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Iain Abernethy
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Martial Quotations

Hi All,

As with the old forum, I thought a martial quotes section would be good. So please post all your favourite martial quotations under this thread. I look forward to reading them!

All the best,


Mathieu Coton
Mathieu Coton's picture

"Regardless of how many kata a person may know, if his training in them is insufficient, they will be useless" "Ukete wa Uchite - Defense is attack"

Mabuni Kenwa (1889-1952), Founder of Shito-Ryu Karate-Do  

PaulA's picture

Knocked down seven times - get up eight.

The Samurai Creed opening line.

Gavin J Poffley
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Kateba kangoku, makereba jigoku (????????????)

"Win and you go to prison, lose and you go to hell"

- Yakuza proverb on the futility of fighting 

Neville Smith
Neville Smith's picture

Once the battle is won, it is then that you tighten your helmets!

An old samurai proverb

Neville Smith
Neville Smith's picture

Karate without spirit is like a body without a heart, spirit is the heart of karate. OSU!

Phil Miles
Phil Miles's picture

One step forward into heaven, One step backwards into hell

Iain Abernethy
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"Spirit first, technique second" - Gichin Funakoshi

"One whose spirit and mental strength have been strengthened by sparring with a never-say-die attitude should find no challenge too great to handle. One who has undergone long years of physical pain and mental agony to learn one punch, one kick, should be able to face any task, no matter how difficult, and carry it through to the end. A person like this can truly be said to have learned karate." – Gichin Funakoshi

“The secret principle of martial arts is not vanquishing the attacker, but resolving to avoid an encounter before its occurrence. To become an object of an attack is an indication that there was an opening in one's guard, and the important thing is to be on guard at all times.” – Gichin Funakoshi

“There is an old saying: ‘Leave one's yard and find seven enemies.’ No matter how skilled one is in the martial arts, he will find himself unprepared if encountered off-guard. Ideally, then, one should constantly be in a state of preparedness. Preparation of one's mind is necessary at all times. Not to the extent of paranoia; but as a course of habit.” - Hironori Otsuka

“[Karate] is not intended to be used against a single opponent but instead as a way of avoiding injury by using the hands and feet should one by any chance be confronted by a villain or ruffian.” – Anko Itosu

“Once a kata has been learned, it must be practised repeatedly until it can be applied in an emergency, for knowledge of just the sequence of a kata in karate is useless.” – Gichin Funakoshi

“Practise each of the techniques of karate repeatedly. Learn the explanations of every technique well, and decide when and in what manner to apply them when needed.” – Anko Itosu

"It is obvious that these kata must be trained and practised sufficiently, but one must not be 'stuck' in them. One must withdraw from the kata to produce forms with no limits or else it becomes useless. It is important to alter the form of the trained kata without hesitation to produce countless other forms of training." – Hironori Otsuka

“When faced with someone who disrupts the peace or who will do one harm, one is as a warrior in battle, and so it only stands to reason that one should seize the initiative and pre-empt the enemy’s use of violence. Such action in no way goes against the precept of ‘no first attack’ …the expression ‘karate ni sente nashi’ [no first attack in karate] should be properly understood to mean that the karateka must never take a hostile attitude, or be the cause of a violent incident; he or she should always have the virtues of calmness, prudence and humility in dealing with others.” – Kenwa Mabuni

“There is a saying ‘no first attack in karate’ …To be sure, it is not the budo [martial art] spirit to train for the purpose of striking others without good reason. I assume that you already understand that in karate one's primary goal must be the training of mind and body… But when a situation can't be avoided and the enemy is intent on doing you serious harm, you must fight ferociously. When one does fight, taking control of the enemy is vital, and one must take that control with the very first move. Therefore, in a fight one must attack first. It is very important to remember this.” – Choki Motobu

“One must not loose sight of the fact that karate is ‘all-in’ fighting. Everything is allowed … This is why karate is based on blows delivered with the hand, the foot, the head or the knee. Equally permissible are strangulations, throwing techniques and locks. This is one of the fascinating things about karate; this sensation of mastery over effective techniques brings an inner peace and calm…” – Henri Plee

“Train with both heart and soul without worrying about theory. Very often a person who lacks the quality of deadly seriousness will take refuge in theory.” – Gichin Funakoshi

Ives's picture

"Kihon is the most ideal form of waza, there is no room for showmanship" - Sensei Takahashi.

Gavin Mulholland
Gavin Mulholland's picture

I pinched this one from Nick Hughes but it's a great quote from a French General in WW1:

Hard pressed on my right. My center is yielding. Impossible to maneuver. Situation excellent. I am attacking. Ferdinand Foch - The Battle of the Marne

In 1918 Foch was promoted to Allied Supreme Commander on the Western Front where he largely received the credit for masterminding the victory over Germany. With that mindset, you can pretty much see why...  

Jamie Clubb
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This one comes straight from the excellent 2009 book "Mistakes were Made (but not by me)". It comes from a person often cited by martial artists (and particuarly martial arts authors/historians) and will probably head my next article in the Martial Arts Scepticism series for Jissen!

A great nation is like a great man: When he makes a mistake, he realizes it. Having realized it, he admits it. Having admitted it, he corrects it. He considers those who point out his faults as his most benevolent teachers.

—Stephen Mitchell’s modern translation of the Tao Te Ching, in homage to Lao Tzu  (ca. 500 B.C.)

Gary Chamberlain
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Q: How long does it take an average person to get a black belt?

A: An average person should never get a black belt.

(Author unknown)

I like that.  Harsh but true.


michael rosenbaum
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"Never take a knife to a gun fight."   Old Appalachian proverb.

Mike R

Gavin Mulholland
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Iain Abernethy
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Gavin Mulholland wrote:
"Never take a knife to a gun fight."

But then again...


I like that lots! An inspiring read and good to hear of a tale where the bad guys get what they deserve.

lcpljones_dontpanic's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:

Gavin Mulholland wrote:
"Never take a knife to a gun fight."

But then again...


I like that lots! An inspiring read and good to hear of a tale where the bad guys get what they deserve.

Having served alongside the Ghurkha’s during my time in the army I can vouch that they are truly brave and honourable men and warriors while being warm and friendly human beings.

However not wishing to take away any of the respect due to this Gurkha warrior it should be noted that the above story is a sensationalised account of the real one that can be found at;


The real story highlights the realities of edge weapons fighting and dealing with multiple opponents but such action is indicative of the Gurkha ethos and spirit so well done and best wishes to Vishnu Shresta who is most definitely an inspiring example to all.

Hunnu Bhanda Marnu Ramro) (Better to die than to be a coward)Gurkha Rifles Motto.