Spirit & Budo

Spirit first, technique second.

Gichin Funakoshi, 20 Precepts of Karate Do


The style of Shotokan Karate Do is also a philosophical paradigm with the two major concepts of spirit and Budo at its center. Following, we will briefly show what they mean in Shotokan and why they are important for the art.

Budo and Do

Shotokan Karate Do seeks to be more than a system of self-defense. It is a moral philosophy that comprises ethical propositions and guiding principles for a specific way of life. With this conceptualization Shotokan Karate relates to the Japanese term Budo which stance for “martial way” and is indicated by the ending Do. While Budo can easily misinterpreted as a philosophy of violence and war (martial) it aims on the complete opposite.

French Aikido master Guillaume Erard recently described Budo as

“a path of personal development through the study of traditions and techniques originating in the arts of war of the samurai (侍).”

Guillaume Erard, Real Fighting is Not The Primary Purpose of Budo, April 2018

At the center of the Budo stance the control over one´s body and mind as well as the cultivation and civilization of one´s convictions and behavior. This foundation leads to the execution of good and just actions.


All that should take place in the light of fighting spirit or “spirit of effort”. This spirit is characterized by endurance, perseverance, persistence, self-confidence, determination, risk-taking, competitiveness. To not give up or to give in is constitutive for the attitude of Shotokan Karate. Spirit makes the difference between winning or losing in many cases. Hence, Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of the Shotokan style, favored spirit over technique.

Guiding Principles

Dojo Kun

Training session usually end with the recitation of the Dojo Kun, the training hall rules, in many Dojos. The Dojo Kun comprises five rules that should guide the behavior of the Karateka inside and outside of the Dojo. These are:

1. 人格 完成に 努める こと, hitotsu, jinkaku kansei ni tsutomeru koto = Each person must strive for the completion and perfection of one’s character

2. 誠の道を守ること, hitotsu, makoto no michi wo mamoru koto = Each person must be faithful and protect the way of truth

3. 努力の精神を養うこと, hitotsu, doryoku no seishin wo yashinau koto = Each person must endeavor (fostering the spirit of effort)

4. 礼儀を重んずること, hitotsu, reigi wo omonzuru koto = Each person must respect others and the rules of etiquette

5. 血気の勇を戒むること, hitotsu, kekki no yū wo imashimuru koto = Each person must refrain from hot blooded behavior (guard against impetuous courage)

The Dojo Kun fosters the development of a strong, honest, and civilized character. Karateka are called to constantly trainer their and improve their character.

The Dojo Kun are the guidelines for the right behavior of Shotokan Karateka inside and outside of the Dojo.
The Dojo Kun are the guidelines for the right behavior of Shotokan Karateka inside and outside of the Dojo.

The 20 Precepts of Karate

Beside the Dojo Kun, which is a rather thin but handy ethical codex, exist the 20 precepts (guiding principles) of Karate Do. Gichin Funakoshi was the author of the precepts and developed a broader moral philosophical foundation for Shotokan Karate Do. The precepts, however, should not be understood as commandments. Like the Dojo Kun they are guiding principles that foster the perfection of one´s character. Karate Students are called to keep them in mind and execute them on a daily basis. The 20 precepts are:

1. Karate begins and ends with courtesy.

Japanese: Karate-do wa rei ni hajimari, rei ni owaru koto wo wasuruna.

2. There is no first attack in karate.

Japanese: Karate ni sente nashi.

3. Karate is an assistance to justice.

Japanese: Karate wa gi no tasuke.

4. Know yourself first, before you know others.

Japanese: Mazu jiko wo shire, shikoshite tao wo shire.

5. Spirit before technique.

Japanese: Gijutsu yori shinjutsu.

6. Be ready to free your mind.

Japanese: Kokoro wa hanatan koto wo yosu.

7. Accidents come from laziness.

Japanese: Wazawai wa getai ni shozu.

8. Karate training goes beyond the dojo.

Japanese: Dojo nomino karate to omou na.

9. You will never stop learning in karate.

Japanese: Karate no shugyo wa issho de aru.

10. Apply karate to everything. Therein lies it’s beauty.

Japanese: Arai-yuru mono wo karate-ka seyo, soko ni myo-mi ari.

11. Karate is like boiling water. If not given heat, it will go cold.

Japanese: Karate wa yu no goto shi taezu natsudo wo ataezareba moto no mizu ni kaeru.

12. Do not think of winning. Instead, think that you must never lose.

Japanese: Katsu kangae wa motsu na makenu kangae wa hitsuyo.

13. Make adjustments according to your opponent.

Japanese: Tekki ni yotte tenka seyo.

14. The outcome of a fight depends on how you handle weaknesses and strengths.

Japanese: Tattakai wa kyo-jitsu no soju ikan ni ari.

15. Think of hands and feet as swords.

Japanese: Hito no te ashi wo ken to omoe.

16. When you step outside your own gate, you face a million enemies.

Japanese: Danshi mon wo izureba hyakuman no tekki ari.

17. Fixes positions are for beginners: later, one moves naturally.

Japanese: Kamae wa shoshinsha ni ato wa shizentai.

18. Kata is practised perfectly, real fight is another thing.

Japanese: Kata wa tadashiku jissen wa betsu mono.

19. Hard and soft, tension and relaxation, quick and slow, all connected in the technique.

Japanese: Chikara no kyojaku, karada no shinshuku, waza no kankyu wo wasaruna.

20. Think of ways to apply these precepts every day.

Japanese: Tsune ni shinen kufu seyo.

The 20 precepts written by Gichin Funakoshi comprise a set of ethical rules for Shotokan Karateka. Budo is and spirit are major elements of the precepts.
The 20 precepts written by Gichin Funakoshi comprise a set of ethical rules for Shotokan Karateka. Budo is and spirit are major elements of the precepts.

Navigate: What Category are you looking for?