Karate stands on the side of Justice
This is the third principle of Gichin Funakoshi's 20 principles of Karate. I'm going to continue to unfold my reading of these principles for martial artists and hopefully anyone with an interest too. If you'd like to read the first two then click on '20 Principles' in the tag cloud on the right. So, Justice:
If you look up the word justice in the dictionary much of what is talked about is 'being fair,' and also 'doing yourself justice' as in giving a good account of yourself. How I choose to interpret this principle is about taking a balanced view. Let's first look at this idea of fairness. A child's idea of fairness will usually be different to that of the parent. This is because they have different perspectives. How much chocolate a child is allowed to eat is determined in the child's head mostly by a measure of enjoyment: more chocolate = more enjoyment. The same scenario will involve many other factors for the parent: health; behaviour – both now and when bed-time comes; having some left as a treat for tomorrow; teaching the child to have self-control etc. Generally speaking it is my experience that most people choose to do what they think is the best thing in the moment. What counts as the 'best thing' for that person may be governed by a different set of rules to you or I, it may, like a child be governed more by pleasure than any sense of 'the greater good,' or more by taking care of themselves than taking care of others. None of these perspectives are inherently 'good' or 'bad,' they are just different. I know what choices I want to make, and even with the best intentions I will sometimes be more governed by my patterns, habits, or neediness than by my conscious judgement. That's life, that's what it is to be a human being! I do my best to do what I think is 'right' but that is just a choice, one of many. With this in mind I try always to look at someone's behaviour and not judge them for it but look at what has motivated that behaviour. I may make judgements about the behaviour – on the basis that from my perspective it was not the choice I think would have been best in those circumstances – but where I can I try and balance my sense and experience of the behaviour the person exhibits, with a desire to understand why they have done what they have done. This is how I see justice: the balancing of what people do with why they have done it. If the behaviour is essentially destructive then through understanding what has motivated the behaviour we may be able to introduce them to a different perspective. It is generally my experience that if people understand why something works better, that they will feel happy to do it that way even if it takes a bit of practice. In relationship, if my partner understands why something doesn't work for me, and I can understand why it does work for her, then we can usually find a way of being with each other that truly works for both of us. This is not a compromise of 2 choices, it is a genuine 'third' choice that will be better for both of us. This is justice.
Now to mention the other version of justice: doing yourself justice. Previously to this I have mentioned humility as something to be cultivated, and I think particularly in English society, it is a quality that many will have been brought up to have. However, if we are truly to embody humility we must also always give a good account of ourselves. False humility is when we have arrogance about something we can do but we pretend that it's nothing special. Just thinking that everything we do is worthless is not humility, it's low self-worth. So true humility is actually when we acknowledge our abilities and talents, but don't show off about them. It means putting our skills on the line when it is appropriate and saying “Yes, I can do that, I have something to contribute,” without making a grand show of what we are offering or demanding huge recognition for our contribution. In this way it is similar to meekness. The original meaning of being 'meek' was to be like a powerful horse that is under control. It is this kind of wise power that I think justice, and specifically doing ourselves justice, is all about.
If we don't find this quality, this humility in ourselves we can end up convincing ourselves we are much less talented or valuable than we really are and thereby not only generate a lack of self-worth which is very destructive, but also deny the world of our talents. If you are the best in the world at something there is nothing wrong with saying that you are! It is not then arrogance, it is just a fact. If you are good at something, there is nothing wrong with acknowledging it. When we play small we only encourage others to do the same or to dominate us; when we acknowledge our strengths we encourage others to share theirs too; when we act arrogantly we only encourage others to compete negatively with us, or to play small around us. Both self aggrandizement and self denial are lose-lose behaviours.
“Karate stands on the side of justice” to me means that as Karate practitioners we must always seek to take a truly balanced view of life, other people, and also ourselves.