Karate - Hobby or Business?

Miyagi Chojun sensei, the founder of Goju-Ryu, said; Do not eat from karate.

The general interpretation of this statement is taken as "one should not teach karate in order to generate income merely to make one financially independent". That is a very logical conclusion to make, and taken at face value is correct, but in my humble opinion, it is only half the story.

If your intention is to teach karate just to pay the mortgage and put food on the table, and attract as many customers to your organisation as possible to do just this, then you're quite right - "You should not Eat from Karate!"

However, if you are teaching karate for the "Right Reasons" and promoting the art as a life skill, amongst many other things, then is this necessarily wrong? Please read my account below of how the "Father of Modern Day Karate" brought karate successfully to the attention of the world.

Gichin Funakoshi Sensei, in his biography "Karate-Do, My Way of Life" describes how he famously, successfully and single handed, brought his style karate to the worlds attention by devoting his whole life to it, even at the expense of living in Tokyo separated from his devoted wife for many years. Without going into the book in any detail, he describes arriving in Japan without any money and working in a school doing small menial gardening and cleaning jobs. When he first started teaching karate he did not even take any fees from his small handful of students. At one point he had to secretly and embarrassingly pawn some of his worn out clothes to pay for food & lodgings. However, due to his persistence, passion and tenacity, over time, he built up a large enough group of karate schools to give up his part time "day" jobs to do the one thing that he loved the most (apart from his wife).

If you're a Shotokan karateka, you may realise by now how successful he was in his life time venture. All the more fantastic is the fact that he started karate at a very young age because his parents thought that he was too weak and feeble a child to get on in ordinary life and wanted him to join in something that would help with his fitness. Perhaps it's no wonder then that he lived, like many others who practiced the "art" and lived by "the way" to be 90 years old before he died!

Over the years, Funakoshi developed and implemented a set of five easy to remember and simple, but very well meaning, values to aid his students in their training; that he expected all of his students to remember by heart, live by and abide by when practicing karate. This he called The Dojo Kun. It was a kind of promise that the student would make at the beginning and end of every lesson to be good, true and honest, inside and outside of the dojo.

From this he later developed some rules that expanded on the Dojo Kun, which he called The Twenty Precepts, or the Twenty Guiding Principles that all karateka ought to follow, again, in and outside of the dojo.

I could be wrong of course, and if you disagree with any of my thoughts and conclusions, I would be more than pleased to hear from you and welcome any comments you have?

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page last updated on Thursday 16 September 2010