‘ Spirit first, technique second’
In this precept ‘spirit’ could be synonymous with ‘enthusiasm’, but I interpret it as ‘attitude’. With this in mind, Funakoshi was trying to say that the correct mind-set is key in karate.
A technique can be perfectly executed but lack effectiveness if it is not believed in or if it is not thought of in the correct way. This is seen in kata as it is very easy to think of kata as a dance or just a series of moves to learn, when in fact the mind-set should be that you are in a fight with an invisible opponent. Every move should have the same idea behind it as when you are hitting a pad or sparring. The effectiveness of a technique is greatly increased if you are thinking about what you are trying to accomplish while executing it. What is your intention in sparring? It is to defend utilising an offensive or defensive strategy where appropriate, as in Kumite. Basics and kata should be seen in the same light. By thinking of them in the same terms as sparring and pad work, your movements will have purpose and power behind them.
Taking this further we should also understand that at a more basic level, unless you approach your karate practice with the right attitude (i.e. to learn and put in the required effort regardless of external influences and discomfort) then you will never truly be doing karate.
By Karly West