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Kunshi No Ken: The Noble Discipline

Jari is a Finnish Karateka who has been practising for more than 30 years. He believes that Karate helps him to be a better person and develop himself to his full potential.

Jari trains with the Dento Shito-Ryu international and Dento Shito-Ryu Finland. He has had the great opportunity to be under the guidance of notable teachers: Soke Kenyu Mabuni, Hidetoshi Nakahashi (who passed away in 2019), Carlos Molina and Yoshiharu Hatano.

Jari has this to share:

The contribution of Mabuni was "Kunshi no ken", which means to concentrate on cultivating oneself to be a strong, well-rounded, and respectful individual. He, who is able to apply this principle in all situations with discipline and respect, is capable of assuming responsibility for his actions, maintaining his integrity, and serving as an example for others who practise Shito-ryu. (Source - Hidetoshi Nakahashi, book of Shito-ryu Karate-Do Katas Superieurs 2017.)

Master Anko Itosu also said that Karate was “Kunshi no ken”. In his writing, there is a phrase:

Don’t use fists and feet without good reason. Don’t use fists and feet for fighting. In other words, don’t use the body you trained at great pains to pursue personal worthless fighting.

(Source - Official Webpage of A.Tanzadeh 6/2023.)

I think in a simple way, there is the "educated" person who understands consequences, duty, and takes responsibility for his/her own actions. On the other hand, only in the karate side, we can also think of a similar concept, which would be Bushi No Te; 'the hands of the gentleman warrior' - but in my mind, Kunshi will be always respectful person. But karate alone is not for fighting or the fighting sport. So Kunshi No ken is a good way to start thinking about the karate in a larger context. At the same context it is also good to understand the purpose of Bushi No Te and its differences. I personally want to think about both concepts at the same time in same "techniques" but as well to act responsibly as an example and teacher to others.

What do I need to learn and when? What can I teach and to whom? Where is my responsibility as a trainee and teacher? It is good for every one who do karate to internalize these. In this context, the question could always be why? Young people can learn what they see (“omote waza”), but can they be taught beyond to next level (the teacher's responsibility)? For this reason, it is good to have a competence development path. And nowadays this can be thought of in a way that is related to gradual development (belt exams or level exams). This creates a safe progression in the "karate" to the students and help teachers to keep responsibilities. However, it is more difficult to teach students something that is not so visible vs. omote wasa. In this context, I mean the development of the training scale in the direction of giving options for students, for example, "bunkai" applications (ura waza) -> but when?

In short, we can say this at the end: - "Kunshi No Ken" can mean to the teacher what he/she can show and teach to the student and when - how to guide the student on the right path! Remember, teaching is also studying!

On the other hand, "Kunshi No Ken" can mean "a goal" for the students and that they study and understand their own responsibilities and duties in and out of the dojo. As Master Mabuni’s wrote his motto “Kunshi no Ken” means to concentrate on cultivating oneself to become a well-rounded, respectful individual.

One of my teachers Master Kenei Mabuni emphasized in his books how he understood that "Kunshi no ken". He wrote it is a person who maintains the safety of the society and protects the country.

I encourage everyone to practice karate, it helps you develop physically and mentally. Karate is a good counterbalance to a busy life, stress and otherwise helps to improve the quality of life, no matters the karate style or karate school or form of training.


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