“Karate-do Sanka” by Nagamine Shoshin

Written by the late founder of Matsubayashi Shorin-ryu Karate, Nagamine Shoshin, the Karate-do Sanka (lit. empty hand way song) is something not many people have heard before.

A Karate song.

And it’s not one of those modern rocky ones either, but actually a traditional Okinawan “folk song-style” Karate tribute. Nagamine, who was a direct student under such notable teachers as Taro Shimabuku, Ankichi Arakaki, Chotoku Kyan and Motobu Choki was not only a Karate expert but also a determined Zen practitioner (his Buddhist name being “Fist Mountain”), an appreciated author (his books being highly sought after) and, as we’ll now see, a musician.

This song, “Karate-Do Sanka”, is an attempt by Nagamine to epitomize some of the most important aspects of Okinawan Karate, mixing both shin (heart/soul/spirit) gi (technique) and tai (body) in a true Okinawan style champuru song.

Does he succeed?

You tell me.


Karate-do Sanka by Nagamine Shoshin

Japanese original:

Aa sanjento hi no hikari

Myo gunjorno umi no iro

Saekeki shima no tokonga

Saegigaumishi mute no ken.

Kokoro o Kitau, mi o kitau

Aa, Okinawa no, Karate-do!

Aa ware osou tekki araba

Shurei no kuni ni shingiari

Tetsu no kobushi wa kanzento

Niku o kirasete, hone no utsu

Kokoro o mamaru, Mi o mamaru.

Aa, Okinawa no, Karate-do!

Aa tensenshi kodai yori

Hewa no kane wa naritsutau

Semeru ni arazu fusegu waza

Gotai ga bukizo kono karate

Kokoro o tadasu, mi o tadasu

Aa Okinawa no Karate-do!

English translation:

Ah, beautiful islands of sunlight,

And the color of the sea,

The proud fighting spirit of the Islanders

and the empty handed Sword of Justice.

Hardening both spirit and body

Ah, this is Okinawan Karate-do!

O, but if an enemy should happen to attack us,

and the method of courtesy prove to no avail,

if he should cut our flesh with his iron weapon,

even then we will punch through to his bones.

Defending the soul, protecting the body,

This is Okinawan Karate-do!

O! Ever since the mythical ancestry of Japan,

the bell of peace has been ringing continually in Okinawa.

The way of courtesy and the five bodily weapons of Karate together,

Clears our heart, straightens our body,

This is Okinawan Karate-do!

Coincidentally, here’s a video straight from the sake fumes of an Okinawan izakaya, where some sensei performs the karaoke version:

Click here to download .WMA file of the song!


  • John Arena
    Priceless, My new favorite song. Can you identify all of the participants?
    • Water
      That's Sensei Akamine, direct disciple of sensei Nagamine, and there are some of his students singing with him. This was I believe in an end of the year dinner celebration in one of the dodos in Argentina
  • I know this song well! My sensei, a direct student of Nagamine Shoshin, plays it during seisa at the beginning of every lesson. Its a good way to warm up mentally for practice;)
  • califax
    Is it just me or does it really sound like a soviet revolution hymn? I mean, really!, this IS a russian melody. And I DO know it from some movie.
    • Actually, it does sound a bit USSR... ;)
      • Buster Ducke
        A patriotic song of union
  • Terry Maccarrone
    This is a great song for all Okinawan Karate-ka and everyone else that loves old-style training. At our "kempai" parties we start and end the drinking part of our training with the song in both versions....They both sound better after Sake and Beer... A great one for Soke Shoshin Nagamine and Matsubayashi Shorin-ryu everywhere. Great Blogg Jesse Respectfully Terry Maccarrone Karate USA Long Island NY
  • Nick Sekela
    the style of this song seems to be from the 1940's, but does anyone know exactly WHEN this song was written? If it was written during the Second World War, it quite possibly could have been written about using karate for the defense of Okianawa.
  • Tim Herlihy
    It was great to hear the song especially straight after the Japanese national anthem at last years Matsubayashi Ryu,anniversary celebrations.
  • Andreas Quast
    Takayoshi Sensei presented me the original single, which I cannot use, because I don't own one of these old gramophones or wha they are called.
  • John
    Love it! Do you have it in mp3? I'd just like to put it on iTunes.
  • Dear Sirs, where can I get a copy of Okinawa Karate do sanka's score?? Oiê choir eould like to sing It! Waiting for tour estou reply! Best! Misao 55-21-990118014
  • Dear Jesse, where can I get a copy of Okinawa Karate do sanka's score?? Our choir would like to sing It! Waiting for early reply! Best! Misao 55-21-990118014

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