Thursday, June 18, 2009


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 ];f=10;t=000134;p=1#000005
copied with permission of the author translator of japanese language and martial artist


  1. More food for thought.

    If the opponent means you serious harm, the encounter has already started. That is how I have enterpreted this. But, "Who threw the first punch?" is often what matters legally.

  2. When the police arrive they usually assume the winner or least damaged threw the 1st punch as that is the case 99% of the time .Then another question arrises if you are that skilled why couldn't you have controlled him with minimum damage .First "hand" does not have to mean a strike and those who rely only on striking will have problems with the law irregardless.
    In a lot of instances it's damned if you do damned if you don't.
    As always the best policy is avoidance thru awareness of your environment and those in it.


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