Zen Martial Arts Center

Sacramento Martial Arts and Karate

"Karate-Do, My Way of Life" by Gichin Funakoshi.

After reading Gichin Funakoshi’s autobiography “Karate-do, My Way of Life”, what I most appreciated was the rich variety of themes that this 90-year-old karate master chose to include when recounting his life.

Being part of a changing Japan through Master Funakoshi’s life must have been remarkable. Living from the Meiji Restoration period through the post World War II period in Tokyo, his life seemed to illustrate the need to accept some changes (such as the cutting of the topknot), while remaining faithful to other traditions, such as his daily bows toward the Imperial Palace and Okinawa.

Throughout the book he words and tone show a youthfulness and sense of humor. Even when he finally receives his own Shoto-kan dojo in Tokyo at the age of nearly 70, he embraces it with enthusiasm, describing his feeling of so much he still wants to do.


Gratitude to those around him, including his teachers (Master Azato and Master Itosu), his wife, and his students is a theme that fills the book. Even following the end of World War II he even showed a deep appreciation of an American commander who shows respect for fallen Japanese airmen.


After recounting his life’s experiences, he presents a list of six principles to live by.

1.    You must be deadly serious in training.
2.    Train with both heart and soul without worrying about theory
3.    True practice is not done with words but with the entire body.
4.    Avoid self-conceit and dogmatism.
5.    Try to see yourself as you truly are and try to adopt what is meritorious in the work of others.
6.    Abide by the rules of ethics in your daily life, whether in public or private.


Immediately after presenting these rules, he confesses to a lapse in abiding by them when he is attacked at the age of eighty in Tokyo. Though he was quite old and it was clear his adversary was completely wrong, he regrets any time he believes he acted with pride when using his skills. I enjoyed hearing the perspective of an older person who, despite his undeniable accomplishment, maintains such humility.


Though in the book he describes some specifics about technique, including how to best make a hammer fist or horse stance, he dedicates much more time to describing the spirit of karate. He notes the difference between "mythical" and true karate-do. He maintains a strong belief that karate is beneficial to everyone who chooses to practice it, regardless of one’s nationality, size, age, or sex. To become a master of karate, a dedication to maintain an ethical constitution and faithfully train must be practiced throughout one’s life.

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Comment by Mike Oliver on October 14, 2012 at 10:23am

Great analysis Mr. Kain. What I'm seeing when you (all of us) share our thoughts online about our training, we are writing our own book. It's a book that we will be able to crack open (sign in to) 5, 10, or 20 years from now and see how we evolved in our training. Thank you for contributing to our book!

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