Shotokan Karate as Royal Education

By Nicholas Kurian and Dr. Christian Tribowski

A “Royal Education” has ancient origins. However, it has modern applications; it can generate exceptional leaders. Shotokan karate can be a royal education. We describe in this article how to turn one’s Shotokan practice into a royal education and what benefits it will generate.

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What is Royal Education?

Prior to the spread of public education in the 19th century, only the leadership class received education. This type of education focused on much more than academics. Sports, arts, and culture – what we would call “extracurricular” – belonged to the core curriculum of the education of leaders. For instance, Japanese samurai indulged in arts, literature, culture, and sciences. They followed the way of the sword but also cherished intellect.

Sports teaches courage. The arts teach creativity, taste and passion. Culture, on the other hand, generates an understanding of perspective and humility. Therefore, royal education considers all aspects of cultivation of human beings

How to Approach Royal Education?

When somebody applies the approach of royal education, it makes sense to consider all three aspects. One should integrate an athletic endeavor, one creative pursuit, and one cultural aspect in a training session. For the highest effect all of these three learning goals should be transparent for the trainees.

Moreover, even in or after karate classes it makes sense to discuss this three aspects with the karatekas. The results can lead to a deeper understanding of karate and ones own personality.

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Why is Shotokan Karate a Royal Education?

So why is Shotokan karate a royal education? This becomes obvious when we consider its physical, aesthetic, and ethical dimensions. Firstly, Shotokan karate challenges the whole body. Through kumite it also teaches students courage, persistence, and competitiveness. Exceptional leadership requires such qualities.

Secondly, kata offers tremendous opportunities to develop a sense of creativity, taste, and passion. Kata movements must be interpreted and turned into bunkai. Moreover, style, grace, and beauty build the foundation of every performance of kata. Therefore, kata also schools the aesthetic eye. Its reduced and efficient nature, thus, leads to a passion for clear and elegant structures.

Thirdly, the dojo kun as well as the 20 precepts of karate stimulate the development of perspective and humility. In general the Do offers a full education in character and ethics. Like no other martial art, Shotokan karate consists of a well refined philosophical foundation. However, students have the opportunity to think the commandments of the Do through and derive at an own perspective and convictions. The physical confrontation during kumite also leads to an understanding of power and responsibility. These are crucial aspects of exceptional leadership.

Nicholas Kurian can help to develop your Royal Eduction.

Benefits of Shotokan Karate as Royal Education

Once Shotokan karate has been understood as a royal education it becomes obvious that it generates benefits beyond the art and enriches your life. We have identified at least three fields in which it beneficial.

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1.    Learning

We divorce our concept of learning from our understanding of emotions.  In reality, you must master your emotions to master learning. And, the two most important emotions to master if you want to learn anything are fear and boredom. In Shotokan karate you learn to deal with both. Executing kihon can become cumbersome and tedious. Repetitions after repetitions challenge endurance and motivation. Strong opponents and difficult kumite combinations also present challenges. To master them means to master ones own demons and inner resistance. Both become crucial to learn other things in life. Because they may be dreadful and boring. Therefore, you need resilience. As a result, Shotokan karate as royal education poses an excellent instrument to learn to learn. And leaders always must learn.

2.    Identity 

What makes these activities so different than academic subjects is that they transform your identity.  When you learn to surf, you become a surfer.  When you learn karate, you call yourself a karateka. Moreover, you development a identity of a worrier. Much of the research shows that having multiple identities offers a powerful source of both creativity, from combining ideas, and resilience, from having strong identities to fall back on.  What are your identities?  What is particularly powerful about identities tied to the royal education is that it allows people of different backgrounds – different identities – a powerful way to connect. It also gives one the opportunity to perceive and judge a thing or situation from a different angle. Good leaderships is capable to change perspectives and viewpoints.

3.    Entrepreneurship

One of the most important leadership and entrepreneurship skills is the ability to throw a party. By throwing a party one will learn more about group dynamics and marketing by doing this than in any business class one could possibly take. The same goes for dojos, associations, karate classes, tournaments, seminars, workshops etc. Shotokan karate offers myriad opportunities to experience group dynamics and to organize events and structures. To do so one needs courage, discipline, taste, passion, creativity, empathy, and a stable moral and ethical code. The royal education of Shotokan karate, therefore, can create excellent leadership personalities.

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Shotokan Karate as Royal Education?!

Shotokan karate have a tendency to underestimate the effect of their art on personal skills. But Shotokan poses an exceptional means to acquire leadership skills and to become a leader. As a result, we highly encourage every karate instructor to understand his classes as a royal education. Because Shotokan stimulates human beings in a comprehensive way. It offers them vital learning experience to become more courageous, creative, passionate, humble, and precise in their judgements. Therefore, the royal education of Shotokan can produce excellent leaders and mentors.


Do you want to know more about royal education? Follow Nicholas on his website The Mentor Scholar.

Opener picture source: Von Felice Beato – From the English Wikipedia. Origin source unknown, free, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53809

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1 Comment

  1. Just to add some curiosa, the royal Spanish family has been training karate. Both current king and the former king trained both karate and Judo. King Juan Carlos was a black belt, unfortunately I don’t know which dan.

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