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The Principles of Karate #4

(Adapted from Gichin Funakoshi’s Book, The Guiding Principles of Karate)

4.) First know yourself, then know others.

There is a well known passage by Sun Tzu regarding Offensive Strategy in his book, THE ART OF WAR…

“When one knows the enemy and knows oneself, one will not be in danger in a hundred battles. When one is ignorant of the enemy yet knows oneself, chances of victory or defeat are even. When one knows neither the enemy nor oneself, each and every battle will surely be perilous.”

This famous passage, which circulated widely in martial arts circles many years ago, is as valid today as it was then.

It is of course important to know our own strengths and weaknesses in life so that we can shore up our strengths and work on our weaknesses. If life is anything it is a continual process of improving ourselves…of becoming of greater value to our selves, to our family and to society in general.

Self-awareness and self-improvement however are even more important when it comes to self-protection. We need to know the limits to our skills as well as our strengths.

Master Funakoshi states, “In our personal endeavors, we know our favorite techniques and our own weak points. But in fighting, not only must we be well aware of our strengths and weaknesses, we must understand those or our adversary. Then, even in a hundred confrontations, the danger is minimal.”

“If we know ourselves but do no know our opponent, victory or defeat depends on chance. But going into battle knowing neither our opponent nor ourselves is like taking a wild stab at something or fighting blind…and each and every engagement puts us in peril.”

Bottom line? Karate practitioners must be completely aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, and never become dazzled or blinded by conceit and overconfidence.

And I would add to this that a Karateka needs to master the basics. When it comes to being effective in street defense, keeping it simple and using those basic skills that have been mastered, will be more effective.

Regarding knowing your opponent, always be aware of your surroundings. Know your environment. Educate yourself on what kinds of assaults are happening in your area. Know what your potential risk is.

Then learn how to respond effectively to those potential assaults.

Lastly, when one has mastered the basic skills of self-defense, is aware of their environment and understands the type of potential attacks that might happen, the well prepared Karateka will be much more confident and able to adequately assess calmly and carefully the strengths and weaknesses of their adversaries and thereby create a more effective strategy.

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