This article is part of the Twenty Precepts from the Way of the Empty Hand series.
What is the way of the empty hand? Karate-do (空手道, literally ’empty hand way’) is a simple and practical martial philosophy. This martial way seeks gentleness when it can, discipline when it’s required.
Beyond the physical training required, there are many aspects of the martial arts that deserve appreciation. The Twenty Precepts from Gichin Funakoshi are axioms for a thorough contemplation of this way of the empty hand. And, an indication of the deep thoughtfulness of this Okinawan art.
Below is a translation, transcription, and transliteration of the Twenty Precepts. As time goes by, there will be links to other articles exploring these ideas. Enjoy!
松濤館二十訓 Shōtōkan nijū kun
First, karate-do begins and ends with bowing.
Hitotsu, karate-do wa rei ni hajimari rei ni owaru koto o wasuruna
First, there is no first strike in karate.
Hitotsu, karate ni sente nashi
First, karate stands on the side of justice.
Hitotsu, karate wa, gi no tasuke
First, first know yourself, then know others.
Hitotsu, mazu onore o shire, shikashite ta o shire
First, mentality over technique.
Hitotsu, gijutsu yori shinjitsu
First, the heart must be set free.
Hitotsu, kokoro wa hanatan koto o yosu
First, calamity springs from carelessness.
Hitotsu, wazawai wa ketai ni seizu
First, karate goes beyond the dojo.
Hitotsu, dojo nomino karate to omou na
First, karate is a lifelong pursuit.
Hitotsu, karate-do no shugyo wa issho de aru
First, apply the way of karate to all things. Therein lies its beauty.
Hitotsu, ara yuru mono o karateka seyo; soko ni myomi ari
First, karate is like boiling water; without heat, it returns to its tepid state.
Hitotsu, karate wa yu no gotoshi taezu netsu o ataezareba moto no mizu ni kaeru
First, do not think of winning. Think, rather, of not losing.
Hitotsu, katsu kangae wa motsuna; makenu kangae wa hitsuyo
First, make adjustments according to your opponent.
Hitotsu, tekki ni yotte tenka seyo
First, the outcome of a battle depends on how one handles emptiness and fullness (weakness and strength).
Hitotsu, tatakai wa kyojitsu no soju ikan ni ari
First, think of hands and feet as swords.
Hitotsu, hito no teashi wa ken to omoe
First, when you step beyond your own gate, you face a million enemies.
Hitotsu, danshi mon o izureba hyakuman no teki ari
First, formal stances are for beginners; later, one stands naturally.
Hitotsu, kamae wa shoshinsha ni ato wa shizentai
First, perform prescribed sets of techniques exactly; actual combat is another matter.
Hitotsu, kata wa tadashiku, jisen wa betsumono
First, do not forget the employment of withdrawal of power, the extension or contraction of the body, the swift or leisurely application of technique.
Hitotsu, chikara no kyojakutai no shinshuku waza no kankyu o wasuruna
First, be constantly mindful, diligent, and resourceful, in your pursuit of the Way.
Hitotsu, tsune ni shinen ku fu seyo