Those of you familiar with karate will be familiar with the term “Niju Kun”, which means “20 Rules.” These were written by one of the founders of karate, Gichin Funakoshi in about 1890 and first published in a book The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate in 1938. Gichin’s Niju Kun was one of the things that influenced me when I created the 13 Precepts of the Order of Scáthach in 2007.
Funakoshi’s original five rules of the dojo, or Dojo Kun, originated with Okinawan Karate masters. The actual creator of these rules is possibly Sakugawa, an 18th Century Okinawan karate master. It seems more likely that this Dojo Kun was created by Funakoshi Gichin, but no evidence exists one way or the other. Funakoshi’s five Dojo Kun (“Rules for the Dojo”) are:
Hitotsu. Jinkaku Kansei ni Tsutomuro Koto.Hitotsu. Makoto no Michi wo Mamoru Koto.Hitotsu. Doryoku no Seishin o Yashinau Koto.Hitotsu. Reigi o Omonzuru Koto.Hitotsu. Kekki no Yu o Imashimuru Koto.
Every line begins with the word “Hitotsu”, which is a counter that means “one.” Every line ends with the word “koto”, which literally means “thing.” This is generally interpreted to mean “Here’s a rule, here’s another rule…” These Dojo Kun translate as:
First. Seek perfection of character
First. Protect the way of the truth
First. Foster the spirit of effort
First. Respect the principles of etiquette and respect others
First. Guard against impetuous courage and refrain from violent behavior.
In simpler terms:
Seek Perfection of Character
Defend the Path of Truth
Endeavor to Excel
Refrain from Violent Behavior
Some Karate styles, such as Goju Ryu, have developed eight rules from the original five:
One thing: Be humble and polite.
One thing: Train considering your physical strength.
One thing: Practice earnestly with creativity.
One thing: Be calm and swift.
One thing: Take care of your health.
One thing: Live a plain life.
One thing: Do not be too proud or modest.
One thing: Continue your training with patience.
Gichin Funakoshi’s original Niju Kun reads:
Karate-do begins and ends with rei (courtesy)
Karate-do wa rei ni hajimari rei ni owaru koto a wasaru na
There is no first strike in karate
Karate ni sente nashi
Karate stands on the side of justice
Karate wa, gi no taske
First know yourself, then know others
Mazu onore o shire, shikashite ta o shire
Mentality over technique
Gijitsu yori shinjitsu
The mind must be set free
Kokoro wa hanatan koto o yosu
Calamity springs from carelessness
Wazawai wa ketai ni seizu
Karate goes beyond the dojo
Dojo nomino karate to omou na
Karate is a lifelong pursuit
Karate-do no shugyo wa isssho de aru
Apply the way of karate to all things. Therein lies its beauty
Ara yuru mono o karateka seyo; sokoni myomi ari
Karate is like boiling water; without heat, it returns to its tepid state
Karate Wa Yu No Gotoku Taezu Netsu O Atae Zareba Motono Mizuni Kaeru
Do not think of winning. Think, rather, of not losing
Katsu kangae wa motsuna; makenu kangae wa hitsuyo
Make adjustments according to your opponent
Tekki ni yotte tenka seyo
The outcome of a battle depends on how one handles emptiness and fullness (weakness and strength)
Tattakai wa kyo-jitsu no soju ikan ni ari
Think of hands and feet as swords
Hi to no te-ashi wa ken to omoe
When you step beyond your own gate, you face a million enemies
Danshi mon o izureba hyakuman no teki ari
Kamae is for beginners; later, one stands in shizentai
Kamae wa shoshinsha ni atowa shizentai
Perform kata exactly; actual combat is another matter
Kata wa tadashiku, jisen wa betsumono
Do not forget the employment of withdrawal of power, the extension or contraction of the body, the swift or leisurely application of technique
Chikara no kyojaku tai no shinshuku waza no kankyu
Be constantly mindful, diligent, and resourceful, in your pursuit of the Way
Tsune ni shinen ku fu seyo
By way of comparison, you might call the thirteen precepts of the Order of Scáthach “Juusan Kun” (“thirteen rules”), which are as follows:
1. Know thyself.
2. Nurture the ability to perceive the truth in all matters.
3. You create your own reality.
4. Develop a sense of Right Action.
5. Do not be negligent, even in trifling matters.
6. Your body is your temple: Care for it!
7. Minimal appearance, maximum content.
8. Perceive that which cannot be seen with the eye.
9. Power with.
10. Who dares wins.
11. The Gods cannot help those who will not help themselves.
12. Be creative!
13. Do not engage in useless activity.
If we rewrote Gichin Funakoshi’s Niju Kun to relate to the Order of Scáthach, it might read something like this:
1. Knighthood begins and ends with courtesy
2. There is no first strike in Knighthood.
3. Knights stand on the side of justice
4. First know yourself, then know others
5. Mentality over technique.
6. The mind must be set free
7. Calamity springs from carelessness
8. Knighthood goes beyond the Motherhouse
9. Knighthood is a lifelong pursuit
10. Apply the way of Knighthood to all things. Therein lies its beauty
11. Knighthood is like boiling water; without heat, it returns to its tepid state
12. Do not think of winning. Think, rather, of not losing
13. Make adjustments according to your opponent
14. The outcome of a battle depends on how one handles weakness and strength
15. Think of hands and feet as swords
16. When you step beyond your own gate, you face a million enemies
17. Posing is for beginners; The Knight stands in strength.
18. Perform exercises exactly and patiently; Practice magick with spontaneity
19. Do not forget the employment of withdrawal of power, the extension or contraction of the body, the swift or leisurely application of technique
20. Be constantly mindful, diligent, and resourceful, in your pursuit of Knighthood