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AikiWeb System
05-18-2006, 11:56 AM
Discuss the article, "A Re-transliteration of Osensei's "Kannagara no Jutsu"" by "The Grindstone" here.

Article URL: http://www.aikiweb.com/columns/thegrindstone/2006_05.html

Erick Mead
05-23-2006, 03:12 PM
Thank you, David, for a worthy effort.

Your choices and critical observations about O-Sensei's text in the original are well thought out. The discussion of them in frank terms does much to make the contemporary issues of O-Sensei's time (yamato damashii, etc.) present and relevant for us today.

What comes clearly forward in your more contemporary rendering is O-Sensei's strikingly plainspoken fervency, and the affirming nature of physical practice in his eyes. This enthusiasm does not come from the esoteric ritualism of Shingon, nor the minimalist negation of Zen, nor even in the sober reverence of jinja Shinto, all of which it is well known that he equally respected. It is an enthusiasm characteristic of some aspects of Japanese culture many Westerners never see, simply because they rarely meet with Japanese where they live.

In this sense, "yamato damashii" has special meaning in my understanding of Japanese culture, and is part and parcel of the special Japanese craft of entering into any field, art or manufacture and infusing the end result with a characteristic spirit and lively touch -- even deadly things. Blending the mundane and the sublime is a very Japanese spirit indeed. Moreover, it is a thought very deeply Christian in sensiblity, if not in consciousness. This thought will will require much further consideration and development.

My background is Catholic (Zen Catholic, my wife calls me), and my undergraduate was in East Asian studes with emphasis in China and Chinese language. I am struck by the text in your translation and its universality of approach and feel to my native religious sensibilites, my affinity for Eastern thought in general, and both Buddhism and Taoism in particular. I do not think that a well-educated bishop, roshi, or shinkan would be troubled, doctrinally, by anything said in it. The references to Omoto seem cursory and not primary, gviing credit for suitable observations but not seeming to advance Omoto doctrine as such. It is a very personal and idiosyncratic expression of feeling about how and why to practice our art.

My sense of O-Sensei's affirming enthusiasm as reflected in the translation does not appear to be a mere artifact of your interpretation, but a true reflection of O-Sensei's original thought. The anecdote of O-Sensei's smiling, train car challenge to Abe Sensei (I think it was; he was then a reigning judo champion) to "Break my finger" bespeaks the same spirit.

The rendering of terms such as "kannagara" more readily captures in English the deeper meanings of this word to O-Sensei's audience, It brings across so much more clearly in context that this deeper meaning was precisely intended by O'Sensei, from a plain reading of the rest.

Thanks for a very valuable effort, deserving of much discussion and further elaboration.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

clwk
05-23-2006, 09:10 PM
David,

Poetic license notwithstanding, I think you mean 'translation' - as opposed to 'transliteration'. On the other hand, maybe one word is as good as the other.

Chhi'mèd

senshincenter
05-24-2006, 12:27 AM
Hi Chhi'med,

You are right, I was playing with the word "transliteration," but I was purposefully rejecting the word "translation." The reason: I was not working with the original Japanese text. It is not at my disposal. So I could not call what I did a translation (even though much of the English translation left key Japanese terms in romanized versions of Japanese). Additionally, the text I was working from was already an English text. I chose the word "re-transliteration" because I was simply trying to take it from an English text to a more readable English text. I was simply re-writing it. In the history of spiritual discourse, this is something that has been done throughout time - re-transcribing things. I saw no reason why not to do it here, while I saw good reason to do it.

Additionally, I wanted to add some context to the piece so that the reader could see how "readability" is always going to go hand in hand with (any) translation. Meaning, even the original translator who brought the text from Japanese to English had to do some "re-transliteration" - he had to filter things through several times, through two languages, several times, to determine what is "literal" and what is not, etc. (e.g. the way he translates Osensei's understanding of certain phrases to be in line with certain fascist thinking of the times, etc.)

Hope you'll excuse my word games.

Thanks for the post,
dmv

clwk
05-24-2006, 01:27 AM
David,

You are right, I was playing with the word "transliteration," but I was purposefully rejecting the word "translation." The reason: I was not working with the original Japanese text. It is not at my disposal. So I could not call what I did a translation (even though much of the English translation left key Japanese terms in romanized versions of Japanese). Additionally, the text I was working from was already an English text. I chose the word "re-transliteration" because I was simply trying to take it from an English text to a more readable English text. I was simply re-writing it.

The problem (if you see this as a problem) is that the word 'transliteration' already has a meaning in the English language, and it does not mean what you have done. Since your intention is to rectify the assignment of English language words to Japanese language terms, the reader might be inspired to greater confidence in your choices if you displayed a greater resistance to displacing the existing definitions of the words you choose. I think 'reinterpretation' is a more accurate word for this rendition.

In the history of spiritual discourse, this is something that has been done throughout time - re-transcribing things.

There you go again. I realize you're not trying to be rigorous about the language you are using here, but it almost sounds like you are intentionally choosing words which would obscure the actual provenance of your text. To your credit, you are being open about what you have done, but consider that eventually this context may be lost; and some future reader will be puzzling over 'the Way of God'.

I saw no reason why not to do it here, while I saw good reason to do it.


I would feel more comfortable if the body of the text contained the information quoted above. Specifically, that this text was not based on a Japanese original, but is an interpretation of an English translation with some embedded Japanese; and that you were inspired to reorganize and reword it because you objected to the translation of those embedded phrases.

Additionally, I wanted to add some context to the piece so that the reader could see how "readability" is always going to go hand in hand with (any) translation. Meaning, even the original translator who brought the text from Japanese to English had to do some "re-transliteration" - he had to filter things through several times, through two languages, several times, to determine what is "literal" and what is not, etc. (e.g. the way he translates Osensei's understanding of certain phrases to be in line with certain fascist thinking of the times, etc.)


David, do you not see that you've done it yet again? When you write 'original translator', you suggest that your text is also a translation - even though you have just told me that you rejected the word 'translation' to describe the process.

I do not particularly mean to quibble over trivialities. I brought this up because:

1) You are playing light and loose with the meaning of words *while in the process of tinkering with a translator's choices* and admittedly without access to the primary source.

2) You present yourself publicly as a scholar, and therefore the attachment of your name to this text - particularly without further explanation - may lead readers to believe the document represents something other than what it does.

At least the clarifications you have provided in this exchange will make clear your process for readers here, but it would be intellectually honest to acknowledge the nature of the internet. Inevitably this document will appear somewhere else without these explanatory remarks, and it *will not* be entirely clear that this is not an independent translation (or 'transliteration' or 'transcription' or whatever). For that reason, I think it would be an admirable gesture if you amended the title of your article and included (either in a footnote or as an introductory explanation) a description of the actual process by which you wrote this text: i.e., it is a reinterpretation of an English translation inspired by your dissatisfaction with that translation - based in part on the Japanese phrases left remaining in it, in part on the organization of the text itself, and perhaps on some other factors.

I hate to be such a spoil-sport, but if your motivation is based on a perception of the 'original' translation as confusing, you owe it to your readers not to add to the confusion with your own text.

Chhi'mèd

Jory Boling
05-24-2006, 03:14 AM
While I did enjoy reading the article (which I'll have to reread again and again), I was confused by the title. I expected a new way to write some kotodama or something. But then again, it also just showed my ignorance to what Osensei's "Kannagar no Jutsu" is.

Erick Mead
05-24-2006, 10:19 AM
David, do you not see that you've done it yet again? When you write 'original translator', you suggest that your text is also a translation - even though you have just told me that you rejected the word 'translation' to describe the process. In my view what he has done is neither a translation nor a "transliteration" but a constructive criticism of the English translation he used as his reference point, with additional reference to some portions of romaji provided in the original translated text. His point is that that the existing translation in English leaves somehting to be desired, and he critically approaches those questions with his suggested changes.

I agree with him that an overly literal rendition of Japanese into English results, at worst, in a broken, pidginish translation, and even when done at a very high level (as he contends was the case of the original translation into English), may miss key aspects of the cultural allusions necessary to support the meaning (both Japanese and English).

David's effort is a valid criticism of the translated English. The best response would be a parallel criticism of the original English translation by a Japanese-speaker with reference to the original kanji/kana text. I have enough knowledge of kanji to analyze those key references, but only a rudimentary grasp of either system of kana for a complete translation. And in any event, native knowledge would be necessary to parse references such as "saniwa", in proper context.

As I have said, I find it to be an important insight into O-Sensei's thought, and worth the effort because of the way it bridges seeming gaps between different systems of ethics/religious practice, without syncretizing them, as Omoto did. If the original Japanese supports David's critical reading, it would make aikido even more approachable than it already is in a variety of places around the world.

Does anyone have the original kanji/kana version to make available to Jun for publication here? That would be a more productive use of our time than criticism of the criticism of the translation. The point of the primary text can get lost in a morass of layered references.

Jun, if you are listening, can we put out a general call for that.?

Cordially,
Erick Mead

George S. Ledyard
05-24-2006, 10:42 AM
David,
Very nice job. I think it is very difficult in the West for most folks to understand the way in which O-Sensei viewed our training. Interestingly, the top Systema teachers, Vasiliev and Ryabko, actually have very similar ideas about what is going on during training to the way O-Sensei seems to have understood it. Michael Ryabko can often be heard talking quietly as he works with a partner. He is praying. It is my understanding that the top Systema folks view their practice as a way to bring themselves into accord with God's Will. That certainly fits with how O-Sensei viewed training.

These days we have a split occurring in our country in which increasing numbers of people describe themselves as "not religious" but as "spiritual". This individual re-invention of the individual's spirituality has both positives and negatives. The danger is that with people being able to pick and choose whatever hodge-podge of ideas they believe in, one can find that practice becomes less about bringing oneself into accord with the Will of the Kami but more about structuring ones views to fit ones pre-conceptions.

This is one of the reasons I believe that O-Sensei should be kept at the forefront of our thinking about what Aikido should be. We all tend to try to suit Aikido to ourselves rather than use Aikido to change us. This is hollow and simply results in a kind of "feel good" practice. Real personal change requires dedication and commitment but is especially requires the warrior's attitude to face the "death" of who we think we are. Training hard without a spiritual underpinning such as described by O-Sensei simply results in getting stronger and tougher. Changing the training by putting the major emphasis on "affirmation", which is easy to do as it makes for a happy dojo with lots of students, takes away any real impetus to change on any deeper level.

O-Sensei talked in this lecture about bringing the opposites together. Aikido seems to have split into two groups: one which sees Aikido as a spiritual practice and one which sees Aikido as a martial art. These two groups generally look at each other with distaste... "those guys are just brutes" or "they're just a bunch of aiki fruities". Neither group understands that what they have done is removed the part of Aikido which makes them uncomfortable. They have shaped the practice to fit themselves and ignored the part that might have forced them to make some substantive personal change. Neither f these approaches fits what O-sensei meant, I think, when he talked about training to put oneself in accord with the Will of the Kami.

Don_Modesto
05-24-2006, 12:46 PM
These days we have a split occurring in our country in which increasing numbers of people describe themselves as "not religious" but as "spiritual". This individual re-invention of the individual's spirituality has both positives and negatives. The danger is that with people being able to pick and choose whatever hodge-podge of ideas they believe in, one can find that practice becomes less about bringing oneself into accord with the Will of the Kami but more about structuring ones views to fit ones pre-conceptions....etc

George,

You do have a knack for language. Very nicely said.

When can we expect a book?

dps
05-24-2006, 12:54 PM
George,

You do have a knack for language. Very nicely said.

When can we expect a book?

My thoughts exactly.

senshincenter
05-24-2006, 04:09 PM
Hi All,

Erick and George, I think you grasped what I was trying to do perfectly.

Erick, I couldn't agree with you more - especially concerning the next step to make now that this one has been made. If we could ever get our hands on the original text (remembering that Osensei was speaking this lecture), I'd love to collaborate with you on translating it.

George, I'm right there with you on everything you said, especially the part about how this all relates to what Systema is doing. My own practice, particularly within spontaneous training environments (which coincidentally is both how Systema and Osensei demonstrates), has always felt like a moving prayer - on top of finding such thoughts and words on my mind and upon my lips as well. It's the first time I've ever heard of such things elsewhere.

Chhi'mèd, again, an important post. Thanks for making it. I think you've brought up several points that need to be addressed - this though I can say that Erick has aptly replied. I would like to also reply, because I want to use what you said to discuss what I consider to be the whole point of this column. I am having to write that reply between classes today, so I am looking to get it up on here by this evening or by tomorrow at the latest. Again - thanks for posting. Good job.

Take care all, talk more later,
dmv

clwk
05-24-2006, 05:51 PM
David,

I think you've brought up several points that need to be addressed - this though I can say that Erick has aptly replied.
I was going to let Erick's post slide since I did not think it was directly responsive, but if you feel it is, I'll comment briefly.

Erick wrote: [I don't understand the quoting markup, obviously.]
In my view what he has done is neither a translation nor a "transliteration" but a constructive criticism of the English translation he used as his reference point, with additional reference to some portions of romaji provided in the original translated text. His point is that that the existing translation in English leaves somehting to be desired, and he critically approaches those questions with his suggested changes.
That's all just fine. I have no issue with whatever exercises anyone may wish to perform. I was simply pointing out that it is probably most beneficial to label such exercises as accurately as possible so as not to mislead those who encounter them. This is, perhaps, somewhat analogous to the use of 'kata' in the dojo. Hopefully we can all agree (without having to elaborate ad nauseum) that confusion about what one is seeing or doing does not add to the value of educational exercises.

Although I do happen to object to the content of the article, that is not the objection I voice here. My only objection is that the text is presented in such a way as to confuse the issue of what it actually represents. My initial reaction was mild bemusement that an article so concerned with engineering language and word choices would have so inappropriately worded its own title: it does not lend to your credibility as a translator - or as a selector of English alternatives.

At this point, I understand quite well the exercise you performed, and it is your right to have done so. A little more attention to exposition and clarity would have resolved in advance the issues I raised, but hey - who really cares? The only reason defense of the choice not to clearly label sticks out in my mind is that it makes me wonder what ulterior purpose might be served by the default confusion created by not doing so. If it was in fact a harmless organizational or wording error, a simple "mea culpa" would close the question. Complicated or evasive rhetoric just piques cynical curiosity.

Chhi'mèd

Demetrio Cereijo
05-24-2006, 05:58 PM
Very interesting and illustrative thread.

I hope David shows a bit of "compassion" with non native english speakers in his next posts.
:)

Erick Mead
05-24-2006, 08:52 PM
These days we have a split occurring in our country in which increasing numbers of people describe themselves as "not religious" but as "spiritual". This individual re-invention of the individual's spirituality has both positives and negatives. The danger is that with people being able to pick and choose whatever hodge-podge of ideas they believe in, one can find that practice becomes less about bringing oneself into accord with the Will of the Kami but more about structuring ones views to fit ones pre-conceptions. I come from a traditional Catholic background, but I believe that this sentiment is as true in that tradition as it is in Zen, Shingon, Tendai, Shinto or any other spiritual exercise of any useful duration.

Longevity is a test of utility in any spiritual exercise -- that is living tradition.

I would note too, and this echoes Ledyard Sensei, that the root meaning of "religion" is Latin "religere" = "to bind fast" or "to moor" as with a boat. To lose religion is to lose the things that bind us to one another. But even considering it indivdually the loss of religious tradition, of all kinds, is concerning.

Tradition is the keel of the boat, mystic contemplation the sails.

Many first realize the need for spirtual support in dire times. With tradition the boat can be steered safely away from rocks even when you find yourself directly upwind of them. Without tradition the boat will inexorably be blown downwind and end up on the rocks. The wind of spirit neither cares about nor is impacted by the rocks. You are not so lucky. With tradition you can steer your way toward safe harbor from storms.

If your situation is less precarious, you may not realize the peril so soon, but the boat lacks the same control before the inexorable wind of spirit. You may simply be swept out to sea, far from your necessary support, drown in the upset of unsheltered tempests or merely die of thirst surrounded by unending, and undrinkable water.

Spiritual exercises are not trifles or things to be dallied with unwisely. They change you. Wisdom exists in traditions and the experiences (good and bad) of others (wise or foolish) that they make available to learn from. Spirituality apart from a viable tradition is exceedingly dangerous.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

senshincenter
05-24-2006, 09:36 PM
Chhi'mèd,

Again, thanks for posting.

I am still working on the reply that will let you know exactly why I used the word "re-transliteration." Please forgive my delay. In the meantime...

(Let us note here that you have two main points to your posts: 1) That the word “re-transliteration” makes no sense, is wrongly used, etc; and 2) That folks are going to be misled into believing they are hearing Osensei’s thoughts when they are not. It is in my later post that I will address your first criticism. In that post, you will see that you are right, there are ulterior motives regarding the title of my column. I will bring those to light, as those are my only reasons for writing this piece. Here, in this post, I will address your second criticism.)

I agree with what Erick said - true. I do think he is addressing some of your points - the ones you are openly mentioning. That is to say, he is able to understand the exercise right on the money - without any of the difficulties you say are present, etc. Specifically, he is right when he says:

"In my view what he has done is neither a translation nor a 'transliteration' but a constructive criticism of the English translation he used as his reference point, with additional reference to some portions of romaji provided in the original translated text. His point is that that the existing translation in English leaves something to be desired, and he critically approaches those questions with his suggested changes."

While I will be hoping to take this thread in a different direction (via my other reply), explaining why I used the word "re-transliteration" (which is no word at all), I do see here that Erick has understood the "how" of what I was doing. As I said, this he has done perfectly. In understanding the "how" of what I was doing, I do think he has addressed your "concern" over translations. In short, while you have rightly expressed or hinted at the great risk toward ignorance that could come from poorly researched translations, such a risk is not relevant here.

It is not relevant here because, first, this is not a translation (i.e. Erick’s point), and, second, (and this is most important for those that wish to "protect" the "sanctity" of Osensei's words) this text says nothing different than what the English translation says. All of the key ideas are present – none have been omitted; no new ideas have been added; etc. The main points are all the same. This is how Osensei DID understand his practice and how he attempted to explain it to others that openly asked him, “What is your practice like?”

The key words I translated differently are the only real differences and all they do is bring consistency to the lecture. They do not change the meaning of the lecture. Moreover, the new translations of these key words that I proposed are by far more accurate than what was offered in the first translation of these terms. In all but one of these cases, the kanji do not need to be seen because the words in question are very commonly known. In these cases, it is the English translation (the one at AikidoJournal.com) that has made the extra effort to misunderstand Osensei (and to lead others astray).

Additionally, we have to note that this was a lecture given by Osensei. In all likelihood, the source of the translation was not a text written by Osensei at all. The tone and rhythm of the text strongly suggests that Osensei was speaking this lecture with no notes, or at most from only casual notes. It hardly points toward Osensei reading a lecture. Thus, the text to be translated was most likely a transcription written by someone else – someone set to note Osensei’s discussion for the sake of posterity. In that case, the translator did not did not have Osensei’s kanji at his disposal either. (This is particularly important for the remaining term I offered to translate: “saniwa.”)

“Saniwa” is the only translation that might prove to be different – and this might is a very small “might.” I discuss this in a footnote. Additionally, to play it safe, I chose an English word that is both close to the word in the translation and my own possible suggestion. This “might” gets smaller still. The only reason I am saying “might” at all is that the translator is obviously referring to a part of the early founding myths of Japan. In all likelihood, the “saniwa” of “medium” is simply an extension of the “saniwa” of these myths. However, because these founding myths are ancient in their transcription, there is a small chance that some evolution in the kanji has taken place. This does not mean the meaning has changed, or even that the transcription in question would be able to show such change, but a good translation is always going to mark such possible evolutions. This “might” gets smaller still. Remember, this was a lecture, and, most likely, the translator was working with a transcription. Meaning, it is very unlikely that Osensei wrote the word out for his audience, saying, “This is the ‘saniwa’ I mean.” Thus, in all likelihood, even if there was some sort of evolution in the kanji of Japan’s ancient myths, Osensei did mean “medium” when he said “saniwa” – for he certainly did not mean to literally point to some extraordinary realm thought to exist between Heaven and Earth. Thus, even in this case, I still would opt for my translation of “saniwa” over the one offered in the English translation of the lecture.

So, while you suggest there is a chance here to “mislead” folks, etc., it is not only not relevant, it is not present. It is not present because for the most part my text is saying nothing different than what the English translation is saying. You can see that for yourself by reading the translation over at AikidoJournal.com. Additionally, if there is a chance to mislead folks, it lies only with the English translation, which has made use of obviously poor translations regarding key terms. In other words, if you want to read my effort as a translation, you would have to read it as a better translation than the one currently in use and claiming to be the words of Osensei. The dangers you claim to be heading off lie in the translation, not in my work.

Again, please be patient, I should have that reply posted by tomorrow. It will explain why I used the non-word “re-transliterate” in such an odd manner. Again, thank you.

dmv

clwk
05-24-2006, 10:17 PM
David,

So, while you suggest there is a chance here to "mislead" folks, etc., it is not only not relevant, it is not present. It is not present because for the most part my text is saying nothing different than what the English translation is saying. You can see that for yourself by reading the translation over at AikidoJournal.com. Additionally, if there is a chance to mislead folks, it lies only with the English translation, which has made use of obviously poor translations regarding key terms. In other words, if you want to read my effort as a translation, you would have to read it as a better translation than the one currently in use and claiming to be the words of Osensei. The dangers you claim to be heading off lie in the translation, not in my work.


Regarding my second point which you are addressing. Let me just clarify that I am not concerned with the degree to which you are twisting or not twisting the speaker's words. My only concern (which arose only through this discussion) is that it is far from clear that your text is a 'rewrite' of an existing English text, without reference to primary sources. Your text could be infinitely better, clearer, and more accurate than the original without lessening this point. You say that this is not relevant, but I can only assume this means you misunderstand my point.

All I'm saying is that, however clever, apt, or otherwise impeccable your piece may be: it is in fact somewhat confusing because it leaves the reader uncertain as to quite what you have done. Actually, it might not be confusing at all - but to the extent it is not, then it is misleading. Let's take a simple example. There has been quite a bit of discussion about whether or not various translation of the Doha are as accurate as they could be. Suppose someone were to take it upon themselves, based on their understanding of the subject matter, to 're-transliterate' the Doha, using an existing translation as a base, and without reference to the originals. If they simply labeled this work with the enigmatic adjective 're-transliteration', and did not explain the process they had used, this would be misleading.

Even if the new text were, in the author's (and even everyone else in the world's) opinion - it would seem entirely appropriate to label it for what it would be. I fail to see how the confusion created by not doing so would be 'not relevant'.

It's possible we're talking past each other, and you think I'm accusing you of something more sinister than obfuscation. On the other hand, maybe you understand me perfectly. If I am missing something, I will be happy let it go. Can you point me to the portion of your text which makes it clear that you are essentially paraphrasing - as opposed to translating? If not, are you really saying that you feel this information is irrelevant?

Thanks,
Chhi'mèd

senshincenter
05-25-2006, 02:27 AM
Hi Chhi'mèd,

Let me say again that you have made good posts – important post. I am very grateful. You have done a lot to assist me in accomplishing what I wanted to accomplish with this month’s Grindstone article. Please do not feel like I am expecting or wanting you to “let go.” I do not feel I have to agree with you for your opinion to be a very worthy part of this thread – for this indeed how I see it. In other words, it is impossible for me to feel like you ever could be “beating a dead horse” here.

Acknowledging again that my piece is clearly more accurate in its translation of key terms (not just “could be”), while also remembering that I did not add or subtract any of the key ideas found in the translation, I can see two points then in what you have elaborated upon in your last post to me. First, there is this sense that it is just “wrong” to not say up front whether one is translating or not. Second, there is this sense, somewhat connected to the first, that folks are somehow being misled and that somehow through this misleading they are being negatively impacted. I am deducing this since in the common understanding of the word no one is ever “misled” to more truth or to any kind of better existence. In addition, I am pulling this out of your example, when you attached the issue of “accuracy” to the hypothetical “re-transliteration” you spoke of. In that example, you were suggesting that folks were being misled to see the non-accurate as accurate. Finally, I read this second idea in your post where you mentioned the downside of the Internet, etc. I mention these things here because I want to make it clear how I understand you. If you feel I am missing something, please clear me up – I would be most appreciative.

If this is what you have said…

I feel I addressed your second point in my last post – as best I can at least. If I have failed to convince you that no one is being misled to a place worse off than they were before (e.g. from accuracy to non-accuracy), it is not due to your lack of understanding but to my own failure to express myself better. If that has proven to be the case, please allow me to disagree or to at least agree to disagree with you on this matter.

On the first criticism however, I would agree with your point if I were setting out to do a scholastic work. Alternately, I would agree with your first point if Aikido had a true sense of doctrine and if somehow I was a part of the institution responsible for the transmission of that doctrine. Both of these purposes are served by aligning themselves with objective credibility – no matter how delusional. However, my piece is hardly scholastic (as any scholar would immediately know), and Aikido, to this date at least, has no doctrine or any institution responsible for producing doctrine.

My piece is nothing more than the explorations of a fellow practitioner. I say this while noting all that Erick and George have said. Meaning, I'm not advocating a free for all. My piece is not a free for all – far from it. This I can say because its message remains the same as the English translation and because its translations (of key terms) are in fact a rejection of the “free for all” that gave the English translation many of it own English terms (starting with its title!). Yet, while not a free for all, my piece remains part of a very personal exploration. That is to say: My piece is not in total an attempt to escape or to distance myself from my own subjectivity.

Religious and/or spiritual traditions of all kinds are built up by such explorations (even Tibetan ones). These explorations do not work to the detriment of a tradition – they are how traditions are built (because they are built by no other means). Such explorations go in and out of use; they are changed many times; they are lost and re-found; they are discredited and re-credited; names are attached to them and names are unattached from them; etc. I do not see this in as negative a light as you may. I do not dread the things you do in regards to any of this. We are different in that sense, and so it may very well be that we are talking past each other.

For me, practitioners make traditions – it is not the case, at least not until a tradition has experienced its “museum death,” that traditions make practitioners or that scholars "make" traditions. For me, Aikido has not experienced its museum death – it is a tradition that is very much alive and as such, I am very much in the process of not only making it but of making it my own. For this reason, I do not feel so inclined to do what you suggest and/or to see it as the “right” thing to do. (Assuming I have understood you correctly.) I do not mean to be contrary here; this is just how I understand things. The fact that my piece keeps the same meaning as the English translation, and that its translations of key terms are obviously superior to those found in the English translation, only reinforces my belief that I do not have to worry about what you are asking me to worry about. Please forgive. It is not that what you say is not related to what we are discussing; it is that what you request is not relevant to me. Regardless, by all means, please feel free to point out, as many times as you feel necessary, where ever you feel necessary, that my piece is not a translation of an original Japanese text. As I do not see how me adopting the worries you suggest would add anything to what I have done, I do not hold that you sharing your concerns with all would take anything away from what I have done. As I said, I am most grateful for your posts. They are serving a very great purpose here.

As to your last point: It is true. There is no portion in the piece that directly says, “I am not working with the original Japanese text (even if there likely wasn’t one).” As you can deduce from above, as I have given my reasons why, I see no need to say such a thing. However, I also cannot see how or why someone would think that they were reading a translation of an original Japanese text since a translation would not look like my article – not even a poorly researched one.

Translations, even poorly researched ones, such as the English translation I am problematizing, just speak. They do not offer points of reflection or matters for consideration like I have done in the footnotes to the article. For example, like the English translation has done, they just go ahead and translate “Kannagara no Jutsu” as “The Art of Shinto” (as questionable as that is). In other words, in my opinion, it should be clear that mine is a work of literary criticism and not a translation. It should be clear that the main target of my article is the discursive substructure of the English translation itself; that I am not setting out to provide THE authoritative English rendition of Osensei’s lecture, “Kannagara no Jutsu” (if the lecture even had a title!).

In my opinion, this can be done while not having to suspend the entire translation in doubt. I am more than willing to accept its suggested overall meaning, and I have. This is another reason why I have not set out to translate the lecture again. However, I have found the English translation’s un-readability and its obvious inconsistency of thought to point NOT toward the usual claimed difficulty of Osensei’s ideas as much as to a discursive misalignment regarding context. In other words, I am setting out to suggest that the common context in which Osensei has been understood is the wrong context. As has noted, I have started this process by providing better translations of key terms (i.e. translations garnered from context of Osensei’s thought found elsewhere in the English translation and from the context of Omoto-kyo theology, as opposed to those derived from the context of early 20th century Japanese fascist rhetoric – which the English translation has used) and by bringing readability back to the lecture in question, etc.

Please understand, it is no “coincidence” that “Kannagara no Jutsu” was chosen for this act of literary criticism. I was not out to translate something just because it was the words of the Founder. This lecture was prime for this exercise. Not only did the lecture deal with the topic of Osensei’s understanding of his own practice (i.e. this is most likely as central as one is going to get concerning what Aikido was to Osensei), but the translation of the lecture, in translating key terms into English while sharing the respective Romanized versions of the Japanese, exposed how much context was playing a part in keeping Osensei’s ideas vague or ambiguous (i.e. entirely open to any interpretation) – ultimately irrelevant.

Outside of this exercise, outside of this discussion, outside of what it means to me to be a practitioner of Aikido, I have little control over what happens to what I have written and chosen to share with others. For example, I can see your last point more clearly if someone in some distant future took away my footnotes, took my title away, took my name off the piece, made no reference to this thread, and then if you or others were not there to tell them that the piece is not a translation. However, I have to wonder why they could not and would not also just remove the line saying, “Warning: Not a translation.” On the other hand, if folks then reading it came to be misled, misled to see this act of literary criticism as a translation, I wonder if they would end up in a better place or in a worse place. Thinking on that: Though they would completely be misunderstanding my point, I am afraid I think they would end up in a better place for having thusly been misled. I am not saying this to belittle your position. It is just how I feel – both helpless and yet without worry.

I still owe you my answer concerning the points you made on the word “re-transliterate.” I will have to dedicate more time to it, so if you reply to anything said in this post, I will have to address that after I have finished my other reply. Please excuse any delay that might occur. It is not that I will have chosen to ignore you but that I choosing to treat your opinion and your mind seriously and with respect - as is deserved.

Kindest regards,
dmv

Erick Mead
05-25-2006, 10:35 AM
Additionally, we have to note that this was a lecture given by Osensei. In all likelihood, the source of the translation was not a text written by Osensei at all. The tone and rhythm of the text strongly suggests that Osensei was speaking this lecture with no notes, or at most from only casual notes. It hardly points toward Osensei reading a lecture. Thus, the text to be translated was most likely a transcription written by someone else -- someone set to note Osensei's discussion for the sake of posterity. In that case, the translator did not did not have Osensei's kanji at his disposal either. In fact, by its terms it was only a spoken lecture, e.g. --"This evening I would like to give a simple talk in response to requests from you, the students. Lectures on bujutsu are never about anything that one can really talk or write about."

The same is the case with "Takemusu Aiki". That was transcribed and edited by Hideo Takahashi of the Byakko Shinkokai and the AJ English verision was translated by Sonoko Tanaka. It is available in the original transcriber's text, here: http://www.aikikai.or.jp/eng/publication/publication.htm

The "Kannagara no jutsu" English translation is plainly from a similar transcription. The text does not tell where the talk was given or to whom. Peter Goldsbury may have means to find this out.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

clwk
05-25-2006, 12:25 PM
David,

Second, there is this sense, somewhat connected to the first, that folks are somehow being misled and that somehow through this misleading they are being negatively impacted. I am deducing this since in the common understanding of the word no one is ever "misled" to more truth or to any kind of better existence.


There are two unrelated issues here. One is the question of whether your text is 'better' than the one it modifies. You keep assuring me that it is unequivocally better, and I keep completely ignoring the point. I have not even read the original text because the extent to which you have improved it is irrelevant to the second question. I would point out though that assurances from an author that what he has done is valid are somewhat superfluous. We can assume you like what you have done and feel that it is valid, etc. - so your repeating that opinion as an argument does not add much. If you wanted to elevate the claim to more than an opinion, you would probably need to accept the idea that your piece should be rigorous in its attributions.

The second issue is whether it is misleading to present a text which 'appears' to be a re-worked translation intended as a critical commentary of an existing translation, but which is in fact, no more or less than a critical commentary and re-envisioning of the existing translation. I believe it is misleading. You seem to agree that it could be misleading, but that this is negated by the fact that since your text represents 'more truth' and leads to a 'better kind of existence' - this is okay. I think we understand each other now. I think the two questions are independent. Not only do I think it is a bad idea to mislead on one point in order to 'benefit' on the other - it seems totally unnecessary.

Outside of this exercise, outside of this discussion, outside of what it means to me to be a practitioner of Aikido, I have little control over what happens to what I have written and chosen to share with others. For example, I can see your last point more clearly if someone in some distant future took away my footnotes, took my title away, took my name off the piece, made no reference to this thread, and then if you or others were not there to tell them that the piece is not a translation. However, I have to wonder why they could not and would not also just remove the line saying, "Warning: Not a translation."

I think you are making this far too complicated. What it comes down to is this: based on the text as it is, it was unclear to me what it represented when I read it - now, in context. I did not research the AJ article alluded to in your footnote, nor did I spend long hours pondering what poetic meaning you might have ascribed to the opaque word 're-transliterate'. Based on my best guess, I assumed you had found the original source of a translation to which you objected, and had re-translated that source to include the changes you have documented. I do not claim to be the sharpest tool in the shed, or to possess flawless reading comprehension. Nevertheless, I feel that if I could be confused by this (without any of the future confusing factors you mention having to have occurred), it's quite likely that others will be confused over it at some present or future time also. Since you yourself agree that the article does not in fact contain the necessary explanation, I think this is a reasonable point.

Certainly as an author, you may say what you want - but your attitude that since you do not object to me repeating myself on this point, you are thereby absolved of any responsibility to say it yourself, makes little sense to me. I have no desire to take responsibility for the future understanding of every possible reader of your text. To negate my criticism by saying that the criticism removes its own basis (by providing the missing information) is like refusing to amend a food label - on the basis that the complaining party has himself solved the problem by publicly pointing it out. Since, as you point out, the article is 'hardly scholastic' you have no obligation to be clear about your sources. I would have thought, given the authoritative tone of the footnotes, that you might *want* your readers to have a clear and straightforward basis for understanding what you have done - in order that it represent a clean step in shaping tradition, a motivation your self-consciously claim.

On the other hand, if folks then reading it came to be misled, misled to see this act of literary criticism as a translation, I wonder if they would end up in a better place or in a worse place. Thinking on that: Though they would completely be misunderstanding my point, I am afraid I think they would end up in a better place for having thusly been misled. I am not saying this to belittle your position. It is just how I feel -- both helpless and yet without worry.


I guess this is where we differ. You feel that creation of a misleading text cannot be problematic, as long as the results of this deception (what else can you call it, if you intentionally mislead someone - for their benefit or not) are positive - both in your opinion, and in the opinion of at least several other Aikiweb posters. Personally, I feel that messing around with texts in order to deceive people for their own benefit is a sketchy business. The word that comes to mind is 'propaganda'.

I suppose whomever decided, once upon a time, to suppress Aikido's connection with Daito Ryu probably felt that this was a deception which would ultimately serve the Founder's higher purposes, and thereby benefit the inheritors of that information. Nevertheless, I am grateful to Stanley Pranin's work in recovering as much unvarnished historical information as possible so that we later practitioners can form opinions based on somewhat reasonable information.

It would be very easy for you to have included, as the introduction to your article a sentence explaining the article's source. This would be more than a 'warning' that the work was not a translation. It would place the work in context and could hardly detract from your purpose unless deceit, however benevelont, is part of the goal. Even this might have been unnecessary if the title of the work had been sufficiently accurate or comprehensible.

Such explorations go in and out of use; they are changed many times; they are lost and re-found; they are discredited and re-credited; names are attached to them and names are unattached from them; etc. I do not see this in as negative a light as you may.


The things you describe are either products of historical confusion, or of slightly devious intention. I am not advocating a hyper-purist stance in which the realities of traditions are not accounted for. I am simply pointing out that lost, changed, and reconstituted information will come about over time; and if as information producers we have any obligation, it is to help minimize the confusion we know will arise over our words. We do not need to help it along on the basis that we do not view modifications to traditions as negative.

I appreciate that responding to my complaints gives you a further opportunity to explain the tradition-shaping rôle you see yourself as playing here. All I can gather from what you have said is that you feel comfortable identifying your piece as a mildly deceptive (misleading), but (in your opinion) helpful piece of writing. If it were me, I would prefer to eliminate the deceptive component, but I will not lose any sleep over your decision not to.

Chhi'mèd

senshincenter
05-25-2006, 04:07 PM
Hi Chhi'mèd

You wrote:

"There are two unrelated issues here. One is the question of whether your text is 'better' than the one it modifies. You keep assuring me that it is unequivocally better, and I keep completely ignoring the point. I have not even read the original text because the extent to which you have improved it is irrelevant to the second question. I would point out though that assurances from an author that what he has done is valid are somewhat superfluous. We can assume you like what you have done and feel that it is valid, etc. - so your repeating that opinion as an argument does not add much. If you wanted to elevate the claim to more than an opinion, you would probably need to accept the idea that your piece should be rigorous in its attributions."

Please, let us say that nothing is more superfluous than speaking about things or in the name of things that one has not even read. ;)

The improvements I made to the text, concerning the translations of key terms, do not change the meaning of the translation that you have not read. Before you assume differently, or before you assume I am just wishing this to be true, you should probably read the English translation. My translations of key terms do not give the piece a lesser accuracy because they do not change the overall meaning of the lecture. It is clear in both pieces that Osensei's placed God at the center of his efforts and that he is advising us to do the same if we want to have an art like his art. Additionally, assuming you do not speak or read Japanese and/or that your are not familiar with the religious and cultural history of Japan, please let me point out that my translations are not of my own whim. For example, no scholar in the field worth their salt would have ever translated "Kannagara no Jutsu" as "The Art of Shinto." My translations, when not taken from Osensei's own elaboration or from Omoto-kyo theology, are field standards. They are not the products of my own fancy and I am not just wishing them to be accurate -- certainly not in the way that you are just wishing for them to be inaccurate.

You are mistaking my openness and my willingness to engage your ideas for a confession. I have disagreed with your points because they exist only upon assumptions. I am allowing them to be "real," but only for you. Moreover, I was very clear concerning under what minimalistic conditions I would concede your worries -- under what extremely rare conditions your worries might exist elsewhere than in your own mind. Outside of that, I have not agreed with your suggestions that I am being deceitful or misleading -- neither purposefully nor incidentally. Rather, I have rejected them up front -- through and through -- from the time you spoke as if you have read the translation to the time in which you acknowledged that you have not. I also imagine that I will be rejecting them from the time you spoke as if you knew field standard translations until the time that you may acknowledge that you do not.

You seemed to have universalized your own experience and disguised it all with claims of helping people and doing the right thing, etc. -- this though you have never said and cannot say what you are saving people from (especially since you did not read the English translation and seem unable to recognize which translations are field standards and which are not). You talk about "misleading" and "deception" and you can only hint in the spaces between your words on what this might mean and why we should avoid it (i.e. you cannot show what is accurate and non-accurate, what is different and what is the same, etc.). In openness again, I can see your point if you were able to determine accuracy from inaccuracy, I can see then the motivation of saving folks from being misled to inaccuracy. However, without that skill, or without even taking the time to read the English translation, I must wonder why you simply could not say, "My preference is for a disclaimer," why you felt the need to bring up "saving folks."

Additionally, I wonder, why not just be satisfied with making the disclaimer yourself. Why so pressed to have me make it? Without you having the means or (possibly) the ability to distinguish accuracy from inaccuracy, all I can see is that you are very much into doxa and/or the various economies and types of cultural capital that go hand in hand with determining what is authoritative and what is not. At a personal level, it seems the Founder's words are central to a cultural economy you have chosen to participate in. Accepting that I very well could be wrong, it seems like there is much at stake for you here and that you are at a critical junction not only because of what I have not done but because, for you, the message of said lecture was better left unclear, vague, and difficult to read. It seems that you object to the message of the lecture, and now that it is readable, the only cultural economic move you can make is to get me to say that I said it and not Osensei. You must realize, if anything would be misleading it would be this since it would clearly give the impression that I have said something different from what Osensei said (assuming here that the English translation at AikidoJournal.com is accurate) -- which is 100% inaccurate. I mention this here because if this does prove to be relevant then this will be one more reason why we do not share the same set of worries or concerns. Osensei is not the center of cultural economic system for me. I do not define what my Aikido is or should be by what Osensei has done with his own practice. He is at most a guide, one of many, and he is far from the center of what I do, try to do, who I am, and who I try to be.

Assuming none of this is true or relevant, and I would like to think it is not, we are where we have always been. You would like a disclaimer. I do not think one is required (nor would I like to make an action that misleads one from what is accurate to what is inaccurate). I think you should feel free to make said disclaimer yourself, as much as you like (while I would be ready to debate any unwarranted claims that one is not reading Osensei's very idea of what his practice was and what he thought ours should be). You said, "Do it." I say, "No." You say, "You are a deceitful person." My answer stays, "No." Again, I do not mean to be rude, but let's face it, we have different sets of concerns here. We simply do not agree. I can be fine with that - I hope you can too.

Thanks,
dmv

clwk
05-25-2006, 07:37 PM
David,

Please, let us say that nothing is more superfluous than speaking about things or in the name of things that one has not even read.
But I did read your article, and that is *all* I have spoken about. I have spoken 'in the name' of clarity and intellectual honesty, but not in the name of the so-called 'original translation'.

You seemed to have universalized your own experience and disguised it all with claims of helping people and doing the right thing, etc
Wow. I'm just talking about truth in labeling, no more no less. The only experience I'm 'universalizing' is the experience of trying to puzzle through your verbiage to understand what your text represented. Maybe one or two other people in the Universe would also be confused by the problematic issues I mentioned.

However, without that skill, or without even taking the time to read the English translation, I must wonder why you simply could not say, "My preference is for a disclaimer," why you felt the need to bring up "saving folks."
I'm pretty sure you're the one who just introduced the notion of salvation. This is getting kind of silly. I don't think I mentioned anything as wildly soteriological as "saving folks." I spoke of misleading readers, and a preference not to do so.

Accepting that I very well could be wrong, it seems like there is much at stake for you here and that you are at a critical junction not only because of what I have not done but because, for you, the message of said lecture was better left unclear, vague, and difficult to read.

Thank you, David, for analyzing my motivations and psychological state. I have avoided analyzing yours, only commenting on one tiny aspect of your article as being confusing even to the point of being misleading. It is true, I have wondered aloud what benefit could come from the misleading aspect - since it in no way affects or relates to the content of your article. The more time you spend justifying what seems really to have been little more than poor choice of words and perhaps a questionable editorial decision, the more you make me wonder. Honestly, you misjudge my position. I am not commenting on the content because it really isn't terribly interesting or important to me. We might as well have had this same conversation over a transcription of Jacques Cousteau lecturing on deep sea turtles. It's not about the substance of what you said, it's how you said it and - possibly - why. I think I've been pretty clear about that.

Osensei is not the center of cultural economic system for me. I do not define what my Aikido is or should be by what Osensei has done with his own practice.
Well, that's fine. I bet some of the readers of your article do - to some extent - define the goals for their Aikido in that way. Without trying to 'save' these readers from anything, I think those for whom discovering how the founder practiced is central might want to see a clear audit trail of words seemingly ascribed to him. That's all. I don't speak for the masses. I don't usually post. Now and again, though, I do appreciate the efforts of some who speak on my invisible behalf; and that's about all the 'saving' I'm involved in. Remember this all started from the word 're-transliteration'. I have no doubt that eventually we will see your elaborate and lengthy justification for the use of that word, but the fact remains - it was confusing, technically inaccurate in any straightforward sense, and maybe just not the best word choice. Surely others noticed this.

You said, "Do it." I say, "No." You say, "You are a deceitful person." My answer stays, "No."

I didn't say "Do it." I said, "For that reason, I think it would be an admirable gesture if you amended the title of your article and included (either in a footnote or as an introductory explanation) a description of the actual process by which you wrote this text:" All in all, a fairly polite observation, not exactly the barked command you attribute.

I made a simple suggestion as to how your article might be improved - based on my experience as a reader. I thought it would be intellectually honest, more aesthetically pleasing, and less confusing for readers. I have certainly never called you a deceitful person. I said that your text is slightly misleading, and that this is a mild form of deceit - but please do not attribute to me the fallacy of confusing the actor with the action.

Again, I do not mean to be rude, but let's face it, we have different sets of concerns here. We simply do not agree. I can be fine with that - I hope you can too.


Yes, we've accomplished our mutual goal. I'm entirely happy to acknowledge that we have a different set of concerns here. Just for the record, let me recapitulate my concerns:

1) I feel that 're-transliteration' is at best a confusing title for your piece. I like to see words used according to their meanings in a way that is minimally confusing. Maybe this is, as you indicate, because I am "very much into doxa and/or the various economies and types of cultural capital that go hand in hand with determining what is authoritative and what is not." On the other hand, I won't pretend to understand exactly what you mean by that, so: I admit nothing!

2) I feel that your article as written leaves a certain level of ambiguity as to its source. I base this idea on my own misreading of the piece, while freely admitting that my reading skills may be far enough below your target audience to discount me as representative.

3) Having mentioned 1) & 2), I have been a little surprised by the vehemence of your response. I honestly believed your initial reaction would have been along the lines of, "Oops, that was a brain fart! How embarassing, I'll fix it." I'm willing to let this go on a friendly note though, and just assume this has been a bizarre misunderstanding.

I'll tell you what, next time you write something which I find confusing or misleading, I'll just keep it to myself. I'm not 100% sure that's the ideal way to treat a discussion forum around published work for which comment has been sought, but it will certainly save me time. If we ever meet, we can have a spelling bee to determine who buys the first round.

Chhi'mèd

Erick Mead
05-26-2006, 12:13 AM
1) I feel that 're-transliteration' is at best a confusing title for your piece. I like to see words used according to their meanings in a way that is minimally confusing. Maybe this is, as you indicate, because I am "very much into doxa and/or the various economies and types of cultural capital that go hand in hand with determining what is authoritative and what is not." On the other hand, I won't pretend to understand exactly what you mean by that, so: I admit nothing! I'll leave the rest without comment, although I disagree. On this definitional debate, however, my disagreement is more pointed.

Wikipedia defines the troublesome word: "Transliteration is a mapping from one system of writing into another." Furthermore, it says that "Transliterations in the narrow sense are used in situations where the original script is not available to write down a word in that script, while still high precision is required." Since the original was itself translated from a transcription of verbal speech into Japanese writing, "re-transliteration" may be awkward or a tad stilted, but is not an unfair description of David's method, if not his purpose in doing it. The purpose is plain in the notes. The very unfamiliarity of the term is a caution against over-reliance on the text revisions in an authoriatative sense.

David's description in the title of the was not inaccurate, although its purpose was to serve as the basis for the larger criticism of the ENGLISH text, which was his point.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

clwk
05-26-2006, 12:58 AM
Erick,

Two on one: no fair! But, okay:

Wikipedia defines the troublesome word: "Transliteration is a mapping from one system of writing into another."

First of all, I'm not sure why you need to cite Wikipedia rather than a dictionary - although it seems strangely appropriate in this case. Be that as it may, the Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transliteration) is a reasonable base for discussion.

Since the original was itself translated from a transcription of verbal speech into Japanese writing, "re-transliteration" may be awkward or a tad stilted, but is not an unfair description of David's method, if not his purpose in doing it.

I don't know whether the description is 'fair' or 'unfair', but it doesn't describe what he has done. I would say, "look it up," but it seems you have. I'm not sure what else to say. Transcription and transliteration are distinct, and neither has anything to do with translation. This is spelled out in agonizing detail in the article to which you refer. If the primary purpose of David's article was to debate the roman spelling of a Japanese word, I might buy transliteration, but it wasn't. I think Jory has already concisely and politely articulated the difference between the standard meaning of transliteration and the activity performed in the article.

Incidentally, would you like in on the spelling bee? We could make it a round robin.

Chhi'mèd

George S. Ledyard
05-26-2006, 01:02 AM
My God, reading this debate reminds me why I didn't end up going for my Phd in Buddhist studies... I would have had to listen to my fellow academics arguing about things which I just didn't see as important. I frankly don't care what David chose to call the article.The extent to which it helps me understand where O-Sensei was coming from is what I care about. Ok, it's not a translation but rather a clarification or reworking of a translation previously done. The idea that it is "misleading" not have fully disclosed where the original documeht came from isn't true. Misleading would have been to cause me to belive that it was from somewhere it wasn't. I did not believe it came from anywhere at all because it's source wasn't stated; I simply didn't know it's source. Since I knew that I didn't know it's source, it's hard to feel like I was mislead. Anyway, I am far more interested in discussion of the content.

clwk
05-26-2006, 01:28 AM
George,

My God, reading this debate reminds me why I didn't end up going for my Phd in Buddhist studies... I would have had to listen to my fellow academics arguing about things which I just didn't see as important. I frankly don't care what David chose to call the article.The

I couldn't agree more, but every time I think we're done, someone pours more gasoline on the flame of my incredibly simple point. At times like this, I cannot help but recall David's encouraging words:

In other words, it is impossible for me to feel like you ever could be "beating a dead horse" here.

Unrelatedly, I think you'd make a good referee for our spelling bee. Are you in? Impossible; I-M-P-O-S-S-I-B-L-E; Impossible.

Chhi'mèd

SeiserL
05-26-2006, 08:23 AM
Gotta go with Ledyard Sensei.

If your biggest complaint is one word in the title, the author needs to take it as a compliment.

Erick Mead
05-26-2006, 08:31 AM
Erick,
Two on one: no fair! But, okay:Randori is fun, isn't it?

First of all, I'm not sure why you need to cite Wikipedia rather than a dictionary - although it seems strangely appropriate in this case.
It was the closest weapon to hand. And thus -- as with all such things -- therefore, the most useful.

Maybe Wiki is a shinai to an OED shinken, but hey -- it's randori right?
Studies show it's no more inaccurate than the Britannica.

Plus, I hate retyping.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Erick Mead
05-26-2006, 08:38 AM
My God, reading this debate reminds me why I didn't end up going for my Phd in Buddhist studies... I would have had to listen to my fellow academics arguing about things which I just didn't see as important. Soooo -- if nirvana is not to be distinguished from samsara, and all beings have buddha-nature -- is transmigration of buddha-nature from one being-in-samsara to another being-in-samsara really just a transliteration of nirvana??

:hypno: :D

Cordially,
Erick Mead
(who will now sip deeply of the illusion of his hot cup of coffee).

clwk
05-26-2006, 09:26 AM
Lynn,

If your biggest complaint is one word in the title, the author needs to take it as a compliment.


Tell *him* that! Can't anybody take a compliment these days? There is the other related matter though, but it's also a pretty small thing - just a matter of housekeeping, really. That's what I've been trying to say.

Erick,

Randori is fun, isn't it?

You betcha, and good for the wind, too.

It was the closest weapon to hand. And thus -- as with all such things -- therefore, the most useful.

Maybe Wiki is a shinai to an OED shinken, but hey -- it's randori right?
Studies show it's no more inaccurate than the Britannica.


Um, I guess I better tai sabaki then: I notice you have chosen to abandon discussion of the *meaning* of the word in question. Don't forget to tuck your head!

Soooo -- if nirvana is not to be distinguished from samsara, and all beings have buddha-nature -- is transmigration of buddha-nature from one being-in-samsara to another being-in-samsara really just a transliteration of nirvana??


Hey, just because they're non-dual doesn't mean you cannot distinguish them! The real question is how many bodhisattvas can dance on the head of a tanto.

Chhi'mèd

Ron Tisdale
05-26-2006, 09:40 AM
Cough. A tanto doesn't have a head. It does, however, have a kisaki....

Best,
Ron ;)

Erick Mead
05-26-2006, 09:47 AM
Cough. A tanto doesn't have a head. It does, however, have a kisaki.... Oooh, pointy, pointy. See, I am NOT a bodhisattva and I'd really have to choose the tsukagashira for a dance floor; it does limit the ballroom moves, even so...

Cordially,
Erick Mead

senshincenter
05-26-2006, 12:17 PM
Hi All,

Good discussion. Thanks. Again, this is not beating a dead horse. It is very much a part ( a PART) of what I wanted to do with this month's column. I'm needing another day here to finish that reply I've been promising. Sorry.

For me, I have admitted that the word "re-transliteration" is odd - more than that, I have acknowledged that it is not a word (though "transliteration" is a word). (Let us note that I did not use the word "transliteration" in my title.) I have done this while saying there is a purpose to its oddness and even to its creation. Look, when a term is not a word, one has to realize that a working definition is in order. On top of that then, one has to wait for a user to give that working definition. Hence, my request to wait for my promised reply.

The issue here is that while "re-transliteration" is not a word, while a working definition is in order, it is not automatically the case that "translation" is the better word to use in the title. This is why I separated the two critiques (i.e. the issue over the word in the title and the issue on translation). In other words, it is true, "re-transliteration" is an odd word (a non-word), but the oddness of this word (the fact that it requires a working definition) does not automatically imply that "translation" is the right word or that there is some other word already in use in the English language that should have been used. For example, we should be able to note this from the fact that as soon as we think of the word "translation" we are being pressed by reason to keep it absent and to instead offer a disclaimer that the article is no such thing at all.

To discuss what I would like to eventually discuss, I felt it important to address these side issues of "translation," "misleading," "accuracy," as well as to say something about perspective and one's overall place in the production of such writings, etc. I understand that some would like to see such issues as relevant to the non-word of "re-transliteration" but they are not. The word requires a working definition and one is simply going to have to wait for that. In the meantime, one should already be able to see that the made up word has done its job: it is requiring itself to be defined. In doing so it has prompted discussion concerning not the words of Osensei but the way by which we are choosing to understand those words. Along with providing the working defintion, this is what I will be taking up in my promised post.

Thank you all for your time and energy. Good points all around.

d

clwk
05-26-2006, 02:24 PM
Hi David,

Glad to see we're back on track.

The issue here is that while "re-transliteration" is not a word, while a working definition is in order, it is not automatically the case that "translation" is the better word to use in the title.

I would just like to point out that, "retransliteration" refers to the inverse process of transliteration. It is exactly this reversibility of transliteration which makes it preferable to transcription. This usage is parallel to the meaning of "retranslation" - which means a translation back into the original language.

I would also like to point out that I only initial suggested the word "translation" because that is what your text *appeared* to be. It was when I discovered it was not that I suggested perhaps adding a small clarification, in order to eliminate the confusion.

Chhi'mèd

senshincenter
05-26-2006, 04:08 PM
Well, you are heading where I want with this idea of inversing - almost. I was shooting for a mixture of "reversing" and making a second attempt. More on that later. I would read "retranslate" not as "reverse translating" but as "translating again." e.g. I translate from Japanese to English; I would translate from English to Japanese (even if it is the same text); and when I retranslate then I would be looking for a second attempt at taking the Japanese text into English.

;-)

d

clwk
05-26-2006, 06:25 PM
David,

Well, you are heading where I want with this idea of inversing - almost. I was shooting for a mixture of "reversing" and making a second attempt. More on that later. I would read "retranslate" not as "reverse translating" but as "translating again." e.g. I translate from Japanese to English; I would translate from English to Japanese (even if it is the same text); and when I retranslate then I would be looking for a second attempt at taking the Japanese text into English.


If I'm reading you correctly, you are describing one step in an interative procedure for morphing a text. Think the 'telephone' game, but have every other person speak a different language: English->Japanese->English->Japanese->English, etc.. If, additionally, each participant works toward some common goal, the lossiness of the translation process can be used to nudge the text along. We might define the hypothetical number V (the Valadez number, if you want it) for any two texts - where V is the minimum number of iterations of 'good faith' translation required to effect the transformation from original text to goal.

But transliteration isn't subject to this problem, since it should be lossless, unlike translation.

Chhi'mèd

senshincenter
05-26-2006, 08:18 PM
Hi Chhi'mèd,

What you say is true, but at the same time you are thinking too narrowly here when you are thinking "transliteration." There are loses of meaning, nuance, information, etc., when you deal with languages from different points in history (e.g. languages on different sides of an epistemic shift). Additionally, some things don't make every kind of cultural exchange as well, for example, romaji loses a lot as a transliteration of kanji. These examples are more along the lines of what I will end up discussing.

d

Jory Boling
05-26-2006, 08:50 PM
How much of the "original" article is not seen at aikido journal (to non-subscribers)? I notice it said the entire article is available to subscribers.

Lost in Transliteration,
Jory

clwk
05-26-2006, 09:14 PM
David,

There are loses of meaning, nuance, information, etc., when you deal with languages from different points in history (e.g. languages on different sides of an epistemic shift). Additionally, some things don't make every kind of cultural exchange as well, for example, romaji loses a lot as a transliteration of kanji. These examples are more along the lines of what I will end up discussing.

I am all attention.

Chhi'mèd

senshincenter
05-26-2006, 09:35 PM
How much of the "original" article is not seen at aikido journal (to non-subscribers)? I notice it said the entire article is available to subscribers.

Lost in Transliteration,
Jory


Hi Jory,

I'm not sure, but I think they generally just show a few paragraphs. Unfortunately, this lecture was quite long so I imagine you are not seeing a lot. :(

d

George S. Ledyard
05-28-2006, 02:15 PM
Hi Chhi'mèd,

What you say is true, but at the same time you are thinking too narrowly here when you are thinking "transliteration." There are loses of meaning, nuance, information, etc., when you deal with languages from different points in history (e.g. languages on different sides of an epistemic shift). Additionally, some things don't make every kind of cultural exchange as well, for example, romaji loses a lot as a transliteration of kanji. These examples are more along the lines of what I will end up discussing.

d

All language is "conditional". Use of language to talk about these issues is "upaya", expedient means. It's true even when two people from the same time and the same culture converse about anything. Perhaps, misunderstanding is less when we know we are trying to under stand what was said or written by a person from another time and place, who perhaps, used a different language. I suspect we pay closer attention to what is said or written in that context than we do when we are making the "assumption" we understand what was meant.

This is precisely why an article of this type is important. One reads it and compares it to what one remembers of what was said before. Does this square with what I had previously read? If not, what are the areas of difference? Does it challenge anything I had thought till now I understood? If so, I then compare what is being written against the overall knowledge of the subject I have. I try to understand why the author has said what he did. At that point I can decide whether I agree with his take on things or I stick with what my previous understanding of the subject. However, the very process of doing this changes my overall understanding even though I might not be changing my actual position. The simple act of re-evaluation deepens ones understanding.

clwk
05-29-2006, 12:03 AM
Okay, George, I'll play, although I won't touch 'upaya' in this context.

This is precisely why an article of this type is important. One reads it and compares it to what one remembers of what was said before. Does this square with what I had previously read?


So when you way, 'what I had previously read,' does that mean there is a specific referent to which you are comparing, or do you just mean everything you've ever read which might relate to the topic. I ask because you previously said you 'did not believe it came from anywhere at all'.

The idea that it is "misleading" not have fully disclosed where the original documeht came from isn't true. Misleading would have been to cause me to belive that it was from somewhere it wasn't. I did not believe it came from anywhere at all because it's source wasn't stated; I simply didn't know it's source. Since I knew that I didn't know it's source, it's hard to feel like I was mislead.

If you really had no idea at all of the article's source, why would it occur to you to kick into comparison mode? Personally, I took the text's own attribution at face value.

From the main body of the article:
(From a Budo Senyokai publication entitled "Budo" which originally appeared in July of 1933)

Rather than believing that the source wasn't stated (as you did), I interpreted this attribution to mean the source was a Budo Senyokai publication entitled "Budo" which originally appeared in July of 1933. I made the further assumption that this was the source of the 'original translation', and that this article was a parallel translation. The footnotes which provided critical comments on the Aikido Journal article led me to believe that the current 'translation' was informed by a desire to improve the original translation.

However, since you did not form the opinions I formed, I'm curious where you thought this text came from, as it prompted you to reevaluate your view of what you 'remember of what was said before'.

Thanks,
Chhi'mèd

George S. Ledyard
05-29-2006, 01:47 AM
Okay, George, I'll play, although I won't touch 'upaya' in this context.



So when you way, 'what I had previously read,' does that mean there is a specific referent to which you are comparing, or do you just mean everything you've ever read which might relate to the topic. I ask because you previously said you 'did not believe it came from anywhere at all'.



If you really had no idea at all of the article's source, why would it occur to you to kick into comparison mode? Personally, I took the text's own attribution at face value.

From the main body of the article:


Rather than believing that the source wasn't stated (as you did), I interpreted this attribution to mean the source was a Budo Senyokai publication entitled "Budo" which originally appeared in July of 1933. I made the further assumption that this was the source of the 'original translation', and that this article was a parallel translation. The footnotes which provided critical comments on the Aikido Journal article led me to believe that the current 'translation' was informed by a desire to improve the original translation.

However, since you did not form the opinions I formed, I'm curious where you thought this text came from, as it prompted you to reevaluate your view of what you 'remember of what was said before'.

Thanks,
Chhi'mèd
I didn't notice the attribution and from the tenor of the discussion, it seemed that it hadn't been there. Since it was there I find the disvussion / disagreement even less understandable. As far what I said about my process, it was how I generally treat this type of thing and not specifically how I dealt with this particular article. I was not moved to re-evaluate in this case because what David had written was consistent with my own ideas of what O-Sensei had expressed in the various other things I have read.

Josh Reyer
05-29-2006, 07:03 AM
My thoughts, FWIW.

What David has done here is a revision of a translation, no more, no less. John R. Clark Hall translated "Beowulf" in 1910. It had a number of flaws. In 1940, C.L. Wrenn revised the translation. He didn't change the meaning of the translation, he merely did what David did here: revise certain parts of the translation to make it easier to read and understand, get closer to the original's meaning.

The "job" of words is not to require that they be defined. The job of words is to carry meaning, facilitating communication. If one wants to create a word, it's the creator's obligation to provide some kind of clear meaning and/or context for the word, so that it may facilitate communication. We shouldn't have to wait for a working definition. If a word doesn't have one, it probably shouldn't be used.

All of which is to say, I don't know why the article wasn't called "Kannagara no Jutsu by Ueshiba Morihei" with the byline "Translation revised by David Valadez, with commentary".

clwk
05-29-2006, 06:49 PM
Josh,

Thank you for weighing in.
All of which is to say, I don't know why the article wasn't called "Kannagara no Jutsu by Ueshiba Morihei" with the byline "Translation revised by David Valadez, with commentary".
Something like the foregoing is entirely in line with what I have been suggesting all along. I hope for the sake of anyone actually reading this thread that detractors will address Josh's succinct recapitulation of the issue - so no one has to wade through the morass of ducking and dodging that has led us to this point of singular clarity.

Thanks,
Chhi'mèd

MM
05-31-2006, 12:16 PM
This I can say because its message remains the same as the English translation ...

and


The fact that my piece keeps the same meaning as the English translation, and that its translations of key terms are obviously superior to those found in the English translation, only reinforces my belief that I do not have to worry about what you are asking me to worry about.
dmv

Hi David!
Glad to read some more of your writings. I'm not entirely through reading it, but I had a a question for you. I've cut and pasted your response to others because it regards my question.

First, how do you define that your piece has the same meaning as the English translation? I can only read a short bit from the Aikido Journal site, but it seems to me that the article there and your article do not convey the same meaning. The most glaring example is your use of singular God and the articles use of God, god, gods, and god(s). I just wondered what your explanation was?

Thanks,
Mark

senshincenter
05-31-2006, 12:46 PM
Hi Mark,

I'm still working on that reply - things are a bit hectic here right now. Not finding much time for finishing it. Apologies to everyone. I cover what you ask a bit in that reply - attempting to make a difference between "meaning" and "nuance." I'm afraid I am going to need more time to finish the piece and thus address your point fully. However, in a footnote of the column I have written, this topic is discussed briefly there. If you haven't read that footnote, perhaps you could take a look at it and see how or why I opted to refer to "God" in the "singular."

Again, apologies for not being able to write more at this time - to all.

Talk later, take care,
d

6th Kyu For Life
05-31-2006, 02:27 PM
I'm sure you're all happy that this thread has died for a couple of days. Pardon me for reviving it again. While this whole discussion between Chhi'mèd and David was getting a little tedious, shall we say, it is an "important post," as David says, that "brought up several points that need to be addressed." The importance of this discussion, and the reason I really appreciate is that it is a very critical analysis of David's writing. In general, AikiWeb is a pretty good forum for asking "the tough questions" about Aikido, but in general, Aikido (and probably other martial arts) people tend to write off such questions, in favor of "experiencing" an answer beyond words. This approach works of course, but it doesn't really allow for the academic or objective understanding of Aikido that writing and critical thinking allows. As practitioners of Aikido, we face difficult questions about Aikido all the time, but "let me show you" is not always an appropriate answer. We shouldn't run away like this from critical questions because they are difficult to answer, or because a verbal answer might be an incomplete understanding of Aikido. Instead, dealing with critical questions verbally is just as important as being able to deal with the difficulties of training physically. So, to AikiWeb in general, and to the people who have posted in this thread specifically, Aikido is hard to think about; keep thinking anyway.

That being said, I'd like to point out what I feel to be the problem that stems from David's article. Assuming I were to write an essay about religion and Aikido, how would I use this work? Or, in what context would I have to understand it? What culture does it represent? Originally, this work was in Japanese, as a speech presented to an audience of Japanese Aikido students, in fact the students of Morihei Ueshiba. We can assume that the translation is accurate, not only because that assumption is has to be made all the time in scholarship on other cultures, but moreover, because this is the only extant text available, and the original may have never existed as anything other than a lecture. But as Chhi'mèd pointed out, the original, or even the original translation is not what is in question here. Considering the context of the original translator might not be very relevant for discussing the article at hand. With what we know about it, that it is a speech by Morihei Ueshiba to his students in Japan, I might start an essay about this article by studying the religious climate of 1930's Japan.

However, this article is not a translation, rather an annotated rewording, re-transliteration, revision or what have you. This does not change the fact that this is a speech delivered by Ueshiba, but the fact that it has been "re-transliterated" (or whatever) does change the context that we would have to understand it. It is no longer the product of the religion of Morihei Ueshiba, or of Aikido in 1930's Japan, but because of the process of revision becomes a product of trends in United States Aikido in 2006, and the religion of the revisionist. For example, while this source might be appropriate to answer the question "How do practitioners in Japan who studied under Morihei Ueshiba view the connection between religion and Aikido?" but it would be even more appropriate to answer the question "How do practicioners in America in the early 21st century view the connection between religion and Aikido?"

No writing can be taken out of context, but it can be taken out of the original context. This is what happened when David did this revision of "Kannagara no Jutsu." Some things were added, some things were changed. This is not longer Morihei Ueshiba's work, per se, but a blending of two inherently different conceptions of Aikido and spirituality. There's no reason to fault David for writing this article; as he said (something to the effect of) "this happens all the time in religion." But what Chhi'mèd is pointing out is that while this appears to be an authoritative translation of an original document, this is not the original. Re-interpreting a document for clarity is certainly not wrong, but in order to understand it, we have to understand what context it has been put in.

Sorry for another long post.

Peace,
Tom Newhall

senshincenter
05-31-2006, 04:16 PM
Another good post. Thanks Tom.

Sorry to sound like a broken record here, but again, the issue of context is to be addressed in my next post. Please forgive.

However, here I would like to point out an assumption being made in your post: That the translation in question was speaking from the context of Osensei's understanding c. 1930. My opinion is that it is not. I do not know if this is because it was translated after the fact or because it was never understood from the point of view of Osensei's mysticism (even if it was translated c. 1930). Either way, the translation is the departure from Osensei's thought. Key examples of this are how it emphasizes common Shinto understandings (as opposed to Omoto-kyo understandings) and also how it thinks of key cultural terms (yamato damashii and kodo), using what later became dominant understandings. That said, in attempting to utilize Osensei's thought (from elsewhere), Omoto-kyo theology, and the common discourse of mysticism to alter the nuance of the translation, my piece is in my opinion much more representative of what Osensei truly felt and believed - more than the original translation was/is. Thus, I would hardly say that my piece is "revisionistic" and/or representative of 21st century America or American Aikido, etc. Consequently, I would hardly call the translation representative of Osensei's thinking - especially c. 1930.

Again, thanks for the post.
Good points - very relevant as you say - I agree.

dmv

PS. Hopefully, we can also get to your questions - they are good ones! I do think we should discuss them as well.

clwk
06-25-2006, 12:37 AM
I have no desire whatsoever to reopen this 'discussion', but since its topic is directly connected to the content of this thread, I feel compelled to simply note the following:

On 24 May 2006,
I would like to also reply, because I want to use what you said to discuss what I consider to be the whole point of this column. I am having to write that reply between classes today, so I am looking to get it up on here by this evening or by tomorrow at the latest.
and . . . I am still working on the reply that will let you know exactly why I used the word "re-transliteration." Please forgive my delay. In the meantime...
and later . . .I'm still working on that reply - things are a bit hectic here right now.and finally . . .Sorry to sound like a broken record here, but again, the issue of context is to be addressed in my next post.One month has passed since we began to wait for the promised auto-exegesis [a transparent compound neologism], and in the meantime this thread has been allowed to die the death it deserves. No elaboration has arisen, and if the chronology of these threads were more obviously apparent, I would feel no need to draw attention to it now - as the total silence is otherwise entirely communicative.

Chhi'mèd

senshincenter
06-25-2006, 01:29 AM
Chhi'mèd and others,

I hope some of you can imagine that the communication within said silence simply means that other aspects of life are playing a role here. I do not see that these threads die (not really), simply because they are recorded and open to re-opening anytime - as you note in your own last reply with your disclaimer regarding the ease with which such things are resurrected. Please bare with me. This is not a contest for me - it is a discussion. Folks here are involved in an exchange of views, not an extermination of views.

In short, I'm not being silenced by default but by temporary circumstances. If one is interested in this discussion, one is interested in this discussion. If one is interested for only so long, then one was not that interested to begin with. Move on - return not. That would seem to make more sense concerning that level of interest one is claiming not to have. However, if it's worth returning to, if you are tied to it for some reason, such that even moments of silence have to be experienced only as defeats or suspicious delays, etc., then it should be worth going on with one's life until the discussion picks up again. That's how I see it anyways.

To put your more at ease: For the record, it does not look like I will be able to complete my reply until after July 8th - when life will shift for me again, allowing for me to return to this topic (and others as well). Accept it or not - it changes not. But, if it is so important, you must feel free to PM me or email me, so you can keep checking up on me, and I will gladly give you weekly updates on my schedule so that you do not feel so cheated along the way. Otherwise, I'll post again in July.

clwk
06-25-2006, 01:51 AM
David,

You're killing me. Certainly life circumstances are always mitigating (he says as the newborn baby cries). Please take as long as you need, and although I may not have time of my own to email you, I do invite you to email me the offered weekly updates concerning your schedule. This would indeed help me not to feel so cheated along the way.

Chhi'mèd

senshincenter
08-01-2006, 10:45 PM
Hi All,

As some know, been going through the hiring process at the Santa Barbara Police Department - quite involved. I've made it through the various steps - thus far. Need more time dedicated toward the endeavor of obtaining the position. Sorry - just a small note to let you know I cannot get back to this thread just yet. Please forgive - wish me luck.

Thanks,
dmv

MM
08-02-2006, 05:14 AM
David,
Best of luck. :) And take all the time you need.

Mark

Lyle Bogin
08-02-2006, 08:36 AM
George,

I don't understand what you are trying to say. Are you saying that religion is inherently superior to spirituality because it is cohesive and outwardly focused?

I still don't understand why so many people cling to the idea that east and west are so different, implying that we as "westerners" cannot possibly plunge into the depths of the more mystical east. It's just inconsistant with history, literature, and my own personal education as an east asians studies major. I think at this point it serves mostly for us to be able to say the we as martial artists are some how different and superior since we have sought enlightenment from the east, which is both obnixious and untrue.

Ron Tisdale
08-02-2006, 10:03 AM
Best of luck, David. And if you get the job, please be safe.

Best,
Ron

Don_Modesto
08-02-2006, 10:55 AM
As some know, been going through the hiring process at the Santa Barbara Police Department - quite involved....wish me luck.
Best of luck and thanks for the article.

clwk
08-02-2006, 06:15 PM
Please forgive - wish me luck.Good Luck,
Chhi'mèd

senshincenter
01-28-2007, 01:12 PM
Hi All,


I want to thank you all very much for your replies to this thread.

As I said, I do have a purpose in the title words I chose, and all of you, especially Chhi'mèd, have helped me to fulfill this purpose. I am very grateful. The word “re-transliteration” was not chosen due to ignorance and/or to a laziness or lack of scholastic integrity. It was chosen here because the “ambiguity,” the oddness of its usage (in this case), would raise issues and questions that I feel are important – important enough to discuss.

As I see it, these columns are about promoting discussion. Aikiweb.com is not a scholastic or academic setting. It will not and cannot produce discussion in the same way that a academic seminar, for example, might. Aikiweb.com is a place where opinions are exchanged because all are held equal and have worth – regardless of one’s background or level of expertise. In my opinion, this is a good thing. Thus, I wanted to keep things at this level.

A translation, in this setting, would promote hardly any discussion at all. People would look at it and say, “Oh, good, that’s nice” - end of story. Alternatively, they might say, “Hey, that is how I think,” or “That’s not how I think.” Again – end of story. In other words, a good translation, one in full possession of the scholastic elements that make it “well researched,” would promote zero discussion here. This is because it would be THE authority in this arena and everyone else would therefore have to remain silent before its “mighty” voice.

For a translation to promote discussion, it would have to be set within an arena wherein everyone present possessed not only the text in question but also the skills and resources to translate it. Again – this is not Aikiweb.com. Wanting to promote discussion, I did not set out to translate the lecture in question or even to retranslate it. I would not have done that for this month’s column even if I did have access to the original lecture transcription and/or recording (not sure which exists, if either).

Additionally, because I did not have access to the original source, I would not call this a “revised translation” either. If anything, it is a simple exercise in the relevance of nuance and/or context – something one does for the purposes of bringing something else to light. It is this something else which I would like to discuss here. I am interested in the overall context that is allowing us to understand Osensei’s words in one way and not an other – whatever those ways might be for any one person.

(Note: Let us state here that the translation over at AikidoJournal.com, as my own piece, would not stand up to academic scrutiny. Like my work, it lacks the elements all well-researched pieces must contain.)

In short, I wanted to take advantage of the medium, its instantaneity, by first providing a somewhat developed example, and then to continue on here in the thread to discuss those ideas that make such an example possible (or even impossible – depending upon one’s point of view). If one thinks of an art history survey class, where one is shown (and sees) the painting a moment before it is explained, summarized, discussed, or categorized as part of some movement or theme, or as being demonstrative of some sort of aesthetic principle, etc., one can get a pretty good idea of what I am attempting to do here.

I understand that the word “transliterate” already has a meaning in English (i.e. simple definition: to carry or to change into a different alphabet). If the word “transliterate” did not have a meaning, then I would not be able to play with it. Yes, I am playing with it. In my opinion, at times, it is useful to play with words, especially title words, when an author wants something to operate at several levels – as I do here. Thus, I am hoping to move beyond, “You are not using that word exactly right or correctly.” “Yes, I know.” End of discussion.

Please, let me give a general description of the practice of transliteration. I would like to use Romaji as an example of what transliteration is or can be. Take the word, “Aikido.” Today, this is an English word. However, we can note that at one time it was only a transliteration of the Japanese word that is made up of the same sounds (once the given conventions for pronunciation have been determined and agreed upon) but that is/was written in Kanji. The idea with transliteration is that the transferring of a word from one sound system or “alphabet” to another sound system/alphabet has zero effect on the meaning of that word. Ideally, greatly simplifying, transliteration is only about the matching of sounds using different sound-symbol systems.

However, I would suggest, whenever language can be idealized, it is dead. Language, which is a living thing, does not exist at the level of the ideal. It exists at the level of practice. At that level, language can never be anything but extremely complex. This complexity supports my efforts in the original column. For example, romaji carries none of the nuance that is clearly present in kanji characters. Thus, the word “Aikido,’ in adopting the Roman alphabet, loses meaning from the get go. Meaning is NOT left untouched in the transliteration practice of Romaji. In the loss of that meaning, the overall meaning of a word is changed – EVEN THOUGH THE SOUNDS REMAIN THE SAME. This fact is compounded as you move not only from culture to culture but also from history to history.

For example, when the word “Aikido” is read in English it is often translated as, “The Way of Harmony.” An English speaker may then easily make the mistake that the Japanese word (in kanji form) carries this meaning – it does not (though for some it could). Nevertheless, armed with the understanding (which comes from his/her own culture) of the word “harmony,” the art, the practice the sounds are supposed to represent phonetically, often comes to be altered as well for the English speaker that knows the word “Aikido” only through its romaji. That is to say, for example, the practice of the art comes to be more representative of the English-speaking culture’s notions of “harmony.” In the end, while the sounds remain the same, not only is the meaning of those sounds likely to be altered, the thing itself represented by those sounds can be altered.

Additionally, as another example, a Japanese person from the current time-period, one not familiar with the history of the word “Aikido,”or the practice, may be able to read it, Ai-Ki-Do, and then go on to define it as, “The Way of Uniting with Ki.” However, in doing so, they made a call to read the word as three related but distinct ideas (Union-Ki-Way). They did not read the word as someone from an earlier period or from a different part of the culture might opt to read the word - as two related but distinct ideas, “The Way of (the tactic of) Aiki.” Etc. As a result, the practice they might generate will likely come to be representative of Ki union, as opposed to a manifestation of Aiki tactics (for example) – which may overlap but that are not 100% substitutable. My point: Words can sound the same but nuance may be lost nonetheless due to changes in contest, and as a result, meanings change. In short, whatever happens at the level of sounds does not 100% capture what is happening at the level of discourse/practice. This, for better or for worse, is what I am attempting to point out with the playful usage of the word “re-transliterate,” only I did so with an example of that very thing.

Folks that are looking back to Osensei need to worry not only about translations but also transliterations because neither one can ever occur outside of a bias of culture and/or history. This is especially true when one is going from a Kanji-based system to the Roman alphabet. This is why I am able to use pretty much the same words as those used in the AikidoJournal.com piece while somehow being able to generate a different essence in meaning from the one (perhaps) more commonly associated with Osensei’s teachings (for Americans at least). This has happened because by more accurately (my opinion) translating a few key Japanese words (e.g. kannagara) I have changed the context from the usual context by which Osensei is understood in the States to one of mysticism. As a result, in my opinion, Osensei’s thought, the connection he draws between physical practice and spiritual development resists being placed fully within the common areas of “traditional Japanese culture,” “Shinto,” “Martial Arts,” “Eastern Philosophy,” etc. These are places where the spiritual and physical aspects of a human being can be related or unrelated as a matter of choice. From the discursive context of mysticism, the two elements become inseparable. As a result, we have a different meaning altogether for the English word “Aikido.”

In short, the re-transliteration I am referring to here is not one of sound systems but of one of discourses. The “re-transliteration” of which I am speaking is happening at a discursive level – not an alphabetic one. I was inspired to write this upon reading the piece at Aikidojournal.com because while found the translator’s translations on key words to be very common, I also found them to be two other things: 1) Odd in light of the biographical history we know of Osensei, and 2) The reason why that piece read so strangely – forcing the piece to hold many inconsistent ideas.

Note: Not sure this will revive this thread. I apologize for the huge delay in delivery. Was in the Police Academy. Finally, have a bit of time to finish this. Apologies.


dmv