Sen no sen, Sen Sen no sen, Go no sen and Deai

I recently received an email asking what the difference is between sen no sen and deai. Instead of just replying to the email, I felt that it would be better if I could share it with everyone.

I had my own thoughts about what those concepts meant but I wanted to be sure that my answers were correct. Because of this, I asked my Sensei, Sensei Marty Cieplik, for a definitive answer. Thanks Sensei! I am glad that I wasn’t far off the mark with these concepts but the difference between sen no sen and sen sen no sen was something that I did not know enough about although I use the concept all the time when sparring.

Go no sen: Go no sen is block and attacking the opponent after their attack has finished. For example, my opponent throws a reverse punch at my face, I stop that attack with a block and then follow up with a counter attack.

Let me try to make this a little clearer. My opponent shifts in with a reverse punch, I shift backward and block his reverse punch with an outward block and then, I shift toward him and counter with a reverse punch. I liken this concept to Kyu rank one step sparring or ippon kumite. Much like, attack is coming, you block, pause for second and counter attack.

Below is a video example of go no sen:

Sen no Sen: Sen no sen is a block and counter attack while the opponent is attacking. For example, my opponent shifts in with a reverse punch and at the same time, I shift back, block his reverse punch with an outward block and counter attack with a reverse punch at the same time. The timing here is very important because both people are committing to the attack at the same time.

Below is a video showing Yamaguchi-sensei demonstrating sen-no-sen:

Sen sen no sen: Sen sen no sen is attacking and counter attacking the opponent while they are attacking. How I understand this is, make opponent shifts in and attacks with a reverse punch and you shift in and attack with a jab at the same time and immediately follow up with a reverse punch.

Deai: The concept behind deai is you sense your attackers attack coming and you counter attack before the opponent can fully start his offensive attack. For example, both opponents are either shifting or standing in kamae and your opponent goes to throw a rear leg roundhouse kick, before he can get the roundhouse kick off, you shift in and jab.

The key here is that your opponent gives some sort of tell or sign (leaning before kick or changing balance points before bringing their leg up) that they are going to attack and you sense this attack coming and counter attack them before they get their attack off. This tell or sign could be a twitch, eyes widening or even being able to feel their energy before they attack.

Below is a video showing a deai jab against a roundhouse kick:

If you have any questions or thoughts please leave a comment below.

7 thoughts on “Sen no sen, Sen Sen no sen, Go no sen and Deai”

  1. Hi,
    I think your explanation, although O.K. lacks depth of understanding.
    The whole subject concerns ‘Taking the initiative’.
    Go no sen being to take the initiative late, your description is one application of this, but doesn’t stress ‘Taking the initiative’. The most successful Sumo wrestler in history used this strategy without blocking or punching.
    Sen no sen is to take the initiative at the mid point, so looks like a simultaneous attack, but is the taking of the initiative that is important. If for example, tai sabaki is employed, no block may be needed.
    Sen sen no sen involves taking the initiative early, when the assailant has committed to attack, but has not yet done so. It looks like the defender has attacked first.
    These are strategies used extensively in Wado Ryu karate, and all other Japanese martial arts.
    I hope this is of use and is accepted in the sprit it is given.
    Although I have been training in Karate for 27 years, I have still only scratched the surface of the subject.
    Look up Yanagawa Masahiro on google, I think you will find it interesting.

  2. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for the reply. I like your use of the word initiative to explain it and certainly helps to clarify what I was trying to explain here.

    At some point in time, I hope to create videos to demonstrate these and other techniques in more detail since text is sometimes not as easy to understand when trying to explain complex techniques.

    Thanks again for the reply, I do appreciate it.

  3. Funny to run into this post. I practiced wado ryu in the early 60s with Hiroo Mochizuki. Due to poor vision, and lack of sport glasses in those days, I used Sen no Sen extensively in competition. I ended up with 3 techniques:
    1/ dive straight into the opponent’s attack with jab. To get there first, you must actually start your attack just before the opponent, i.e. you must sense the attack (Deai). Reacting to a twitch, etc… would make you too late. Block not essential, but helpful if your timing is off.
    2/ Same but you shift body as you jab (as in video above) to get out of the way. Block not needed. Used for attack toward your “front/inside”. Fist leads, body follows (always toward the inside of your opponent).
    3/ Same, but against attack toward your “back/outside”. You always move toward the inside of the opponent. It’s an altered reverse punch. As your body “follows” the punch, it shifts sideway and turns into your punch, avoiding the attack as you dive in. Your rear leg usually slides sideway.
    Basic training: training partner tries to surprise you with front kick. Attack must be genuine but, for safety, don’t deliver the full kick. Instead, partner starts with simply bringing the kicking thigh in front of the other.
    You dive in when “feeling the intention to attack”, block the kicking leg and at the same time punch the abdomen or chest (I used open hand for training, not fist). You must block the kicking leg BEFORE it crosses the other leg. Otherwise, you’re too late.
    It takes a lot of practice, but you can graduate to do it blindfold, just like in the movies. It does work! (FYI: you also easily lose it if you don’t keep it up). Good luck.

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  5. I was in Brock-do jujitsu for a bit, and my sensei Brock moody described it this way. Sen is a defensive decision. Go no sen is acting on a defensive decision. Sen no sen is acting on a defensive decision before an attack happens. Of course, sensei Moody taught from a self defense perspective. He told me once that the surest way to win a fight is to not get in one.

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