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What is kokoro?

In Japanese sometimes it is hard to translate words to English, some won’t translate and we have no equivalent for them. Some will translate, but either sound ridiculous in English, or just plain don’t make sense, or sometimes they translate but the meaning is not there, such is kokoro.


An understanding of what kokoro means can improve your scenes and help in understanding Japanese culture.

So what does kokoro mean? If you have ever taken martial arts you may have heard “Shin, Gi, Tai”, “Shin – kokoro, Gi – Technique, Tai – Body “. Usually when we translate the first symbol it gets translated as “Mind”, it’s not wrong …… but it’s more than that or its not ‘only that’

Kokoro originally means heart. But not ‘the heart’.  Here I’m going to quote from a Kendo instructor.

Yes, in means mind. But as I said, it is not only “mind”. The mind is psychological and it includes thoughts as well.

It originally means heart. If you hear “the hearts of the city”, what do you think it means? Yes, in means “the center of the city”. The heart is very important in our body. It is the center of our body in a sense that if the heart stops we die.

We have the word “brain dead”. What is it? The brain is dead but people are still alive. I am not going to get into an argument on whether or not one is considered as dead/alive if the brain is dead. What I meant is even if their brain is dead, they’re still breathing.

But if your heart stops, we don’t call it “heart dead”. We call it “dead”. There is why it is very important to relate kokoro to our body. They are inseparable.

“…….We are talking about our emotions/feelings.


I am sure in kendo training you are told to give everything you have once, twice or more. What do you think it means? Do they give their physical strength that they have?

Now why do you think we shout before, during and after our strike? We are trying to encourage ourselves, trying to charge ourselves up so we can bravely confront our opponent standing right in front of us. We need really a strong heart, i.e. fighting spirit. And also I would like to add soul here.

Kokoro are mindemotionsfeelingsspirit and soul. I must add mentality as well. And if you know Japanese, you may think there are different terms for each word. Yes, it is true we have different Japanese terms for each word.

The term, kokoro, can have various meanings depending on how we use it. For example, when I say, “your kokoro is dirty”, what do you think it means? Does it make sense if I say your mind is dirty? It means you are selfish and do not think about others and apply very dirty tricks to gain whatever you want.

What do you think it means if I tell you to keep your kokoro stable? It means “stay focused and calm”.

  • “Strong kokoro” means “strong mentality”.
  • “Kokoro is weak” means your mental strength is weak. 
  • When your kokoro dances, you are excited.
  • When you change your kokoro, it is very close to “changing your mind”, which means you are changing your thoughts.
  • Put your kokoro in something means you put your soul, feelings and thoughts in it.
  • Stop fighting because you kokoro is snapped in half, it means you’ve lost your fighting spirit.

I think I gave you enough information about how the Japanese uses the term, kokoro. And I hope these examples help you to understand the concept of kokoro.

right in the

Ok so, let’s take this in to the context of rope.

We tie each other. Is that the ultimate goal?

Well for some maybe, just trying to get that one picture that will make them go K&P, or seeing how may rope “scenes” they can do in one night, or how many people they can have line up to tie with them.

The ultimate goal for me is kokoro, here is what that looks like and why it is the second tenant of #DerpNawa. Kokoro is connection, kokoro is yourself. Yeah …. You …. Up until this very moment you have been alive, and hopefully will continue to be. You have a lot of experiences, good, bad , neutral , exciting, terrifying, joyful, sad, and all of the other emotions that we have wrapped up in this sack of meat we walk around in, you have had experiences in rope as well …..All those experiences what do they culminate in?

You. Your spirit. Here. Now. That is kokoro.

When I tie, I try to reach out with the best of myself, the best that I have, all of it you know , let the Chi flow …… knock the other persons socks off …. Let it wow them, let them feel it, open yourself. Like the conversation metaphor that Barkas put forward that I happen to strongly subscribe to. This is my part of the conversation, my heart , my spirit, my mind, I’m coming at the other person with the best I have, showing them my humanity, my experiences, my personality, my characteristics, laying myself bare, and receiving the same in return. (Hopefully) that is kokoro; that is connection. That is the woo-woo I subscribe to.


Sometimes rope is more like a fight than a conversation, like a kendo fight, Sensei tells me that his sensei would sometimes describe rope in the martial arts term Shoubu, which describes the moment where all is won, or lost, the deciding moment.

He also insists the rope is a conversation and as with any conversation, there can sometimes be a winner and a loser, sometimes during the discussion after a lesson he will pinpoint the exact moment I lost, I let the other persons “kokoro strike” me and take my center, my focus, my intent. And the “battle/conversation” is lost.


Yeah ….. Sometimes …… sometimes Giggles kicks my ass ……..


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