The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate
The Spiritual Legacy of the Master
“A thoughtful and steady perusal of Master Funakoshi’s axioms will lead us on a much deeper journey than we might initially expect. It is this aspect of the principles that makes them meaningful even to those who do not practice. Unexpectedly, technical points are forsaken for a more profound examination of the broader Way. The spotlight is shone on the mental acumen and spiritual requirements, and the larger possibilities of the training. Attitude is emphasized over stance, spirit over form.”
—from the Introduction
Gichin Funakoshi, “the father of karate,” once said that “that ultimate aim of karate lies not in victory nor defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants.”
To support this life-long stance and offer guidance to future practitioners, he penned his now legendary twenty principles. While the principles have circulated for years, a translation of the accompanying commentary has never found its way into publication—until now.
Master Funakoshi’s approach stresses spiritual considerations and mental agility over brute strength and technique. Practitioners should not rely on technique alone—striking, kicking, blocking—but must nurture the spiritual aspects of their practice as well. Attend to yourself and the rest will follow, was the message he set for posterity over sixty years ago.
As axioms, Funakoshi’s principles are open to various interpretations. “There is no first attack in karate” has occasioned endless discussion about its true meaning. Many of these ambiguities are clarified in the commentary, which is also filled with philosophical musings, fascinating historical episodes, and advice for anyone seeking a better Way.
Translated for the first time into English by John Teramoto, a karate practitioner himself, and accompanied by original calligraphy, this long-awaited treatise is a provocative read and, for martial arts enthusiasts, a long overdue godsend.
“The Master insists on a training that involves both mind and body, to create a karate-do, a karate way.”
“Whether or not you practice the martial arts, they make a great deal of sense, and will take you far, as a philosophy of life.”
“While focused on the practice and application of martial arts, this book’s “pursuit of the way” has myriad applications for less physical forms of combat, work-related or otherwise.”
“Filled with philosophical musings, fascinating historical episodes, and advice for anyone seeking a better way.”
About the Authors
GICHIN FUNAKOSHI (1868-1957) is one of karate’s great masters. Born in Okinawa, the birthplace of karate, he began training in the secret martial art as a child. In 1922, at the request of the Japanese government, he demonstrated the still-secret Okinawan art of self-defence on the Japanese mainland, which led to karate’s introduction to the rest of Japan and subsequently the rest of the world. Funakoshi devoted the remainder of his life to this traditional sport and wrote several classics on the subject, including Karate-do Kyohan and Karate Jutsu, as well as an autobiography entitled Karate-do: My Way of Life.
GENWA NAKASONE (1895-1978), between stints as a schoolteacher and a politician, was an editor and publisher of books on karate and martial arts, among them Karate-do Taikan, a ground-breaking compendium of karate texts and documents. Born in Okinawa, he was an early supporter of Funakoshi, and in an ideal position to compile accurate annotations of the master’s twenty principles.
JOHN TERAMOTO was born in Los Angeles, California, and began karate training at the age of 13 under Tsutomu Oshima, reaching the rank of godan in 1990. Since 1998, he has served as the president of Shotokan Karate of America’s Black Belt Council.