The ‘do’ in Karate-Do is ‘the way of’, often referred to as the attitude, philosophy or character growth aspect of karate. The ‘jutsu’ in Karate-Jutsu is often described as the technical skill aspect of karate. It refers to the art itself – the ability to learn technique and apply it in fighting.  

So the question is, which is more important for us to learn – the Jutsu or the Do? Is it more important that we learn the skill and technical aspect of karate, or that we develop the qualities of humbleness, respect, courtesy and personal growth? 

I believe that karate-jutsu and karate-do must coexist in all karate-ka and that they are actually two sides of the same coin. We need to fulfil both. We must learn the skill and focus on perfection of technique for the art’s sake, and also learn to develop our character and spirit so that we can become our best self! To have one without the other, is only half of the karate equation.

However, I do believe that too many people focus on the ‘Jutsu in the dojo, and neglect to showcase the ‘Do out of the dojo! 

I have met many martial artists and I can honestly say that for many, they really do leave their belt at the dojo. They are like different two people. In the dojo, they show respect, discipline and proper etiquette. Yet, outside the dojo, they transform back to the person they really are. Someone who speaks ill of others (out of jealousy or just plain ego), use foul language in public, are egotistical and show no regard for the values taught through the karate. 

Certainly, training is a means of developing self-defence skills, but this cannot be the sole focus. If you train purely for self-defence and never use it, has your tuition money been wasted? Perhaps you might even recklessly seek out danger just for the opportunity to use your ‘fighting’ skills. If one trains however, for developing all the qualities karate promotes, then it becomes a worthy investment and far more fulfilling. 

The first argument the critics of ‘Do’ bring up, is that if karate is more likened to ‘a way of life’ why does every part of training involve karate-jutsu, eg, a punch, block or kick? On a simple level, we can argue that every part of training involves jutsu. But with little effort, it is easy also to see beyond this. For example, a prolonged session of sitting in sumo stance is surely promoting traits such as determination and discipline as much as it is the quality of the stance itself! 

Why should we seek perfection in our jutsu? Because seeking perfection in technique develops a habit of seeking perfection in all things we do. Perfection can never be attained, however the habit of chasing it ensures we are always striving to do more and become more. 

By keeping an open mind when training, we can find the hidden ‘Do’ in almost every jutsu.