The Dojo Kun

The Dojo Kun is a five point statement of principles or guidelines for the Karate practitioner’s conduct.

In Japanese, it hangs on the walls of many Shotokan Karate clubs, and it is often chanted while sitting Japanese style at the end of training sessions in Western Karate clubs.

While the principles are sound, the usual English version is a bad translation or interpretation of the Japanese.

The Dojo Kun of Shotokan in Japanese:

道場訓

Dojo kun

  1. 人格完成に勤むること
    Jinkaku Kansei ni Tsutmuru koto
  2. 誠の道を守ること
    Makoto no michi o mamoru koto
  3. 動力の精神を養うこと
    Dohryoku no seishin o yashinau koto
  4. 礼儀を重んずること
    Reigi o omonzuru koto
  5. 1.血気の勇を戒めること
    Kekki no yuu o imashimeru koto

Usual English Version

  1. Seek perfection of character
  2. Be faithful
  3. Endeavor for effort
  4. Respect others
  5. Refrain from violent behavior

The Japanese doesn’t say that. It is not what the Japanese read when they see those characters. It has a different meaning created specifically for Western ears.

Actual Translation of Japanese Words

  1. Strive to complete your character (mature or grow-up)
  2. Protect the road/way of the truth
  3. Foster a spirit of effort
  4. Respect the principles of etiquette
  5. Guard against impetuous courage (suppress boldness of the blood spirit/bloodthirsty spirit)

What Japanese Hear from the Japanese Version

  1. Learn self-discipline and good sportsmanship
  2. This is the best way to do Karate
  3. Inspire everyone around you to try hard by setting an example
  4. Be polite to other people (whether you actually respect them or not is irrelevant – do the behaviors)
  5. Stay calm, reserved, and detached (whether you are being violent or not is irrelevant as long as you are not embarrassing yourself by losing control)

 

In the video below, Sensei Richard Amos with WTKO gives a great explanation of the dojo kun: