by Harry Cook
of training in a karate dojo in Japan which is not often met in the West is-the
practice of reciting the kun or code of ethics at the end of a training session.
G W. Nicol in his book "Moving Zen: Karate as a Way to Gentleness" refers
to this practice and its place in Japanese karate-do:
"The oath was
always chanted with strength, never mumbled in insincerity. Just as movements
would become automatic and reflexes conditioned, the simple truths of the
oath would also penetrate the mind of the participant"
The form of the
dojo kun can vary from style to style or dojo to dojo but in general the sentiments
and basic ideas involved agree in most respects. My own experience centers
on the kun used in Higaonna Sensei's Goju-ryu and Kanazawa Sensei 's Shotokan
dojos in Tokyo, where the five precepts were identical but not presented in
the same order; this is also the dojo kun used by the Japan Karate Association.
In normal practice
this would be chanted after a short period of meditation (Mokuso) at the end
of a class. The usual procedure is for the senior student in the class to
say one line which is them repeated by the whole class until the sequence
DOJO KUN 1. Hitotsu.
Jinkaku kansei ni tsutomeru koto.
One. Work to perfect your character.
2. Hitotsu. Makoto
no michi o mamoru koto.
One. Have fidelity in seeking a true way.
3. Hitotsu. Doryoku
no seishin o yashinau koto.
One. Cultivate a spirit of endeavour and perseverance.
4. Hitotsu. Reigi
o omonjiru koto.
One. Always act with good manners.
5. Hitotsu. Kekki
no yu o imashimeru koto.
One. Refrain from violent and uncontrolled behavior.
In these five
precepts we have the essence of a teaching which enables karate to be seen
as something more than simply a method of random mayhem or a modern competitive
sport. This is the morality which is needed to balance the physical in training.
It is the foundation of what in Buddhism is called "right action" (Samma -
kammanta); ignoring the beliefs and ideas encapsulated in the dojo kun will
in the long run have a negative effect both on the individual martial artist
and on the evolution of karate as a whole.
It is worthwhile
looking at the precepts individually:
1. Work to perfect
your character It is instructive to note that this ideal is given priority
- not strength, speed, technical skill or fighting ability, but perfection
of the student's character. This is what Master Gichin Funakoshi continuously
stresses in his writings; he recounts a story in which he acted as an arbitrator
between two contending villages. By keeping his head and acting in a controlled
and rational manner Funakoshi proposed a compromise acceptable to both sides
and so violence was avoided. This he regarded as proof that karate training
had improved his character and so enabled him to find a peaceful solution.
2. Have fidelity
in seeking a true way The stress here is that the "way" should be "true" i.e.
should not be a method of self indulgence or weakness. There are many individuals
teaching martial arts who claim high grades, skills etc. without any justification,
for either commercial reasons or to boost their egos. Here in the North East
of the country (England) we have a sixteen year old boy who claims a third
dan in Shotokan karate and a world championship title. When I spoke to this
poor self deluded child it seemed obvious to me that he had almost started
to believe his own lies; it was easier to create a fantasy that to train hard
and one day actually realize his dreams if he had the skill and determination.
This is not only a problem found in self-deluded teenagers; there are many
individuals I know training in karate who are still very bitter about being
involved with a self-graded master of Okinawan Karate/Zen monk who indulged
his fantasies not so many years ago. This same individual now pedals his myths
under the heading of Chinese Yoga; the real tragedy is that he had a high
degree of natural talent that could have been developed honestly, he could
have realized his dream. Ultimately those who do not have fidelity in seeking
a true way become the victims of their fantasies.
a spirit of endeavor and perseverance. Traditionally a martial art or way
was never taught or practised simply as a form of amusement or as a diversion
from the more serious aspects of life, and so patience was needed if the student
was to eventually learn all the aspects of the art correctly. The seemingly
endless repetition of basic techniques, is not a bloc to learning, as some
modern thinkers seem to think, but it is also true that such training may
not be too amusing. Lack of perseverance simply means that all progress will
come to a dead stop; as the master swordsman Banzo told his student Yagyu
Matajuro, "a man in such a hurry as you are to get results seldom learns quickly"
4. Always act
with good manners. In a sense this repeats and stresses the first precept.
By acting with good manners we will not inflame an already bad situation and
may in fact avoid unnecessary violence. However this must not be construed
as weakness. Gichin Funakoshi refers to an incident in which he unintentionally
kicked an escaped convict who then ended up in a community cesspool. Helping
the local police to arrest the man he tells us "I felt a deep sense of pity
for him, until the officers told me he was an escaped convict with a long
police record, and that he had been convicted of theft, robbery, and rape.
Then my, sense of pity vanished" Obviously acting with good manners should
be a reciprocal process, and here we see the influence of the teachings of
Confucious on the development of the martial arts who wrote "You repay an
injury with directness, but you repay a good turn with a good turn."
5. Refrain from
violent and uncontrolled behavior. This seems to be the ultimate paradox of
karate, but here we have the essence of the morality of the martial arts.
Force may be used if the end is morally correct - i.e. self defence or protection
of the innocent. In this way the actions of the Shaolin monks in developing
fighting methods to protect their temple or struggle with bandits was a morally
acceptable act. In the same light, protecting yourself against a thug who
has initiated the violence is not a reprehensible act. Mas Oyama, the great
master of Kyokushinkai Karate tells us of an incident in his life when he
was forced to kill to protect himself: "But one injury I inflicted almost
caused me to give up karate forever. Once I was attacked by a knife-carrying
gangster and struck him with a ryutoken (dragonhead fist) on the upper lip.
He died, leaving behind a wife and child. I was guilty of nothing criminal
since I had only defended myself, but I was deeply grieved that karate, which
I had never wanted to use to anyone 's harm had led to death. I had nightmares
of remorse over the fate of the dead man's family. Finally, announcing that
I was through with karate, I went to a farm in the Kanto District where I
worked with five times the strength and enthusiasm of an ordinary laborer
to earn money to help the dead man's wife and child" The dojo kun points the
way to the ultimate aim of training which is mastery of the self. Ultimately
technique as such is of no importance, as it is the individuals spirit which
is being developed and disciplined. By seriously following the techniques
inherent in these apparently simple precepts the trainee can begin to make
progress in the Way of the martial arts.