Dojo:   Amityville   Yin yang dojo b   Mt. Kisco

The Way From Techniques

An excerpt recommended by Matt Levito from Funakoshi's Karate-Do Kyohan

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. The value of the art depends on the one applying it.

If its application is for a good purpose, then the art is of great value; but if it is misused, then there is no more evil or harmful art than karate.


At one time, the police department of Okinawa attempted to introduce the art of karate to its members, but deep concern over the danger of this art caused the plan to be abandoned. In another instance, the late admirals Rokuro Yashiro and Norikazu Kanna proposed that navy personnel learn karate, but again fear that it would find application in sailors' brawls led to disapproval of the suggestion. The indiscriminate use of the art of karate would cause great public concern and one cannot deny its potential dangers. However, it would be regrettable that pursuit of this mysterious art, of which one can be properly so proud, should be shunned simply because it is too dangerous. The source of concern is largely based on the misconception arising from instructors of poor character, who thoughtlessly place the emphasis of training on the techniques rather than on the spiritual aspects of the (Do), and from the misbehavior and poor attitudes of karate students who are learning this art solely as a technique of fighting. There are even extreme cases in which students are actually encouraged to employ their karate in brawls. Such admonitions as "You can never improve or polish your techniques without some actual application in fights" or "If you cannot beat so-and-so, then perhaps you had better quit karate training altogether" are truly grievous for the reputation of Karate-do. However, such talk only shows the lack of sense of those who know nothing at all about Karate-do. Properly conceived and taught and practiced in the true spirit of Karate-do, this art is not only the antithesis of a present danger but it in fact admits few equals as a thoroughly noble martial art (Budo).

Powerful drugs are dangerous. Poison is frightening. However, there is no one in the medical world today who advocates shunning drugs. The danger of powerful drugs and poisons depends on their usage, and when applied correctly, they can be of great benefit. Karate-do, improperly used, is certainly dangerous and vicious. But for the same reason that it is dangerous, karate, too, if properly applied, can yield results of great value. At the time a patient receives a prescription for a powerful drug; he is made to understand its nature and is taught its proper usage. In the same way, those who would learn Karate-do must be made to understand it at the outset and be instructed in its proper use. The correct understanding of karate and its proper use is Karate-do.

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 drown 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. In Karate-do, one's individual goal might be improvement of his health or training of his body to function efficiently. He might wish to develop the strength of his arms or legs or body, or to attain poise and spiritual fortitude. Clearly, one could wish to learn Karate-do to become humble. All such goals have to do with self-development. In contrast, in the moment that one misuses the techniques, for example in fighting in such a way that he injures another or himself, or brings dishonor upon himself, he nullifies any of these benefits and merits of Karate-do. Such misuse, arising from superficial understanding, is in fact self-defeating.

Through the man, techniques become art. I must earnestly repeat: do not misuse the techniques of karate.

True karate, that is, Karate-do, strives internally to train the mind to develop a clear conscience enabling one to face the world truthfully, while externally developing strength until one may overcome even ferocious wild animals. Mind and technique are to become one in true karate.

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. It may be said that a presumptuous or conceited person is not qualified to follow Karate-do. The student must always be aware of and receptive to criticism from others; he must be constantly introspective and must readily admit any lack of knowledge, rather than pretending to know what he does not know.

Those who follow Karate-do must never forsake a humble mind and gentle manner. It is the small-minded individual who likes to brag upon acquiring some small skill, and those with little knowledge who carry on as if they were experts are childish. It is because of the large number of false martial artists in the world that the public tends either to ignore the martial artist or to consider him wild. Therefore, many serious martial artists are embarrassed. Students of Karate-do should always keep these points in mind.

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. In a time of grave public crisis, one must have the courage, if required for the sake of justice, to face a million and one opponents. For the Karate-do student, the most shameful trait is indecisiveness.

For many years I have humbly dedicated my life to the introduction of Karate-do to others. During the course of these many years, I have become associated with succeeding generations of fellow karate enthusiasts. Fortunately, my views have been understood by them, and their deep humility and gentleness have earned them the enthusiastic support of the public. I believe that this good result is a treasure we have found together through our mutual endeavor in karate.

In a few words, then, those who seek karate should not stop merely with the perfection of their techniques. Rather, I hope, they will dedicate their lives to seeking the true Karate-do. This is, because life through Karate-do is life itself, public and private.