The Dojo-Kun

Topic of your choice (Common App essay)

“Repeat Dojo-kun. Seek perfection of character. Be faithful. Endeavor. Respect others. Refrain from violent behavior,” I call out. To my left, the line of kneeling students repeats my words. “Sensei-ni, rei,” I call to the line, and we bow to our teacher. He bows to us, dismisses the class, and we leave to change out of our uniforms and head home for the evening. When I tell people that I am nearly a black belt in karate, most of them laugh and ask if I will be able to beat them up when I reach black belt. Usually, I laugh back and joke that I probably could. But in my mind, that’s not how I see karate. Although that’s the stereotype encouraged by Hollywood action films and many American trainers, simply “beating people up” has never been what karate is about. Starting karate for the first time, as an eight year old, I repeated the dojo-kun, or principles of karate, without knowing what they meant. For years, I even misheard “endeavor,” believing it was “and ever.” And once I left the dojo for the day, I forgot about them completely. The first few years of karate, all I cared about was advancing to the next belt level. I didn’t understand that being one belt level higher wouldn’t automatically make you any faster or stronger.As I progressed through the various color belt levels, my teachers gradually began expecting more of me. I was called on to warm up the class, to teach younger students, and to stand at the head of the line and call out the dojo-kun at the end of the day. At first, I was a little bit intimidated, but as the months went by, I started to think about what I was doing. What does the dojo-kun mean? Why would they tell us to refrain from violent behavior in a karate class? And most importantly, why am I repeating words I don’t even know the meaning of? The more I thought, the more I understood. Karate isn’t a sport, however physically difficult it may be at times. It’s not something you can do for an hour and then go home to have dinner, either. It’s a discipline, a way of life. You can’t say, “I do karate” without meaning it, practicing the ideas and breathing it every second of the day. I live by karate and the dojo-kun. I know very well that I’m not perfect, and wouldn’t be arrogant enough to suggest that. But I am trying to perfect my character every day. I try to be faithful to my friends, family, and peers, and try to be as respectful as possible throughout the day. I endeavor, sometimes spending hours after school working with clubs such as Environmental Alliance in an effort to learn more and help others. Through this, and through the responsibilities with which I have been entrusted in class, I believe that I have become a stronger, better, and more confidant person. Even though there may some day come a time when I no longer train in the physical art of karate, the way of life will always remain part of me.

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