top of page

Torakan Karate-Do

Karate Essence

The Dōjō Kun:

Its Origins and Implications

Dōjō Kun is a Japanese martial arts term literally meaning training hall rules. They may be posted at the entrance to a dōjō or at the "front" of the dōjō or, as we do at the Torakan Dōjō, given to every new student in an information pack.

Table of contents

· Honour.

· Behavioural Modification.

· Origins of the Dōjō Kun.

· Cultural Diversity.

· The Japan Karate Association Dōjō Kun.

· Terser Versions of the Dōjō Kun.

· Torakan Dōjō Kun.


Honour – as a noun, meaning respectability and virtue, or a code of conduct valuing those concepts – is an ancient human instinct. Karate-Dō seeks to encourage and develop that instinct. The DōjōKun, a set of philosophical rules for the smooth running and necessary control of the dōjō environment, is the guiding light to illuminate the way.

Remember, whatever their underlying motives, this group of people, who meet in the dōjō, come together to learn how to inflict physical violence on an adversary. When you think about it, that environment could run quite quickly out of control: becoming unruly, aggressive, and possibly quite violent. In my time I have actually witnessed fight training centres, a Karate dōjō or two, and even one Shotokan dojo where, to some degree, this was in evidence.

Behavioural Modification

The Dōjō Kun is set in place to modify behaviour, both inside and outside of the dōjō. Most traditional dōjōs recite a Dōjō Kun, or a modified version of that Kun, at least once every training session. Stating the moral code of the Kun at the beginning of a class can be said to ready the mind and spirit for learning and practicing implied violence, non-violently. Whereas reciting the Kun on completion of one’s training is like the final, centering thought as you finish a meditation; resetting the mind before rejoining ‘normal’ society. Some dōjōs, emphasising and promoting humility, recite the Kun at both the beginning and the end of a class.

Origins of the Dōjō Kun

Funakoshi Gichin Sensei, 1868-1957, the founder of Shotokan, is generally credited with creating the DōjōKun. According to Funakoshi Sensei, The Dōjō Kun contains the general, guiding principles of Karate. Funakoshi Sensei also set out the Niju Kun: twenty specific and subordinate principles of Karate, encompassing morality, technique, and proper mindset.

Others credit Sakukawa Kanga Sensei, 1733-1815, with creating the Dōjō Kun. I would venture that Sakukawa did instigate a DōjōKun. That being said, however, I would also suggest that wherever the martial arts have been seriously studied a Kun, a set of philosophical guidelines, is likely to have been set in place.

Cultural Diversity

The Dōjō Kun varies throughout the martial arts fraternities to suit cultural and philosophical differences. Even within Shotokan, now seeded throughout the world, the Dōjō Kun has morphed. There remains however a similarity, an underlining message of humility and respect.

The Japan Karate Association Dōjō Kun:

一、人格 完成に 努める こと

hitotsu, jinkaku kansei ni tsutomeru koto

One is to work to complete the personality.


hitotsu, makoto no michi wo mamoru koto

One is to keep the true path.


hitotsu, doryoku no seishin wo yashinau koto

One is to cultivate the spirit of effort.


hitotsu, reigi wo omonzuru koto

One is to respect etiquette.


hitotsu, kekki no yū wo imashimuru koto

One is to refrain from impetuous and violent behaviour.

In the West, particularly the UK, the following is a widely accepted translation of the essence of that Kun:

Each person must strive for the completion and perfection of one's character.

Each person must be faithful and protect the way of truth.

Each person must endeavour to foster the spirit of effort.

Each person must respect others and the rules of etiquette.

Each person must refrain from hot-blooded behaviour; guard against impetuous courage.

Terser Versions of the Kun

When I began my Shotokan journey in Scotland in the early 1970s, I recited a more simplified version:

· Seek Perfection of Character.

· Be Sincere.

· Put maximum effort into everything you do.

· Respect Others.

· Develop Self Control.

Since those early days, I have heard several even terser versions:






The Dōjō Kun appears in many styles and arts, varying according to the general precepts of the style. A book could be written on a veritable plethora of Dōjō Kun.

Torakan Dōjō Kun

Helping to prepare my students for their long-term journey into Karate-Dõ, we would begin and end every class with a formal bow. During the formal bow-in, Mokuso is performed… relieving the mind of the clutter, tension and residue of everyday existence; preparing mind and body to receive and retain knowledge. Mokuso is performed during the formal bow out… relaxing the mind and body, and releasing the karateka, refreshed and retuned, to negotiate life outside of the dōjō.

Not long after the foundation of Torakan, I composed Torakan’s own Dōjō Kun, which has now been established for more than 40 years:

Humility - Self-discipline - Self-confidence - Self-knowledge - Self-love - Self-respect - Respect for others - Unity of mind and body, thought and deed, body and spirit.

When joining Torakan, a student receives an information pack, in which there is a longer explanation of the Dōjō Kun, explaining more fully what the recited words pertain to. When that student then recites the Torakan Dōjō Kun they understand more than those few words might otherwise convey.

Humility: to be humble or unpretentious, the opposite of arrogant or big-headed.

Self-Discipline: having the strength of mind to impose your will upon yourself.

Self-Confidence: having the ability to recognise and be what and who you are.

Self-Knowledge: knowing your potential and where you are in respect of that potential.

Self-Love: love is an essential ingredient of this world and must begin with self.

Self-Respect: without self-respect you will respect nothing else.

Respect for others: respect is a mutual thing and to gain respect you must give respect.

Unity of mind and body: the mind initiates the thought & the body initiates the action.

Thought and deed: thought is the action of the mind & the deed is the physical result.

Body and spirit: body as in all our physicality & spirit as in everything else that we are.

Like the many paths ascending the mountain, striving to reach the summit; so too does any true study and practice of the martial disciplines strive to achieve enlightenment.


Follow Me
  • Grey Facebook Icon
bottom of page