Gichin Funakoshi’s Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate – Principles 16 to 20

In this post I will be looking at Principles 16 to 20 of Funakoshi’s Twenty Guiding Principles. To view the previous posts in the series, click on the links below:

Funakoshi’s Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate
Funakoshi’s Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate – Principles 1 to 5
Funakoshi’s Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate – Principles 6 to 10
Funakoshi’s Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate – Principles 11 to 15
unakoshi’s Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate – Principles 16 to 20

Principle 16 – When you step beyond your own gate, you face a million enemies

This is another principle that teaches us the importance of being mindful. In this principle Funakoshi is teaching us that we don’t always have throw a kick or punch to win a battle. By being alert we can avoid unnecessary situations.

When we are young and full of strength, we tend to be reckless. We think because of our training we are invincible. However, it is at this time that we need to be at our most mindful. It is very easy to find ourselves in situations that are best avoided.

At a deeper level, this principle teaches that by being human we are constantly faced with challenges and obstacles. Having the mindset of knowing this, we can be better prepared to face our challenges. How we face these obstacles help define who we are.

Principle 17 – Kamae (ready stance) is for beginners; later, one stands in shizentai (natural stance)

It is important for beginners to understand the basics of karate. Just as a baby doesn’t start walking straight after birth, so new karateka must learn the basics and principles of their chosen style.

In essence this principle is telling us that only after much practice and understanding does it become possible for the practitioner to appear relaxed while at the same time being mentally prepared for any situation.

Principle 18 – Perform kata exactly; actual combat is another matter

Kata are a great teaching tool for those willing to invest the time to learn from them. As a teaching tool they also contain many facets that only reveal themselves after much study and practice.

In this principle we are being told that we need to learn the lessons kata contain. It is through kata practice that we are able to hone our skills. It is important to remember that kata are the distilled teachings of a master. The aim of the kata is to teach us the important principles behind that master’s style. These principles are what we use in actual combat.

Put another way, in combat it is how we correctly utilize the techniques in kata, that really matters. We may have to adapt our techniques.

Principle 19 – Do not forget the employment or withdrawal of power, the extension or contraction of the body, the swift or leisurely application of technique

This principle teaches us of the key elements required in our basic training (kihon) and also in our sparring (kumite). It is the development of these principles which are key for advancement in your training.

As previously stated, kata provide a very important tool for learning key principles in karate. Among these principles are:

  • When to use the right amount of power for a technique.
  • The degree of expansion or contraction of our bodies to correctly apply a technique.
  • The appropriate speed used for a technique.
  • How we breath during our techniques.

Principle 20 – Be constantly mindful, diligent, and resourceful in your pursuit of the Way

I believe that in this principle Funakoshi is summarizing the previous nineteen principles. He is telling us that in the practice of karate and in our daily life we most constantly strive to be the best version of ourselves. We must constantly be aware of our surroundings, not blindly stumbling into dangerous situations. Above all, we must have an open mind and be adaptable. All of this can be developed through diligent practice of karate.

In this and the previous posts, I have offered my own interpretation of the guiding principles, largely based on my own experiences and training. The beauty of the guidelines is the potential of being different for each of us. However, the real importance of the principles is in getting us to think about our karate and in offering us a way to improve ourselves through our training.


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