The Dojo Kun is a five point statement of principles or guidelines for the Karate practitioner’s conduct.
In Japanese, it hangs on the walls of many Shotokan Karate clubs, and it is often chanted while sitting Japanese style at the end of training sessions in Western Karate clubs.
While the principles are sound, the usual English version is a bad translation or interpretation of the Japanese.
The Dojo Kun of Shotokan in Japanese:
一、人格 完成に 努める こと
hitotsu, jinkaku kansei ni tsutomeru koto
hitotsu, makoto no michi wo mamoru koto
hitotsu, doryoku no seishin wo yashinau koto
hitotsu, reigi wo omonzuru koto
hitotsu, kekki no yū wo imashimuru koto
Usual English Version
Strive for completion of character (or Seek perfection of character)
Refrain from violent behaviour
Perhaps a slightly more accurate English translation of this is:
Each person must strive for the completion and perfection of one’s character
Each person must be faithful and protect the way of truth
Each person must endeavour (fostering the spirit of effort)
Each person must respect others and the rules of etiquette
Each person must refrain from violent behaviour (guard against impetuous courage)
The Japanese does not say that. It is not what the Japanese read when they see those characters. It has a different meaning created specifically for Western ears.
Actual Translation of Japanese Words
Strive to complete your character (mature or grow-up)
Protect the road/way of the truth
Foster a spirit of effort
Respect the principles of etiquette
Guard against impetuous courage (suppress boldness of the blood spirit/bloodthirsty spirit)
What Japanese Hear from the Japanese Version
Learn self-discipline and good sportsmanship
This is the best way to do Karate
Inspire everyone around you to try hard by setting an example
Be polite to other people (whether you actually respect them or not is irrelevant – do the behaviours)
Stay calm, reserved, and detached (whether you are being violent or not is irrelevant as long as you are not embarrassing yourself by losing control)