Niju kun

Gichin Funakoshi laid out the Twenty Precepts of Karate, (or Niju kun) which form the foundations of the art, before his students established the JKA. Within these twenty principles, based heavily on Bushido and Zen, lies the philosophy of Shotokan. The principles allude to notions of humility, respect, compassion, patience, and both an inward and outward calmness. It was Funakoshi’s belief that through karate practice and observation of these 20 principles, the karateka would improve their person.

The Dojo kun lists five philosophical rules for training in the dojo, such as “seek perfection of character” and “respect others”. The Dojo kun is usually posted on a wall in the dojo, and some shotokan clubs recite the Dojo kun at the beginning or end of each class to provide motivation and a context for further training.

Funakoshi also wrote: “The ultimate aim of Karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of the participant.” While it has been suggested that the kun were documented by around 1890, they were first published in 1938 in a book The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate in the form below:

  1. Karate-do begins and ends with rei
    空手道は礼に始まり礼に終る事を忘るな
    Karate-do wa rei ni hajimari rei ni owaru koto a wasaru na
  2. There is no first strike in karate
    空手に先手なし
    Karate ni sente nashi
  3. Karate stands on the side of justice
    空手は義の補け
    Karate wa, gi no taske
  4. First know yourself, then know others
    先づ自己を知れ而して他を知れ
    Mazu onore o shire, shikashite ta o shire
  5. Mentality over technique
    技術より心術
    Gijitsu yori shinjitsu
  6. The mind must be set free
    心は放たん事を要す
    Kokoro wa hanatan koto o yosu
  7. Calamity springs from carelessness
    禍は懈怠に生ず
    Wazawai wa ketai ni seizu
  8. Karate goes beyond the dojo
    道場のみの空手と思ふな
    Dojo nomino karate to omou na
  9. Karate is a lifelong pursuit
    空手の修業は一生である
    Karate-do no shugyo wa isssho de aru
  10. Apply the way of karate to all things. Therein lies its beauty
    凡ゆるものを空手化せよ其処に妙味あり
    Ara yuru mono o karateka seyo; sokoni myomi ari
  11. Karate is like boiling water; without heat, it returns to its tepid state
    空手は湯の如し絶えず熱度を与えざれば元の水に還る
    Karate Wa Yu No Gotoku Taezu Netsu O Atae Zareba Motono Mizuni Kaeru
  12. Do not think of winning. Think, rather, of not losing
    勝つ考は持つな負けぬ考は必要
    Katsu kangae wa motsuna; makenu kangae wa hitsuyo
  13. Make adjustments according to your opponent
    敵に因って轉化せよ
    Tekki ni yotte tenka seyo
  14. The outcome of a battle depends on how one handles emptiness and fullness (weakness and strength)
    戦は虚実の操縦如何に在り
    Tattakai wa kyo-jitsu no soju ikan ni ari
  15. Think of hands and feet as swords
    人の手足を剣と思へ
    Hi to no te-ashi wa ken to omoe
  16. When you step beyond your own gate, you face a million enemies
    男子門を出づれば百万の敵あり
    Danshi mon o izureba hyakuman no teki ari
  17. Kamae is for beginners; later, one stands in shizentai
    構は初心者に後は自然体
    Kamae wa shoshinsha ni atowa shizentai
  18. Perform kata exactly; actual combat is another matter
    形は正しく実戦は別物
    Kata wa tadashiku, jisen wa betsumono
  19. Do not forget the employment of withdrawal of power, the extension or contraction of the body, the swift or leisurely application of technique
    力の強弱体の伸縮技の緩急を忘るな
    Chikara no kyojaku tai no shinshuku waza no kankyu
  20. Be constantly mindful, diligent, and resourceful, in your pursuit of the Way
    常に思念工夫せよ
    Tsune ni shinen ku fu seyo