Master Funakoshi explained his philosophy of karate, in greater detail, in the twenty principles called the nijyu kun. Throughout his life, Master Funakoshi emphasized the importance of spiritual over physical matters, and he believed that it was essential for the karate student to understand why—not only for training, but in the way the student lives every moment of his life. In his book, Karate-do Kyohan, Master Funakoshi discussed both the positive and negative aspects of karate, warning us that karate-do can be misused if misunderstood. He felt that those who wanted to learn karate should understand what karate really is—what its purpose, its ultimate objective, should be. Only then could a karate student understand how to use karate techniques and skills properly.
When we get to the very essence of karate, to the ultimate purpose of training—that’s what it’s all about: Improving ourselves as people. If we all try to make ourselves the best human beings we can be, we will make the world a better place. We will help bring peace. That was Master Funakoshi’s ultimate goal—to make peace in the world by helping people develop themselves, as individual human beings, through karate-do. It is every instructor’s duty to help realize this goal. And it is the responsibility of every student as well. When you repeat the dojo kun after class, and you say it from your heart, you acknowledge that responsibility.
The principles of the dojo kun are simple and very basic. They are simply stated, and so require little explanation. Here we will give a brief explanation of each principle, keeping it as simple as the principle itself.
The message behind each of the nijyu kun is often more difficult to understand, however, and so we devote more time to explaining them. As you will see—and as I said before—the basic principles of the dojo kun are reflected in the principles of the nijyu kun. The dojo kun is the foundation of the nijyu kun.
As we explain the meaning of the nijyu kun, you will see the basic, simple ideas of the dojo kun everywhere. And again, the last four parts of the dojo kun reflect the very first, the most important principle of all: Seek perfection of character.
Always remember: The most important thing you can do as a true student of karate is to seek perfection of character. The dojo kun and the nijyu kun explain both how and what it means to do so, not only in karate training, but in the broader terms of life, generally.
Of course there is no substitute for training. Training is the process by which we learn to improve ourselves as people. Training is our path to the spiritual growth Master Funakoshi encouraged us to attain. But it is important to understand why we train. Karate, more than anything else, is a spiritual endeavor. It is a way to develop a person as an individual. If a karate student does not understand this basic objective, then he or she is not really practicing karate.
Helping people become the best human beings they can be is what karate is all about.