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The Dojo Kun

After each class the Dojo Kun (principles) are recited by the class, in Japanese. Usually they are also recited in English also. Dojo Kun was given to us by Sensei Funakoshi and is a very condensed guide to proper conduct both in and outside of the training hall. Karate-ka take the Dojo Kun seriously and strive to apply its lessons in daily living and especially on the training floor.

Dojo Kun #1: Seek Perfection of Character (Character)
Karate training is not only in the Dojo, is not only physical. Students should always strive for perfection even though it is realistically out of reach. Whether in the dojo, at school or at work a karate student should be mindful of his or her conduct, striving always to act correctly in all situations. Students who work toward this ideal will develop a strong ethical sense and will conduct themselves with honor and integrity. They will be a credit to their sensei, their family and their society.
Dojo Kun #2: Be Faithful (Loyalty)
To be faithful is a strong samurai tradition and an extension of the Confucian influence on the family and martial arts in Japan. Although modern Western society often views such qualities as honor, courage and faithfulness as quaint, bygone concepts, students of karate know that they do have a place in modern society. A student and a sensei have faith and loyalty in one another which is expressed in the student's dilligence and respectful conduct on the training floor and outside of class and the ever increasing knowledge and responsibility given by the sensei. In the dojo, students are expected to work hard and accept guidance, criticism or reprimand without argument. Students of karate form strong bonds with their sensei and with one another. This strong sense of community extends beyond the dojo which is why so many karate-ka and karate schools are so often seen supporting their communities and schools in fund raising and social outreach.
Dojo Kun #3: Endeavor (Effort)
To endeavor means to strive and struggle toward success, or even for improvement when success will be a long way off. Karate is a physical and spiritual art. To endeavor in the art is both a physical and a spiritual journey. Along the way there will be times of great effort and struggle even to peroform actions that have been done thousands of times before. It is these times when the student learns and improves the most. When things seem easy the student must remember to endeavor if only to make sure they aren't missing something! Sometimes the most difficult thing is to try harder even when you think you've "got it." Students must also strive for success outside the dojo, in school or in work, as anything worth doing is worth doing well. A student with a strong will to succeed will not just work hard in the dojo but in all aspects of his life.
Dojo Kun #4: Respect Others (Etiquette)
Respect for others is critical to any martial art. This would seem to be completely obvious due to the ever-present risk of injury when training, especially with a partner or in sparring. Dojo etiquette embraces this principle by including a bow between partners before any joint exercise. When we bow we are reminded to respect the other person, both as a person we don't wish to injure and as an opponent worthy of our caution. To respect your partner does not mean to coddle, to be so careful that they do not need to endeavor to protect themselves. To respect your opponent you must not only avoid injuring them but also make sure to challenge them to improve! This does not mean a black belt will work with a white belt the same way as with another black belt, but it doesn mean that each practitioner will do their best to give their opponent a challenge the can rise to meet. Gichin Funakoshi said that karate begins and ends with a bow, and that without courtesy there is no dojo. As with all other Dojo Kun the karate student is expected to respect others outside the dojo as well.
Dojo Kun #5: Refrain From Violent Behavior (Control)
Karate students are trained rigorously to deliver punishing blows with hands and feet, elbows and knees. Regular practice ingrains these potentially lethal strikes in the practitioner and improves reaction speed, balance and judgement and strength so it is unfair for a trained person to fight an untrained person or to use his knowlegde as a threat to push others around. A strong and confident karate student does not need to make sure everyone knows the color of his belt, he knows it is better to walk away than to risk injury to himself or another person. Most karate-ka will avoid bad neighborhoods or dangerous situations rather than place themselves and their friends at risk. Since karate is as much a spriritual as a physical art, one of the duties of the karate-ka is to avoid violence as much as possible. If there is no option but to fight then the karate-ka must know when that time is and also when it is time to stop. A trained martial artist must stop his fight as soon as the threat is removed, to continue beyond that point is no more than brutality.