Wednesday, 25 November 2015


Kendo and Karate-do share many philosophical concepts because both Karate-do and Ken-do are grounded in Bushido. The same can be said for many other Japanese martial arts such as Judo and Aikido. Taken to their metaphorical application, most of the philosophies can also be applied to such Japanese arts as Shodo, Sado, and Ikebana.

In this post I would like to talk about a concept that is very important to our daily training, competitive success, and quality of life in general.

Recognizing this changes everything!

驚・懼・疑・惑 (Kyou, Ku, Gi, Waku) This is the 武道四戒 (Budo Shikai), This may be translated as the 'Four Commandments of Budo'. However, I prefer to think of them as 'Four Warnings of Budo' or the 'Four Cautions of Budo'. Deepening our knowledge of this concept and developing our awareness of these traits in our training and in our daily lives has the potential to bring the quality of both to higher levels.

The first trait in this collection of four is 驚き (Odoroki) Surprise, astonishment, or wonder. The idea is to not let anything surprize  us. The opposite of this is 落ち着く (Ochitsuku) to remain Calm, to be steady, to harmonise with, and to restore presence of mind. If we are susceptible to the nervous energy around us we will be unable to settle our feelings and quiet our mind and therefore, be unable to perform at our best. There are many ways to deal with this nervous energy and many athletes have developed their own personal routines to help clam themselves down and concentrate before competition.

Taking this to another level, one may consider ways to instill this negative condition in their opponents. Miyamoto Musashi discusses this concept in his famous Book of Five Rings.

The second trait is 懼れ (Osore) also written as 恐れ this is Fear, horror, and anxiety. Again, if you are anxious about what is yet to come and the unknown makes you afraid, you will find yourself almost paralysed when the opportunity for success becomes known to you. Physically speaking, this could be the opportunity to score a point on your opponent, but metaphorically speaking this could be the opportunity that could lead to success in life.

It is not very admirable to capitalize on someone else's fears, but in battle the opponent's fear is their weakness. Look at the scene in the movie the Last Samurai when the Samurai are squared off against the American trained army for the first time in the misty forest. They begin with blood curdling battle cries at a distance where they can not yet be seen. The cries seem to be coming from all directions. You can instantly see the fear on the faces of the legion of men. The charge by the Samurai out of the mists on their Horses and in full armour makes them appear larger than life and they overwhelm the legion easily because their fear causes them to misfire. That battle was one by creating a condition of Osore in their opponents' minds, which allowed them to be taken by surprise Odoroku.
(Photo retrieved from:

The third trait is 疑 (Gi), (Utagau)  Doubt, distrust, suspicion It is said that there is nothing more debilitating than fear and doubt. In Japanese Gi and is often combined with the fourth trait 惑 (Waku) Perplexity, delusion, which, when combined re-enforces the destructive nature of doubting oneself.
This kanji is also often combined with the kanji 問 (Mon) 疑問 which simply means question in most cases, however, there should never be any room for doubt in our training or in our actions. The famous saying, "Actions speak louder than words" comes to mind when discussing such things as this.

(Waku), (Madoi)  can also be written as 迷う (Mayou) and means to lose one's way, to hesitate, or to go astray. There are times that we feel confused or lost in our training and in life. When we feel this way it is very important to get grounded again. Some people find this in the community and others in solitude. If we look at Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs we can better assess the path to "self-actualization" or the state of 平常心 (Heijyoshin) Self-possession, presence of mind, that we are aspiring for in our lives. It is the development of this 'presesnce of mind' in the karate-ka that is the aim of karate-do training.

The Budo Shikai outline the qualities or traits that are holding us back from attaining the state of heijyoshinn in our lives. Recognizing these emotional debilitations in ourselves and applying them to competition changes everything. It will change how you prepare, how you view emotional stress within yourself, make you more attune to how your actions affect your opponent allowing you to act differently and react differently than before. In Japan the Budo Shikai are often talked about as a competitive strategy, but recognizing and overcoming these emotions is sure to have a positive impact in many other areas of our lives. 

The Budo Shikai reminds us that these negative, destructive emotional traits are inside all of us and that the real battle that must be won everyday as we strive in our self-development is the battle within 克己心 (Kokkishin) is a term that is often used to describe this inner struggle against the above mentioned emotions. The path that we are walking on is designed to guide us to self-actualization, but the battles that we will face along the way always begin from within us. If we can overcome these internal struggles and maintain our intrinsic motivation to keep moving forward and striving for a better quality of self then we will attain the state of 不動心 (Fudoshin) and be able to see everything in a new light.
(Heijyoshin, Above Right and Fudoshin, Above written by the Author, 2015.)


  1. "Many of the philosophical concepts of Karate-do practices have been borrowed from Ken-do because both Karate-do and Ken-do are grounded in Bushido."

    If Karate was 'grounded in Bushido' why would it need to borrow concepts from Kendo?

    Isn't it more likely that this was an overlay taken on to make the introduction of the 'foreign' martial art, palatable to mainstream Japanese society?

    Here in Canada, a free university yoga program was just suspended due to concerns about cultural appropriation. I wonder if Okinawans have any such concerns.

  2. Thank you for the comment Shaw Sensei. Your keen eye for detail continues to make this blog better.

    I have edited this post to better describe what I wanted to say.

    Many of the philosophical concepts discussed in this blog can also be found in the literature of kendo and other Japanese martial arts. As a Japanese martial art, kendo is older than karate-do and karate-do has made some significan changes from its original Okinawan model to the current Japanese one. Not the least of which is its name.

    I am sorry to hear about the cancellation of the yoga program in the Canadian university as I would like to see programs such as yoga and karate-do given a platform in mainstream education. I have written a 23 page paper on the marits of including karate-do in mainstream education to be published in January. I will upload a copy to and share the link then.

  3. Hi Marc,

    I see your edit re Karate sharing a grounding in Bushido with Kendo etc. I take your point if it regards Karate to be a gendai budo.

    My 'opinion' that Tode was radically changed on its assimilation into Japan is mostly just conjecture. That, and the fact that I couldn't competently define bushido, requires me to admit that "I donno'...

    Keep blogging. Your topics are all interesting (so far) :)

    I look forward to your publishing your paper>

    Merry Christmas to you and yours,