The 20 precepts of karate written by Master Gichin Funakoshi are well-known amongst karate students whether they train in Shotokan style or not.

Lesser-known are Goju Ryu karate precepts written by Master Chojun Miyagi, the founder of Goju Ryu karate, according to Master Morio Higaonna in his book “Traditional Karate-Do: Okinawa Goju Ryu“.

Below is the full excerpt of the karate precepts from Master Morio Higaonna’s book (page 13).

Okinawa Goju Ryu Karate-do Precepts

The Founder of Goju Ryu Karate-do, Miyagi Chojun Sensei, was honored with the title of “Bushi“, (a worthy warrior. In Okinawa, “bushi” does not mean “samurai” as it does in mainland Japan). As a warrior, Miyagi Sensei is worthy of special mention in the history of our country and karate-do.

Miyagi Chojun Sensei would always explain “Bujutsu” (martial arts), in simple language, and talk about the way people should live and the order of Nature. It is only now that I am aware of, and appreciate, the deep meaning and significance of his words. Through training in martial arts, Miyagi Chojun Sensei searched for how human beings should be.

As people who have received Bushi Miyagi’s discipline, we must be aware that Miyagi Chojun Sensei is always with us and severely discipline ourselves through continued training. We should regard our training as a diamond, at first rough and dull. But with hard, austere, and relentless training (or polishing), our techniques will begin to shine. Even after this is achieved, we must not become lazy and discontinue training or the diamond will once again become dull. It needs constant polishing to stay sharp and bright. We should apply this philosophy not only to the training of our karate techniques but also to the development of our hearts and minds.

We, therefore, take the words of our Sensei to heart as the precepts of Goju Ryu and recite them here.

1. It should be known that secrete principles of Goju Ryu exist in the “Kata

Kata” (prearranged forms) are not simply an exhibition of forms. They are a concrete manifestation of techniques that can be transformed at any time to any form. It is in the “kata” that the essence of karate has assumed a definite form. We should always remember that the kata are a crystalization of the essence of karate and that we should always begin afresh and train hard. It is only through the training of kata that you will reach “gokui“, the essential teaching.

2. Goju Ryu Karate-do is a manifestation within one’s own self of the harmonious accord of the universe

“As supple as a willow, as solid as Mount Tai (a mountain often referred to in Chinese poetry).” It is when the two extremes of hard and soft are wholly united as one body that the unshakable form of the harmony of heaven and earth will evolve. We find this harmony of hard and soft within the order of Nature and the oneness of the Universe. Through the way of Goju Ryu Karate-do, we will be able to express the harmony of Nature within ourselves.

3. The way of Goju Ryu Karate-do is to seek the way of virtue

In Goju Ryu Karate-do, we try to cultivate the ideal human nature of physical and spiritual union through the training of the body and spirit. Originally, in the way of strategy, there was the concept “to win”, but to win through virtue is the ultimate goal. Therefore, anyone who aspires to this way must not forget the Japanese character 忍 (“nin“, to endure). Heighten one’s own virtue, master the strategy of winning without fighting and seek the ultimate secrete.

The meanings of the precepts of Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate

1. It should be known that secrete principles of Goju Ryu exist in the “Kata

The essence of karate is found in its kata.

Kata means “form” in Japanese and refers to a set of karate techniques performed in a specific sequence.

Kata was originally created by masters in Okinawa to disguise fighting techniques to teach students and pass on karate knowledge to future generations.

All karate fighting techniques and their applications or bunkai are incorporated in kata.

By practicing kata over and over again, you will be able to perform those fighting techniques properly and apply them effectively in actual combat. By diligently practicing kata over many years, these fighting techniques hopefully will become a natural instinct and become a part of you.

Without kata, there is no karate.

Kata is karate and karate is kata.

2. Goju Ryu Karate-do is a manifestation within one’s own self of the harmonious accord of the universe

The universe is the harmony of the opposites, of different seasons, of life and death, of day and light, of the good and the bad, of the brave and the coward, of happiness and sorrow, and of the hard and the soft.

Goju Ryu karate reflects this order of nature, the unity of the opposites.

Goju Ryu karate is characterized by the use of both hard and soft techniques. It emphasizes the use of evasion techniques to deflect attacks rather than matching force with force and meeting opponents with the opposite of what they are using. For example, blocking a powerful and direct strike with a soft open hand block (tora guchi), or striking a soft vital point with a hard attack.

Goju Ryu karate’s principles apply not just to one’s karate journey, but to one’s life in general. Aim to use softness and hardness to deal with challenges in life appropriately.

3. The way of Goju Ryu Karate-do is to seek the way of virtue

This precept reflects Goju Ryu karate’s philosophy that it is the way of peace.

This precept is also consistent with what Master Chojun Miyagi once said: “Do not strike others and do not allow others to strike you. The goal is peace without incident.”

Winning is hard, but winning with honor and integrity and winning without fighting is so much harder.

But this is the aim that Master Chojun Miyagi wanted us to strive for. Karate is more about the development of one’s character than about fighting techniques, strategies, and winning a fight.

In a world where there is so much bad will and there are many people who want to sort out conflicts with force and violence, true martial artists must seek a way to resolve conflicts in the most peaceful way possible.

Yes, with great power comes great responsibility.

I hope you find this post useful. Please check out my library of other karate articles which is regularly updated.


Traditional Karate-Do: Okinawa Goju Ryu Vol. 1: The Fundamental Techniques

Philosophy and Purpose of the Goju-ryu Bujutsukan