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The Principles of Karate #16

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

16.) When You Step Beyond Your Own Gate, You Face A Million Enemies.

This 16th principle of Karate is echoed in the ancient proverb, “When a man crosses his threshold he has seven enemies.”

Of course, neither “seven” nor a “million” are to be taken literally but simply to indicate that there are potentially many dangers that the karateka can face as he or she lives their daily life.

The key to being safe is not to be paranoid expecting trouble around every corner, but rather to be aware of your surroundings as you go about your day. Master Funakoshi explains that “negligence is a great enemy when we leave the safety of our homes.”

If we do not maintain a vigilant attitude, as well as keeping our physical body…and skills…in peak form, we leave ourselves open to trouble.

Consequently, we should adopt the attitude that when leaving our gate we are entering into the midst of potential enemies and should stay mentally alert.

The following short was told by karate master Kenwa Mabuni and illustrates this principle:

“Master Yasutsune Itosu, a karate expert who lived a full life of eighty-five years, followed the custom of always pausing and bowing reverently before his household shrine whenever he was about to go out.

One day, overcoming my reticence, I asked him, “Sensei, what are you requesting of the gods when you pray?”

He replied, “When an old man like me goes out, it is thanks to the gods that I do not get kicked by a horse or run over by a carriage and that I can return home safe and sound. And so I ask them again, today to please protect me and allow me to finish my business and return home safely.”

Still full of youthful vigor myself at the time, I said, “Sensei, what a thing for an expert martial artist like you to say!” and thought to myself that it was rather silly.

But now as I think back, I realize what a profound point of view he had.

Master Mabuni’s story offers a rare glimpse into the mind of a martial arts expert and reinforces the importance of this principle.

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