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.


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