By Jenifer Tull-Gauger
If you look at the Dojo Kun in Japanese writing, you might notice that each of the five precepts starts with the number 1 (the horizontal dash). This is because each of the concepts is just as important as the other four. We are supposed to take each one to heart and also koto – do it, put it into action.
Doing this, following the Dojo Kun, will help make you a good person. Many people have good moral character even without knowing the Dojo Kun, but if they learn the Dojo Kun, it can help them in their endeavors. Being a good person, or having a good heart and showing it, is crucial to being a good martial artist as we teach the martial arts. Good moral character can be learned, and it can always be improved upon.
Over the years, we have seen people who are talented martial artists, but who lack in the area of good moral character. These people may have natural physical ability or pick up on and learn techniques easily. They are good fighters, people whose physical power you would want backing you up in a battle. This kind of physical prowess does not have to come naturally, it can be learned, and it can always be improved upon.
We are blessed to have many good students who are naturally kind, honest, respectful and thoughtful and who strive to do the right thing. We also have good students who work hard with strong stances, powerful katas, great hand techniques, and fighting spirit. The truly excellent martial artist will be strong in both of these areas. Their good moral character will complement their obvious strong physical martial arts abilities, and vice versa.
This is not something that comes easily. Being a good person is something that must be worked on daily, with thought and perseverance despite mistakes. Having strong physical technique is another trait that only becomes apparent with daily practice, more strong practice, and practicing yet again (keiko keiko keikokoru).
Being a good person or a strong martial artist is not an either-or thing for us. As karateka, we are charged with going above and beyond in both of these areas. We are to strive for excellence, despite difficulties. When we have set-backs in either area, we must get back on track and keep going. Of course it won’t be easy, we do not profess that anything in karate is easy. But it will be worth it.