Hitotsu! Japanese in Karate


The easiest reading of 一つ (ひとつ、hitotsu) is one. So how can we explain something like this? Behold:

1. Hitotsu! Jinkaku kansei ni tsutomuru koto!

2. Hitotsu! Makoto no michi o mamoru koto!

3. Hitotsu! Doryoku no seishin o yashinau koto!

4. Hitotsu! Reigo o omonzuru koto!

5. Hitotsu! Kekki no yu o imashimuru koto!

(Source: The Dojokun of the ISKF, or International Shotokan Karate Federation)

So how do we explain “One!” being proclaimed for points 1 through 5?

Really, it’s simply a matter of style.

After all, it’s one of what? It’s one clause. Instead of yelling out “Clause!” they simply shout out the number. It sounds dramatic, but it has a similar meaning.

Put another way, there is actually no reason to mix this with a numbered list. Originally, it kind of wasn’t; the romanized Japanese was placed under the English translation, to the left of which were the numbers.

In practice, this is a detail a translator would drop. 1. and 2. would suffice to give the proper meaning in perfect English.

But it gets more interesting after that.

Yes, What About The Rest?

Originally, 1 through 5 were given as “Seek Perfection of Character, Be Faithful, Endeavor, Respect Others, and Refrain from Violent Behavior.

Incidentally, it is a) unlikely the original was written with exclamation points (or particles that would indicate this), b) it is likely the original was written vertically. Fun stuff. Reading vertical Japanese is an acquired taste, let me tell you. Necessary for reading novels though.

So, how does this feel in Japanese? Ah, that’s the rub. Here’s my expression of the feel, and mind you, none of this is a criticism of the standard English version, but let’s enjoy this:

1. Strive to Become a Complete Person

2. Remain Faithful to the Path of Truth

3. Cultivate the Spirit of Hard Work

4. Hold Etiquette Dear

5. Hold Your Passions In Check

Incidentally, “reigo” has to be a typo. Reigo would be “hard words,” but “reigi” would be etiquette (礼儀、れいぎ) and is a normal word in martial arts circumstances.

Perhaps the iffiest part of the above is the first: my straying from the “perfection of character” reading. I mean, I’ve heard the term for years, but when I see kansei (完成), I see completion, and completion does not imply anything perfect.

It’s rather simple, isn’t it? It’s about learning karate in the context of being a complete person, and not a thug.

Put plainly like this, it shouldn’t be hard to understand.

J Sensei

About J Sensei

Blogger, writer, linguist, former Japanese> English translator, rusty in French, experienced in Japanese, fluent English native. Writing for Technorati.com and various blogs. Skype: jeremiah.bourque (messages always welcome). E-mail: [email protected]
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2 Responses to Hitotsu! Japanese in Karate

  1. What does this Japanese translate to in english:
    hitotsu kazoete sumeba ii

  2. Jeremiah Bourque says:

    Uh, it reads like “If you can count to one, that is good.”

    I’m not sure if this is an expression or meant to be taken literally.

    Kazoeru = count; sumu = finish, but written a as a conditional verb i.e. ‘if you can finish X’ or ‘if you can manage to finish X’; ii = good