students of Karate-do aim not only toward perfecting their chosen art but also toward emptying heart and mind of all earthly desire and vanity.

"Karate-do Is One"
Excerpt from Karate-Do, My Way of Life,
by Gichin Funakoshi

One serious problem, in my opinion, which besets present-day Karate-do is the prevalence of divergent schools. I believe that this will have a deleterious effect on the future development of the art.

In Okinawa in older times there were, as we know, two schools, Nawate and Shurite, and these were thought of as being related to the two schools of Chinese boxing called Wutang and Shorinji Kempo that flourished during the Yuan, Ming and Chin dynasties. The founding of the Wutang school is attributed to a certain Chang Sanfeng, while the founder of the Shorinji school was said to have been Daruma himself (Bodhidharma), the founder of Zen Buddhism. Both schools, according to report, were extremely popular, and their adherents gave frequent public demonstrations.

Legend tells us that the Wutang school got its name from the Chinese mountain on which it was said to have first been practiced, while Shorinji is the Japanese pronunciation for the Shaolin Temple in Hunan Province, where Daruma preached the way of the Buddha. According to one version of the story, his followers were physically unequal to the rigors of the training he demanded, and after many had fallen in exhaustion, he ordered them to begin, the very next morning, to train their bodies so that their minds and hearts would grow to accept and follow the way of the Buddha. His method of training was a form of boxing that came to be

known as Shorinji Kempo. However much of the legends we accept as historical fact, I think there is little doubt that Chinese boxing did indeed cross the sea to Okinawa, where it merged with an indigenous Okinawan style of fist fighting to form the basis of what we now know as karate.

Formerly, the two Chinese schools of boxing were associated with two Okinawan schools, Shorin-ryu and Shorei-ryu, but what precise relationship exited among them is, of course, long lost in the mists of time. The same is true, incidentally of the Shurite and the Nawate schools.

What we do know is that the techniques of the Shorei school were best suited to a person with a large body, while Shorin techniques suited people with a smaller frame and less strength. Both schools had their advantages and disadvantages. Shorei, for example, taught a more effective form of self-defense, but it lacked the mobility of Shorin. Karate techniques of the present day have adopted the best qualities of both schools.

Again I say that this is as it should be. There is no place in contemporary Karate-do for different schools. Some instructors, I know, claim to have invented new and unusual kata, and so they arrogate to themselves the right to be called founders of "schools". Indeed, I have heard myself and my colleagues referred to as the Shoto-kan school, but I strongly object to this attempt at classification. My belief is that all these "schools" should be amalgamated into one so that Karate-do may pursue an orderly and useful progress into man's future.

Karate-do as a defensive art
Excerpt from Karate-Do, My Way of Life,
by Gichin Funakoshi

I have always stressed the point in my teaching that karate is a defensive art and must never serve offensive purposes. "Be careful", I wrote in one of my early books, "about the words you speak, for if you are boastful you will make a great many enemies. Never forget the old saying that a strong wind may destroy a sturdy tree but the willow bows, and the wind passes through. The great virtues of karate are prudence and humility."

That is why I teach my students always to be alert but never to go on the offensive with their karate

skills, and I instruct my new students that I will under no circumstances permit them to use their fists to settle personal differences. Some of the younger ones, I confess, disagree with me: they tell me that they believe karate may fairly be used whenever circumstances make it absolutely necessary.

I try to point out that this is a total misconception of the true meaning of karate, for once karate enters, the issue becomes a matter of life and death. And how can we allow ourselves to engage in such life and death confrontations often in our few years on earth?

Whatever the circumstances, karate must not be used offensively.

Courtesy in Karate
Excerpt from Karate-Do, My Way of Life,
by Gichin Funakoshi

Some youthful enthusiasts of karate believe that it can be learned only from instructors in a dojo, but such men are mere technicians, not true karateka. There is a Buddhist saying that "anyplace can be a dojo", and that is a saying that anyone who wants to follow the way of karate must never forget. Karate-do is not only the acquisition of certain defensive skills but also the mastering of the art of being a good and honest member of society. [...]

One of the things I always tell my new students is that he who thinks about himself alone and is inconsiderate of others is not qualified to learn Karate-do. Serious students of the art, I have discovered, are always highly considerate of one another. They also demonstrate the great

steadfastness of purpose that is essential if one is to continue studying karate over the long period of time that is required.

Each year, in the month of April, a great number of new students enroll in the karate classes of the universities' physical education departments - most of them, fortunately, with the dual purpose of building up their spiritual as well as their physical strength. Nonetheless, there are always some whose only desire is to learn karate so as to make use of it in a fight. These almost inevitably drop out of the course before half a year has passed, for it is quite impossible for any young person whose objective is so foolish to continue very long at karate. Only those with a higher ideal will find karate interesting enough to persevere in the rigors it entails. Those who do will find that the harder they train the more fascinating the art becomes.

Important Points in Karate
Excerpt from Karate-Do, My Way of Life,
by Gichin Funakoshi

You must be deadly serious in training. When I say that, I do not mean that you should be reasonably diligent or moderately in earnest. I mean that your opponent must always be present in your mind, whether you sit or stand or walk or raise your arms. Should you in combat strike a karate blow, you must have no doubt whatsoever that that one blow decides everything. If you have made an error, you will be the one who falls. You must always be prepared for such an eventuality.

You may train for a long, long time, but if you merely move your hands and feet and jump up and down like a puppet, learning karate is not very different from learning to dance. You will never have reached the heart of the matter; you will have failed to grasp the quintessence of Karate-do. To be deadly serious, then, is not just an essential for a follower of Karate-do; it is equally essential in everyone's daily life, for life is itself a struggle to survive. Anyone so complacent as to assume that after a failure he will have another opportunity will seldom make much of a success of his life. [...]

Try to see yourself as you truly are and try to adopt what is meritorious in the work of others. As a karateka, you will of course often watch others practice. When you do and you see strong points in the performance of others, try to incorporate them into your own technique. At the same time, if the trainee your are watching seems to be doing less than his best, ask yourself whether you too may not be failing to practice with diligence. Each of us has good qualities and bad; the wise man seeks to emulate the good he perceives in others and avoid the bad.

[...] I would like to reiterate that karate is not, and never has been, merely a brutal form of self-defense. On the contrary, anyone who has truly mastered the art of karate will take care not to venture into dangerous places or situations where he or she may be forced to put the art to use. [...]

He who is aware of his own weakness will remain master of himself in any situation; only a true weakling is capable of true courage. Naturally, a real karate adept must refine his technique through training, but he must never forget that only through training will he be able to recognize his own weakness.

FAQ for our club.
Philosophical notes by Sugiyama Sensei