The Fifth Precept of Gichin Funakoshi by Mireille Clark

Spirit first, technique second.

It has taken me years of contemplation on this precept to even start to come to the understanding of what it is trying to say. I offer the following personal interpretation:

Inner Spirit is what makes a person continue despite set backs, limitations, mistakes, ridicule, and other challenges.  Without the right Spirit in training, you cannot advance in technique.  There has to be a mental environment of willingness to commit to the movements, dedication to achieving results, and courage to continue to allow a person to experience success.

Fear stops us.  Fear of doing it wrong, Fear of being hurt, Fear of looking silly, Fear of being rejected, Fear of being too old/young/weak, etc.  Fear motivates us to abandon the effort.  We may choose to complain about others who have applied themselves and succeeded rather than think that we could have achieved the same, and maybe even better, if only we had put in the right Spirit with our efforts.

How many years can you stand in a dojo and do the same movements as others, and never ever understand the lessons contained in those exercises because you are only doing "just enough" to pass to the next rank?  It's because your Spirit is lacking that you cannot experience the Art in what you are doing. Your heart doesn't beat fast with the exertion, and you cannot exhilarate in the flow of the movement because you haven't commited everything that you have into that strike.  You have to picture WHAT you are doing with your movements so that you understand WHY you are doing them.  Once you have acquired that knowledge then a world of possibilities opens to you.

Right inner Spirit is what is necessary in a self defense moment... with or without skill and technique.   That inner desire, and focus to survive, and walk away from a confrontation will be more important than any complicated maneuver that you had learned in class. Your mind will find a way to keep you safe using the tools that you had provided yourself.  If you spent all of your training time worried about how well your outfit looked, or trying to avoid doing the exercise properly because it was too difficult or physically draining, then you will have limited tools.

This is the same with life.  Proper Spirit towards what we do, and why we do it,  will allow us to benefit the most from every moment.  We only have a limited amount of time on this planet to affect ourselves, and those around us.  If we choose to put forth a positive, responsible, and grateful attitude in everything that we do, we can expect that this will become a good catalyst in the world around us ( even if we do not see instant results).  If we choose to just mechanically move through the motions, then we will get limited results.

Train with your Spirit.  How?   

  1. Face a challenge with a "yes" attitude.  Do your best, and learn from the rest.
  2. Ask your body to give more than what you think it can do.  Tell yourself that you can do 1 more, and then do it.
  3. Make each move in your training count.  Feel the response of your body as it shifts weight, and work towards improving your balance, your power, your timing, etc.
  4. Avoid looking at the clock. Time will continue whether or not you know what time it is.  
  5. Focus on what you are doing, and not what others are not doing.  They are responsible for themselves and will get the results that they deserve from their efforts.
  6. Be grateful for what you have achieved today.  You are never guaranteed a tomorrow.. so be happy that today you were able to do what you did. 

Mireille Clark
JDK Associate

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