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Values for life: lessons from the dōjō

Partner-san has been reading a book about values for life, and we had a discussion about those we feel we adopt in our life and which would be good rules to live by. And, because the world works in funny ways, this was also something we looked at not long afterwards at work at Ocean Reeve Publishing, and the values we have in the company.

For me, my values for life come from martial arts and bushido: the dōjō kun.

This is how I link martial arts and bushido values to everyday life and writing.

Values for life: lessons from the dōjō
My home club is the best. Not only did I learn strong values for life, but I made family for life, too.

Oh, memories. <3

Values for life in martial arts and bushido: dōjō kun

When I was a child, I started training in karate: an Okinawan style called Goju Ryu, one of the older styles of karate, and one that goes back through inspiring masters for a long time. I loved hearing these stories as I grew up, and hearing how the stories connected to a little girl in a small village in England was even cooler. If anyone reading this has trained in any kind of martial arts, especially the pacifist, defence styles, you'll know they're big on values for life, and each dōjō will have their own dōjō kun (rules to live by, both inside the dojo and out).

In talking to partner-san and the team at ORP about values for life, I realised I still live by those from my dōjō and carry them around with me. They're the words I think of to settle myself for meditation or focus, much like before and after training, and ones I remind myself of when life gets tough.

You might find it odd that I'm talking about these on a writing/author blog, but I believe our values strongly shape who we are, and we carry them with us daily. Our values for life dictate everything we do, and I will elaborate on this later in this post, after telling you which are my rules to live by.

Our dōjō kun

  • Character

  • Sincerity

  • Effort

  • Etiquette

  • Self-control

This dōjō kun is actually popular in many styles of karate, but not primarily from Goju Ryu, I recently learned. However, the beauty of it is that it is simple and easy to remember, perfect for if you train children and want to give them good values for life. I actually used it in my classroom when I was a teacher for a short time, and it worked well with the kids.

It's perfect for linking to all areas of life: work, family, training, health ...

Teruo Chinen's dōjō kun

I read here that for Okinawan Goju Ryu (the style I trained in), the dōjō kun featured on the walls of Teruo Chinen's dojo (a key figure in our style and a name I remember well) was actually translated into English as:

  • Hitotsu: Be humble and polite.

  • Hitotsu: Train considering your physical strength

  • Hitotsu: Practice earnestly with creativity.

  • Hitotsu: Be calm and swift.

  • Hitotsu: Take care of your health.

  • Hitotsu: Live a plain life.

  • Hitotsu: Do not be too proud or modest.

  • Hitotsu: Continue your training with patience.

As you can see, these rules for life are much more varied and thorough, and I like how deep they get but are also very pure. 'Life a plain life': not falling for extravagance. 'Train considering your physical strength': I know how easy it is to try to compete with others and go beyond what your body allows. Take it steady and at your own pace. This counts for all things in life, and not just training in a martial art or sport. Trust your body.

Since reading these were the values for life for our parent dōjōs, I've been reflecting on them more, but they're a bit longer to remember, and the short one we used in our dōjō is still better for daily reminders.

Bushido dōjō kun

Then, the dōjō kun for bushido, the way of the warrior. Basically samurai etiquette and the moral code for everything they live by.

  • Loyalty is the essential duty of the soldier.

  • Courage is essential since the trait of the fighting man is his spirit to win.

  • Valour is a trait to be admired and encouraged in the modern warrior.

  • Faithfulness in keeping one's word.

  • Simplicity is a samurai virtue.

Again, simple, focused on being true to yourself, simple, honest, modest, loyal, with good effort. Can you see a pattern?

Values for life: lessons from the dōjō
Find your values for life, for both inside the dōjō and out.

Linking martial arts and bushido values to daily life

This is where I finally pause being a martial arts nerd and switch to word nerd and show you how this links to life and writing.

The main concept of the dōjō kun was that it was to be used both inside the dōjō and outside. We were taught as children, and then throughout my life as I grew up, that these rules to live by didn't stay in the dōjō when I walked out of the door. They came with me wherever I went, and I had to live by them all the time to live an honourable life.

That lesson stayed with me.

One of the key lessons in martial arts and the bushido lifestyle is that it's not just for while you're training. It's a lifestyle, not an action or a hobby. It's all the time. The samurai were to be loyal and simple and live with valour always, much like the Arthurian knights, and martial artists are to be modest and live with etiquette and effort always.

How it links to writing and life

Writing a book is a marathon. It takes a lot of effort. You have to have the self-control and discipline to keep going, even when it's tough, every day. Is you have strong values for life, it will help you when it comes to writing a book.

Keeping a writing habit is the key part of being an author. Many people suffer writer's block, but that comes from lack of routine. Creativity is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. Same for writing. With strong rules for life and values, you can give yourself the boost you need.

As for life, having strong values will give you the tools you need to navigate a good life and achieve what you want to. They'll help you engage well with others, have the strength to make good decisions, and the foundation to trust yourself in the choices you make. With good rules to live by, you'll know you always give it your all and live an honourable, sincere life.

  • Character: to have good character means you choose to do what is morally right, always, and have admirable traits such as honesty, courage, and take responsibility for your actions and life.

  • Sincerity: be honest and truthful always, in speech, decisions, actions. To others and to yourself.

  • Effort: put effort and hard work into all you do, and you'll know you always did your best.

  • Etiquette: live with good manners, be polite, and act well according to the social norms of the place you are living.

  • Self-control: act with discipline, and regulate your thoughts, behaviours, actions based on temptations and impulse. Learn what is appropriate and when.

Final thoughts

I miss my dōjō family. I trained with them twice a week for years, and many of them watched me grow from the age of ten until I left for Japan and Australia when I was twenty-four. That's a long time, and certainly enough time to impact how you live. So, the lessons from the dōjō and those I met there will guide me in all my life.

Values for life? Absolutely.

What are your values for life, and where did you learn them?

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