Earth Hour

Remember to switch off March 24, 2018  at 8:30 p.m. local time for one hour !

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Honbu vs Hombu


Honbu / Hombu is Japanese for “Headquarters” or “Head Office” for a system of martial arts. There seem to be 2 different ways of pronouncing 「本部」and some people fiercely insist it is one or the other and their bias is not based on any facts.

A search of the internet will display a number of English language web pages with one or the other so that is not a valid source. Even English language martial arts text books flip /flop on the spelling. There are a few internet forums that have intelligently examined this issue, and I have included some extracts from those forums:

It should be ‘honbu’ , but many people pronounce it hombu.

To be a little more exact…the reason for the n/m differences are due to the use of “roman” letters (as opposed to arabic, chinese characters, etc) to express or write the Japanese language. There are several versions of “romaji” (Japanese for “roman letters”). And there are sounds in Japanese that can vary (like the tomato pronunciation example) depending on a number of factors (dialect, region, etc). You will see similar situations with words like Senpai/Sempai, Enpi/Empi, and Enbusen/Embusen, Kempo/Kenpo, Shimbun/Shinbun and so on.

We are trying to put another language into our own. And so we have these discrepencies. The linguistic terminology for this would be “reverse assimilation in the place of articulation.” The usual “n” sound is produced at the alveolar ridge (that “shelf” right behind your teeth) However, as Peter alluded to above, since there’s a bilabial (eg “b”, “p”) sound coming after the “n” sound, the lazy human mouth decides that it’ll save it some trouble and uses nasal bilabial consonant (ie “m”) rather than a nasal alveolar consonant (ie “n”). You’ll see such things even in English in words such as “impossible” (which most likely came from adding the prefix “in-” to the word “possible).

As far as actually pronouncing that part of the words goes, I think you’d be hard pressed to distinguish someone saying “honbu” (with a real “n”) and “hombu”, in regular everyday speech with their back turned towards you. (Similarly, the “th” and “f’ sounds are also hard to distinguish without visual and contextual cues.) Seriously, I kind of doubt there are many Japanese folks out there who would say “ho n bu” rather than “ho m bu” when speaking naturally.

Transliteration or the art/science of writing Japanese words in the Roman alphabet is not consistent. Some people write “kenpo” while others write “kempo.” Some people even write “si” rather than “shi” — probably since, technically, there’s no “si” sound (as in the Spanish “yes” or the German “if”) in Japanese. There are even other issues such as nigori (the voicing of certain consonants in a compound word) where some people write “katatedori” while others write “katatetori.” Also tricky is the case of long vowels — if we were really picky about it, we’d probably be writing the name of the art as “aikidou” rather than “aikido” since the last vowel is a long one…

The answer deals with the natural flow of speech.

Say honbu 5 times fast, then say hombu 5 times. The ‘n’ has a ‘hard’ or elongated sound to it. In natural speech, it is easier to roll that sound to an ‘m’ as opposed to an ‘n’. Prevents a slow down in speech.

The “n” or “m” distinction has to do with how characters are romanized when they are written – not how it is pronounced when spoken. Different romanized systems use one or the other.

Honbu is how it is written, Hombu is how it is pronounced. It is confusing as they look / sound so similar but consider say the Chinese written ‘x’ that is pronounced ‘shi’ and you might see what I mean.

Also try searching a japanese dictionary for hombu, you won’t find it. The Budo Jiten (martial arts dictionary) second edition, by Fredrick Lovret list only Honbu.

The Warm-up (Junbi Undo)

According to research in Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, warming up before exercising improves performance. Warmups increase the amount of blood and oxygen delivered to the muscles, so your body is working more efficiently when you start to exercise. Also research shows that regular exercise can help your body fight colds. Regular exercise improves immune system function by releasing more anti-bodies into the bloodstream. However do not over do it.

The purpose of the warm-up, junbi undo, is to gently and gradually prepare your body for more strenuous exercises to follow. Warming-up properly is essential. Do not practice a technique “cold”, because it puts a tremendous stress on the muscles, joints and connectors and can lead to injuries. Increase the temperature of the body gradually with warm-up exercises and proper breathing, exhaling slowly during the effort.

• A warm-up should start gradually and slowly to get the body moving.The duration of the warm-up depends on the individual’s conditioning, age and experience, the room temperature and the nature of the work-out to follow.

• The warm-up is psychological as well as physical, it helps you feel ready for the training and aware of your balance and focus, with a sense of pleasant anticipation. A higher body temperature also helps the nervous system to send and receive messages more rapidly which is useful for co-ordination and split second decisions. It also increases the speed and force of muscle contraction. Increasing the blood flow to the muscles provides more available oxygen because of the dilation of the capillaries. It also helps to remove waste products such as carbon dioxide and lactic acid, preventing or reducing the level of fatigue and muscle soreness.

• Do not confuse warming-up with stretching. The best time to perform stretching exercises for improved flexibility is after the body is well warmed-up, relaxed, and when the blood circulation is at an optimum level usually at the end of a workout. Recent studies have suggested that anything more than gentle loosening stretches at the start of a workout may actually hinder activity.

• The warm-up presented here is a basic general preparation of the body. If done properly it has sufficient duration and intensity to elevate the body temperature, gently loosen the muscles and joints, increase the breathing rhythm and cardio pulse rate and help focus the mind in the body.The time before your training should be used to gently loosen the body, shake out tensions and begin focusing the mind on the training session ahead and that time should be used constructively and responsibly.

• Be aware that once you have entered the dojo and bowed-in, conversation should be kept to a minimum other than positive friendly greetings. It is a time to get one’s mind in gear for the training and not the appropriate time to complain about the traffic or your day at work or sore muscles from a hockey game with friends. Save the catch-up for the dressing room.

• Avoid extreme actions and bouncing or jerking movements that can pull muscles or ligaments very easily. Do not force the body beyond its natural limits, feel comfortable and enjoy the process.

• Avoid practicing any technique until this warm-up has been done.


The following video shows similar exercises to what we will do for a warm-up.  It is a little blurry but you will get the jist of it.



Okinawan and Japanese dojo are usually decorated with Kakemono – hanging wall scrolls which depict sayings of the great karate masters, often written in their own Shodo (brush script). Lettering produced by an expert in Shodo is often very pleasing to the eye and the sayings are intended to inspire practitioners of the Martial Arts.

As many of the great masters passed long ago, their original Shodo are very difficult to obtain. However high quality reproductions of original Shodo are available as well as by modern expert Japanese calligraphers for framing as gifts for decorating a room or for their original purpose to be hung as inspiration for the students in the dojo.


Always on the Battlefield


12 1/4″ W x 43″ H Japanese Scroll
by Master Japanese Calligrapher Eri Takase

Don’t Quit

Don’t Quit
by Allen Yuen, Sensei

To all those thinking of quitting. Karate has never been a natural thing for me. I am not one of those people who is naturally flexible, a great fighter or excellent stylist. I have to work at it, and practice, practice, practice.

I have found that most people who lack the natural abilities for any activity eventually succumb to the frustration of trying to over come their lack of talent and will quit. However, I have also even seen people with incredible athleticism also quit… so do not feel bad.

Over the years since I started martial arts training, I too had many reasons to stop. In 1982 I hurt my back really bad, and underwent physio-therapy and chiropractic therapy. One of the questions I was asked following a lengthy treatment, was in comparison to where I was, how do feel now? I told them honestly I never felt back to 100%, and even almost three decades later, I never feel 100% back to where I was before the injury.

The pain I experience sometimes is quite extreme yet I endure it and I don’t quit. So why do I continue? I once told my students that Karate training is an exercise for the body, mind and spirit. Even on days when my back pain flares up, and I almost dread having to teach Karate in pain. Once I get to class, there is a mental change that happens for me.

I once told my students that sometimes, when I have had a tough day at work or my back pain is aggravated, just by putting on my Karate uniform and belt I feel like I am putting on a Superman uniform! I feel re-energized, re-focused, re-vitalized. I become focused on my students and their improvement. As I lead them through the warm-ups and then the basics, kata and kumite and self defense. I am aware of their improvement from the previous class, and my spirit rises with pride in their newfound abilities.

Everyone sometimes feels not motivated to come to class. You feel you’re not making progress, you can’t see when that black belt will ever come, you don’t feel you can compete with your fellow dojo-mates, and maybe there are external pressures on you that are suddenly much more forceful than you remember.

Before you quit, think about a few things. First is that the challenges of the dojo parallel those in the ‘real’ world. Whether it is your health, job, schoolwork or family life, there will always be some ongoing struggle and you will wonder if things will ever get better or easier. The ones who succeed are the ones that work through the problem and keep going, striving and surviving. They eventually push through that plateau and like in the song,”break on through to the other side”. They ignore those negative thoughts and feelings and keep pushing forwards. They re-focus. They strategize and deliberately adjust strategies to balance priorities and maximize their success. You might not be able to get everything you were aiming for, but by quitting you will definitely get nothing.

Sometimes there is just too many pressures and of course, quitting might be the correct thing to do. Just be honest and tell your Sensei, and you can always return when the time is right. I have had students returning after over ten years. Life has changed for them … new family, new work, new whatever… and now they are genuinely happy to be back practicing Karate again.

Maybe they too have come to the understanding that Karate is not just a martial art or physical activity … but a way of life. Karate can be a special gratifying path of fitness, discipline, respect and camraderie and sense of well-being.

So don’t quit.