I was re-reading this(WATASHI NO KARATE by MOTOBU japanese language version) and came across his interpretation of "karate ni sente nashi". As one would expect from such a reknowned brawler like Motobu, he had the measure of things.
Motobu cautions here that it certianly does not mean you should never strike first, as some people are wont to misunderstand. He states that it is clearly not the purpose of the martial arts to dish out random violence to people and that karateka should not start fights but that in a situation where an opponent means you serious harm, you must get in there and "supress them with the first move" ("te" used slightly metaphorically here to mean action or move, not necissarily "strike").
The grammar of "karate ni sente nashi" is, like most pithy sayings in the Japanese language, quite ambiguous. It is almost universally translated as "there is no first strike in karate" and this is the most obvious (lazy?) interpretation to a Japanese reader as well. However, Motobu's interpretation would have to be translated as "There is no strike before karate" or "There is no first move before karate", meaning that karateka will not allow the opponent to get in there first. Quite the opposite to the usual view of this!
I suppose you could even go as far as translating "karate ni sente nashi" as "There is no getting the drop on a karateka!".To go even further, because the term "sente" is also used to describe the "checkmate" like situation in the game of shogi (Japanese chess), it could even be played with to be "there is no checkmating a karateka!"
: Gavin J Poffley ] http://www.iainabernethy.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=10;t=000134;p=1#000005
copied with permission of the author translator of japanese language and martial artist
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