I was looking at the 20 precepts of karate and I really like this one:


The translation should be something like:

Karate is a lifelong pursuit.

Looking for it on google.co.jp I've been suggested for:


Which is the difference between the two kanji? Is the meaning correct (and the same)?

Sorry but I don't have any knowledge of the language, not sure about the tags or if the question is even "correct"!

5 Answers 5


修行 is primarily used for (endless/lifelong) religious discipline; it's something Buddhist monks or priests do every day. Note that this kanji 行 (gyō) on its own means 'religious training/discipline/practice', as in 行者 (gyōja, person who does 修行, especially that of 修験道), 滝行 (takigyō, waterfall meditation), 苦行 (kugyō, hard discipline), etc. You can also use 修行 with various kinds of Japanese traditional martial arts, such as judo or karate, where similar mental discipline is important.

修業 (shugyō) is more secular and refers to '(professional) training' in general. 訓練 (kunren) is the formal and normal word for this, but 修業 is also used in casual settings. 修業 is usually used for something one can eventually master. 修業 is something you do when you want to become a chef, physician, pilot, lawyer, and so on. One interesting phrase is 花嫁修業 (hanayome shugyō, "bridal training"), which refers to learning cooking/housekeeping/etc before getting married.

That said, I think many people are not very strict on this difference, and use these words interchangeably. In your example, 空手の修業 and 空手の修行 are both natural, but 空手の修行 looks a bit nicer to me, especially when it refers to the lifelong discipline.

By the way 修業 has another reading, しゅうぎょう (shūgyō). If 修業 is read this way, it mainly means 'to finish [a course at school]'.

Reference (in Japanese):

  • 1
    You say "空手の修行 looks a bit nicer to me". But this is a quote from the "founder of modern karate". Are you saying he should have used 修行?
    – Earthliŋ
    Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 18:38
  • 2
    Well, I didn't know that was a quote... I felt 修行 was nicer because it sounds like "mastering karate, including the understanding of its spirit", just as you suggested in your own answer. But 修業 is perfectly fine, too. BTW in Dragon Ball, it seems that the characters suddenly started 修行 instead of 修業 as of volume 37 :)
    – naruto
    Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 18:56

I don't know exactly why 船越義珍 used 修業 since 修行 would also make sense. But since he did, I think the quote should only be considered correct the way you stated it:


Firstly, since you probably don't know, 修 is often pronounced しゅう (shū, long U), but in both 修業 and 修行, it may be pronounced しゅ (shu, short U), so there are three words, しゅぎょう (修業 or 修行) and しゅうぎょう (修業), which all have their own entries. (So for the record, at the bottom are the entries in the J-J dictionary 大辞林 Daijirin.)

修行 has a strong connotation with training/discipline in the "spiritual practice" (sādhāna) sense (see sense ③ below). 修業 on the other hand has a more "down-to-earth" connotation of studying/learning. But as its supplementary explanation says,

Still, sometimes 修行 is used with almost the same meaning as 修業.

Anyway, with the sentence at hand, it seems like

Karate is a lifelong pursuit.

is a good translation. (Using 修行, it would sound more like "Karate is a lifelong spiritual practice.")

I find it curious that in spite of Funakoshi's philosophical inclinations, he chose 修業. Maybe he indeed meant to focus on the down-to-earth day-to-day practical aspects of training. Or maybe he didn't and chose 修業 as an alternative spelling of 修行, to avoid the strong association with Buddhism. Or maybe he just didn't have any particular reason for choosing one over the other.

しゅ ぎょう —げふ [0] 【修業】
(名) スル


しゅう ぎょう しうげふ [0] 【修業】
(名) スル


しゅ ぎょう —ぎやう [0] 【修行】
(名) スル

① 学問や技芸・武術などに励み、それをみがくこと。「—を積む」「武者—」

② 生理的欲求を禁じて精神および肉体を鍛錬することにより、精神の浄化や神的存在との合一を得ようとする宗教的行為。

③ 《仏》戒律を守ったり、悟りを開くために特定の宗教的行為を行なって、仏の教えを実践すること。仏道に励むこと。→修業(補説欄)


The word 修業 is used for something you can complete/graduate/master. This is why we use 卒業 to express a graduation from something. I think we never use 卒行 in this situation. At least I have never seen 卒行 in my life.

On the other hand, the word 修行 is used for something you can not complete.

Thus, when you say

Karate is a lifelong pursuit.

修行 does fit well because it's a lifelong one.

Unfortunately, the reason why Gichin Funakoshi used 修業 in his Nijū kun is not known well. Might be he wanted to emphasize the technical aspect of Karate you can master (instead of the mental aspect). [1]

[1] http://dspace.lib.kanazawa-u.ac.jp/dspace/bitstream/2297/11817/1/AA11546136-11-bittmann.pdf (Japanese)


I am a novice in this language, but i can say that, basically:

  • 業 means "act" or "deed"
  • 行 means "to go" or simply "go"

So, depending on the context/the way the phrase is formed, it could be used interchangeably.

Any more experienced can correct me if im wrong.


From what I can see on jisho.org:
修業{しゅうぎょう} is pursuit of knowledge; studying; learning; training; completing a course
修行{しゅぎょう} is training; practice; discipline; study.

From the definitions I would imagine that no, they are don't mean the exact same thing on their own, but perhaps in context as Erakk said, they might be able to be used interchangeably.

That being said, in the context of the precept, I would say that the former applies more closely. At least from my understanding of doctrines in English, something like this would be similar to saying that one is always a student, so to say it is a lifelong pursuit of mastery (knowledge/understanding). The latter seems to fit better for something that isn't necessarily lifelong.

In addition I would say that whichever you use would be understood, and perhaps the latter is a contemporary version.

If there's someone who disagrees with or has something to add to/revise my interpretation please make a comment, I'd like feedback.

  • 2
    Feedback: For subtle differences between two seemingly interchangeable expressions, looking at their entries in WWWJDIC (e.g. on jisho.org) is usually not enough to get a good understanding of the difference. Also, you wrote しゅうぎょう for 修業, but it can also be しゅぎょう.
    – Earthliŋ
    Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 16:48
  • @Earthliŋ On the point of using two words that are close together, that's good to know for the future. Are there any online resources that do not use WWWJDIC? Also on the point of しゅうぎょう and しゅぎょう, is there any way to indicate with furigana that there are two (slightly) different pronunciations, and if not do you have a suggestion on how to otherwise represent that there are multiple?
    – Pandacoder
    Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 17:11

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