Zen Martial Arts Center

Sacramento Martial Arts and Karate

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

A few weeks ago, I borrowed a book from Mr. Oliver called, “Karate-Do My Way of Life” by Gichin Funakoshi. There are several chapters or stories within the book that I enjoyed reading. However, I’d like to just write a brief summary here discussing one of my favorite chapters from the book. Specifically, I’d like to discuss rule #2 of the six rules set by Master Funakoshi for karate students to follow.


Rule #2 states, “Train with both heart and soul without worrying about theory” (p. 106). As Master Funakoshi explains, you have to put all your effort into training and train deadly seriously. Often times, the novice student may get frustrated and wonder why he/she can not master a move in a short time span. Master Funakoshi explains that this is foolishness. You can not master a move in a short time span or even really get close to mastering it. Worrying or simply questioning why you can’t do it will not help. If you want to master a move, you have to ask yourself a few questions. Why have others mastered the move and not you? Is there something wrong with you? One thing you can do is train by observing how others are performing the move and adopt the correct form. Training is accomplished with the entire body and not with words. The following quote summarizes the essence of rule #2, “What you have been taught by listening to others’ words you will forget very quickly; what you have learned with your whole body you will remember for the rest of your life” (p. 106).


To me, this rule means a great deal. I am a novice to Isshinryu Karate and I am still learning the basics. I have caught myself on several occasions thinking, “Why can’t I get this?”; “Why can’t I do this right”; or “This shouldn’t be too hard to master”. As I read Master Funakoshi’s book, I was reminded that you can’t possibly hope to master or truly understand anything in a short time span. In fact, you could probably spend a lifetime attempting to master a move and still not get it correct if you are lacking in training with heart and soul (with great effort, concentration, and willingness). So, in order to truly learn karate, you must train hard, do as you are told by your Master, and observe yourself and others while training. You have to be willing to give yourself completely into the process of learning karate (mind, body, and heart/soul). Of course a lot of this is easier said then done. The great struggle for me is to approach my training without such great concern for theory. I have been a student of academia for a long time and I often analyze everything too much or get really down on myself when I don’t understand a concept. I’m working on approaching karate with a clearer mind, training with everything I’ve got, and learning by observation, practice, and patience. As I continue my training, I hope to learn from all of you as we continue our journey into the world of Isshinryu Karate.

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Comment by Mike Oliver on November 3, 2010 at 11:18am
Thanks for sharing Mr. Yang. Master Funakoshi was certainly one of the great masters of the martial arts. We are lucky in that we can all adopt him as a teacher by reading his work like you did. As you continue training you will find that you will experience peaks and valleys over time. There are times when everything just seems to click and then are times where it feels like you are never good enough. Sometimes you will be excited to train, other times you will have to drag yourself into the dojo. I've found that it's during the difficult times that my mind, body, and spirit have grown the most.
Comment by Lisa Clark on November 2, 2010 at 11:01pm
Master Funakoshi's book really changed my perspective on training. Before reading the book, I was doing karate. Now I am training in the martial arts. Yet only recently has my heart and soul understood this shift. It's encouraging to hear others in our dojo community are experiencing the same things.
Keep it up!
Comment by Lisa Spagnolo on November 2, 2010 at 8:04pm
This is very nice! I have a similar approach to learning (too much time in academia) and am enjoying being a beginner again, even with the frustration. I want to read books to get it all but that is impossible. The quote about learning with one's whole body rings especially true--this is a kind of knowledge that is thorough and pervades all of the aspects of the self.

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