Funakoshi Gichin & Book Titles

Many people know that besides being the founder of Shotokan Karate-do, Funakoshi Gichin was a prolific writer, publishing (1) Ryukyu Kenpo Karate, published by Bukyosha in 1923; (2) Rentan Karate Goshin-jutsu, published by Hirobundo in 1925; (3) Karate-do Kyohan, published by Okura Kobundo in 1935; (4) Karatedo Ichiro, published by Sangyo Keizai Shimbun in 1956. These books have all been translated into English with varying degrees of success. Still, I find number two the most interesting. The book’s title is typically translated as ‘ Karate-Jutsu or ‘Toude-Jutsu and completely ignores the the text before that, i.e. ‘Rentan Goshin.’ I always found this a bit strange that this part of the title wasn’t translated. ‘Goshin-Jutsu (護身術) refers to the art of self-defence or self-protection, but ‘rentan’ (練胆) is an interesting word that you still hear occasionally in Japanese language Budo circles, but never in English. It refers to training courage or boldness of a person’s mind. In other words, training in order to have a mind undisturbed by things.

Nowadays, you don’t hear about the mental side of Karate training, only the physical, self-defence, or practical side of the art. That’s unfortunate, as Karateka are missing the most essential part of their training, a strong and immovable mind. This is something that will help them throughout their life, long after they have given up on Karate and quit, or after their body has given up on them and they can no longer practice. Funakoshi Gichin, as did other Okinawa instructors of his era and those of today, wanted his students to be strong not only physically but mentally so that they could carry themselves through life with resolve and positively contribute to society. That is a far more important benefit to training than being able to show the latest, realistic applications to a kata. Yet some Karateka miss this point.