Kyokudo -- Intensity 極度

To act with intensity, and to live with intensity, is a fundamental aspect of karatedō.

Kyokudo 極度 [pronounced “key-yolk-dough  – note the “u” is mostly silent or not verbalized in this case] is intensity. Intensity is a super-power, an amazing tool, and mighty weapon in the arsenal of a karateka.

Intensity is the product of “kime”, decisive action. To have intensity, one must combine intelligence, speed, strength, clear thought of goal, and kime – the focus to act decisively.

極度 is very much a specific term of art in Japanese; colloquial Japanese (or Chinese – in Chinese, the characters are equivalent, but pronounced as “jí dù”) would translate this kanji as “extremely”, or “to the maximum” – and this hints at what true intensity represents.

The two characters together denote “extreme capacity” and for a karateka, there is nothing that sets him or her apart from non-karateka more than the notion that a true karateka lives life with kyokudo – maximum intensity.

Intensity in the Dojo

Kyokudo applies both inside and outside the dojo. In training, kyokudo demands the best from a karateka – each punch thrown with strength, speed, and the best technique, no matter how tired or distracted one might be.

Would you train any differently? After all, no one has unlimited time to train in the dojo, and it's important to make the most of every single moment that we can.

But there is more to this idea of kyokudo while training: we are practicing to employ maximum effort (even "extreme effort") in every part of our lives outside the dojo.

How we act in the dojo affects how we act outside the dojo. The dojo is more than just a microcosm for the rest of our lives: it is a training ground for our lives, and how we act.

Throwing a punch with good technique, strong focus, and maximum intensity is practice for going though your to-do list at the office with strong focus and maximum intensity.

Intensity in Every Part of Life

Outside the dojo, kyokudo demands that karateka act and move with determination, graceful economy, and measured speed in all things.

Whether walking from class to class, cleaning the garage, presenting a report in a conference room, or being a best friend, a karateka embodies kyokudo in all things.

And note also that kyokudo demands clear understanding of one’s goals – whether goals to achieve in a training, or goals to attain in life. To live without goals makes kyokudo – intensity – impossible.

To train with kyokudo is to squeeze every last drop of knowledge and energy from a class; to live with kyokudo is to experience and celebrate every moment of life, and to truly live it. To do less, would be to cheat oneself of the benefit of one’s training, and one’s life.

Kanji/Katakana Meaning
extreme (kyoku)
degree, occurrence (do) "every time"

Editor's Note: This lecture was first delivered by Sensei in San Rafael, California on 30 January 2012, and then again at the Goju Karate NYC Dojo on 10 May 2023.