When will a person be considered as dead? 「死」は何時起こるか 

This may be considered to be an easy question but is it really? In fact, it can be very blurry with an unclear meaning. First of all, there are two different criteria. One is a legal death and the other is a clinical death.

According to USLegal, “Legal death refers to a situation where a person is considered dead under law. A person is usually considered legally dead after a legal pronouncement by a qualified person that further medical care is not appropriate. The specific criteria used to pronounce legal death are variable and often depend on the circumstances in order to pronounce a person legally dead. Brain death is an example of a scenario in which legal death is pronounced. In the U.S., brain death is legal in every state except the states of New York and New Jersey, where the law requires that a person’s lungs and heart must also have stopped before it can be declared that a person is legally dead.”

USLegal: https://definitions.uslegal.com/l/legal-death/


For a long time, we used to believe that the determination that a person is dead is that the heart stops. However, with the advancement of modern medicine, the line between life and death has become unclear.

Cardiac arrest. Heart stops. Organs no longer receiving oxygen rich blood. Skin turns blue. 6 minutes and your dead.

LiveScience explains the definition of (clinical or biological) death. Here is an excerpt. Despite its frequent use, the term ‘clinical death’ doesn’t actually have a consistent meaning, said Dr. James Bernat, a neurologist at Dartmouth College’s Geisel School of Medicine in New Hampshire. In most hospitals, the doctor in charge of a patient’s care makes the death determination, and there aren’t universal guidelines for when to make that call, he said.

Until the 1950s, death was considered to be the point when any one of the vital functions — heartbeat, electrical brain activity or respiration — ceased. Once one part of the system failed, then the others would soon shut down as well, the reasoning went.

But the advent of the mechanical ventilator, which pushes air into and out of the lungs, created a new category called brain death, Bernat said.

That led to a whole class of people with warm bodies and circul ating blood — who could even fight off infections or gestate a baby — but who had absolutely no brain function, said Leslie Whetstine, a philosopher at Walsh University in Ohio who studies the definitions of death.

To be declared brain-dead, a person must have irreversibly lost function in all parts of his or her brain. Doctors make that call by performing neurological exams to search for electrical brain activity, or blood circulation to the brain, as well as a test to see if the patient attempts to breathe when the ventilator is turned off.”


OK, you may say “Thank you for the explanation of death. But, I do not understand why you are discussing this on a Karate blog. What has this got to do with Karate or martial arts?”  An excellent question. I am writing this essay to present that there is another definition of the death of a person.

I believe a person is not dead just because a doctor or a legal person defines him or her as dead. Yes, you may have a funeral and the body may be cremated or buried. Despite that a person continues to “live” as long as someone remembers him/her. My parents have physically passed away. But they live, at least, in me. There are other relatives who remember my parents. So, my parents “live” in their memory.



Do you not agree? If you have someone who was dear to you but passed. Does he/she not “live” as long as you remember him/her? I truly believe this. If a person is forgotten by all and no one remembers him/her, then that person is indeed dead for the last time. Some famous people agree with me. For an example, Samuel Butler (above), an English author said “To die completely, a person must not only forget but be forgotten, and he who is not forgotten is not dead.” I share another quote, this time by Tess Gerritsen (left), an American novelist and retired physician: “Only the forgotten are truly dead”. I am sure there are many others as I believe there is undeniable truth in the concept.



This was the very reason why I created an organization, A.S.A.I. (Asai Shotokan Association International), to remember my Karate master, Tetsuhiko Asai. Everyone who knew him agrees that Master Asai was a Karate genius and was one of the greatest Shotokan masters of all time. There are many videos of his actions and he had been featured in many books and magazines.


He passed away in 2006, 12 years ago. Many of the young practitioners, including some black belts, have never heard or seen him, let alone met him. He created many advanced kata. If these kata are not being practiced they will be forgotten. He is known for many unique and devastating techniques such as tenshin, whip arm or leg techniques, close distance fighting method, etc. If they are not practiced, they will also be forgotten.



Shotokan is based on the long distance fighting method such as long stances and techniques. He supplemented Shotokan with the short distance fighting techniques that he had learned from White Crane kung fu while on his stay in Taiwan. This bold change or improvement was dramatic. Many of his karate colleagues did not appreciate it because they could not master those new techniques easily. He had to leave his home, the JKA, to start on his own. He could teach his style only after he had become independent in 2000.


His contribution to karate can be felt and appreciated only when a person learns Asai kata and/or Asai techniques. What you learn is different from what you would learn in a standard Shotokan dojo training. Many of the techniques are challenging but at the same time exciting.


I am sure Master Asai wanted to see that his kata and techniques would be remembered, despite the fact that he might not have expected his name to be remembered. By having his name, ASAI as the name of our organization, I want both his techniques and name to be remembered for many years. I felt this was my responsibility to keep him “alive” by naming my organization with his name. As a result, he will “live” not only within myself but also in the heart of every ASAI member.


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