The Niju-Kun (20 Precepts of Shotokan Karate)

The Niju-Kun - 20 Precepts of Karate-Do

The Niju-Kun, or the 20 Precepts of Shotokan Karate, are a set of guiding principles and teachings developed by Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan Karate. These precepts are meant to provide not only physical but also mental and philosophical guidance to karate practitioners.

1. Karate-do begins with courtesy and ends with rei.
Courtesy and respect are fundamental in Karate-do. It signifies a deep understanding of the importance of humility and etiquette in martial arts.

2. There is no first strike (attack) in karate [either mentally or physically] - “Karate ni sente nashi”.
This principle emphasises the defensive nature of Karate-do. It encourages practitioners to refrain from initiating conflict, both physically and mentally.

3. Karate is an aid to justice.
Karate-do advocates using one's skills to protect oneself and others. It underscores the moral responsibility of martial artists to uphold justice.

4. First, know yourself before attempting to know others.
Self-awareness is key in Karate-do. It suggests that understanding one's strengths and weaknesses is the foundation for understanding others.

5. Spirit first, technique second.
The spirit and attitude of the practitioner are considered more important than technical proficiency. A strong spirit enhances the effectiveness of techniques.

6. Always be ready to release your mind.
Mental flexibility and readiness are essential. Practitioners should be open to new ideas and adaptable in various situations.

7. Accidents arise from negligence.
Emphasises the importance of mindfulness and diligence in training to prevent accidents and injuries.

8. Karate training is outside the dojo.
Karate-do is not limited to the training hall; it should be integrated into daily life, promoting discipline and character development.

9. Learning karate will take your entire life; there is no limit.
Karate is a lifelong journey of learning and self-improvement. Mastery is a continuous process with no fixed endpoint.

10. Put your everyday living into karate, and you will find "Myo" (subtle secrets).
Integrating Karate-do principles into daily life reveals hidden insights and wisdom, enhancing one's understanding of the art.

11. Karate is like boiling water; it will cool if you do not heat it constantly. (qv: also by Tsunetomo Yamamoto)
Consistent practice and dedication are necessary to maintain proficiency in Karate-do. Without regular effort, skills may decline.

12. Do not think you have to win; think instead that you do not have to lose.
Shift the focus from winning to self-preservation. Avoiding defeat is often more critical than seeking victory.

13. Victory depends on distinguishing vulnerable points from invulnerable ones.
Understanding the weaknesses and strengths of yourself and your opponent is crucial for victory.

14. The battle's outcome depends on how you handle weakness and strength.
Effective martial arts strategy involves exploiting an opponent's weaknesses while protecting one's strengths.

15. Think of your opponent's hands and feet as swords.
This metaphor encourages practitioners to treat their opponent's limbs respectfully and cautiously, akin to facing deadly weapons.

16. When you leave home, think you have numerous opponents waiting for you.
Maintaining a vigilant mindset is essential, even outside the dojo, to be prepared for potential threats.

17. Beginners must master low stance and posture; natural body positions are for the advanced.
Before progressing to more advanced techniques, a strong foundation in basic stances and posture is crucial for beginners.

18. Practicing a kata exactly is one thing; engaging in a real fight is another.
Katas are forms designed to teach techniques and principles. They may sometimes translate directly to actual combat situations.

19. Remember to correctly apply strength and weakness of power, stretching and contraction of the body, and slowness and speed of techniques.
Effectively applying techniques requires understanding how and when to use various aspects of power, flexibility, and speed.

20. Always think and devise ways to live the precepts of karate-do every day.
The principles of Karate-do should guide one's daily actions and decisions, promoting a virtuous and disciplined life.

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