I am an instructor in a Finnish judo club. At the end of each session, owari! is announced and the students line up. I understand that owari means over or end, but there are lots of Finnish judo clubs that use the word at the start of the session as well (as if it meant to stand in line).

Now, I have started to use hajimari! for this beginning line up. I have very little knowledge of Japanese, but I am aware there are also forms hajimaru and hajimeru. (I use hajime to start exercises, randori etc.)

So, the students know that when I say this, they gather in a line - but is this correct from a Japanese viewpoint?

Doing research on this is surprisingly difficult. I would like to know what are the differences between those forms, and which one of them would be the best counterpart for the owari.

Please, if you could be so kind and avoid using any kana or kanji in your answer.


First of all, I' like to thank all of you for the answers. I am going to be a bit vain and accept the answer that best suits me, that answer even grants me the choice.

I should have emphasized that much like owari, my intention on announcing hajimari is to tell students that it is time to put away phones, exercise balls etc. and gather in a line, tie their belts and wait in silence. Most of the answers said that hajimari is grammatically acceptable, so I'll take it - I don't care if it is not customary. I would like to think it means a greater beginning than just hajime which to me sounds more instantaneous start!

As I said, in some Finnish judo clubs some of the japanese words and terms are used just because they have always been used in this context, even without proper knowledge of the meaning of the words. This is why owari is sometimes used incorrectly as a command to stand in line. Some even say let's go stand in owari. Japanese is not so much spoken in class, rather some key terms are said in order to teach students the minimal vocabulary.

  • Hajimari (this is my addition to my class)
  • Mokuso (close your eyes, clear your mind)
  • Mokuso yame
  • Rei
  • Hajime (start randori, start yakusoku keiko)
  • Mate (wait: get up and start again)
  • Kootai (Koutai? switch partners)
  • Yame (stop randori etc.)
  • Owari (the end)

Obviously there are a lot more, but I included here the terms that control the flow of the exercises.

  • 6
    Kudos to you as a martial arts instructor for researching the background of the traditional words used in the dojo
    – jarmanso7
    May 12, 2022 at 22:34
  • 1
    the best counterpart for owari. -- The counterpart of Owari! as an instruction would be Hajime!, but it is an announcement "Start (something) now!" (So you can use hajime to start exercises, randori etc.) I have started to use hajimari! for this beginning line up. -- Shouting "Hajimari!" sounds weird, either for announcing "Start now!" or "Line up!", I'm afraid.
    – chocolate
    May 13, 2022 at 3:05

6 Answers 6


You'll have ask yourself what message you really want to deliver, in terms of the "beginning".


As in "You shall begin to line up"

Do you want to "command" your students? Then it's Hajime. After all, you are in charge to initiate, so this makes sense.


As in "The beginning approaches, it's time to line up"

Do you want to "explain" that the beginning is approaching? Then it's Hajimari. This is totally acceptable - story-tellers have been saying "Hajimari Hajimari" (even twice to sound dramatic) to indicate the beginning of the tale. In this case, you are not necessarily the one who is initiating the linining-up - perhaps another entity including mother nature, god(s), universe, etc. However in the martial arts industry (unfortunately, it is practically an industry now days) this approach is never used.


So you see, neither is wrong. The "do" in "Judo" resembles a "path" that one follows. In Japan's conservative culture, students are always "commanded", which is the path you may follow. But nothing is stopping you to change the approach towards a humble and friendly style. Call it innovative, unique, weird or unnatural, it's up to you.


I am not particularly knowledgeable about judo, but the usual phrases used in Japanese sports or military contexts are:

Of course these can be used also near the end of a class, so they are not technically counterparts of owari. But I think nothing directly derived from hajimaru/hajimeru would work as you expect.

Hajimari ("Beginning!") may be at least better than owari, but it still doesn't make much sense as a command to line up. Besides, it's too close to hajime used at the beginning of a match.

  • This is exactly the opposite of what I am aiming for. I want to tell everyone at the dojo (that extends to a boxing gym unfortunately) that the judo class session is now starting. Students put away all the equipment they might have had, clear the tatami of balls and such, get in line, straighten their gi and shut up. Their parents (they sometimes stay and watch the session) keep quiet and understand that sensei has taken over and is not to be interrupted.
    – diynevala
    May 14, 2022 at 7:10
  • 3
    ^ @diynevala I want to tell everyone at the dojo that the judo class session is now starting. Students put away... and shut up. Their parents keep quiet and understand that sensei has taken over and is not to be interrupted. ← In that case I suggest shouting 「始めます!Hajimemasu!」, not 「始まり!Hajimari!」 Shouting "Hajimari, hajimari~!" to announce the start of a class/lesson would sound like a joke.
    – chocolate
    May 14, 2022 at 13:41
  • @Chocolate Hajimemasu = Let's begin? That sounds good as well. I am sorry that I am a bit stuck with the idea that hajimari would ultimately be the best choice. It seems that while grammatically correct, it has kind of a cultural stigma among japanese, it is too connected to stage plays? Much like rainbows are so often used in LGBT culture that it is hard to use it in any other instances. NOTE! I am not starting discussion about lgbt politics, nor should anyone here.
    – diynevala
    May 15, 2022 at 10:54
  • 3
    @diynevala A 100% grammatical phrase is often 100% nonsense. Three native speakers here, including myself, are saying hajimari is funny at least. If you just need to say "I begin", hajimeru (blunt/dignified) or hajimemasu (polite) would make much more sense.
    – naruto
    May 15, 2022 at 12:55

With all due respect, this seems to be one of those cases where learners can tell what is grammatical but only native (or near-native) speakers can tell what is really idiomatic.

Grammatically speaking, there should be nothing wrong with hajimari as it is to the intransitive verb hajimaru what owari is to owaru, which is also (mostly) intransitive. However, it sounds very odd as something you shout at the beginning of anything. Owari in that context is understood as meaning something along the lines of “That’s all, ”“This is it,” and so on. No such meaning is attached to hajimari. It is just a neutral word for “beginning.”

Hajime is derived from the transitive verb hajimeru, and in that context it is understood as an instruction to start doing something. Its opposite is yame from yameru, which means to stop doing whatever you are doing now.

I would suggest you take in naruto’s advice.


Language aspects are answered in existing answers. Just let me share some google searches. I have no experience of Judo either, so take my comments with a grain of salt.

This asks more or less the same question in Japanese. The answer says, there is no particular shouting. According to it, a session starts like

  • The instructor calls students for starting, just like in a normal conversation. E.g, (in English) "Boys, now we are starting..."
  • Everybody sits down (or up) in seiza.
  • A head student makes three calls:
  • Shōmen ni rei = Bow to the front, then everybody makes a bow.
  • Sensei ni rei = Bow to the teacher, then everybody makes a bow.
  • Otagai ni rei = Bow to each other, then everybody makes a bow.

This takes place also in the ending. (This video does mostly the same). The first shomen seems to refer originally to the altar of Shintoism (Japanese native religion).

I guess doing all these would be too much, so as naruto suggested, using Seiretsu! for lining up and then Rei! for bowing would be good enough (in terms of Japanese-ishness).

BTW I wish I could see Finnish students starting at the shout of owari!, which would look a bit surreal. Don't be offended, but that just makes me think how difficult it was for people using different languages to understand each other in pre-modern days...

  • It is not surreal: if nobody tells what owari means, but other students always seem to gather in a line, it is easy to think it means stand in line.
    – diynevala
    May 14, 2022 at 6:22

These words are all either verbs, or verb-derived nouns.

  • Hajimaru: intransitive verb, "to begin, to start", as in "something starts or begins on its own".
    • Hajimari: noun derivation from the verb, "beginning, start", as in the natural or spontaneous beginning of something -- in line with the intransitive nature of the underlying verb.
  • Hajimeru: transitive verb, "to begin", as in "to begin or start something".
    • Hajime: noun derivation from the verb, "beginning, start", as in the intentional or deliberate beginning of something -- in line with the transitive nature of the underlying verb.
  • Owaru: intransitive verb, "to finish, to end", as in "something ends or finishes on its own".
    • Owari: noun derivation from the verb, "ending, finish", as in the natural or spontaneous ending of something -- in line with the intransitive nature of the underlying verb.

I'm not that familiar with judo as a discipline or how classes are run. That said, shouting "Owari!" at the b̲e̲g̲i̲n̲n̲i̲n̲g̲ of a class sounds like a linguistic mistake to me.

  • 1
    I agree on the linguistic mistake - finnish people know little about japanese language, but some traditions are there just because... well someone did things this way and nobody bothered to research. Most use owari at the end, some think you can use it anytime like "everybody stand in line".
    – diynevala
    May 12, 2022 at 17:10
  • 1
    @diynevala, yes, "owari" just means "the end", as in "it's done / finished / ended". At least some Japanese movies that I've seen have 「終【おわ】り」 (Owari) at the close. May 12, 2022 at 17:49
  • 1
    @diynevala, sure, that works. :) May 12, 2022 at 18:22
  • 4
    @diynevala can I use the "hajimari" as an announcement "session is beginning / has begun / begins right now"? -- No, shouting "hajimari!" to announce "session is beginning / has begun / begins now" sounds weird to my native ear, I'm afraid. We use "hajime!" in such contexts. (We use "hajimari" in a phrase "Hajimari, hajimari!", which is an announcement of starting a traditional stage play or 紙芝居.)
    – chocolate
    May 13, 2022 at 3:31
  • 3
    No we don't say it to make the audience be quiet and focus. I think we say the phrase 「Hajimari, hajimari!」 to announce the start of a casual play (not a formal one like Kabuki or Noh) often for kids, or some fun thing, some people use it for a start of a festival or even a party. It sounds casual, can sound a bit childish, like, "Fun thing is beginning! Let's have fun! Exciting! Yay [Applaud]".
    – chocolate
    May 14, 2022 at 14:00

Wherever work sends me, I usually find a martial arts class to train with, for a few months.

After studying karate in my youth, as well as in my itinerate middle age, I should like to add 'seiretsu', as provided by @Naruto, is by far the most widely used command in Japanese martial arts, other than the native language, for the class to fall in, across the Western hemisphere.

With 'hajime' and 'yame' being used, respectively, at either end of a bout of sparring or wrestling.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .