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It's is one of the Niju kun of Funakoshi, the meaning seems quite "cryptical" to me, also seeing the english and italian translation.

The italian translation is something like "be always creative", and the english is "Be constantly mindful, diligent, and resourceful, in your pursuit of the Way". Not sure why this difference!

Which is a proper translation, or the meaning of the kanji?

I don't know any japanese but I tried, without success, to figure out something with google translate.

  • I realized that this is actually a bit ambiguous. I'll let someone with a better understanding answer. – Darius Jahandarie Aug 8 '15 at 1:36
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  • 常に: tsune ni, 'always'
  • 思念: shinen, 'to think deeply', in this context
  • 工夫: kufū, 'to seek for the better', 'to try to come up with a new idea', 'to exercise ingenuity', etc.
  • せよ: seyo, 'Do' (archaic imperative form of する)

So this short sentence just says "Keep on thinking, and seek a new way". The translation in the English Wikipedia article has several phrases not included in the original sentence. Your "Italian translation" is a bit too short, though.

(Note: I don't feel this 工夫 particularly refers to some difficult Zen/Buddhism related concepts.)

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