My focus in these short articles is to share my personal experience and provide a modern interpretation of each of the 20 precepts, both in the dojo and in life in general. In no way do I claim to have "the" insight to what Funakoshi was thinking when he wrote them. Nor do I think my interpretation is applicable for everyone. With this context, I share my thoughts with you humbly and sincerely. I hope you gain or validate your own personal insights in my writing, and explore how they can benefit you in many aspects of your life.
2. Karate Begins & Ends With Rei (A Bow)
I have attached a link to the other article I wrote about the Dojo Kun if you are interested:
So why do we do this? Anyone who has observed Japanese culture quickly notices this is ingrained into their culture, karate or no karate. In karate, we are taught that bowing signifies respect, restraint and humility amongst other things. We are expected from Day 1 to follow this moral code or (in most cases) leave the dojo. This is the most fundamental of all rules. If you do not respect your fellow karateka you have no privilege to remain in the dojo.
Outside the dojo, we live in a world of increasing intolerance to other people. Our society teaches us to focus on me, what is mine and what I am "entitled to". We are inundated with messages of instant gratification, being better than the competition and being measured by our status symbols (the job we have, the car we drive, the clothes we wear, the money we have etc.). We live in a world of media that continually looks to point fault at others like celebrities, sports figures, politicians and/or fellow citizens. Even our neighbors, co-workers and/or classmates are not immune to the critical eye of society. Just driving in NYC teaches you very quickly about the lack of respect for fellow drivers on the road. And the list goes on.....
My question is, how can we carry this principle outside the dojo? Ultimately this is a personal question. I would be lying if I said I do not fall into this trap as well. Sometimes it seems easier to find fault than to find what is good about a person or situation. There is a old saying that I am reminded of from time to time, " it is much easier to destroy than to build".
What we must all strive is to be consciously aware that everything is interconnected. If I show a lack of respect for others I am really showing a lack of respect for myself. If I am unrestrained in my actions and behaviors inside the dojo I likely do this outside the dojo as well. If I am egocentric and boastful about my accomplishments in side the dojo (my rank, how high I can kick, how fast I can move, how many kata I can perform etc.) then I am focusing on the wrong things and likely do this with other aspects of my life.
Karate continually reminds me that the only competition I have is within myself, to be better than I was yesterday and not better than the person next to me. Karate helps keeps me focused that the most important thing is to help others progress, and not to hoard information for my own benefit and feed my own ego. Karate has taught me that if someone is better than me in a certain element of training, then this should be celebrated and acknowledged that I can learn something from them, rather than be jealous or insecure and try to "bring them down a notch".
Sometimes karateka are like some church goers, love the message while they are in the building and then step out the door and forget everything that was just said.
No one is perfect, myself included. We all stumble and fall along the path of life. The challenge I put to myself and anyone reading this article is this, try to catch yourself during the day with the various thoughts that go through your head and ask yourself, if I was in the dojo, would I think or act this way?
Since 1988, Way Of Life Shotokan Karate has been committed to teaching traditional karate and values for a modern world. Under the leadership of Norman Smith Sensei, Way Of Life Shotokan Karate instructs hundreds of students at our various locations from beginner to advanced levels of all ages that come from across the New York City metro area. Our unique way of combining martial arts training, etiquette and philosophy with the modern concepts of fitness, self-defense and competition is unparalleled. We ensure your training is vigorous, while maintaining a safe and fun learning environment that encourages students to reach their fullest potential.
Way Of Life Shotokan Karate Do martial arts school is now offically open at 501 East Boston Post Road, Mamaroneck NY, 10543 serving the local Westchester County communities of New Rochelle, Larchmont, Mamaroneck, Harrison, Rye, Port Chester, Mount Vernon, Scarsdale, White Plains and Yonkers as well as the Bronx and NYC metro area.