In Okinawa, a miraculous and mysterious martial art has come down to us from the past. It is said that one who masters its techniques can defend himself readily without resort to weapons and can perform remarkable feats: the breaking of several thick boards with his fist or ceiling panels of a room with a kick; with his shuto (sword hand) he can kill a bull with a single stroke; he can pierce the flank of a horse with his open hand; he can cross a room grasping the beams of the ceiling with his fingers; crush a green bamboo stalk with his bare hand; shear a hemp rope with a twist; or gouge soft rock with his hands.

Some consider these aspects of this miraculous and mysterious martial art to be the essence of Karate-do. But such feats are a small part of Karate, playing a role analogous to the straw-cutting test of Kendo (Japanese fencing), and it is erroneous to think that there is no more to Karate-do than this. In fact, true Karate-do places weight upon spiritual rather than physical matters... True Karate-do is this: that in daily life, one's mind and body be trained and developed in a spirit of humility; and that in critical times, one be devoted utterly to the cause of justice.

- Funakoshi, G. (1922). Karate-do Kyohan (The Master Text).

Shotokan Karate

Shotokan, the world's best-known style of Karate, derives its name from Funakoshi's pen name Shoto. It is characterised by its effective use of attacks and blocks at far maai (the distance maintained between opponents). Conversely, the Goju, Shito and Wado styles are acknowledged for their use of close maai.

The training process for Karate today comprises four areas: kihon (basics), kumite (sparring), kata (pre-arranged series of movements and techniques) and competition. We can also divide Karate into the competition-oriented Sports Karate and Budo (martial arts) Karate, which focuses on discipline and training. Master Funakoshi, who was both an educator and a man of letters, taught the latter type of Karate at universities. Additionally, if we view kata in terms of training on an individual meditative level, then kumite represents training conducted in tandem with a partner. These contrasting elements can be compared to the two wheels of a cart.

It is a fact that, following the introduction of the tournament system, Karate has spread throughout the world. Additionally, the incentive that tournaments provide for practitioners to burn their fighting spirit, or to strive to become stronger, is important indeed... What is of primary importance, however, is kihon... One of the appeals of Karate is that it provides an opportunity for everyone, regardless of gender or physical strength, to gain increasing confidence with each passing year.

- Kanazawa, H. (2004). Karate Fighting Techniques (The Complete Kumite).

The Dojo Kun

The Dojo Kun is an affirmation of the ethics of Karate training, said to have been created by Grand Master Gichin Funakoshi (the founder of Shotokan Karate). All five precepts are of equal importance, so all are numbered One!

Hitotsu! Jinkaku kansei ni tsutomuru koto!
One! To strive for the perfection of character!

Hitotsu! Makato no michi o mamoru koto!
One! To defend the paths of truth!
Hitotsu! Doryoku no seishin o yashinau koto!
One! To foster the spirit of effort!
Hitotsu! Reigi o omonsuru koto!
One! To honour the principles of etiquette!
Hitotsu! Kekki no yu o imashimuru koto!
One! To guard against impetuous courage!

- Flynn, K. (1985). Shotokan Manual.

The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate

The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate are said to have been created by Grand Master Gichin Funakoshi to offer guidance to Karate practitioners. Funakoshi's principles are (intentionally) open to various interpretations.

1. Do not forget that Karate-do begins and ends with rei (respect).
2. There is no first strike in Karate.
3. Karate stands on the side of justice.
4. First know yourself, then know others.
5. Mentality over technique.
6. The mind must be set free.
7. Calamity springs from carelessness.
8. Karate goes beyond the dojo (training hall).
9. Karate is a lifelong pursuit.
10. Apply the way of Karate to all things. Therein lies its beauty.
11. Karate is like boiling water: without heat, it returns to its tepid state.
12. Do not think of winning. Think, rather, of not losing.
13. Make adjustments according to your opponent.
14. The outcome of a battle depends on how one handles emptiness and fullness (weakness and strength).
15. Think of the opponent's hands and feet as swords.
16. When you step beyond your own gate, you face a million enemies.
17. Kamae (ready stance) is for beginners; later, one stands in shizentai (natural stance).
18. Perform kata exactly; actual combat is another matter.
19. Do not forget the employment or withdrawal of power, the extension or contraction of the body, the swift or leisurely application of technique.
20. Be constantly mindful, diligent and resourceful in your pursuit of the Way.

- Teramoto, J. (2003). The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate.

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