Read the excerpted Chapter 7 "Training Precepts" below from Gichin Funakoshi's "Karate-Dō Nyūmon" (空手道入門 ”Manual of Karate-Dō”). It's is a classic companion text to "Karate-Dō Kyōhan" and this chapter may be one of the most compelling in the manuscript.
One of the most important aspects of studying and practicing Karate-dō, is the development of a proper (and productive) mindset. One can learn techniques day after day, but your approach to training will be what contributes the most to your progress overtime.
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Karate-Dō Nyūmon - Chapter 7: Training Precepts
Each and every punch must be made with the power of your entire body behind it, with the feeling of destroying your opponent with a single blow. You must believe that if your punch fails, you will forfeit your own life. Thinking this, your mind and energy will be concentrated, and your spirit with express itself to the fullest. No matter how much time you devote to practice, no matter how many months and years pass, if your practice consists of no more than moving your arms and legs, you might as well be studying dance. You will never come to know the true meaning of karate.
You will find that training with a deadly serious attitude will over time benefit not only your study of karate, but many other facets of life as well. Life itself is often akin to a match with real swords. With a lukewarm attitude toward life - such as assuming that after every failure you will always have a second chance - what can you hope accomplish in a short life span of fifty years?
You cannot train through words. You must learn through your body. Enduring pain and anguish as you strive to discipline and polish yourself, you must believe that if others can do it, you can do it too. Ask yourself, "What's stopping me? What am I doing wrong? Is something lacking in my approach?" This is training in the martial arts. Important points taught us by others may quickly be forgotten, but the essence of the knowledge acquired through personal hardship and suffering will never be forgotten. I believe that is why the martial arts masters of old would confer a diploma and reveal key elements only to those disciples whose training, almost unbearably hard and austere, had lead them to experience directly the spirit of būdo.
There is the following story about a certain Gidayū (something like this) master. While still a student intent on learning to chant these long narrative tales, he had an extremely strict teacher, who for many years refused to teach him more than a certain single passage from the Taikōki, a drama about the life and times of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Hundreds of times a day, day after day, the student was made to intone the same passage, and each time his teacher's sole remark was, "Not quite." He would not allow him to proceed to the next passage.
Finally, the exasperated student decided he was not suited to the profession and ran away in the dead of night to try his hand at something more congenial in the shogun's capital of Edo. On the way, he happened to stop for the night at an inn in Suruga Province (now Shizuoka Prefecture), where a group of Gidayū enthusiasts had gathered for an amateur contest. Still deeply attached to an art in which he had long trained, the man could not resist the urge to join in. Though an outsider, he took the stage and with all his heart he recited the only passage he knew well. When he had finished, he was approached by the old man who had sponsored the contest. "My, that was truly splendid," remarked the old man. "I'd like to know your real name. Unless my eyes and ears deceive me, you must be a famous master."
The erstwhile student was at a loss to respond to such a flattering praise. Scratching his head, he blurted out, "Nothing could be farther from the truth. I'm just a rank amateur. I have to admit I don't even know the passages before or after the one I just recited."
The old man was greatly surprised. "Is that true? But your skill ranks with Bunraku masters. Who on earth was your teacher?"
The student told about the severity of his training and how he had finally given up and run away.
With a sigh, the old man said, "You've made a terrible mistake. It is precisely because you were blessed by such a strict teacher that you had learned so much in only a few years. Take my advice: go back to your teacher immediately, ask his forgiveness, and resume your study." Hearing the old man's appraisal, the student suddenly realized his error and went back to his teacher. Eventually he came to be a master of his art. I think this story is about none other than Master Koshiji, but whoever it was, it raises a number of points worth pondering.
The tendency to act big or superior is usually most conspicuous among novices. By acting this way, they degrade and ruin the reputation of those seriously practicing martial arts. Then there are those who, having a superficial knowledge of one or two karate techniques, hold their fists in such a way as to call attention to their calloused knuckles while pushing their way through crowds as is looking for a fight - foolish beyond words. "His smile can win even the hearts of little children; his anger can make a tiger crouch in fear." This succinctly describes the true martial artist.
Courtesy and respect should not be confined to the dojo. Is there anyone who would bow before the shrine in the dojo but walk right past a wayward string without paying his respects? I would hope not. Similarly, is there anyone who willingly follows the orders of his seniors in the dojo but completely ignores the words of his father and older brother? I hope not. If there is such a person, he has no right to practice a martial art.
At home one listens to one's father and older brothers. In school one obeys one's teachers and upper classmen. In the army one follows the orders of officers and non-coms. At work one does not act contrary to or disregard the words of superiors. Because of this, there is value in one's having practiced karate.
This attitude does not apply only to improving one's technical abilities. We all have our good points and our shortcomings. If we are sincere in our desire to improve ourselves, everyone we meet can be a role model and a touchstone for self-reflection. An old proverb says, Sannin okonaeba kanarazu waga shi ari. [This is based on a passage from the Analects of Confucius: "When I walk along with two others, they may serve me as my teachers. I will select their good qualities and follow them, their bad qualities and avoid them."]
((The Chinese Classics, Vol. 1: Confucian Analects, The Great Learning, The Doctrine of the Mean. trans James Legge. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1960.))