Yuuki — Courage 勇気

Courage isn't just for the "big things" -- we train courage on the dojo floor and use it throughout our day.

Yuuki 勇気 [pronounced “you-key”] is courage, bravery, boldness. More specifically, the two parts of this kanji are “yuu” [courage] and "ki" [spirit, heart], and so therefore yuuki is a courageous heart or a courageous spirit.

We are used to thinking of courage as something that is done in “big” things – perhaps in times of peril and great strife, such as war, or during dire events like natural disasters. And certainly, there is much courage by true heroes in these circumstances.

However, yuuki is a fundamental core concept in karatedō because courage is something that we need everyday, and in our everyday lives. There is an important need for courage in the simplest, most common lives.

Karatedō helps us to train our courage every time we walk out onto the dojo floor. And karatedō helps us access that courage when we leave the dojo and live our day.

Courage in the Small

Courage is much more than doing the “big” things; in fact, some argue that courage in little things, repeated every day, over and over, is much more difficult.

Regardless, courage is hard. It is hard to show our strong sense of compassion in the face of cynicism: this takes courage. It is hard to continue being true to our self-identity and our values when there are numerous opportunities to “give-in”, to “shave corners” – this takes much courage as well.

Courage requires a very strong sense of confidence as well as a very strong sense of determined mission. Even in accomplishing the smallest of tasks, courage helps us to focus on completing our task despite obstacles that are in our way.

We see acts of courage all around us every day, but we rarely identify them as such. The old man who goes for a walk despite the pain of old age exhibits courage; the woman that lifts her small child for a hug despite being tired digs deep into her reservoir of courage. Recognizing those acts of courage fuels our own courage: we are inspired by seeing courage in others.

We Can Train Courage

We practice courage in the dojo, in many ways, with our karatedō. Perhaps we are apprehensive about our next rank testing, or about doing a kata in tournament. It takes great courage to hone our karate and then put it on display before those watching us.

And every day in class, it takes courage sometimes to even just step out onto the floor, and to try a new technique, do a new kata.

However, all of this is an opportunity to learn to master our anxiety, to practice courage, and to still perform.

Better to sweat and struggle on the training field, so that you do not bleed on the battlefield. Sun Tzu in The Art of War

The dojo is a safe and welcoming place in which to practice performing and managing our anxiety while under pressure. This helps us to prepare for the world outside the dojo, and helps us train without experience the consequences of failure that might exist in the real world.

Courage is Our Superpower

Courage is often associated with the “hard” battles we face, such as physical danger. And certainly such a situation requires bravery.

But our courage lets us power through the "soft battles" of our everyday lives. With the deep reservoir of courage and boldness that we train at the dojo, we are able to cut through challenges and obstacles, and make our way to success and achievement.

As a karateka, your courage is one of the weapons in your arsenal and one of the skills that you have developed during your training.

Yuuki is your superpower.

Kanji/Katakana Meaning
courage (yuu [also isamu, by itself])
spirit or feeling (ki)

Editor's Note: This lecture was first delivered by Sensei in San Rafael, California on 5 August 2013, and then again at the Goju Karate NYC Dojo on 7 June 2023.