Dojo Kun 道場訓: Five teachings from Master Funakoshi
Dojo is a place where we practice karate, but the literal meaning of Dojo is a place where students seek to find the way of life. Kun means “lesson”, “teaching” or “guidance”. Therefore, putting those two words together, Dojo Kun means a set of guide line we can use to seek the way of life through the practice of karate.
Reciting Dojo kun occurs at the end of training during the line up ritual. First, you will do mokuso (meditation) and after 10 to 30 seconds (depending on the dojo the length varies) there is another command to open eyes. We recite Dojo kun before the bowing.
Some dojo because of the chief instructors there do not exercise this ritual. I suspect it is because sport karate is becoming so popular and the “do” part of Karate-do is now getting forgotten and ignored. It is a shame as many people are missing the true benefit of karate-do.
In addition, I also see the poor translation of the Japanese kun, thus the practitioners will not be able to recite the correct meaning. This is why I will explain the details of the meaning of every word in all five kun. I hope this will help those who recite Dojo kun so that they will understand fully of each kun. I also hope this explanation will help those who do not and give them an opportunity to re-evaluate the value of Dojo kun. However, of course, it is totally up to the Dojo to decide if they want to keep this trandition in their karate training.
(Dojo kun written by Master Masatoshi Nakayama)
Here is the explanation of each Kun:
1. Jinkaku kansei ni tsumomuru koto: (Seek perfection of character)
Jinkaku 人格 – one’s character, self
Kansei 完成– to perfect, complete
Tsutomuru 努むる– to try, make an effort
2. Makoto no michi wo mamoru koto: (Be faithful)
The English translation of this kun is misleading. This second kun is the most difficult one to translate to describe its full meaning. This is because “makoto 誠” has a complex meaning. It covers all the meaning of to be sincere, the truthfulness, genuineness.
Mamoru 守る– to protect, uphold
The better translation may be “We uphold the way of genuiness and truthfulness”, meaning as a karate-ka we must be always truthful and the character we are striving for must be genuine.
3. Doryoku no seishin wo motomuru koto: (Endeavor)
Doryoku 努力– effort, endeavor
Seishin 精神 – will power, discipline, spirit
Motomuru 求むる– to seek, search
The better translation may be “We cultivate the will power to strive harder”. What is important is not only we need to make an effort to do better but also to build a strong will power.
4. Reigi wo omonjiru koto (Respect others)
Reigi 礼儀– courtesy, etiquette, good manners
Omonjiru 重んじる– to value, respect, honor
So it means we not only need to show respect to others but also to keep courteous manners at all times.
5. Kekki no yu wo imasimuru koto (Refrain from the violent behavior)
Kekki 血気– literal meaning of this word is “youthful ardor” but typically it means hot temper or overly excited emotions (especially anger).
Yu 勇– courage, bravely
Imashimuru 戒むる– to admonish
This kun can be explained as “we discourage the foolish bravely or hot temper coming from uncontrolled emotions”.
I also want to add the explanation of the two terms.
In front of each Kun you see the same word, “Hitotsu”. This is a difficult one to explain though the meaning of the word is easy. It literally means the number of one. It is same as Ichi which you may use when you count in your karate training. So, when you recite the Dojo kun you are saying “One; Perfection of character”, etc. Of course, you know that you are not really counting anything here. It is used for an emphasis and it means “One principle” or “This principle”.
Each Kun ends with “koto” 事. It’s literal meaning is matter or subject. The first Kun’s literal meaning is the subject of trying to perfect one’s character. By having Koto at the end of each Kun, it adds the meaning of must or ought. Thus, the first Kun now means “This principle: we must try to perfect our character.“
Hopefully, we now have better understanding of Dojo Kun. It is important to understand the full meaning as we recite each Kun. I am convinced that we can improve our daily lives by trying to follow these teachings. Regardless of one’s religious belief or practice, these teachings can be beneficial to all the students who wish to increase his/her self worth and value through the practice of karate.
Besides Dojo Kun, Master Funakoshi left a set of 20 teachings that are more concrete guide line of karate-do. If you are interested in studying more karate philosophy, this may be a good thing to look into.
Here is a link of Dojo kun recited by New Kanazawa Kancho:
Dojo kun written by Master Testsuhiko Asai