The Rules of Karate-Do

1. Be deadly serious in training. 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 the 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.

2. Train with heart and soul without worrying about theory. Very often the man who lacks that essential quality of deadly seriousness will take refuge in theory. The kibdachi (horse-riding stance), for instance, looks extremely easy but the fact is that no one could possibly master it even if he practiced every day for an entire year. What nonsense, then, for a man to complain after a couple of months practice that he is incapable of mastering a kata.

Karate-do consists of a great number of kata and basic skills and techniques that no human being is capable of assimilating in a short space of time. Further, unless you understand the meaning of each technique and kata, you will never be able to remember, no matter how much you practice, all the various skills and techniques. All are interrelated and if you fail to understand each completely, you will fail in the long run.

 

But once you have completely mastered one technique, you will realize its close relation to other techniques. You will, in other words come to understand that all of the more than 20 kata (in Shotokan) may be distilled into only a few basic ones. If therefore you become a master of one kata, you will soon gain an understanding of all the others merely by watching them being performed or by being taught them in an instruction period.

 

3. Avoid self-conceit and dogmatism. A man who brags in booming tones or swaggers down the street as though he owned it will never earn true respect even though he may actually be very capable in karate or some other martial art. It is even more absurd to hear the self-aggrandizing of one who is without capability. In karate it is usually the beginner who cannot resist the temptation to brag or show of; by doing so, he dishonors not only himself, but also his chosen art.

 

4. 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 you 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.

 

5. Abide by the rules of ethics in your daily life, whether in public or private. This is a principle that demands the strictest observance. With the martial arts, most particularly with karate-do, many neophytes will exhibit great progress, and in the end some may turn out to be better karateka than their instructors. All too frequently one hears teachers speak of the trainees as oshiego (pupil), or mentei (follower), or deshi (disciple), or kohai (junior). Such terms should be avoided for the time may well come when the trainee will surpass his instructor. The instructor, meanwhile, in using such expressions runs the risk of complacency, the danger of forgetting that some day the young man he has spoken of rather slightingly will not only catch up with him, but go beyond him-in the art of karate or in other fields of human endeavor. No one can attain perfection in karate-do until he finally comes to realize that it is, above all else, a faith, a way of life.

 

When a man enters upon an undertaking, he prays fervently that he will achieve success in it. Further, he knows that he requires the help of others and, by accepting it from them, acquires the ability to elevate the art into a faith wherein he perfects both body and soul and so comes finally to recognize the true meaning of karate-do.

 

Inasmuch as karate-do aims at perfection of mind as well as body, expressions that extol only physical prowess should never be used in connection with it. As one buddhist saint, Nichiren, has so aptly said, everyone who studies the Sutras should read them not only with the eyes that are in his head, but also with those of his soul. This is the perfect admonition for a trainee of karate-do to always keep in mind.

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