“Calamity springs from carelessness” is the seventh of the twenty precepts that Gichin Funakoshi wrote to guide his students in their martial arts and character development.

This seventh precept is written in Japanese as “一、禍は懈怠に生ず Hitotsu, wazawai wa ketai ni shōzu” and has been translated as:

  • “Accidents arise from negligence”;
  • “Calamity springs from carelessness”; or
  • “Trouble is born from negligence”.

The meaning of this precept is obvious enough but I would like to explore a little further below on how it can be applied in our karate training and our personal life.

Karate Training

Whatever we do in life, we all make mistakes at some point in time, it is a part of the learning process. The only way to avoid mistakes altogether is to never try to learn new things nor make effort to achieve anything worthwhile.

Accidents and injuries in our karate training are likely to happen at some stage. However, it’s worth mentioning that karate is an extremely safe sport.

Most injury-prone and dangerous sports are basketball, netball, running, tennis, cricket, soccer, ice hockey, rugby, skiing, snowboarding, sledding, and surfing. Karate is not featured among all the lists of the most dangerous sports that I have looked at.

While injuries are unavoidable, we all can try to reduce them by exercising caution during our training and taking care of our own bodies and those of our training partners.

This means listening to our instructors, following their instructions, and being totally focused on the drills that we are asked to do.

People turn up to train with us and offer their bodies for us to learn and improve our martial arts. They trust us with their bodies and we need to show our gratitude and respect and do what we can to take care of them and honor their trust.

In our partnered drills, we need to deliver realistic attack and defense techniques so that our partners can learn and we can improve. But at the same time, we also need to have absolute control in order to avoid causing bodily harm to our training partners.

We need to take care of their bodies as if they are our own and they likely will do the same in return.

For example, in simple gohon kumite or san dan gi drills, if we are attacking, we may punch with 100% power and with the correct target but aim for a distance of around one fist away from the intended target in case our partners fail to block.

Instead of going through autonomous motions, always assume that our training partners may not act the way we expect and prepare to adjust accordingly. What can go wrong, will go wrong.

I believe no one would intentionally hurt others during their karate training but people still do because they are either inexperienced, misjudging, failing to pay attention, or letting their ego take over and wanting to win at all costs.

If you accidentally injure someone, find out why and what you can do in the future to avoid that type of incident happening again.

If you are inexperienced and unable to deliver good techniques with safe distancing, maybe go for soft power (30-40%) and reserve full power execution for solo drills or kata practice.

If you are ambitious and want to win in sparring practice, remember no victory is worth putting your training partners out of training for six months or, in the worst-case scenario, forcing them to quit as a result.

We also need to take care of our own bodies as well.

We know our bodies and their limits better than anybody else and it is our number one priority to take care of our bodies.

If you have injuries and can’t do certain exercises, just inform your instructors and avoid these exercises. Don’t be pressured into doing something that hurts your body or prolongs your recovery from an injury.

Warming up properly, wearing protective gear, working on your fitness, and giving your training 100% attention will help reduce the risk of injury.

In addition, think long term. It is better to go for 70-80% and turn up to train consistently three times a week than going for 150% once a week and then spending the rest of the week recovering.

It is better to be cautious and underperform a little than go all out and risk missing a few months of training as a result.

One tip to reduce injury that I have learned is that, in the beginning, focus on your uke techniques and learn how to effectively block attacks and avoid being hit rather than thinking about attacking and scoring in sparring practice.

Karate is a self-defense art and the aim is to train to not lose, not train to win. You will go a long way by focusing on mastering uke techniques rather than attacking and point-scoring.

Personal Life

The number one cause of car accidents is inattention, not speed or alcohol.

We are distracted not just during our driving but during other activities like eating; having a conversation with family, friends, or colleagues; playing sports; or karate training.

We constantly relive something that happened in the past or plan and anticipate something that needs to be done in the future.

We rarely ever give the present moment our full attention.

As the past has already happened and the future is yet to come or may not come, the present moment is the only thing we truly have.

If we continue to live this way and be lost in the past and the future, we will let our lives pass by, we will exist but never truly live.

In karate, carelessness leads to accidents, injuries, and, potentially, disasters as well.

In life, carelessness leads to missing out on life, failing to reach our true happiness and potential and living our lives to the fullest.

There are times when pondering about the past and planning for the future are needed, however, for most of the time, we should try to live in the present.

Perhaps we can all start practicing living fully in the present by following Buddha’s teaching: “when I eat, I eat, when I sleep, I sleep“. This seems so simple but is extremely hard to achieve.

I used to eat while scrolling on my phone when eating alone. But now I put the phone away and try to enjoy the meal. If the sun is out, I’d like to sit in the sun, look at the sky and listen to the birds, and enjoy the moment.

I used to think about all sorts of things that happen during the day while at karate training in the evening. But now I try to focus on one technique at a time. Just one technique at a time. My mind still wanders a lot but now I am aware of the problem and am working on fixing it.

I used to let my mind wander aimlessly, agonizing about mistakes and worrying about unsolved problems before drifting off to sleep. But now I think about what good things I have achieved during the day.

If I’ve made a mistake, I’d forgive myself and think of ways that I can avoid them in the future. Life is too short and I’m learning to not sweat the small stuff.

And I also tell myself: tomorrow is going to be a good day.

All Posts in the Series:

Precept 1: Do Not Forget that Karate-do Begins and Ends with Rei

Precept 2: There Is No First Strike in Karate

Precept 3: Karate Stands on the Side of Justice

Precept 4: First Know Yourself Then Know Others

Precept 5: Mentality Over Technique

Precept 6: The Mind Must Be Set Free

Precept 7: Calamity Springs from Carelessness

Precept 8: Karate Goes Beyond the Dojo

Precept 9: Karate Is a Lifelong Pursuit

Precept 10: Apply the Way of Karate to All Things, Therein Lies Its Beauty

Precept 11: Karate Is Like Boiling Water: Without Heat, It Returns to Its Tepid State

Precept 12: Do Not Think of Winning, Think, Rather, of Not Losing

Precept 13: Make Adjustments According to Your Opponent

Precept 14: The Outcome of a Battle Depends on How One Controls Truth and Fiction

Precept 15: Think of the Opponent’s Hands and Feet as Swords

Precept 16: When You Step Beyond Your Own Gate, You Face a Million Enemies

Precept 17: Kamae Is For Beginners; Later, One Stands In Shizentai

Precept 18 – Perform Kata Exactly; Actual Combat Is Another Matter

Precept 19: Do Not Forget the Employment or Withdrawal of Power, the Extension or Contraction of the Body, the Swift or Leisurely Application of Technique

Precept 20: Be Constantly Mindful, Diligent, and Resourceful in Your Pursuit of the Way


Gichin Funakoshi (1938). The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate

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