Yudan sezu ni ikou

Kanji: 油断 せず に 行こう
Hiragana: ゆだん せず に いこう
Romaji: Yudan sezu ni ikou

Tezuka’s catchphrase is commonly translated as “Don’t let your guard down”. I always have problem accepting this translation, due to knowing a few words being commonly used. Ikou is ‘to go’ or ‘let’s go’. But I don’t see any ‘forward movement’ in “Don’t let your guard down”. So, this is my attempt at trying to figure out what was lost in translation.

油断 – Yudan – negligence or unpreparedness or carelessness
せず に – sezu ni – without
行こう – ikou – let’s go

Breaking down the words, it’s obvious the phrase means “Be prepared”. Yes, Tezuka is such a boy scout! Literally, it is “Let’s go without carelessness”.

Yudan sezu ikou

Tezuka SMS - Yudan sezu ikou

Now, Momoshiro’s remarks makes some sense. During Tezuka’s rehabilitation in Germany, he sent a message to Ooishi to be passed to his team mates. It was, in typical terse Tezuka-style, “Yudan sezu ikou” (without the ni). Momoshiro, on reading the message, remarked that Tezuka was saying that as if he was fighting beside them. It makes no sense if “Yudan sezu ikou” is translated as “Don’t let your guard down”, which is a directive to a second person. Instead, if ikou is a short informal ikimashou, Tezuka was saying “Let’s go together”, a turn of phrase that included himself among his team mates.

I may be nit-picking, but it bothers me the way Tezuka’s catch phrase was commonly translated in English. “Don’t let your guard down” and “Don’t get careless” suggests a holding position, stationary rather than moving forward.

When we look at the Japanese choice of words, it is obvious that Tezuka’s catchphrase embodies his personal philosophy and role in the overall storyline. Yudan, negligence and carelessness, had brought Tezuka troubles in his past. As such, Tezuka’s actions were always calculated, weighted and planned with careful thought.

Now, Tezuka’s character has a very forward looking attitude. It shows in his ambition to aim for National Tournament (something most thought impossible), and his constant effort to reform or improve his team mates and himself. Despite his seriousness, Tezuka is no stick in the mud. He was constantly challenging himself and those around him to go beyond what they thought they could go. As such, ikou (to go), is a verb, suggesting forward movement. Combined, it brings to mind the idea of advancing, marching forward with careful preparations and strategic planning. Rather than charging headlong rashly and impulsively, and hoped to get lucky, Tezuka prefers to plan his actions many steps ahead.

This is especially apparent in ranking matches and ‘special’ training sessions. The first, being, Tezuka was shown several times as the person responsible for arranging ranking matches. It meant that Tezuka was the person who held the most influence in deciding who will be the regulars to play in Tournaments. With the addition of Echizen, there are now nine potential regulars fighting for eight positions. As the person who arranged the ranking blocks, whichever three that Tezuka placed in the same block would risk losing their place.

The first was Inui, who was generally acknowledged as the third best player amongst the third years. Like Tezuka and Fuji, he was a junior champion with long real-match experiences. He was confident in his abilities. Yet in the first ranking match, Tezuka put him in the same block as untried Echizen and Kaidou, both junior players. In such arrangement, Inui would have considered his position as good as secured, leaving his two kouhai to fight over the remaining slot. His overconfidence in his data (negligence) caused him to lose to both Kaidou and Echizen, forcing him to re-evaluate his assumptions and fitness. Other than Echizen, Inui was the only one who openly challenged Tezuka. In the same move, Tezuka was also using Kaidou and Inui as measuring stick to evaluate the untried Echizen. In the pre-Kantou ranking match, Tezuka puts Inui in the same block as himself, in some sense, to allow Tezuka to measure his progress. It shows how much Inui has improved, that he could force Tezuka to reveal his real skills.

In pre-Nationals ranking, Tezuka vs Fuji, Tezuka finally played the long promised match. In a calculated move, he broke all of Fuji’s counters, forcing Fuji to rethink his personal motivations and changed his perspectives. In his way, Tezuka considered Fuji unprepared for National level tournament at that time, and he was the only one who could drive the lesson home.

While “Yudan sezu ni ikou” is the most commonly heard, Tezuka had used variations of the phrase.
– Yudan sezu ikou (SMS to Ooishi)
– Yudan sezu ni ikuzo (Pregame peptalk)

Root word:
行 – is difficult to translate. It is a movement verb. Combined with くku, き ki, か ka, け ke etc, it modifies the meaning ‘go’ to indicate first, second, third persons, past, present, continuous, future, singular, plural, formal, informal, positive, negative, level of politeness, order or request. (Note to self: compile list of go, going, gone variations for this word)
行 け – ike can be heard in Seigaku’s cheers in some episodes. “Ike, ike, Seigaku” is “Go, go, Seigaku”.
According to some, ikou and ikuzo are informal versions of ikimashou. I can’t get any confirmation on this, but based on my personal feeling of tone and context, ‘ikou’ sounds more suggestive and framed as request. ‘Ikuzo’ sounds more directive and urging. That is, ‘ikou’ would probably be something like ‘Shall we go?’, while ‘ikuzo’ would be ‘Let’s go, everyone!’ (note the deliberate English punctuation). I could be totally wrong, but if anyone has any idea, please leave a comment. Much appreciated.
According to japanese.about.com, ikou is the volitional form, implying the action is ‘by choice, intentional and deliberate’.

http://japanese.about.com/blverb1.htm (Verb conjugation – iku – to go)



  1. Salivia Baker said

    “行 – is difficult to translate. It is a movement verb. Combined with くku, き ki, か ka, け ke etc, it modifies the meaning ‘go’ to indicate first, second, third persons, past, present, continuous, future, singular, plural, formal, informal, positive, negative, level of politeness, order or request. ”

    I must say this is wrong. There is no grammatical future in Japanese, as there aren’t persons. those are indicated by different words and/or context.
    The dictionary from is 行く
    ki is only used in the polite form 行きます (or the negative form 行きません)
    行け is the imperative of iku.行く・行け / iku -> ike – Go! “This type of imperative is extremely strong and is primarily used in threatening or hostile situations, emotionally charged gatherings (e.g. politically related, sporting events, etc.), when addressing oneself, by males in very informal speech, in situations where time is of the essence (e.g. dangerous situation), or by a superior to a subordinate in a social organization where the hierarchy of power and one’s position in it are clearly established. ” – Japanesepod101.com
    行こう is a suggestion. And it’s translated well with “let’s go” (polite form would be 行きましょう). I would say that ikuso (ikuzo?) is the colloquial version of ikimashou but I am not sure.

    I have no idea what you mean with ka. never heard of that one as verb ending.

    I am also confused with leaving out the ni since ni is a particle which you don’t leave of like others. but maybe I am mistaken here.

    • cohlinn said

      Ah! Forgot Japanese don’t have future and persons grammar. Somewhat like Chinese.

      The -ka thing … I was thinking of ikanai / ikanaide, which is another negative form of iku. Sort of ‘can’t go’ / ‘don’t go’.

      I don’t understand the omission for ‘ni’ either. I did wonder if the animators made a typo. But with my limited Japanese, I really don’t know.

      • Salivia Baker said

        oh! I see.
        I thought of -ka alone not in a form like ikanai.

        maybe it’s a typo from Tezuka XD
        or he thought Oishi would know what he means so he doesn’t have to put in に.

    • cohlinn said

      Oh! Japanesepod101.com link is best yet! Danke! It has a table of iku conjugations. That makes it easier to see the difference and the varieties.

      • Salivia Baker said

        so are you a member at Jpod as well?

      • cohlinn said

        I just signed up. I have 7 days free access for now.

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