The Principles of Karate

By Anko Itosu

Karate did not originate from the way of Buddhism or from the way of Confucianism. In the not-too-distant past, both Shorin-ryu and Shorei-ryu were introduced from China. Both styles have many similarities and they both have their strong points. They should not be changed. I would like to make a record of the following things:

1. The main purpose of Karate is for health benefits. It is appropriate to fight an antagonist if your purpose is to safeguard your country or those who preside over you. When you fight, you should have no hesitation to lose your own life if necessary (the resolute acceptance of death). Never fight an enemy without good reason. If you encounter a criminal or a ruffian, donít fight him if you can help it, but just block as you evade, stepping out of the way.

2. The purpose of Karate is to make the body like iron, or as hard as rock. Your hands and feet should be used like the points of arrows. Your heart should be mighty and bold. If children would practice Karate from the time they are in elementary school, they would be well prepared for the time they are to serve in the military. After the Duke of Wellington defeated Napoleon, he mentioned the fact that that tomorrow's triumph will come from today's school yard.

3. Karate cannot be learned in a short amount of time. A bull that walks very slowly will, in due time, travel a thousand miles. In like manner, if you study and practice earnestly each day, in three or four years you will understand what the core of Karate is about. Indeed, the very shape of your bones will change.

You will discover the essence of Karate if you follow these points:

4. In Karate, the "fist-foot" or fist and foot is a very important point. You should train them thoroughly on the makiwara. When you do it, drop your shoulders, open your lungs, take hold of your strength, grip the floor with your feet and sink your ch'i to your lower abdomen. Excercise with each arm one to two hundred times.

5. When you are practicing Karate stances, make sure your back is straight, drop your shoulders, take your strength and put it in your legs, stand firmly and direct the ch'i into your lower abdomen. You must hold the top and bottom of your abdomen together tightly.

6. You should practice the external techniques of Karate one by one, repeated over and over again, many times. These things are passed down verbally. Therefore, it is very important to spend the time and effort to learn the explanations and decide when and how they should be used. Go in, counter, release; is the rule of torite.

7. You must decide for yourself why you practice Karate, whether it is for making your body more healthy or for improving yourself in doing your duties.

8. During practice you should imagine that you are in a real battle. When blocking and striking make your eyes glare, drop your shoulders and harden your body. Then block the incoming punch and then strike the opponent. Always practice with this spirit so that when you are in a real battle, you will be well prepared to be able to react naturally.

9. Do not overexert yourself during practice, because your ch'i will rise up, your face and eyes will turn red and you will bring injury to your body. Be careful of this.

10. In the past, many of those who have become experts in Karate have lived to an old age. This is because Karate helps to develop the bones and sinews. It also helps the digestive tract and is good for blood circulation. Therefore, from this time foreward, Karate should be the foundation of all lessons in sports from the elementary schools on up. If this is the way it is done from now on, I think that there will be many people who, when they are alone and outnumbered, will literally be able to win against ten attackers.

The reason for writing all this is that, in my opinion, all students at the Okinawa Prefectural Teachers' Training College should practice Karate, so that when they graduate, they will be able to teach the school children the same way I have taught them. I predict that within ten years Karate will spread all over Okinawa and then to the Japanese mainland. This will be a great asset to the military and to our society. I expect that you will carefully study the words I have written here.

Anko Itosu, October 1908