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The Twenty Precepts of Karateo


Caligraphy of 20 Precepts of Gichin Karateo FunakoshiMaster Gichin Funakoshi in his quest to guide the karate practitioner has left us a collection of 20 precepts to apply daily.

All karateka must follow its basic principles which are just as important if not more than the practice itself.

Each of these precepts is very short and of a philosophical nature which tends of course to various interpretations. The translation that I put below is only the result of my readings and my personal interpretation.

I do not pretend to hold the truth and each precept can probably find other explanations, but I try to write with my heart and my mind to, in my opinion, stick to the right to the will of the Master.

1- Karatedo wa rei ni hajimari, rei ni owaru koto wo wasuru na.

- Do not forget that karate begins and ends with respect.

Respect is an essential virtue in karate, as in life. Always keep in mind the 3 R rule: Respect for others, self-respect and responsibility for one's actions. Karate is not a discipline based on violence and brutality, but on the contrary on the deep respect of the adversary and of oneself.

2- Karate neither feels nashi

- No first attack in karate.

Even if in karate we learn techniques that can be deadly, we should not use them to attack. Karate must remain an instrument of defense and must be used only in extreme resort, once any other alternative is discarded and even if you have to strike first, it must be for defense purposes and not for attack.

3- Karate wa gi no tasuke

- Karate is the instrument of justice.

Karate, as we have just seen, is an instrument of defense, it must serve good and equity.
In no case should karate be used for vile and unjust purposes. Think carefully before using your art: -Is my intentions right? -Is there no other solutions? - Am I doing good using karate? , etc.
But beyond art itself, karateka must behave fairly in his life in general, he must respect the rules of morality, otherwise he will never achieve perfection in karate.

4- Mazu jiko wo shire, shikashite ta wo shire

- Know yourself first, then know the others.

The motto of Socrates was "know thyself" or in ancient Greek: "Gnothi seauton". A humanist philosophy on self-awareness. To learn to know oneself to better understand the world around us. Master Funakoshi takes this precept for karate, because as in life, the important thing in karate is first of all to know oneself, to listen to one's body and senses before trying to know one's opponent. What good is it to observe your opponent and know all your weaknesses if you do not even know how to manage your own body, your own emotions. To overcome, you must first overcome your weaknesses, your doubts ... This is the role of training, physical and spiritual. "To know others is wisdom; to know oneself is superior wisdom. "Lao Tzu

5- Gijutsu yori shinjutsu

- The mind more than the technique.

Even if technical training is probably what we work the most, it represents little compared to the spirit that should animate the technique. It is much more important to think, to use one's intelligence and to reason rather than to use one's own best technique. Sometimes a discussion, a simple sign, is enough to appease the spirits and avoid the fight. And even in combat, working with intelligence will always be better than focusing on technique without thinking.

6- Kojoro wa hannata and koto wo yosu

- Release and guard your mind.

The mind, if it has to take precedence over technique, must not allow itself to be confined by too much concentration. At the beginning of the learning, you will necessarily focus your mind on technical details, but, through training, you must learn to let your mind wander, to leave him free to act by himself almost unconsciously. Your mind must be free.

Do not let your mind shut up in parasitic thoughts such as fear, hatred ... Act wisely, clearly and thoughtfully without precipitation.

7- Wazawai wa ketei ni sho zu

- Bad luck comes from negligence.

In the West, we would say: "The accident does not happen only to others. ". This precept could be translated into one word: vigilance or zanchin!

Clearly, any act, any decision taken in combat can lead to defeat. You must not neglect anything and build your fight or non-fight with method and patience to achieve victory. Do not do anything under the influence of anger, do nothing in haste ... Act quickly, but thoughtfully!

8- Dojo nomi no karate to omou na

- Do not think that karate is only at the dojo.

Karate is a martial art or rather an art of defense, it trains the body and mind to make it less vulnerable and ready to defend itself. This training should not stop at the door of the Dojo. You must keep in mind the precepts of karate in your daily life and seek the perfecting of your body and mind, by a simple lifestyle and without excess. Be respectful, temperate, fair, vigilant, perseverant, cautious ... in karate and in your daily life.

9- Karate no jugyo wa issho of aru

- Karate training lasts a lifetime.

Karate-do is a way to follow, a path that leads to the development of body and mind. Karateka climbs the steps of knowledge as it progresses, but never reaches absolute knowledge, there is always more to learn, to understand. In addition you must constantly relearn your bases to consolidate your foundations in order to build a karate more and more complete.

10- Arayuru mono wo karate kaseyo, soko ni myo-mi ari

- Think all things of life through karate, there is the hidden subtlety.

Karate is everywhere. In your actions, in your thoughts, in your decisions, in short, in everything you do act in Karateka. Apply all the precepts of karate in all your activities of daily life and your life will be more serene and the problems easier to solve.

You have difficulties, worries, hardships ... Consider all this as part of your karate training, as an additional step towards perfection. You follow a path, the do, never forget it.

11- Karate wa yu nogotoshi taezu netsudo wo ataezareba motorcycle no mizu ni kaeru

- Karate is like boiling water, which becomes cold again if you do not bring it heat continuously.

Being karateka, graduating as a black belt, that's good, it's a lot of effort and hard work, but that's not enough. We are karateka all his life, under conditions to train continuously. Boiling water has a great energetic potential just like karateka, which reaches a certain level in its art. But without constant heat (for water) or learning, research, training ... (for Karateka), the potential evaporates very quickly over time.

A Japanese proverb says, "Learning by doing is like pushing a cart toward the top of a hill: Stop pushing and all your efforts will have been in vain. "

12- Katsu kangae wa motu na, makenu kangae wa hitsuyo

- Do not think to win, think not to lose.

Karate is above all an art of defense that serves to preserve the physical and mental integrity of karateka against aggression. The important thing is not to win against an opponent whoever he is, but to preserve and therefore not to lose. Do not look for victory but try to avoid defeat.

As in the precept N ° 4 which teaches us the importance of self-knowledge, you must turn your mind towards yourself, get to know yourself and preserve yourself. Do not turn your mind towards your opponent by trying to beat him.

If pride, vanity, competitive spirit make you want to win at any cost during a fight, you are likely to be blinded by these feelings and your mind will not be free.

13- Teki ni yotte tenka seyo

- Change according to your opponent.

Adapt your karate according to the opponent who is in front of you. Whether for a real fight or a fight at the club. The goal is not to win, adapt your fight not to lose, but do not try to crush your opponent if it is significantly lower than you. And if on the contrary, it is clearly superior to you, use finesse and avoid the fight if possible (anyway it's what you have to try that the opponent is higher or lower than you). Be smarter than him. Do not use that technique. Move differently, whether it is big or small, slow or fast ... You must keep the vigilant mind (zanchin) and adapt your defense according to your opponent and circumstances.

14- Ikusa wa kyo-jutsu no soju ikan ni ari

- In combat, the strategy lies in distinguishing the openings of the invulnerable points.

This precept joins the previous one in the sense that you must observe your opponent and adapt your karate to your observations. Watch your opponent in its entirety while identifying its peculiarities. In karate, it is necessary to show strategy and look for the weak points of the opponent. Before you head down into the fight, learn to observe it. What are his reactions, how does he move, how does he breathe ... You must find fault in his defense and you must exploit them. Do not lock yourself into stereotypical combat shackles with lifeless and repetitive techniques without worrying about your opponent. On the contrary, be flexible of mind as of body. Open your eyes and your mind and know how to decide at the right moment when an opening appears.

15- Hito no teashi wo ken to omoe

- Think of human arms and legs as sabers.

With training, karateka strengthens the body and can be used as a weapon. The arms, legs, feet, hands, knees, elbows ... are all possible weapons of the body. You must use your arms and legs as if they were real weapons. These are weapons that will allow you to defend yourself, do not neglect them, take care and maintain them as a samurai maintenance his sword.

Your opponent is also equipped with these arms that are arms and legs, think about it too. Even if he fights with his bare hands, consider your opponent as an armed man who may have caused you serious and sometimes fatal injuries. Be alert and do not underestimate the power of arms and legs.

16- Danshi my wo izureba, hyakuman no teki ari

- Past your home, 1 million enemies are waiting.

This precept could be translated into one word: caution! Always be on your guard in all areas. Life is beautiful, but we are not in the land of Care Bears, stay cautious and ready to defend yourself in case of any attack whatsoever. Do not trust strangers, but only your loved ones. Stay wary as long as you are not sure that all danger is out.

17- Kamae wa shoshinsha and ato wa shizentai

- The novice forces himself to the posture of formal guard, the natural posture will come later.

When you start karate, you have to force yourself to adopt positions, techniques, basic moves that are often unnatural. It is necessary to force the body and the spirit to hunt the natural and to work the bases. The human being is by nature lazy, if you do not chase the natural, you will not progress. Take postures as your teacher teaches you. With years of practice, the natural body and mind can return and use what has been learned under the constraint of learning.

18- Kata wa tadashiku, jissen wa betsumono

- The kata must be executed strictly, in combat it is another thing.

This precept is a little like the previous one. When learning, we must chase the natural and strive to apply learning techniques such as kata in a formal way, so that the body and mind are gradually forging the techniques of combat. During a fight, it's completely different, and it's even the opposite, you have to try to let the natural freedom to work. And if it is free, your natural will use of itself what your body and mind will have assimilated to training.

19- Chikara no kyojaku, tai no shinshuku, waza no kankyu wo wasureru na

- Do not forget to modulate the power of the force, the elasticity of the body and the relative speed of the techniques.

In karate, your only strength will not be enough, flexibility is not enough and speed too. You must learn to mix these fundamental 3 elements in your techniques, strength, flexibility and speed. Take the very simple example of a Tsuki, the energy generated in the Hara will transit to the arm through the body with flexibility and speed. Your arm must remain relaxed to gain speed and it must become very strong at the moment of impact and then relax again to release energy into the target. If the arm was only strong, it would be too slow, if it were only supple and relaxed, there would be no release of energy on impact and if it was only fast, it would crash on the target (risk of injury). In short, the art of technique is to measure strength, relaxation and speed with a precise chronology. Each body muscle will go through these phases at different stages of the technique. The basic work (Kihon, Kata) will allow you to perfect this modulation.

20- Tsune nor shinen kufu seyo.

- Think about it all the time and follow these precepts on a daily basis.

These precepts must be applied daily, at the dojo and outside. Karate is a source of physical and mental growth. It is a permanent search for perfection, a fight against oneself in combat, but also in any other activity. By applying these precepts of respect, defense, justice, listening to oneself, reflection, free spirit, vigilance, perseverance, listening to others, wisdom, prudence, rigor, moderation ... you will become a complete karateka and a fulfilled human being.

Here, as I told you, there are probably many other possible translations.

If you are interested, you can find the book on Amazon:

The twenty guiding precepts of karate-do: The spiritual legacy of the Master

(If you go through this link, I will receive a modest commission.

Leave me comments below, give your opinion, debate, criticize ...

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  1. Hello,
    These precepts stated by Me FUnakoshi are those of his style and not karate in general.
    Other founders have "dojo kun".
    . Precepts for kyokushinkai:
    Precepts of an Okinawa master:
    Choke Motobu:


    Some precepts come from Okinawan karate, but since Shotokan developed a lot in the "university" milieu, for Shiai, it would have been difficult to apply the "no first attack" principle. It distinguishes defensive old styles from modern offensive styles, not to mention the ancient techniques to say the least violent.

    "Do not think about winning, do not worry about losing. "
    Mr. Chinen talks about two Karate orientations in relation to this. Teaching to win and training in order not to lose while receiving are completely different.
    To receive it is UKE which seems to have a special meaning.

    2 eme videos on the page
    Video: Okinawa Spirit 44.54

    In my opinion, the explanations about the master's remained on the island. I have the impression that the modernized version, the training corresponding to our orientations, make us difficult the understanding of some small "details". It is interesting to discover the old books of me Funakoshi, those from the very beginning. One could even call Funakoshi Ryu a strict conformity to what it shows and explains. Perhaps some precepts allude to practices of an earlier version that is difficult for us to understand. I mistrust more and more translations, often we translate into our concepts what can be seen differently (rei for example).
    What is amazing is that the dojo kun, precept of the dojo, other styles are shorter, 4 or 5 enigmatic sentences, in many senses. Despite the respect I have for the elders, I will admit that some of the comments are quite ... flat.

    What evokes me the following story: a rich man feels dying. He learns that a wise man knows the secret of life, but He is in a terrible place, a foul jungle, full of poisonous animals, parasites, viruses not listed in WHO. The man goes on an expedition. During the expedition his companions all die. He is at the end of the roller, but backing up has become impossible. Finally, he finds a column with a sage sitting at the top. He says to her "Oé la haut,! what is the meaning of life? ". The sage "life is a great river flowing". The guy is a cable "what I did all this to hear such bullshit ...". The wise man leans over, and looks down at the man, then says, "Oh, well, life is not a big flowing river. "

  2. The texe reflects your qualities
    of teacher is master
    I start I think
    That it's the right decisions
    to take in this waiting
    Distinguished greetings

  3. Hello all these texts are very explicit especially this one Arayuru mono wo karate kaseyo, soko ni myo-mi ari well on all the others are important I would like to keep them in memory thank you again: Christmas

  4. Thank you Bruno for these personalized translations;
    I already have the master book FUNAKOSHI (the 20 precepts director of KARATE-DO) !!!!
    I wish you a good day and see you soon.

    Regards: Michel

  5. I always told myself that he would be stupid in real combat, to want at all costs to apply this or that technique absolutely and as it is; but to "forget" what we know to see only the opponent and trust our body that will then apply the technique that will succeed him the best.
    In fact, most of his advice is also valid for virtually any sport.

    • This is a term we often hear about the "inapplicability" of this or that practice. My answer is that we develop the muscles, the agility, that we optimize by coordinating, that we learn to manage a relative opposition and to move, ... Some reproaches vis-à-vis karate are a little like if we told fencers "wa les mec, they do not stick, it's chique". Indeed, even at the time of the duels people were not "stung" in the rooms of arms. A former judoka recycled in a homemade jujitsu, said that the best weapon to defend oneself is already a good physical condition.

  6. Here is another translation more or less identical but with significant nuances:

    1. Never forget that KARATE begins and ends in RESPECT.
    2. There will be no first attack in KARATE.
    3. KARATE forges righteousness.
    4. Start by knowing yourself, then get to know others.
    5. Give priority to mental technique to physical technique.
    6. Let your mind flow freely.
    7. Inattention and neglect cause bad luck.
    8. Never think that the practice of KARATE is limited only to the room
    9. KARATE is the search for a lifetime.
    10. All you encounter is an aspect of KARATE; the wonderful truth lies
    click here.
    11. KARATE is like boiling water: if you do not keep the flame high by a
    continual training, it will become lukewarm.
    12. Do not think of victory, think rather not to lose.
    13. Answer by giving yourself to your opponent.
    14. Get into the fight with a natural strategy.
    15. Think of your hands and feet as weapons.
    16. A step out of the threshold, and you face 10000 opponents.
    17. Learn different guards as a beginner, then rest on a posture
    18. Traditional kata must be worked properly: the real fight is another
    19. Never forget your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as the qualities relating to your
    20. Constantly polish your mind.

    thank you again for sharing your knowledge Bruno!

  7. Bruno,
    Thank you always for what you bring illustrating this common passion of karatedo that devours you as it devours me, and that "endless", to take an image, like an endless screw driving a wheel turning on its axis without moving forward or backward. Here! Here! Wheel! Term used by Miyamoto Musashi in GORIN-no-SHO that is to say the treatise of 5 ... WHEELS!
    To devour, as exactly an animal not in the cruel and bestial sense but very just as to satisfy the 11e precept of Gichin Funakoshi that you developed to us, to always bring, again and again, heat so that the boiling water does not cool !
    To abound always in your sense, allow me to report below an extract of a book that I just finished: the 47ème samuraï of Stephen Hunter.
    "... A disciple of the greatest blacksmith of Japanese swords, Masamune, is convinced that he has finally managed to forge a blade better than that of the master. He is ambitious and vain, and he demands a confrontation. The old master refuses first but ends up giving in to his insistence. The blade of the young disciple is placed in the water of a stream. The current brings various objects that it cuts: twigs, leaves, fish. It also slices various debris, paper and air bubbles. All that is brought by the current is cut in two. The master's blade is then placed in the water. She does not cut anything. Floating objects turn away from her like magic. After a while, the young disciple exults. " I won ! My blade is the best! My blade cuts everything, and yours nothing! ". Old Masumune then removes his blade from the stream with a smile. "Recognize him, master," said the disciple. My blade is superior to yours, it cuts everything. ". Old Masumune walks away, looking satisfied. The disciple then addresses a priest who attended the demonstration. "Tell him my blade is better. Make him understand him. "No, answer the priest. His blade knows the way; She saw nothing bad to cut. She brought nothing wrong in this world. She is here to help. To do justice. Yours cuts anything, without discernment, It is a bad blade, without morality. It must be destroyed.
    Bruno, we are here in the 3th principle of Gichin Funakoshi that you illustrated ....
    Sorry to have been a bit long You see, you understand why I used the verb devour.
    I now give the floor back to the conductor.

    • Hello,
      I am speaking in spite of being like Mr. Lee a "milimiter". I believe that the spirit of the martial arts that we often refer to comes more from the culture of the sword than karate.


      Having ordered two "cheap" sabers in Japan, I received two "stews" which were to contain steel. Considering the price I suspected it.
      But having fun to parry, I noticed that the blade, bursting in many places. An actor in a peplum explained that by crossing the iron in battle scenes, the blades, not sharpened, were chipped like saws, which makes them even more dangerous.

      And that's why my question was born: why old blades are intact? if they had served they must bear the stigmata.

      No doubt certain were honored. Not to mention some masters of modern AM, wealthy family, who pose before then that their condition would not have allowed them in the Edo era for example. This may be the reason, many of the swords produced were acquired by people who did not use them but as a symbol of nobility. We have known this also in the form of titles granted to people who have not excelled in chivalry.

      Another answer is that the clashes against another blade had to be done with the back of it.However they had to be very careful because the iron was of the quality of the time was not that of today.


      If one considers that the value of a good depends on the amount of work needed to make it, one wonders how an unfortunate samurai could get one. Indeed, the forge takes a crazy time, polishing not less, and involves the mastery, the iron was expensive. No doubt the weapons of many samurais were less aesthetic than those seen here by the ....

      In the bibliography of my Karate Aide Memoire, I added books on Japan and some classics Eiji Yoshikawa; Hagakure, ... Japanese martial weapons bearing the stamp of the samurai guerrilla caste. Some were soldiers, killers and very noble people.
      So a samurai pursues another who falls back. He holds out his bow and aims it. Throw some verses noting the state of his clothes. The other responds with other verses, well turned, following. When the samurai relaxes his bow, he explains himself saying "he could not kill a man like this ...".

  8. To translate that of Japanese, respect!

    Thank you in any case to make it accessible to all. The mental / spiritual side tends to be largely obscured in the West, and that's a shame because it's the most important variable in a fight ... and that's the main interest of the martial arts. If not, why spend so much time learning techniques with fists or sabers that we will probably never use?

  9. Bjr all karatekas of the world.Thank you Mr Bruno on this immense work that you provide for the benefit of karate.For me the 20 precepces of karate are a light that everyone needs to eclircir his way of practice. It is not only a martial art but a deep philosophy, an itynirary of long and varied knowledge.

  10. Thank you Bruno, for this interesting development concerning the 20 precepts of karateka.

    I really appreciate that you add your personal data to everything you teach us.
    You really have the spirit of teaching because you willingly share your experience.
    Thank you again and see you soon.

  11. Hello Bruno,
    I had already read the precepts of Master Funakoshi, it is with joy to reread them here, with your annotations (or translations ..). Everything fits in these rules of life, for all (e) karateka! It is good to refer sometimes, in time, to reframe his philosophy of martial arts and life in general! I propose for those who do not know, to get the book of Gichin Funakoshi "karate-Do my way, my life" at Budo Editions (with a preface by Henry Plée, 10ème dan Genbukan). It is exciting to read the life course of this man, genius of karate it must be said!
    Good practice to all and thank you Bruno, for all your teachings in this blog. We are getting richer every day !!

  12. Krav Maga is perfect for people who have learned that the world does not say "sorry": on my part I find this martial art superb (yes, there is the principle: "All shots are admitted", it does not There is no pity for his own assailant (and very good!), but that does not mean that the Krav Maga wrestlers do not respect or have principles of Warrior's honor.
    But I'm only doing now - as for Krav Maga - the courses, alas. On the other hand, I find the human spirit and the ethics of the practitioners in the two closely related Martial Arts; perhaps the Krav Maga Battler is more "merciless" - because always and always he sees his art in relation to realistic situations.

    And as for Karate ... I believe that sometimes ... in life - arriving at the moment of practicing it (or another Martial Art) is a natural thing. Sometimes life does everything to "prepare" a Being for it - and what Martial Art one chooses depends on what "what" that "preparation" consisted of, by life, and how life was with us. The Warrior spirit is formed long before the first shot in the room, sometimes with the less legal moves ...
    One can choose the most radical and violent Arts, or less. But always, there remains this consciousness: that what we do, is necessary.


    ... Before I started practicing (not long ago ...!) I put on one of my sites the words: "The body, the voice, are the weapons of Battle". And yet I have never read Gichin Funakoshi, not yet ...
    That said, that some things always remain truths - and only discover them ... then, already consciously - get started - and, as in the 7ème "precept", do not neglect of ... NOTHING.

  13. Hello Bruno,
    A little bit of reminder about what the Way is always good by where it passes. Even though my last Karate lessons go back far, I stopped at the age of twelve, I realize that many of these precepts have shaped my life. Recently, I practice Krav Maga, where there, the code of honor is, say, much less philosophical. See instead:
    1 - Defeat is not an option
    2 - Victory is not a feat but a habit.
    3 - Train to survive
    4 - Fight to save a life
    5 - Sweat avoids blood.

    It is true that these few precepts find their source in the various codes of Martial Arts, and in particular those of Karate, but there is something missing?
    Personally, I adhere perfectly to the code of karate by adding one more thing, which pushes the codes 13 and 14 further: The technique is one thing, the character of the man is another. Once the technique is learned, it must be assimilated so that it becomes an integral part of our personality. For that, it is also useful to learn but also to unlearn to know how to delete what does not correspond to us. As Bruce Lee wrote: "To obtain enlightenment through martial art, be anxious to sweep away anything that might weaken the light of the knowledge of the truth, the 'True Life'. This implies a constant and limitless evolution.
    What do you think ?

    Thank you very much for this very well written article. I'll go back.

  14. Hello Bruno
    I have never tried to contact you although I am quite diligent
    in reading the sections you propose. Thank you for this wonderful job, a sign of a certain passion (and shared) for this art that is Karate.

  15. hello Bruno
    it's been a long time since I read these twenty precepts of Karateo. I forgot them over time, which means they were not well understood by me.
    but today ; and thanks to you; I'm trying to put them into practice.
    Thank you again and see you soon

  16. Thank you again for this article very rewarding and very interesting in every way.

    I retain this sentence, which I think will suit me in the future.

    Mazu jiko wo shire, shikashite ta wo shire

    Know yourself first, then know the others.

    Thank you again Bruno for your work.

  17. Hello bruno sensei. Thank you for reminding us of the precepts of karate with your little comments, one more to become better

    I read a little sentence from a sensei (I can not remember his name) that says: "karate inspires man to become virtuous"

    Thank you again and see you soon

  18. we understand through these 20 precepts that karate is not only knowing how to hit Tsuki and Geri, it is also a way of life. A permanent race to perfection.
    Karateka must have exemplary behavior in the environment in which he lives. And I believe that these precepts will guide the practitioner in the practice of karate but also in his way of living with others.

    thanks for the translation

  19. Hello, Bruno and how are you?
    Thank you very much Mr Bruno, for these precepts extremely interesting and very useful for any karateka. Yes, it must be said, especially in my experience with young practitioners and say newer or newer and I would say even the old ones a little bit (4 and 5 years of practice) I'm sure they have never heard of these concepts.

    What I found very interesting, even for those who claim or say who want especially to seek the victory in karate through the fight (because some focus especially on the combat aspect of karate "Kumite"), there is tips and tricks to learn to fight a fight in the dojo or on the street (everyday life).

    Again, thank you very much.

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