Ultimately, it is our strong spirit and well-executed technique that brings victory.
Shin Gi Tai [pronounced “shin ghee tie”] means “spirit over technique, technique over strength” and describes the hierarchy of success in karatedo, and in life. The kanji literally mean “spirit, technique, body” and denote the path that mastery must travel: first a strong spirit, then strong technique, and then a body that is strong.
We sometimes are fooled into considering the most obvious part of success — “doing” — without considering what it is we must do, or why. Shin Gi Tai tells us that we must follow, respect, and ultimately, implement the hierarchy of success by first having the strong desire and clear vision of our goal (shin), then a strong plan with strong techniques (gi), and then finally, we must implement our plan and make it real (tai).
On the dojo floor, we first have a strong spirit — one that drives us forward even in the face of difficulty. Then we practice technique, so that your technique sharpens and becomes correct. And then finally, with a strong spirit, and good technique, we hone our body so that it can be strong and fast. Then, and only then, can we say that we have learned a technique, a kata, or an ippon kumite.
In the world outside the dojo, we sometimes rush in to a situation and simply start working without having the benefit or the insight into “why” we are doing something. This leads us to wasted action, and sometimes, to ill-formed plans, or worse, no plans at all.
Instead, Shin Gi Tai teaches us to build our actions on the solid base of strong planning and technique; and to rest our strong planning and technique on the foundation of a clear vision and a strong desire to accomplish our objective.
Shin Gi Tai is the recipe for success in anything, whether in the dojo or outside; and it also is the recipe for strong relationships with those close to us: a clear and pure spirit, which guides an informed perspective, and which constantly puts into motion in words and deeds the result of our spirit and our perspective.
Presentation Note: Sensei delivered this lecture on 19 March 2014 and again at both the NYC Dojo and at Honbu on 27 July 2022.