The Way of Balance
At the JKA, we put immense focus on the proper form and balance of each kihon, or basic technique. Through extensive training, our instructors have rigorously, scientifically analyzed and separated out each individual movement in each individual kata, and developed an unrivalled spectrum of kihon techniques. Using these special kihon, we have refined the kata to be more applicable in kumite. And in turn, the experience accumulated through kumite gives feedback to further perfect one’s kihon and kata. In this way kihon, kata and kumite form the inseparable trinity of JKA karate. Through constant repetition of such techniques, your body learns to move effortlessly, naturally. And your mind learns to be effortless and natural too. JKA karate is the way of balance.
Forging a Karate Mind
Karate is not a game of points, weight classes or showy demonstrations. It is a martial art and way of life that trains a practitioner to be peaceful; but if conflict is unavoidable, true karate dictates taking down an opponent with a single blow.
Such an action requires strength, speed, focus, control. But these physical aspects are only part of the practice; they are just the vehicle, not the journey itself.
True karate is based on Bushido. In true karate, the body, mind and spirit—the whole person—must be developed simultaneously. Through kihon, kumite and kata we learn to control our movements. But more importantly, we learn to give up control too. We can perform the techniques without thinking about them, and remain focused without having to concentrate on any one thing. In essence, the body remembers how to move and the mind remembers how to be still.
This harmonious unity of mind and body is intensely powerful. Even the greatest physical strength and skill are no match for the power of wholeness.
The result of true karate is natural, effortless action, and the confidence, humility, openness and peace only possible through perfect unity of mind and body. This is the core teaching of Zen, the basis of Bushido, and the basis of the JKA’s karate philosophy.
Bushido: The Way of the Samurai
Bushido has been the samurai code of conduct in Japan for centuries. Based firmly on the teachings of Zen, Bushido was intended to help the samurai master their nature and understand their minds and the universe through direct experience—as well as through fostering strength, self-control and wisdom.
Bushido is based on seven essential principles:
Martial spirit and courage were, of course, essential aspects of Bushido. But for the samurai, Bushido‘s highest goal was complete virtue in thought and action. Each samurai followed a carefully-designed regimen of polite ceremony and etiquette intended to promote such virtue. With its emphasis on prescribed form, Bushido helped the samurai harmonize mind with body, enabling them to maintain a certain calmness, or heijoshin (literally, “ordinary everyday mind”), even in the face of hardship. Sincerity, kindness, honesty, filial piety and honor all formed part of the core of Bushido. And they were the seed from which the karate tradition grew. These attributes, and the wisdom, understanding and peaceful strength they promote, are some of karate’s greatest benefits. They are also among Japan’s greatest gifts to the world.
The Twenty Precepts of Karate
Before he established the JKA, Master Funakoshi Gichin laid out the Twenty Precepts of Karate, which form the foundations of the art. Within these twenty principles, based heavily on Bushido and Zen, lies the philosophy of the JKA.
- Never forget: karate begins with rei and ends with rei (Rei means courtesy or respect, and is represented in karate by bowing)
- There is no first attack in karate
- Karate supports righteousness
- First understand yourself, then understand others
- The art of developing the mind is more important than the art of applying technique
- The mind needs to be freed
- Trouble is born of negligence
- Do not think karate belongs only in the dojo
- Karate training requires a lifetime
- Transform everything into karate; therein lies its exquisiteness
- Genuine karate is like hot water; it cools down if you do not keep on heating it
- Do not think of winning; you must think of not losing
- Transform yourself according to the opponent
- The outcome of the fight depends on one’s control
- Imagine one’s arms and legs as swords
- Once you leave the shelter of home, there are a million enemies
- Postures are for the beginner; later they are natural positions
- Do the kata correctly; the real fight is a different matter
- Do not forget control of the dynamics of power, the elasticity of the body and the speed of the technique
- Always be good at the application of everything that you have learned.
The Dojo Kun
Senior instructors at the JKA developed the Dojo Kun, which everyone studying at the JKA commits to memory. With each practice session at the dojo, students kneel in the seiza position and repeat these five precepts out loud. This process reminds students of the right attitude, frame of mind and virtues to strive for both within the dojo, and outside.