The concept of requiring both ‘jutsu’ and ‘do’ is not new, it has been around as long as karate itself. 

The all-important transition from karate-jutsu to karate-do took place after Gichin Funakoshi (the grandfather of modern karate) left Okinawa to introduce karate to mainland Japan. 

At the time, Japan’s major styles were Judo, Kendo and Sumo. Funakoshi promoted the value of his Okinawan art (karate) as a means of self-improvement, and a means of developing mental and physical health. He became an expert at lecturing about karate in Japanese universities and widened the scope in regard to who should practise martial arts. 

He stated that karate, “should be simple enough to be practised without undue difficulty by everybody – young and old, boys and girls, men and women”. 

When Funakoshi was a child, he suffered from poor health. Karate training played a major role in his transformation from a boy of ill health to a man rich in health and vitality. This could have easily been a major factor in his unique and extraordinary perception in everything to do with martial arts training. In his writings he states that, ‘karate-do is not merely a sport that teaches how to strike and kick, it is also a defence against illness and disease”. 

Yes, we are learning a fighting art essentially. However karate must become a way of life for the practitioner, with the number one aim being to use the lessons of karate to instil character growth. 

The acknowledgement of karate as ‘do’ is only the first step. The real challenge is to live it. The aim isn’t to learn to defend yourself in the hope that that one day you will. It’s to learn to defend yourself, while at the same time learning to control your emotions, actions and decisions, so that when when the opportunity to defend yourself arises, you will! 

One of Funakoshi’s most famous quotes is “To subdue the enemy without fighting is the highest skill of all”. 

Even in this quote, delivered by one of the most influential masters in history, the message is to refrain from violent behaviour. The ‘do’ has to overcome the jutsu. A peaceful encounter is still a win for both the way and the skill. The two have to work together to bring about a very resounding result! 

To have but to not need, is having gained the real essence of ‘the way of’ and the ‘skill’ in karate. 

This is our goal. Allow karate to be something that teaches you about yourself. It will push you to new limits and beyond, it will ask you to face your fears and it will expect that you grow in strength both physically and mentally. 

When we boil it all down, without the karate-do, karate-jutsu will have its limitations. You can have the greatest skill level, but with little character growth, you will be lacking in the most important benefit of your karate journey.