What is the A in “A-Team”? And what does karate mean in Japanese?

This weekend, the movie box office belongs to “Toy Story 3.” But pop culture has a strange way of sticking around, like a soda bottle on the beach. Consider that two pretty silly slices of entertainment, “The Karate Kid” and “The A-Team”, have been around for more than a quarter of a century.

Since these two are going to be with us on cable and more for the foreseeable future, maybe knowing something substantial about them will help.

What does the A mean in A-Team? U.S. Special Forces calls their field units Operational Detachment-Alphas (ODAs), or A-Teams for short. The answer then is “alpha, sort of.” Real-life A-Teams and the A-Team from Hollywood both have personnel with specialized skills, but the similarities end there. Special Forces units are 12-soldier teams, and they don’t generally drive around in vans or have mohawks.

In the real world, A-Teams are supported by Special Forces B- and C-Teams. The B-Team provides operational support for the A-Team on the ground, and the C-Team is all about coordination.

We all know the word karate, and not just from “The Karate Kid.” In Japanese, karate means “empty hand, bare hand,” emphasizing the use of bare hands in a way similar to the use of weapons.

Does the name of Mr. Miyagi from the original film mean anything? Miyagi is a mountainous area on the island of Honshu.

Is the unusual medical procedure that Jackie Chan’s character performs with cups in the new version of the story a real practice? Cupping (as it is not surprisingly called) is an ancient technique practiced by many cultures, though Western medicine frowns on it. Click here to find out how it is supposed to work.

Will knowing these definitions improve your experience of “Karate Kid” and the “A-Team?” Judging by some reviews of the “A-Team” movie, maybe nothing can.


  1. Mr. Raymond Kenneth Petry -  August 29, 2015 - 1:13 pm

    A-Team, is probably derived from ancient-to-archaic Hebrew, Aleph-team: the strange misconstrual in the story of Moses’ Exodus from Egypt counts alephs afficio-popularly translated as thousands, sometime recognized as tribes, but in fact meant A-teams-worth-a-thousand-of-the-adversary: their techniques for decimating the other-side was remarkable—cutting straight through the frontlines in mere seconds at running-speed and taking-down those generals unsuspecting—and leaving none to report their methods…

    How do we know this—because 13-year-olds saw war up-close but not as confrontally-dangerous as the eldest of the team leading the assault… the youngest-and-last had only to finalize with the sword every last deadman.

  2. wolf tamer and coal miner -  February 9, 2014 - 9:56 pm

    @Paula and @Stacy:
    That’s funny. :D

  3. jdog -  July 12, 2011 - 9:08 am

    this conversation is so randome!

  4. Ashish -  April 19, 2011 - 3:37 am

    Ppl there are 3 teams A-B-C Team bobo… A as in Alpha, B as in Bravo and C as in Charlie.. This is how they group different sections.

  5. tonichi -  October 2, 2010 - 8:36 am

    Arthur on June 19, 2010 at 4:10 am
    “ARMED FORCES” not “Arm Forces.” I hope you did not mean that the “Leg Forces” are the support branch of the Military :) :D.

  6. Ferret -  September 28, 2010 - 8:57 pm

    The B in B-team probably stands for Beta, as A in A-team stands for Alpha.

    Alpha and Beta are the first two letters of the…Latin alphabet? Or was it Greek? Either way, they are the first two letters of an alphabet
    Also, did anyone happen to notice that the new Karate Kid didn’t involve karate at all? It was in China, so the martial arts style of the new Karate Kid is…Kung Fu :)

  7. Ferret -  September 28, 2010 - 8:51 pm

    The word karate does have a meaning behind it, although the meaning is probably contemplated and used in everyday conversation about as much as most people’s names are, if you know what I mean.
    That being said, a lot of names have origins, and the word “karate” does mean “empty hand” or “open hand”(“kara-” meaning empty/open/bare and “-te” meaning hand). This refers to fighting without weapons, literally with “empty hands.”

  8. Elbie -  September 13, 2010 - 6:16 am

    Which would be interesting, except in the pilot episode where they are hired by Amy Amanda Allen and towrds the end, like the triple A so go with The A-Team.

    Arse all to do with anyhitn in the military.

  9. Corey_says_ThankYou -  September 12, 2010 - 5:07 pm

    Stacy and Penny — you are now my heros! :) I literally was rofl.

    um — or heroines, if that is preferred

    um, um — well, if Stacy is the male name in this case, you are now my hero and hero/heroines.

    um^3 — I don’t know any males named Penny, but if…

  10. tralfaz113 -  September 12, 2010 - 7:35 am

    Sylvia and Alan: “Mountaneous” never appeared in this thread until both of you wrote it. The original writing is as follows: “Miyagi is a mountainous area on the island of Honshu.” What do both of you see that we don’t?

  11. Jezza -  September 11, 2010 - 9:44 pm

    there is more than one phonetic alphabet guys. so it might be a bit confusing. there is the NATO & International Aviation, British Forces 1952, RAF 1942-43, Telecom B, British A or International, NY Police, French German, Italian and Spanish phonetic alphebets.http://morsecode.scphillips.com/alphabet.html

  12. BOX OFFICE | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  August 18, 2010 - 2:38 pm

    [...] 3 or the Karate Kid doing Kung Fu — An original writer and one of a kind and did well at the“BOX OFFICE” too. –>>Rupert [...]

  13. MiEcHa -  August 3, 2010 - 3:20 am

    that was so funny u guy…….. :-)

  14. Lasterrrr -  August 2, 2010 - 9:41 pm

    A is for horses, just like C is for fish!

  15. frank -  June 21, 2010 - 12:08 am

    did u say u are fAt????

  16. SoupaDoupaPartiPoupa -  June 20, 2010 - 8:58 pm

    A is for “affogato”. b is for “buns”. c is for “chocolate”. d is for “dorkface”. e is for “enormous”. f is for “fatso”.

  17. Penny -  June 20, 2010 - 8:49 am

    I once wrote to clarify my address:

    My address is Blah Blah Blah
    N.B. xyz
    The letter in reply came to:

    Blah Blah Blah
    N.B. xyz !!!!

  18. BigRob -  June 20, 2010 - 7:28 am

    Alpha is the phonetic alphabet expression of A, it does NOT mean A. In the case of A-Team, A means Team-1 or First Team.

    Good answer Bobbie; not very clear Arthur.

    The purpose of the phonetic alphabet is to avoid confusion. In the English language there are too many letters that sound alike, (b,c,d,e,g,z) especially when relayed over a radio that may not have a completely clear signal. If there is a fire on a ship (one of the most dangerous situations that can occur at sea,) and the call goes out to the fire teams to go to compartment CG-14–saying “Charlie Golf One Four” is much safer. You don’t want the fire fighters to show up at compartment DB-14.

  19. Haido -  June 20, 2010 - 4:05 am

    In Japanese, the word karate is written with two characters, one that means ‘empty’ and the other that means ‘hand’, that is true enough. But it doesn’t “mean” ‘empty hand’ to anyone. It means the martial art, which is known in the West as “karate.” This is rather like saying football means “the human foot” and a “round object.” Actually, it means the sport known (in Japan, for example) as American football.

    Likewise, the name Miyagi is a fairly common surname in Japan. It has nothing to do with the prefecture of the same name in Honshu. People with that surname do not come from Miyagi any more frequently than people named Jackson come from the capital of Mississippi. They just happen to share the name with the place.

  20. Antoine -  June 19, 2010 - 9:45 pm

    You can use “Fox” for the letter F. Once you say “Foxtrot”, it’s common to just say “Fox” after that.

  21. Anthony -  June 19, 2010 - 7:06 pm

    The A-team was my show when I was younger.. watshed heman and than shortly after A-team came on! Loved it!!
    Thanks for the info, always good to know what A-team meant…

  22. Stacy D -  June 19, 2010 - 6:44 pm

    I tried that once, Paula, and got a package addressed to “Sierra Tango Alfasee” -which is where they ran out of room on the label for the rest.

  23. Paula N -  June 19, 2010 - 9:46 am

    Knowing the phonetic alphabet has its benefits. Many phone cust. svc. rep’s know it. On a call with a bad connection, with someone with limited English, it saves a lot of trouble. I have a name with easily-confused letters (N/M, S/F). So I tell the phone rep., “I’ll spell my name phonetically. November Alpha Sierrra Sierra…”

  24. LumbjackNick.com -  June 19, 2010 - 7:04 am

    tried doing a google search for it. Nothing really stands out. Maybe he/she was trying to say “I love you” and they hit the wrong buttons.

  25. armando -  June 19, 2010 - 6:57 am

    someone sent me an im saying “I M4ee you” did not want to seem like i did not know.

  26. armando -  June 19, 2010 - 6:54 am

    what does the word M4ee mean or stand for?

  27. Lumbjack Nick -  June 19, 2010 - 6:48 am

    It’s “Bravo” not “Beta”, and Foxtrot” not “Fox.

    G is “Golf”, L should be “Lumberjack”

  28. Alan Yu -  June 19, 2010 - 6:39 am

    “mountaneous”? I thought it was “mountainous”.

  29. sCOtt -  June 19, 2010 - 6:31 am

    Nice to sit here at work and read this fun banter between idiots… just kidding folks. Thanks Bobbie for the info i did wonder what the correct words were behind the letters. I’m sleepy.

  30. Sylvia -  June 19, 2010 - 5:46 am

    Wow, “mountaneous”? Seriously? It’s “mountainous” according to dictionary.com. ;)

  31. Jman -  June 19, 2010 - 5:39 am

    You are all so funny!

  32. Kiki -  June 19, 2010 - 5:28 am

    Does that make sense? Good answer Arthur, you too Bobbie.

  33. Kiki -  June 19, 2010 - 5:27 am

    You guys, he is simply trying to help us out. The A-team is the first team, and the B-team and C-team supports that team. Just like the alphabet, A B C. It is really quite simple, you do not need a word behind the letter except for A. A means Alpha, Alpha means first in Greek, A is first in the alphabet and the A team is in front and supported by the other letters or teams. And stop calling each other idiots and donkeys.

  34. bobbie -  June 19, 2010 - 5:13 am

    B is for BRAVO not BETA…F is FOXTROT…G-golf, H-Hotel, I-India, J-Juliett, K-Kilo, L-Lima, M-Mike, N-November, O-Oscar, P-Papa, Q-Quebec, R-Romeo, S-Sierra, T-Tango, U-Uniform, V-Victor, W-Whiskey, X-Xray, Y-Yankee & Z-Zulu. Oh yeah, E-EcHo, not Eco. Delta Uniform Hotel!!!

  35. Arthur -  June 19, 2010 - 4:10 am

    Although the “A-Team” answer is good, he makes people confused when he introduce the “B and C Team”. Besides, it’s a lot misleading. The ICAO spelling alphabet, also called the NATO phonetic alphabet or the international radiotelephone spelling alphabet, is the most widely used spelling alphabet. SO A for Alfa, B for Beta, C for Charlie, D for Delta, E for Eco, F for fox etc, etc. And they are use not only for Special Forces but in general for the Arm forces

  36. fred -  June 19, 2010 - 3:49 am

    you are so thickit stands for Bee

  37. bobo -  June 19, 2010 - 3:48 am

    Sick dude!
    what does the B in b-team mean?


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