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Hai Hai

Okinawan sensei tend to say "hai hai" when they want to simply acknowledge something. Since "hai" means "yes," this can cause some misunderstandings. Actually, "hai hai" often means, "I see", or "I understand" which is quite different than "yes."

A sensei told me that he watched a student perform a kata in a particularly terrible manner. When asked for his comments, the sensei just said "hai hai." The student took this as an acknowledgment that he had performed the kata properly and walked away very happy.

Actually, the sensei meant no such thing. "Charles," he told me, "it was as if the student was suffering a convulsion." "How could I comment on that?" "It was not kata."

Don't assume that "hai hai" means yes.


Charles C. Goodin