By Jenifer Tull-Gauger
In Japanese, Dojo Kun #2 is more literally translated as, “It is important to stay on a path of truth.” In translating the kanji, that word “stay” is a tricky part. Instead, at our dojo we say “Keep an honest and sincere way.”
The kanji mamo is translated as “obey” or “protect.” You could say that the second Dojo Kun means, “Obey the path of truth,” or “Guard the path of truth.” Each translation is basically saying the same thing, but with slightly different emphases and word connotations. Which translation speaks best to you of the martial artist’s relationship with truth?
The main idea in Dojo Kun #2 (for lack of a better title) is the kanji in the beginning: makoto. That single kanji alone could be used to sum up the character of a good martial artist. The left side of the kanji for makoto is made up of the symbols for scroll, or words, and mouth, or speaking. So the left side signifies talking. The right side is made up of the kanji for “to complete” (see sei in kan sei in Dojo Kun #1). Makoto, truth, is made by completing the spoken word—or in other words, doing what you say.
I like to think of this dojo kun as, “Do what you say and say what you do.” Another fun translation is “Walk the walk and talk the talk.” You can easily see why “sincere” got into the English translation.
As martial artists, it’s our job to continue on, and constantly move closer to, the path of truth. One high-ranking martial artist comes to mind in setting this example. He knew Newland Renshi way before I did. This sifu was a high rank black belt in another style from another country; a very different art, but still traditional. When Newland Renshi invited him to Summer Camp in Missouri, he told him he would attend “one of these days.” I have heard countless “one of these days” promises that don’t ever go anywhere. (Of course from non-martial-artists. [Just kidding, you non-martial-artists.])
Well, guess what? Several years later, and several hundred dollars later (that’s what it cost him to fulfill his promise), that sifu was sitting there with me at Summer Camp in Missouri. I told him I admired his character in following through on his word. He said that is what a gentleman does. That sifu exemplified the Japanese Dojo Kun #2.