Gichin Funakoshi’s third precept “karate stands on the side of justice” (一、空手は義の補け Hitotsu, karate wa, gi no tasuke) naturally follows the second precept “there is no first strike in karate”.

While the second precept asks karate students to only use their fighting skills as the last resort for self-defense or resolving conflicts, the third precept implores them to use their skills to fight for justice if a need arises.

With great power does come great responsibility.

No doubt, Gichin Funakoshi wrote this third precept with the Bushido code of conduct in mind which emphasizes self-discipline, respect, bravery, honor, devotion, and loyalty.

He wanted karate students to become moral guides for society like the samurai and use what they learn for the greater good, not just for their own personal self-defense.

However, this is much easier said than done.

Firstly, we must be able to distinguish right from wrong and this is not easy.

Abiding by the laws does not always mean it’s the right thing to do. Doing what one believes is right may not mean it is the morally right thing to do. Also, what is considered right in one culture may be unacceptable in another. For some people, religion may also be a factor in separating right from wrong.

Perhaps one general principle we could all follow to guide us to tell right from wrong is to “treat others the way we want to be treated ourselves”.

When we face a difficult situation and are not sure what is the best thing to do, maybe we could ask ourselves: if we are in that situation, how we would like others to treat us?

Secondly, once we know what the right thing to do is, we need to find the courage to actively take action and defend what we believe in.

Edmund Burke, an Irish-British statesman, economist, and philosopher, once said “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Taking action to defend justice and fight evil can mean risking one’s standing, property, safety, and even one’s life and it needs a lot of courage and self-belief to do.

However, Gichin Funakoshi believes that the strength to act comes from believing that they are on the side of justice.

Human beings are at their strongest when they believe they are right. The strength that comes from the confidence of someone who knows he or she is right is expressed by the saying “when I examine myself and see that I am in the right, then whether I am faced by one thousand or then thousand opponents, I must press onward.”

Genwa Nakasone

Today most of us who train in karate are unlikely to ever have to use our fighting skills even once in our lives to fight for justice.

However, this does not mean that this precept is totally obsolete. We can still apply it in all aspects of our daily life.

Having the courage to admit that you have made a mistake and hurt others, and taking the necessary steps to fix it means defending the truth.

Refusing to be a doormat for others and beginning to stand up for yourself in a firm, assertive and reasonable manner means fighting for your own justice.

Having the courage to stand up to bullying behaviors at work to defend our colleagues means fighting for justice for others and supporting them.

Taking a stand for a cause we believe in can mean fighting for righteousness, equitableness, and moral rightness for the greater good of society.

This practice will enforce the concept that karate is a way of life rather than just an art of self-defense and help us become better human beings in the process.

Doing any of the above can mean risking our job, reputation, relationship, money, or our own safety but, if it is the right thing to do, it is certainly worth doing.

Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.

Theodore Roosevelt

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

Other posts you might like to read:

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

There Is No First Strike in Karate

What Is the Philosophy of Karate?

Shotokan’s Complete System of Kumite Practice

A Comprehensive Guide to Karate Etiquette

How to Do Seiza Properly in Karate?


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

The Twenty Precepts of Karate

Samurai – World History

The Only Thing Necessary for the Triumph of Evil is that Good Men Do Nothing