32 Awesome Karate Quotes

I’ve said it before.

But I’ll say it again:

I’m a sucker for quotes.

Good quotes, weird quotes, unusual quotes, shocking quotes, ancient quotes, wise quotes, stupid quotes, long quotes, short quotes, thought-provoking quotes…

I love ’em all.

And I’m not really sure why.

I think it has to do with the human connection you get from realizing that somewhere, at one time, someone you don’t even know articulated your exact thoughts in his/her own words, and shared it with the world – and therefore it resonates with us on a deeper level.

This holds equally true for the world of Karate.

Where so much, yet so little, has been said at the same time.

Don’t worry – ain’t no Bruce Lee “quotes” in this article!

So, in the spirit of nerdism, I thought I’d share a couple of my favorite Karate quotes today.

These quotes come directly from some of the biggest names in the history of Karate, and range from the short to the long, from the spiritual to the practical. But no matter what shape they take, I’m pretty sure of one thing:

They will resonate with you.

On one level or other.

(And if they don’t, then, well… perhaps that’s even better.)

Like I often tell myself: Unless I’m feeling confused, stupid, awesome or provoked, my day hasn’t been complete. And great quotes tend to help with that.

So let’s grow today, shall we?

Here are 32 mega awesome Karate quotes from some of the most legendary masters of our art (including some “bonuses”). Read, think, apply and share.

Enjoy:

1. “Karate aims to build character, improve human behavior, and cultivate modesty; it does not, however, guarantee it.” Yasuhiro Konishi (founder of Shindo Jinen-ryu Karate)

2. “The more understanding you have about Karate, the less you need to change or modify it.”  Tsuguo Sakumoto (former World Karate Champion and master of Ryuei-ryu Karate)

3. “Many Karate teachers teach a watered down style – no hip action and no depth of punching – so it is easy to say that these teachers have no depth to their knowledge. You are what your teacher is, and if he knows a lot, you should be able to demonstrate this knowledge.”  Yuchoku Higa (founder of Kyudokan Dojo, Okinawa)

4. “Karate has no philosophy. Some people think that the tradition of Karate came from Buddhism and Karate has a connection with the absolute, space and universe, but I don’t believe in that. My philosophy is to knock my opponent out, due to the use of only one technique. One finishing blow!” Mikio Yahara (former Japanese World Cup Champion, known for single-handedly defeating 34 local gangsters (yakuza), knocking out a mobster with a gun, and turning up for a competition with a knife wound.)

5. “In the past, it was expected that about three years were required to learn a single kata, and usually even an expert of considerable skill would only know three, or at most five, kata.” Gichin Funakoshi (founder of Shotokan Karate)

6. “To all those whose progress remains hampered by ego-related distractions, let humility – the spiritual cornerstone upon which Karate rests – serve to remind one to place virtue before vice, values before vanity and principles before personalities.” Sokon ‘Bushi’ Matsumura (legendary Karate grandmaster)

7. “Once a kata has been learned, it must be practiced repeatedly until it can be applied in an emergency, for knowledge of just the sequence of a form in Karate is useless.” Gichin Funakoshi

8. “A kata is not fixed or immoveable. Like water, it’s ever changing and fits itself to the shape of the vessel containing it. However, kata are not some kind of beautiful competitive dance, but a grand martial art of self-defense – which determines life and death.” Kenwa Mabuni (founder of Shito-ryu Karate)

9. “In the old days we trained Karate as a martial art, but now they train Karate as a gymnastic sport. I think we must avoid treating Karate as a sport – it must be a martial art at all times! Your fingers and the tips of your toes must be like arrows, your arms must be like iron. You have to think that if you kick, you try to kick the enemy dead. If you punch, you must thrust to kill. If you strike, then you strike to kill the enemy. This is the spirit you need in order to progress in your training.” Choshin Chibana (founder of Kobayashi Shorin-ryu Karate)

10. “We should open Karate to the public and receive criticism, opinions and studies from other prominent fighting artists.” Chojun Miyagi (founder of Goju-ryu Karate)

11. “Nothing is more harmful to the world than a martial art that is not effective in actual self-defense.” Choki Motobu (founder of Motobu-ryu Kempo and notorious Okinawan Karate street-fighter)

12. “My old ways of Karate was not readily accepted by everyone. They thought it was too outdated and too crude – I think it was just too hard or maybe my training methods were too severe. Whatever it was, it was the way I learned and the way I taught. It was only later, when the Americans came to learn, that I changed my ways.”  Hohan Soken (founder of Matsumura Seito Shorin-ryu Karate)

13. “It is necessary to drink alcohol and pursue other fun human activities. The art (Karate) of someone who is too serious has no flavor.”  Choki Motobu

14. “Recently, some Karate men have used funny and strange sounding names for their own styles of Karate. A Karate man of this kind does not have a real understanding or knowledge of the orthodox Karate or he has no confidence in his ability as a Karate man. He uses these funny sounding names for his own style of Karate as an evasive answer when he has a hard time demonstrating a very difficult technique or even an incomplete one. […] Karate does not have any one style. Karate molds an individual to be the only object of defense or offense and, through this, it teaches the fundamental concept of self-protection.” Kanken Toyama (founder of Shudokan Karate)

15. “A student well versed in even one technique will naturally see corresponding points in other techniques. A upper level punch, a lower punch, a front punch and a reverse punch are all essentially the same. Looking over thirty-odd kata, he should be able to see that they are essentially variations on just a handful.” Gichin Funakoshi 

16. “Our teachers did not give us a clear explanation of the kata from old times. I must find the features and meaning of each form by my own study and effort, by repeating the exercises of form through training.”  Tsuyoshi Chitose (founder of Chito-ryu Karate)

17. “Even in the forty years that I have been practicing Karate, the changes have been many. It would be interesting to be able to go back in time, to the point when the kata were created, and study them.” Shigeru Egami (founder of Shotokai Karate)

18. “You may train for a long time, but if you merely move your hands and feet and jump up and down like a puppet, learning Karate is not very different from learning a dance. You will never have reached the heart of the matter; you will have failed to grasp the quintessence of Karate.”Gichin Funakoshi

19. “Do not fall into the trap of thinking that just because a kata begins to the left that the opponent is attacking from the left.”  Kenwa Mabuni

20. “Spirit first, technique second.” Gichin Funakoshi

21. “Whatever luck I had, I made. I was never a natural athlete, but I paid my dues in sweat and concentration and took the time necessary to learn Karate and become World Champion.” Chuck Norris (American martial artist and actor. Also, the only man who has counted to infinity. Twice.)

22. “Karate cannot be adequately learned in a short space of time. Like a torpid bull, regardless of how slowly it moves, it will eventually cover a thousand miles. So too, for one who resolves to study Karate diligently two or three hours every day. After three or four years of unremitting effort one’s body will undergo a great transformation revealing the very essence of Karate.” Anko Itosu (the grandfather of modern Karate)

23. “Karate may be referred to as the conflict within yourself, or a life-long marathon which can be won only through self-discipline, hard training, and your own creative efforts.”  Shoshin Nagamine (founder of Matsubayashi-ryu Karate)

24. “A punch should stay like a treasure in the sleeve. It should not be used indiscrimately.” – Chotoku Kyan (pioneer of Shorin-ryu Karate)

25. “Karate is a very boring sport, but when you know the technique you can go further and further.”  Jean-Claude Van Damme (Belgian-American martial artist and actor)

26. “The techniques of kata have their limits and were never intended to be used against an opponent in an arena or on a battlefield.” Choki Motobu

27. “No matter how you excel in the art of “Ti” (Okinawan precursor to Karate), and in your scholastic endeavors, nothing is more important than your behavior and humanity as observed in daily life.”  Junsoku Uekata (Confucian scholar), written in 1683!

28. “All kata use the so-called postures (kamae). In fact, there are many kinds of postures and many kinds of kata. While learning these postures should not be totally ignored, we must be careful not to overlook that they are just forms or templates of sort; it is the function of their application which needs to be mastered.” – Choki Motobu

29. “The ultimate goal in Karate is to defeat opponents in a real life-or-death situation” – Teruyuki Higa (pioneer of Okinawan Kempo Karate in USA)

30. “The ultimate aim of Karate lies not in victory nor defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants.”  Gichin Funakoshi

31. “There is no place in contemporary Karate for different schools. Some instructors, I know, claim to have invented new and unusual kata, and so they arrogate to themselves the right to be called founders of “schools”. Indeed, I have heard myself and my colleagues referred to as the Shotokan school, but I strongly object to this attempt at classification. My belief is that all these “schools” should be amalgamated into one, so that Karate may orderly progress into man’s future.”  Gichin Funakoshi

32. “Karate is a lifetime study.” – Kenwa Mabuni

Now, here’s what I want you to do:

  • Choose one of the above quotes.
  • Post it to your favorite social media (Twitter, Facebook, forums etc.)
  • And include a link back to this article (so people can read the other quotes too).

Why?

Because the purpose of knowledge is not to have it.

It’s to share it.

That’s when it turns to wisdom.

(And yes – you can quote me on that.)

Keep keepin’ it real!

26 Comments

  • Terry Soucy
    A quote from Tsuyoshi Chitose Sensei! Don't see those every day. Where did this quote come from Jesse-san?
    • Thanks for chiming in Terry-san! I first encountered the Chitose quote through a collection of kata-related comments from various authorities, compiled and researched by Patrick McCarthy. It has been sitting on my HD forever!
  • Thank you, Jesse, a very enjoyable read! And here's one more... "Our lives often get int eh way. Our careers, families and responsibilities come first. Our karate practice is more personal toward our development, and we must have a balance. Our body changes, sometimes due to injuries incurred during our younger training days. Therefore, the way we do our personal training has to adapt to these special circumstances. It would be stupid to do the same kind of training when you are 50 years old that you did when you were 25. We have to be smart enough to adapt the art to ourselves. That's budo; that's why karate-do is a way of life." Alex Sternberg in Karate Masters 2 by Jose M Fraguas
  • Sash
    "The purpose of knowledge is not to have it. It’s to share it. That’s when it turns to wisdom". - Jesse Enkamp (notorious carrot cake fanatic)That works for ya? :P No seriously, this is beautiful, people who make such lists in the future should definitely quote you on that! ;-)
  • Doyle
    Is there a typo in the name in 29? Doesn't look Japanese...
    • I forgot a "u" - thanks Doyle-san!
  • here is a great quote you wrote in this article :) "Unless I’m feeling confused, stupid, awesome or provoked, my day hasn’t been complete."
  • Ralf
    hi Jesse,i have some further quotes for you:"We all have a little weakness in us. On the one way or another, we sometimes want something for free. But in the martial arts there is nothing for free. The rank, the progress, the status or the degree is achieved through hard work and dedication and can be maintained only through their steadiness. There is no shortcut, but only work, sweat and pain." by Choshin Chibana"There are only a few differences between the Shorin styles, which are taught on Okinawa, but the Japanese styles derived from Shorin have changed a lot. Their kata have removed so far from the originals that the techniques have become virtually ineffective. But to maintain the correct shape is of the utmost importance." by Katsuya Miyahira"As the techniques of Yamanni-Ryu are very different from those of other schools of Bojutsu, experience in another school may not be helpful, and may even be a hindrance. Diligent practice [in Yamanni-Ryu] produces the smooth, continuous, fluid movement that is the signature of the school, and the envy of all weapons enthusiasts.“ by Toshihiro Oshiro"Like the bare surface of a Lake everything reflects what's in front of him, and like a quiet valley carries on even the weakest sound, the Karateka is to clean his mind from selfishness and malice, to in particular, which could meet him, to act appropriately. This is meant with KARA, or "Empty" in the Kara-te" by Gichin Funakoshi
    • Part 2 coming soon! ;)
      • Ralf
        looking forward to it
  • Alvaro Rodriguez
    Excellent work, all of the quotes are to think deep.
  • Gerry
    “Nothing is more harmful to the world than a martial art that is not effective in actual self-defense.” – Choki MotobuWhile I think I understand the intent I can think of a boatload of more harmful things: serial killers, child molesters...
  • Sam
    I think you're gonna like one from Masutatsu Oyama too: "A shepherd has the duty of taking his cattle to the river everyday, but it's up to the animal to drink the water."Isobe-shihan wrote it here at South America Kyokushinkaikan Branch and credited it to Oyama-sosai.
  • Jesse (but not THE Jesse)
    Probably my all time favorite quote is by someone who didn't have the decency to associate their name with it. ;-)"I am not afraid of the 1,000 techniques you know, but of the one technique you have practiced a 1,000 times."~Unknown Shaolin Monk
    • ed
      Based on my experience of playing the piano, i agree. Practice, practice, practice.
  • that stuff is so true and I hate style distinctions like this guy is shotokan or he is goju-ryu etc
  • Love them all! Especially 9 and 21 - Spot on! Keep up the great work brother!
  • Brian
    When practicing any martial art, think to little and feel too much!
  • Awesome quotes! A small correction for #29, it should be Okinawa Kenpo. Not Okinawan Kempo. A small difference that means the world to its practitioners! Apologies for not catching it sooner! I actually just wrote a post myself talking about the founder of the system, Shigeru Nakamura. Keep up the great work! http://waxingonoff.blogspot.com/2014/08/some-lessons-ive-learned-from-bogu.html
    • Lou Klaff
      Its easy to confuse. Motobu, Choki Soke called his book and his art early on Okinwan Kempo. Some people use the terms inter-changeably, especially here in the states. Grandmaster Ed Parker uses Kenpo, while many Hawaiian styles use Kempo. I am sure its important to the person, but also easily confused
  • Even though this isn't from from one of these instructors, one of my favorite quotes is from an American karateka I have trained with, kyoshi Larry Mabson: " you must practice with sincerity, practicality, and with the intent that these techniques will save your life if need be. While in your Dojo, push your partner and challenge them to rise your skills. The Dojo is the only place you can die and come back to life, so use it."
  • ed
    12/06/2014"...The Dojo is the only place you can die and come back to life, so use it.”How true AND you can get your errors corrected immediately so a real-life situation does not do it 'permanently'.Good advice.e
  • Sven
    "Do. Or do not. There is no try."Yoda
  • Mike
    I was expecting to see this quote from Mas Oyama which I believe to be the most profound that I have ever read. What do you think???There are no secrets in Karate – at least none more profound than this” The only secret to skill and power in the martial arts is the sweat poured into daily demanding training. Train harder today than yesterday, harder tomorrow than today. Set goals along the way and do not allow the mind to fall into the belief that the body has limits. The mind leads the energy in the body and the energy leads the flesh. Only through demanding training will anyone ever achieve greatness in the martial arts.Mas Oyama
  • Barretto
    You can't have awesome karate quotes without including Ed Parker. I'm not a kenpo stylist, but I do love some of his more famous quotes: "I come to you with only karate, empty hands. I have no weapons, but should I be forced to defend myself, my honor, or my principals, should it be a matter of life or death, of right or wrong, then here are my weapons, karate, my empty hands." and “There are no pure styles of karate. Purity comes only when pure knuckles meet pure flesh, no matter who delivers or receives.”

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