Niju Kun

IMA Shotokan Niju kun: The 20 Precepts of Karate Training.

The following 20 principles are based on Gichen Funakoshi’s “Twenty Precepts of Karate” which were said to have been first documented around 1890 and were first published in “The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate” (1938). Please note that they are not numbered or ordered to show that each rule is of equal importance whatever order you read them and here they have only loosely been translated and written for interest of the reader in mind. The principles are all helpful motivational anecdotes combined with fatherly like advice giving philosophical insight and wisdom on how one should approach Martial Arts Training.
All students of any system are always advised make their own research on training resources to “ find out for themselves” in order to make up their own minds and gain a better understanding about any topic related to training. I think you will find (as we do) the principles are pretty much excellent advice, easy to apply and fun to read and think about where as the Dojo kun can be a little more difficult to fathom and apply and takes more thought from the student or reader.


  • Karate-do is built on courtesy. Karate begins with a bow and finishes with a bow. Etiquette, simple respect and good   manners cost nothing to use. When arrogance comes through the door respect goes out the window.
  • There is no first strike in karate. In karate, never attack first. Just because you can doesn’t mean that you should but do learn to read your opponents and situations.
  • Karate is an aid to justice. One who practices karate must follow this principle. Pay attention to rules and regulations.
  • First know yourself before attempting to know others. Always understand how you will react and know yourself first.
  • Spirit first, technique second. Harbouring the correct Spirit and mind is more important than technique. Always try and give 100% even in difficult times.
  • Always be ready to release your mind. Be ready to release your mind and accept new or different. One cannot learn if one has not yet accepted that one needs to be taught.
  • Accidents arise from negligence and misfortune comes out of idleness. Calamity springs from carelessness.
  • Don’t think that karate training is only in the dojo.Think that what you learn from Karate can help you outside the dojo.
  • It will take your entire life to learn karate, there is no limit, and we are all nothing but students.
  • Put your everyday living into karate and you will find the subtle secrets. That is how you will see its true beauty.
  • Karate is just like hot water, if you do not heat it constantly, it will cool. Only continuous practice can bring results.
  • Do not think that you have to win, think rather, that you do not have to lose. There is more than one way for either.
  • Move and make adjustments according to your opponent.
  • The outcome of the battle depends on how you handle weakness and strength. You must discern the vulnerable from invulnerable points.
  • Think of your own hands and feet, legs and arms as swords or weapons as well as your opponents.
  • When you leave home, think that you have numerous opponents waiting for you. When you step beyond your own gate, you face a million enemies. Don’t think of this as if living in a state of constant paranoia of physical aggression, maybe someone just might need a little help which you could extend yourself to offer for example! Think.
  • Beginners must master low stance and posture, natural body positions are for the advanced. Formal stances are for beginners; later, one stands naturally. Natural movement will always be one of the main combat requirements of any system but strength and technique must be developed.
  • Practicing a Kata exactly is one thing, engaging in a real fight is another. Performing prescribed sets of techniques in routine exactly is one thing; actual combat is another matter. Tournament type of training is one thing, learning Martial Arts is another and will never equal the demands made upon the student training for, and  dealing with, “real physical combat situations”. All mentioned should be practiced and enjoyed.
  • Do not forget the employment of withdrawal of power, the extension or contraction of the body, the swift or leisurely application of technique. Correctly apply: strength and weakness, stretching and contraction of the body. Pay full attention to slowness and speed of techniques.
  • Always create and devise. Always think and devise ways to live the precepts of Karate-do every day. Be constantly mindful, diligent, and resourceful, in your pursuit of the Way, and when it comes to Karate Practice!, Practice!, Practice!


Do Not Forget

a) Strength and weakness of power;

(b) contraction and expansion of body;

(c) slowness and speed of techniques.

The IMA Niju kun is a great example of a combination of many inspiring life and training strategies along with some principles on personal self-mastery. Remember to train with patience and steadiness continually and don’t get hung up on what you read, hear or see because what you interpret and understand at that point in time will always change and evolve as you make progress. When you get to the heart of the thing itself everyone is different therefore what they take from whatever type of learning as individuals will always be different. Always pay attention to your teacher, question if confused, consider all possibilities and most importantly “make up your own mind”.
A great combination of many life and training strategies along with some principles on self-mastery.

"The ultimate aim of karate lies neither in victory nor defeat,
but in the perfection of the character of its participants"
Gichin Funakoshi Sensei 1868 – 1957.

Gichin Funakoshi (1975). Karate-do: My Way of Life. ISBN 0-87011-463-8.
Gichin Funakoshi (1938). The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate. ISBN 978-4-7700-2796-2.