Friday, April 26, 2019

"Cobra Kai" hanja lesson

Season 2 of "Cobra Kai" is now available for YouTube Premium members, so I am, of course, binge-watching all ten episodes. Episode 1 of the new season features a flashback to "The Karate Kid, Part II," in which Daniel finds himself inside Miyagi's old family dojo in Okinawa. On one wall of the dojo are two maxims done up in kanji (Kor. hanja), i.e., Sino-Japanese characters. In the movie, Miyagi translates the characters this way: the right-hand maxim says, "Rule Number One: karate is for defense only." And, humorously, the left-hand maxim says, "Rule Number Two: first learn Rule Number One."

What the right-hand maxim actually says is (with Korean pronunciation noted):

空 empty (gong)
手 hand (su)
無 no (mu)
先 first (seon)
手 hand (su)

Miyagi roughly translates this as "Karate is for defense only." The term empty hand is Japanese/Okinawan shorthand for karate (which also means "empty hand"). The "no first hand" can be interpreted to mean something along the lines of "never strikes first." So: karate (i.e., the [true] karateka) never strikes first. This principle is the antithesis of the Cobra Kai motto: "Strike first, strike hard, no mercy."

The left-hand maxim reads:

先 first (seon)
正 align (jeong)
其 that (gi)
心 mind (shim)

Miyagi translates this as "First learn Rule Number One." It's more literally something like, "First align yourself with that frame of mind."

Conclusion: Miyagi's translations of the kanji are pretty rough, but they get the point across.

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