Kiri de uteki — Raindrops in Fog 霧で雨滴

We live in a world dense with the fog of information: our goal should be to pick out the raindrops of knowledge hidden in that fog.

Kiri de uteki 霧で雨滴, [pronounced “kih-ree deh oo-tech-eee”], means “raindrops in fog” — and refers to the difficulty and importance of picking-out individual things of importance from a crowded field of noise.

We perform this act everyday, picking and choosing conversations to listen to among the cacophony of the sounds around us, or making decisions about what to read or what to watch amidst a sea of choices.

How well we perform this act is an important determining factor in our ability to navigate the world around us, and to be effective in it.

Kiri de uteki is a key to success in all things.

Take Notice of the Fog, But See the Raindrops

All of the goals, all of the highest aspirations that we could possibly have — none of these are enough to get us to our desired destination if we’re unable to cut through the fog of information and options with which we are constantly inundated.

We must practice the ability to filter all of the inputs and options that we have, and to make intuitive determinations about what is important and what is not.

We are blessed by living in a world in which a firehose of information is available to us whenever we need it, and the availability of the accumulated wisdom of humanity literally can be accessed by the devices in our pockets.

And yet... that accumulated wisdom floats on a sea of trivia, illusion, and meaningless points of information. The information masquerades as knowledge; the "expert opinons" are really the random utterings of those desperately seeking relevance; and the "must know now" and "must see this" information is really trivia wearing the tissue-paper disquise of knowledge.

We must discern the raindrops in the fog, or we will drown in the fog.

Train to Recognize Knowledge

In fact, Kiri de uteki refers on a more abstract level to the concept of intuition — it is sometimes even translated as such.

Intuition, in broad terms, is the ability to make non-linear conclusions or arrive at decisions in a non-linear way. Or, in other words, to jump from “point A” to “point C” without having to go through “point B” in between them.

Intuition is not all that mysterious — but it is difficult to practice, and difficult to understand. In some ways, if we’re able to “pick a raindrop” out of the misty fog of possible conclusions, we are practicing intuition.

The process of doing this is something that we get better at over time, if we are aware of what we’re doing, and if we practice it. In other words, the more we try to pick out the conclusions from a forest of data, and the more we are aware that we are doing it, the better we’ll get at it.

And the better we’ll get at “intuition” or Kiri de uteki.

Strategic Cranes, Tactical Raindrops

Kiri de Uteki is focused on the narrow – but very important – skill of discerning knowledge from a sea of information. A related concept in karatedō is tsuru no hitokoe 鶴の一声 (the One Voice of the Crane); however, note that here we are focused entirely on discerning information and making conclusions and taking action. Tsuru no kitokoe is a broader concept that focuses on discerning the right path and reality among a sea of illusion and noise. These concepts are similar, and kiri de uteki can be viewed as tactical discernment while tsuru no hutokoe focuses on the strategic bigger picture.

As an example, every day we are inundated with "news" of politics, current events, happenings in our local communities, and much more. Quite literally, very little of that has any actual practical use or true impact on us. But we are the consumers of this product that is produced by both the newsmakers and the news reporters. Our job is to pick out the very few raindrops of importance from the dense fog of "news." This is an example of kiri de uteki.

On the other hand, tsuru no hitokoe counsels us to carefully consider what is important to us in the bigger picture, not just in the "newsfeed" of our daily lives. So for instance, we might be inundated with Instagram postings trying to convince us that vapid consumerism is a substitute for actually living a satisfying life; we might hear the words of "influencers" or other famous people trying to impress us with their importance and expertise, eager to become our guru in fashion, business, and even in our personal philosophy. All of those things are the chattering of a thousand insignificant sparrows. Practice cutting through their noise with your own powerful true voice of the crane.

Train Kiri de Uteki Everyday

But whether its a matter of finding the knowledge needle in a haystack of data, or in “magically” arriving at specific conclusions when we only have a small amount of seemingly unconnected data, the process and practice of kiri de uteki is one that we have to train, and one that we have to practice in our daily lives.

And in practicing it, we improve dramatically the chances that we will be able to navigate our world to reach our goals and aspirations.

Kanji/Katakana Meaning
fog (kiri)
in, within (de)
雨滴 rain drops (uteki)

Editor's Note: This lecture was first delivered by Sensei in San Rafael, California on 14 January 2015, and then again at the Goju Karate NYC Dojo on 8 February 2023, and then once more at the Goju Karate NYC Dojo and via Livestream on 10 February 2023.