The Twenty Precepts of Gichin Funakoshi – No. 4

‘ First know yourself before attempting to know others’

There are two interpretations of this precept, one to encompass our training within the dojo and the other covering our “relationship” with an opponent. Sometimes it’s easy to look around at other members of the dojo and see them performing techniques or movements that could be improved. This precept highlights the importance of self awareness. If you see someone moving incorrectly, first ask yourself if you are making the same mistake. Spend more time on yourself and improving your own techniques before attempting to give others advice.

A deeper view on this precept concerns your “relationship” with an opponent. Often students expect that in order to fight/spar (whether fixed more or free, dojo or street) that they need to be able to read their opponent. Those who believe they are more advanced may take this a stage further and aim to control their opponent. It is agreed that these aims are quite justified and we would expect a skilled karate-ka to be able to do these things (to an extent), HOWEVER… they often miss one vital step in their training.

Before looking to control or read anyone else, we must first learn to read and control ourselves. This is essentially what we are training for from our first day, our ability to line up for bowing should make us aware of where we are, our ability to stand in a correct yoi position should make us aware of how prepared our body is before movement, and so on. Aim to control every movement, every muscle independently, perform exactly as requested by your instructor and by yourself (this control is both physically over your body and mentally over your emotions – loss of temper will not only lose you a fight but also gives your opponent a good view into your psyche). Our own awareness of our abilities is the key aspect for our progression, we should know whether we are ready for the next grade, we should be training with mirrors and video cameras so that we can analyse ourselves. Know yourself, once you have trained your eyes and other senses to fully analyse and read yourself you will be ready to do the same to others.

By Karly West

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