(Katte kabuto no o wo shimeyo;
“When you win, tighten your helmet-strap”)
A warning to not let down one’s guard even when things seem to be going well or when one seems to have won a fight. Always push all the way through to the finish line. “It’s not over ‘til it’s over” – and don’t be too sure that something’s actually over. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
We begin with the verb 勝つ (katsu), “to win,” in conjunctive form. This allows it to connect to the following clause. This begins with a noun phrase comprising 兜 (kabuto), “helmet” and 緒 (o), “cord,” connected by the associative particle の (no). The particle を (wo) marks this noun phrase as the object of the verb 締める (shimeru) in imperative form, making the entire phrase into a command.
This saying apparently comes to us from third-century BCE Confucian philosopher Xun Kuang.
(“Ano akuhou ga fuseikou ni owatte shimatta kara mochiron ureshii kedo, katte mo kabuto no o wo shimeyou. Yudan shitara kondo no kekka wa dou naru ka wakaranai kara.”)
[“Naturally I’m happy that that evil law failed, but even in victory let’s fix our helmets. There’s no knowing how it will go next time if we let our guard down.”]
(Note: It has come to my attention that last week’s kotowaza did not go up on the site. To make up for the omission, please expect two kotowaza posts this week, arranged to avoid overlap. In the meantime, enjoy a topical example of usage!)