On this page we will feature quotations and thoughts of and about karate.
This color represents the latest addition to our Words of Wisdom.
“Every movement in karate is performed with the whole body; never with the four limbs. Thus, punch with the body, kick, defend, stand, pivot, and walk with the whole body. This cannot be expressed on paper with my pen. The only way to gain this skill is through practice.” – Sensei Hironori Otsuka – Wado Ryu Karate
“Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.” – Saint Francis de Sales
“Don’t break anyone’s heart; they have only one. Break their ribs instead; they have 24.” – Sensei Jesse Enkamp, Karate Nerd
“If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it — then I can achieve it!” – Muhammad Ali
“One must not lose sight of the fact that karate is “all-in” fighting. Everything is allowed… This is why karate is based on blows delivered with the hand, the foot, the head, the elbow, and the knee. Equally permissible are strangulations, throwing techniques, and joint locks. This is one of the fascinating things about karate; this sensation of mastery over effective techniques brings an inner peace and calm.” – H.D. Plee in “Karate: Beginner to Black Belt” 1967
“A black belt is nothing more than a belt that goes around your waist. Being a black belt is a state of mind and attitude.” – Morihei Ueshiba
“There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside yourself.” – Miyamoto Musashi
“To me, karate is strong, so strong. You know it’s there. You can react with it. It’s never, ‘is it gonna to be? It’s gotta be!’” – Sensei Masaru Shintani
“Whatever luck I had, I made. I was never a natural athlete, but I paid my dues in sweat and concentration and took the time necessary to learn Karate and become World Champion.” – Chuck Norris (American martial artist and actor. Also, the only man who has counted to infinity… Twice.)
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Sensei Masaru Shintani
“If you only do what you can do, you will never be more than you are now.” – Master Shifu, Kung Fu Panda 3
“Empty your mind. Be formless. Shapeless. LIKE WATER. You put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put water into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can FLOW or it can CRASH. Be water, my friend.” – Bruce Lee
“A black belt only covers two inches of your butt – you have to cover the rest yourself.” – Royce Gracie
“It is better to avoid than to run; better to run than to de-escalate; better to de-escalate than to fight; better to fight than to die. The very essence of self-defence is a thin list of things that might get you out alive when you are already scr**ed” – From “Meditations on Violence” by Rory Miller
“Practice without mental intensity becomes playful and easy, and even if one practices for many years they will not improve.” – Kenwa Mabuni
“Boards don’t hit back.” – Bruce Lee
“Kata wasn’t designed to improve your health. It was designed to ruin someone else’s.” – Anonymous
“The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday.” – Anonymous
“Pain: It’s all in your head. Or gut, mouth, arm. Depends on where you were hit last!” – Zagger
“Knowing is not enough, we must apply.
Willing is not enough, we must do.” – Bruce Lee (1940-1973)
Lee is not just talking about using our martial skills for combat in this quote. He is talking about living the precepts of the martial arts daily. He means that as we show respect in the dojo, we should also show the same respect on the street. Because Karate teaches us humility, respect, loyalty, integrity, honor and much more, we must make a conscious decision to relentlessly practice Karate in the pursuit of being a true representative of the black belt ideal in every sense of the word, both inside and outside of the dojo.
When the old masters told us to use Karate in our daily lives, they weren’t just talking about the punches and kicks.
Real Karate has the power to end life, and with that power comes a moral responsibility. That’s why a black belt is not really a belt. It’s a state of mind; a way of life.
The Ten Precepts of Anko Itosu
Anko Itosu (1832-1915) was one of karate’s true innovators; he was the creator of the Pinan kata and was responsible for introducing karate onto the Okinawan school system. To make karate suitable for children, Itosu watered down the karate he taught to them. As part of this, he started teaching kata without their applications so that the children could gain the physical benefits of kata training without irresponsibly giving them knowledge of the violent and brutal methods the kata were created to record.
In 1908, Itosu wrote a letter outlining his views on karate and explained why he felt karate should be introduced on to the Okinawan school system. This letter gives us an insight into karate as it was coming out of the shadows and beginning its journey to becoming an art practised by millions.
“Karate did not develop from Buddhism or Confucianism. In the past the Shorin-ryu school and the Shorei-ryu school were brought to Okinawa from China . Both of these schools have strong points and I therefore list them below just as they are without embellishment.
- Karate is not merely practiced for your own benefit; it can be used to protect one’s family or master. It is not intended to be used against a single assailant but instead as a way of avoiding injury by using the hands and feet should one by any chance be confronted by a villain or ruffian.
- The purpose of karate is to make the muscles and bones hard as rock and to use the hands and legs as spears. If children were to begin training naturally in military prowess while in elementary school, then they would be well suited for military service. Remember the words attributed to the Duke of Wellington after he defeated Napoleon, “Today’s battle was won on the playing fields of our schools”.
- Karate cannot be quickly learned. Like a slow moving bull, it eventually travels a thousand leagues. If one trains diligently for one or two hours every day, then in three or four years one will see a change in physique. Those who train in this fashion will discover the deeper principles of karate.
- In karate, training of the hands and feet are important, so you should train thoroughly with a sheaf of straw (#). In order to do this, drop your shoulders, open your lungs, muster your strength, grip the floor with your feet, and concentrate your energy into your lower abdomen. Practice using each arm one to two hundred times each day.
- When you practice the stances of karate, be sure to keep your back straight, lower your shoulders, put strength in your legs, stand firmly, and drop your energy into your lower abdomen.
- Practice each of the techniques of karate repeatedly. Learn the explanations of every technique well, and decide when and in what manner to apply them when needed. Enter, counter, withdraw is the rule for torite.
- You must decide if karate is for your health or to aid your duty.
- When you train, do so as if on the battlefield. Your eyes should glare, shoulders drop, and body harden. You should always train with intensity and spirit as if actually facing the enemy, and in this way you will naturally be ready.
- If you use up your strength to excess in karate training, this will cause you to lose the energy in your lower abdomen and will be harmful to your body. Your face and eyes will turn red. Be careful to control your training.
- In the past, many masters of karate have enjoyed long lives. Karate aids in developing the bones and muscles. It helps the digestion as well as the circulation. If karate should be introduced, beginning in the elementary schools, then we will produce many men each capable of defeating ten assailants.
If the students at teacher training college learn karate in accordance with the above precepts and then, after graduation, disseminate this to elementary schools in all regions, within 10 years karate will spread all over Okinawa and to mainland Japan. Karate will therefore make a great contribution to our military. I hope you will seriously consider what I have written here” – Anko Itosu, October 1908
(#) – Translator was not a martial artist and hence translated the word “Makiwara” to “Sheaf of Straw” when leaving the word un-translated would have been fine.
“If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus; and you must not stay there. You must go beyond them.” – Bruce Lee
“One could spit on the opponent’s face to distract them” – Gichin Funakoshi, Karate-Do Kyohan
“Who you are tomorrow begins with what you do today.” – Tim Fargo
“The correct understanding of Karate and its proper use is Karate-do. One who truly trains in this do [way] and actually understands Karate-do is never easily drawn into a fight.” – Gichin Funakoshi (considered to be the “Father of Modern Karate)
“Karate is the martial art of intelligent people.” – Gichin Funakoshi (1868-1957)
The first discipline of karate is showing up for class. – Unknown
“In the past, it was expected that about three years were required to learn a single kata, and usually even an expert of considerable skill would only know three, or at most five, kata.” – Gichin Funakoshi (founder of Shotokan Karate)
“Your first shot should end it. That’s your free shot, but you pay for every other one after that.” – Peter Consterdine – 9th Dan and Personal Security Specialist
“The only time Success comes before Work is in the dictionary!” – Vince Lombardi
“Look for the good in people.” – Anonymous
We often talk about moral values, justice and trust, but the important thing is to put them into effect in our everyday lives. – The Dalai Lama
The 20 Precepts of Gichin Funakoshi Sensei (regarded as the father of modern karate)
1. Karate-do begins with courtesy and ends with rei (respect).
2. There is no first strike in karate.
3. Karate is an aid to justice.
4. First know yourself before attempting to know others.
5. Spirit first, technique second.
6. Always be ready to release your mind.
7. Accidents arise from negligence.
8. Do not think that karate training is only in the dojo.
9. It will take your entire life to learn karate, there is no limit.
10. Put your everyday living into karate and you will find “Myo” (subtle secrets).
11. Karate is like boiling water, if you do not heat it constantly, it will cool.
12. Do not think that you have to win, think rather that you do not have to lose.
13. Victory depends on your ability to distinguish vulnerable points from invulnerable ones.
14. The out come of the battle depends on how you handle weakness and strength.
15. Think of your opponents hands and feet as swords.
16. When you leave home, think that you have numerous opponents waiting for you.
17. Beginners must master low stance and posture, natural body positions are for the advanced.
18. Practicing a kata exactly is one thing, engaging in a real fight is another.
19. Do not forget to correctly apply: strength and weakness of power, stretching and contraction of the body, and slowness and speed of techniques.
20. Always think and devise ways to live the precepts of karate-do every day.
“The ultimate aim of karate lies not in victory nor defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants.” – Sensei Gichin Funakoshi
“You are not finished when you lose. You are finished when you quit.” – Sensei Masaru Shintani
“Never be shackled by the rituals of kata. But instead, move freely according to the strengths and weaknesses of your opponent.” – Nakasone
Sensei Otsuka on Zanshin:
No matter how skilled one is in the martial arts, he will find himself unprepared if encountered off-guard. Preparation of one’s mind is necessary at all times. Not to the extent of paranoia; but as a course of habit – Hironori Otsuka
“When there are no avenues of escape or one is caught even before any attempt to escape can be made, then for the first time the use of self-defense techniques should be considered … At that time attack him concentrating one’s whole strength in one blow to a vital point and in the moment of surprise, escape and seek shelter and help.“ – Gichin Funakoshi
“Martial art technique is like the cosmos, it is infinite. Know that there are no such things as limits.“ – Sensei Otsuka
“The difference between the possible and the impossible is one’s will.“ – Sensei Otsuka
In Wado Kai Karate, as skill and knowledge are acquired through training and concentrated effort, the student is expected to develop inner strength and calmness of character, in addition to the virtues of self-control, respect for others, and humility.
“Violent action may be understood as the way of martial arts, but the true meaning of martial arts is to seek and attain the way of peace and harmony“ – Sensei Otsuka
about Sensei Shintani’s views on Karate and Kata:
He refused to allow the vital and dynamic nature of Karate to become stagnant and ritualized, to deteriorate into a stylized dance of impractical techniques and no longer comprise a ‘real’ martial art. He has said that there are no symbolic moves in Kata, every technique must be performed as if ‘real’. – SWKKF Website
Otsuka Sensei on Kata mastery:
“It is obvious that these kata must be trained and practised sufficiently, but one must not be ‘stuck’ in them. One must withdraw from the kata to produce forms with no limits or else it becomes useless. It is important to alter the form of the trained kata without hesitation to produce countless other forms of training.“ – from Otsuka Sensei’s book, “Wado-Ryu Karate”
“Have no regard for the martial aspects (when training), but rather adhere to the way of peace (harmony and tranquility).” – Sensei Otsuka
I come to you with only karate
I have no weapons
But should I be forced to defend myself,
My principles or my honor
Should it be a matter of life or death
Of right or wrong
Here are my weapons
My empty hands
– Funakoshi ( He is attributed as being the ‘father of modern karate’. Sensei Otsuka was a student of Funakoshi.)
Sensei Otsuka on “Technique, mental strength, and physical strength”…
“Of the three, if any one of them excels the opponent’s, then, one has that much advantage over him … If any of the three is too weak, then it will serve as the downfall of the individual” – Hironori Otsuka, Wado-Ryu Karate, Page 31
An Interesting Shindo Story:
Seishin no Shindo
I had thought about what kind of a kata that would be good for the Shindo and decided that a Kitagawa kata would best fit the movements of the Shindo as well as capture the essence of Sensei Shintani’s movements. Seisho seemed liked a very good fit because it was not too long and was full of explosive movements. So, I proceeded to put together the kata and the Shindo, refining the movements over a period of about 6 months. I had told Sensei Shintani that I was doing this and had his approval, but he had not seen any of the work I had done at that point.
Subsequently, I had Sensei to my home in Hamburg because he was doing a clinic for me at the Bailey Ave. dojo. The evening before the clinic, which was a Friday, I asked him if he would take a look at the kata I had developed and he agreed. We went into the basement of my home and I demonstrated the kata several times for him. When I asked him if there were any suggestions he replied, “No keep the kata just as it is.” He then asked me what I called the kata and I told him “Seisho no Shindo.” He thought for a moment and said to me. You will call it “Seishin no Shindo.” He explained to me that Seishin means the true, straight way of a person with high character. He told me that I was of a very high character and that I had followed the true, straight way of his teachings and the Shindo. He said that when someone in Japan is of high character and follows a true path they are said to have “Seishin.”
He then asked me why I had chosen Seisho from all of the Kitagawa katas that were available and I told him that it seemed to me that it represented his movements and explosiveness so very well. He said to me, “That’s really interesting, Bob, because of all the Kitagawa katas that’s the only one I had created myself. All the rest were Sensei Kitagawa’s.” He found it very interesting that I was able to zero in on his movements from the kata and select the one he had created even though I had no knowledge that he had done so.
We then went upstairs to my kitchen and he asked me for a cup of tea. As I was making the tea he was sitting at the table writing. When I served him the tea he handed me a Shindo certificate and said, “You are now a 7th Dan in Shindo. Then he looked at the cup of tea and said, “Oh that’s beautiful, just beautiful.” After he finished the tea he turned on the baseball game and we didn’t discuss karate or the Shindo the rest of the evening, only baseball.
by Sensei Dr. Robert J. Graham – from the SWKKF web site