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Alex Megann
11-08-2007, 07:38 AM
Then why practice an art that is called Ai - Ki - Do which I believe roughly translates out to "the way of harmony with ki"? Perhaps you should rename the art you do as Aido which will then reflect more accurately reality as you see it.

regards,

Mark

Actually I believe it's Aiki-Do, where "Aiki" has a much more specific meaning than simply "Ai-Ki". I think you will find that the concept of "Aiki" in the Daito-Ryu tradition is very clearly defined.

"The way of harmony with ki" is a misleading and inaccurate translation of "aikido".

Alex

Mark Freeman
11-08-2007, 08:58 AM
"The way of harmony with ki" is a misleading and inaccurate translation of "aikido".
Alex

Hi Alex,

please provide the accurate translation of "aikido", thanks.

regards,

Mark

Alex Megann
11-08-2007, 10:04 AM
Hi Alex,

please provide the accurate translation of "aikido", thanks.

regards,

Mark

Mark,

Aikido is the Way of Aiki. Aiki is a centuries-old concept used in many Japanese budo, but particularly in Daito-Ryu Aikijujutsu.

There is more information in the Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aiki_%28martial_arts_principle%29) on aiki, and the Daito-Ryu tradition defines several kinds of aiki, but Sokaku Takeda is recorded as summarising aiki thus:

The secret of aiki is to overpower the opponent mentally at a glance and to win without fighting.

Alex

Erick Mead
11-08-2007, 01:25 PM
Aikido is the Way of Aiki. Aiki is a centuries-old concept used in many Japanese budo, but particularly in Daito-Ryu Aikijujutsu.

There is more information in the Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aiki_%28martial_arts_principle%29) on aiki, and the Daito-Ryu tradition defines several kinds of aiki, but Sokaku Takeda is recorded as summarising aiki thus:

The secret of aiki is to overpower the opponent mentally at a glance and to win without fighting. Respectfully, you did not provide ANY translation of the term.

Compare: "Woowoo-do is the way of Woowoo. Woowoo is a centuries old concept used in .. [etc.] ... [Some] tradition defines several kinds of woowoo but [a guy] summarised woowoo as : the secret of woowoo is to overpower the opponent ....[etc.]"

More charitably, the term cannot presently be translated more than partly and roughyl for a given circumstance. The respective terms of reference do not map closely enough onto one another for any good translation. The concepts bundled in that term are unbundled in many different terms in English, at least, mostly.

There a reason we all use "ki" and aiki." Like "Geist" in German it must be understood in the original sense of the native tongue, then it can be wholesale adopted into the other tongue without translation. That does not mean a better translation is not ever possible, it just does not exist at this time.

I have my own thoughts on the matter, of a more unitary definition, but then, I like to play the heretic, so don't follow me.

Jeremy Hulley
11-08-2007, 02:02 PM
I woudl posit that "aiki" as defined by DRAJJ and the "aiki" in Aikido are different. Different intent for both the related arts. I can talk more about it later..

Josh Reyer
11-09-2007, 03:29 AM
I certainly entertain the idea that the "aiki" of DRAJJ and the "aiki" of Ueshiba-ha (and Hirai-ha?) aikido are different. Leaving aside the question of whether they should be different, aikido people say they're different, Daito-ryu folk say they're different -- let's assume for the sake of argument that they are different.

From a linguistic standpoint, that they are different matters little. The "Aiki" of aikido and Daito-ryu is certainly distinct from the "aiki" in Toda-ha Buko-ryu's "Aiki no Koto", mentioned by Ellis Amdur in previous threads. What is for certain is that "aiki" is itself a single jukugo (compound), parsed separately from the "do". So in that respect, Alex is right in that as a starting point, we have to look at it as "the way of Aiki".

Now, how one interprets the meaning of "aiki" is up to each individual school or style. For Daito-ryu folk the "ki" might be esoteric -- "internal" energy. For others, exoteric -- tangible energy like momentum, speed, and velocity. For still others, all at the same time. Ultimately, how one defines "aiki" is dependent on how one defines "ki". "Ki" by itself just refers to energy. The question is, what kind of energy are you working with? Internal energy? External energy? Emotional energy?

One thing that is quite clear, though, is that "ai" by no means means "harmony". To even get close to "harmony", the character for "ai" needs other modifying characters, like 和 (peace). "Ai" by itself indicates a joining and/or matching. It is not at all "harmonious", indicated by it's use other phrases: kiri-ai (a swordfight), tachiai (a duel, or else the violent crashing together at the beginning of a sumo bout), iiai (an argument), oshiai-heshiai (pushing and jostling). Any kind of joined interaction of two or more entities -- harmonious, dissonant, or otherwise -- is an "ai" of some kind. IMO, the English concept closest to this idea is "meeting", and it's colloquial equivalent, "getting together".

(As an aside, Ueshiba's pointed punning notwithstanding, there is no linguistic relationship between "ai" [meeting/joining] and "ai" [love]. "Ai" as love is a Chinese loanword. "Ai" as meeting is derived from the verb "au", which in Old Japanese was original "apu" -> "afu" -> "au".)

In his book "Budo", Ueshiba wrote "If he comes with ki, strike with ki; if he comes with water, strike with water; if he comes with fire, strike with fire." (Translation by John Stevens). Of course, I'd like to actually see the original Japanese, but this translation by itself perfectly indicates a native, idiomatic conception of "ai". It may seem rather confrontational or paradoxical to someone used to thinking of "aiki" as blending and harmonizing, but from a Japanese language standpoint, it matches-up fine (or, as they Japanese would say, ぴったり合う).

So, personally, I would translate "aikido" as "Way of Matching Energy". I like that translation because it is as universally applicable as "aikido". "Energy" is nicely vague, just like "ki", and just like compound "aiki", "Matching Energy" is semantically vague as to whether it's a transitive gerund, or a participle adjective. :D It could thus be used by Ueshiba-ha practitioners, Hira-ha practitioners, and even Daito-ryu folk.

Peter Goldsbury
11-09-2007, 05:10 AM
In his book "Budo", Ueshiba wrote "If he comes with ki, strike with ki; if he comes with water, strike with water; if he comes with fire, strike with fire." (Translation by John Stevens). Of course, I'd like to actually see the original Japanese, but this translation by itself perfectly indicates a native, idiomatic conception of "ai". It may seem rather confrontational or paradoxical to someone used to thinking of "aiki" as blending and harmonizing, but from a Japanese language standpoint, it matches-up fine (or, as they Japanese would say, ‚Ņ‚Į‚½‚訇‚¤).

Josh,

I spent some considerable time transcribing the text from the Japanese copy I possess, only to have the kanji appear as squiggles in the forum. And, yes, I know about the text encoding & forum options and I tried them all. To no avail.

If you want to see the Japanese text of what Stevens translated, send me a PM with your e-mail address.

Best wishes,

Alex Megann
11-09-2007, 06:52 AM
Thanks for the comments by Erick, Joshua and Peter who all got in before I had a chance to.

I don't have enought experience of Daito Ryu (a weekend with Shogen Okabayashi, a browse through "The Hidden Roots of Aikido" and various reading on the Web) to understand in depth the Daito-Ryu interpretation of "Aiki", except an appreciation that it is discussed much more explicitly in those arts than it is an most aikido dojos.

Since Joshua has supplied an excellent translation I, as a non-Japanese speaker, won't even try, but I have always understood it to mean "matching of energy".

I do know that "aiki" was an important enough conception for Morihei Ueshiba to worship a kami specifically assigned to it...

Alex

DH
11-09-2007, 07:31 AM
I woudl posit that "aiki" as defined by DRAJJ and the "aiki" in Aikido are different. Different intent for both the related arts. I can talk more about it later..
No..they are the same. It's only that many, if not most, do not understand either. There are men who can go from one to the next to Chinese arts and perform seamlessly one to the next.without pause. Aiki is in you. It is you, It begins and ends in you. It's not about an arts technique.

The Aiki that is so often seen in Ai..ki..do, the blending and moving yourself all around to move them? It is incorrect.
But, its been that way for so long that what is correct is rarely seen or known and the low level crap is now called ...correct. Supported by thousands, performed by all and sundry..it never-the-less leads you nowhere.
It's full speed... in the wrong direction.

Erick Mead
11-09-2007, 09:24 AM
No..they are the same. It's only that many, if not most, do not understand either. ... The Aiki that is so often seen in Ai..ki..do, the blending and moving yourself all around to move them? It is incorrect. ... It's full speed... in the wrong direction. In a sense I agree with you and in another I don't. It is harmonics -- physical harmonics. The plucked string moves without ceasing and yet waves of motion at a critical length stand absolutely still. The motion and the stillness are two different things, but one thing also.

Some train better beginning with the motion and then grasping the stillness that they then happen upon when they are attending to critical orientation. Some train better with the stillness and the criticality of the orientation of the operative elements in themselves, and then find ways to apply it in moving themselves and others. If the training through motion does not lead to stillness then the practice is wrong -- by the same token, if training through stillness does not lead to motion it is also wrong. The truth is both, and in that, something else emerges altogether.

The difference in points of view in these debates, I am coming to conclude, is largely a product of differences in natural kinesthetic perception bias in the learner. As I mentioned there are several types -- like the visual perception bias in many optical illusions. Some minds default to one image, some to the other, and only with difficulty are able to resolve the ambiguity between them that IS the complete picture of the truth as it is. A more dynamic example of these forms of perception bias and how they are both naturally defaulted in one direction or the other, and how they may be consciously manipulated, once realized, may be seen here: http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,22556281-661,00.html

Rupert Atkinson
11-09-2007, 12:20 PM
Mark,

Aikido is the Way of Aiki. Aiki is a centuries-old concept used in many Japanese budo, but particularly in Daito-Ryu Aikijujutsu.
Alex

I totally agree and - plug - that is exactly what I say in my little book/web site. I received the odd critical email saying it's ki, not aiki, or its the way of harmony, or harmonising with ki etc., but I ignored them all. I have received positive comments too. Anyway, for me at least, it is The Way of Aiki. No one told me this - I just had to figure it out for myself becuase wherever you go you hear people rattling on about ki. The only thing in common is that - if you open your eyes - you will see more than a few who have no clue what they are doing even after 20 years of training. Also, I believe it to be the same in Daito-Ryu as it is in Aikido.

I hate the word ki as it sends you off at a tangent. Search for aiki, not ki.

Just my 2c.

Don_Modesto
11-09-2007, 01:16 PM
One thing that is quite clear, though, is that "ai" by no means means "harmony"....Another archived post.

What a great resource you multilinguals are. Thanks for taking the trouble to compose and post this, Josh.

Erick Mead
11-09-2007, 05:38 PM
Now, how one interprets the meaning of "aiki" is up to each individual school or style. For Daito-ryu folk the "ki" might be esoteric -- "internal" energy. For others, exoteric -- tangible energy like momentum, speed, and velocity. ...
One thing that is quite clear, though, is that "ai" by no means means "harmony". To even get close to "harmony", the character
for "ai" needs other modifying characters, like 和 (peace).
O Sensei may or may not have approved any English translations of his works (I am not aware of any evidence that he did, in fact), but his son clearly did. From his works "harmony" has become the most well-accepted attribution flowing directly from his usage of it. It is apt in the physics of what occurs, a point that is true in too many ways for me to describe in this thread, but I have dwelt on them elsewhere.

The term "Aiki" seems old enough in its provenance to not necessarily track the compounds ( such as with "wa") you suggest for "harmony" as are used more modernly. Is there anything that establishes that point one way or the other? In at least one Doka he does juxtapose "aiki" directly with "harmony" in Abe's translation and I seem to remember, although I do not have Stevens parelle translation handy at the moment that he used 和 "wa" specifically in that context.

O Sensei was a scholar (autodidact or not) of ancient sources and in reading Kojiki, and Motoori's commentaries on it, he was unavoidably schooled in aspects of linguistic questions and their significance. His punning and stress on kotodama is a clue to his interest in the uses of language as a source of deeper meaning. However, his interest was primarily literary and mystical, not linguistic. (Too?) many have spoken to the mystical, but short shrift is given to the literary aspects. In my opinion that is where we should primarily look, to his literary usage and imagery.

Given that the etymology of the decomposed character itself ( some times unreliable, but valid in this case) is basically 入 一 口"join-one-gate." There are clues of that precise imagery in the Doka to O Sensei's intended usage.

Abe Sensei notes that Izanami (she who invites) cleansed herself of the filth of death upon her escape from the underworld at the "Odo" ("narrow river mouth") in Awagihara. Stevens translates that linguistically as "the small gate." Abe instead gives its literary significance as a mythological place. ("Gate" and "mouth" are also the same character 口, which composes into "Ai" as 口"join-one-gate."

Abe also says that O Sensei described Aiki as being born from the thrashing of Izanagi (He who invites) in his cleansing there. At a "narrrow river mouth" whorls of water back up at the constriction, some open and become progressively still in the upstream pool, while some become tighter and tighter as they enter the nozzle and gain much speed, at the throat of the stream. These images are not accidents and they all relate. There are many more.

O Sensei used the image of the joining of heaven and earth by the floating bridge, fire and water in the change of self, the sexual connotations of the mutually inviting divine couple, and also the cross figure (juji). These recurrent motifs are of the same basic trope with the different images in some respects interchangeable.

Properly read, that is a powerful literary source for his intended usage on these points, for which we need not depend on more general linguistics. The imagery is of two seemingly independent components nevertheless joined at one and only one narrowly defined connection, diametrically different, and yet performing the same function in the same essential manner, reversed of one another in dynamic. Moreover, as the river image and the larger myth involving Izanagi and Izanami make clear, either one alone is condemned to death. If one dies the other must revive it, and if they conflict with one another in battling death they condemn each other to continue in death, but if they act together then they both return to life.

In his book "Budo", Ueshiba wrote "If he comes with ki, strike with ki; if he comes with water, strike with water; if he comes with fire, strike with fire." (Translation by John Stevens). Of course, I'd like to actually see the original Japanese, ... If you get the original from Prof. Goldsbury, please do us all the the favor of re-publishing it here.

So, personally, I would translate "aikido" as "Way of Matching Energy". I like that translation because it is as universally applicable as "aikido". "Energy" is nicely vague, just like "ki", But Ki, while ineffable in some respects is not vague that way. It is equally congealing as well as airy, the eight powers imagery betrays that aspect clearly enough. I made the point elsewhere that the concept of Ki from more general sources is one that combines the aspects of energy as we view it with the aspects of mass -- as a synthetic whole, and so energy is not really apt, standing alone.

Josh Reyer
11-09-2007, 07:11 PM
O Sensei may or may not have approved any English translations of his works (I am not aware of any evidence that he did, in fact), but his son clearly did. From his works "harmony" has become the most well-accepted attribution flowing directly from his usage of it.

Well, first, Kisshomaru was hardly an expert in English, let alone Japanese-English translation. I have no idea how involved he was in the editing process, and I doubt he had the bilingual knowledge necessary to comment authoritatively on various translations.

I do know, however, that he was very concerned with spreading aikido as a peaceful martial art, and his father often used phrases such as 融和 and 和合, so if an English speaking student of his said, "Way of Harmony with Ki" was a good translation of "aikido", it wouldn't surprise me if Kisshomaru said, "Sounds good, go with that." My issue has never been that "Way of Harmony with Ki" "Art of Peace", etc. aren't acceptable glosses for Ueshiba-style aikido, merely that over-reliance on these glosses by non-speakers of Japanese has led to many people misinterpreting the original components. There is a xerox effect.

Given that the etymology of the decomposed character itself ( some times unreliable, but valid in this case) is basically 入 一 口"join-one-gate." There are clues of that precise imagery in the Doka to O Sensei's intended usage.

Let's stop right there. First, 入 is not "join". It means (and has always meant) "to enter" or alternatively, "to put into (something)". Thus, while 入社 may mean "join in a company" and 入部 may mean "join a club", and 入門 may mean "join an organization", what they are really referring to is entering a company, club, organization.

Second, the top radical of 合 is not 入, it is 人 (hito, person). Semantically, this makes no difference (as I explain below), but it makes a big difference when writing the character.

Third, more often than not, the component characters that make up a kanji are not actually derived from the characters they seem to be! This is a big mistake made by native and non-native speakers alike. And 合 is a perfect example. It looks like it's made up of 人一口. But in fact those are just modern stylized renderings of what originally was a picture of a lid being placed over a hole.

Cf. Kanjigen, a Japanese character dictionary:
会意。「かぶせるしるし+口(あな)」で、穴にふたをかぶせてぴたりあわせることを示す

My translation
"Associative compound. Made up of 'Covering symbol + opening (hole)', it indicates a lid being placed and perfectly fit over a hole."

If you want to create folk-etymologies, or rely on what you perceive Ueshiba's folk-etymologies to be in order to expand your personal research of your aikido, more power to you. But those can't be pointed to as "the definition of aiki". The term "aiki" predated Ueshiba (and Takeda), and the term "aikido" was coined by Hirai Minoru and adopted by Ueshiba later. (According to an interview with Ueshiba in the back of vol. 2 of Stan Pranin's 上芝盛平と合気道, Ueshiba himself said that his art was too big to be named by he, himself, so he adopted "aikido" because it seemed good enough.)

If you get the original from Prof. Goldsbury, please do us all the the favor of re-publishing it here.

且つ人の心は水火萬有を司るものなれば是の水火陰陽の理に依りて敵若し氣を以て当たれば氣にあたり水をもって来れば水に当たり火を以て来れば火に当たり今日の化学戦の上に 想を馳せ練磨することを肝要とす。

As Professor Goldsbury did, I've kept the original kanji as far as possible, and changed the katakana to hiragana.

But Ki, while ineffable in some respects is not vague that way. It is equally congealing as well as airy, the eight powers imagery betrays that aspect clearly enough. I made the point elsewhere that the concept of Ki from more general sources is one that combines the aspects of energy as we view it with the aspects of mass -- as a synthetic whole, and so energy is not really apt, standing alone.

Ki itself is generally not apt standing alone, which is why the Chinese and Japanese combine it with other words: 天気 - weather, 元気 - vitality, 電気 - electricity, etc, etc. In general, all Japanese words carry certain connotations not present in their best English translations, and vice versa. That's the essential, unavoidable flaw of translation, and why it's best to work with original material whenever possible.

stan baker
11-09-2007, 08:53 PM
I don't know if people realize but Dan may be one the few in the world that can actually do what he is talking about.

stan

Charles Hill
11-09-2007, 09:31 PM
Hi Josh,

I think I basically understand and agree with what you have written, but have a problem of how you seem to define "harmony." I think the difference between harmonious and dissonant is the intention by which two or more elements are brought together. For example, the harmony involved in bebop jazz is quite dissonant to those not familiar with yet, yet quite attractive to those that are. I believe that harmony equals "any kind of joined interaction between two entities" if the result is the one desired. Thus for me, the word harmony as a def. of ai is correct.

Charles

Erick Mead
11-09-2007, 09:34 PM
Let's stop right there. First, 入 is not "join". It means (and has always meant) "to enter" or alternatively, "to put into (something)". ...Third, more often than not, the component characters that make up a kanji are not actually derived from the characters they seem to be! ... A point I began my observations with. Your objection is needlessly narrow. Its Chinese antecedent is well attested and has the same pronunciation, moreover, as 和 (another level of connection to the concept of "harmony" held out in Western translations). 入 "ru" means "enter, come into and join," and the orthographic distinction is without difference in the context, in any event, as you say.

But in fact those are just modern stylized renderings of what originally was a picture of a lid being placed over a hole... That is not in the Chinese etymologies attested that I have reference to. Other attested etymologies of the Chinese is 亼 "ji" + 口 "kou", "gather" + "gate/entrance." Another that holds that 亼 is an inverted mouth joined to another mouth. The character 合 is itself attested by several thousand years back to oracle script, and has no independent development in Japan. 合 is used for musical notes. "Harmony" is not a stretch as translation here, nor should its usage be overly criticized on the grounds of objection you raise.

Josh, your counting coup aside, while all in good fun, the ENTIRE point of post, and that you did not address, was that literary usage is the better guide to meaning for our purposes than disconnected etymological debates. There is no evidence that O Sensei cared much about that aspect of language.

Literary usage requires larger context (your last criticism of me, as I recall). There is lots of evidence of his literary interest in Kojiki and of his phonological interest in kotodama (dare I say, "musical"). The etymological points I raised were expressly in recognition of their problematic limitsand from that mainly to show a consistency of theme, more clearly seen in the usage of his literary sources. More to the point, in translation literary usage develops themes of meaning in relation and allows for the ambiguities to be washed out through several layers of context.

Rupert Atkinson
11-09-2007, 10:47 PM
Just reading the above - is there any wonder no one understands ...

Josh Reyer
11-09-2007, 10:52 PM
A point I began my observations with. Your objection is needlessly narrow. Its Chinese antecedent is well attested and has the same pronunciation, moreover, as 和 (another level of connection to the concept of "harmony" held out in Western translations). 入 "ru" means "enter, come into and join," and the orthographic distinction is without difference in the context, in any event, as you say.

I said the semantic difference is not relevant. In other words, it doesn't matter that the top of 合 has the same shape of "person", just as it wouldn't matter if it were, in fact, "enter". The etymology of the character is unrelated to the coincidental resemblance of one of its components to another character.

The fact that the component is written like 人 and not 入 is simply FYI.

合 is used for musical notes. "Harmony" is not a stretch as translation here, nor should its usage be overly criticized on the grounds of objection you raise.

It is also used as a measure of volume and capacity. Which means as much as its use in musical notation. I'm all for a global, holistic understanding of words being used in multiple contexts. That doesn't mean we can throw the native idiom to the wind. I've said many times before, if one wants to define "aiki" as "harmony of ki" with regards to one's personal understanding of aikido, that's great. That's a big leap, though, to "ai means 'harmony'". Harmony has implications that "ai" does not have, and vice versa.

Josh, your counting coup aside, while all in good fun, the ENTIRE point of post, and that you did not address, was that literary usage is the better guide to meaning for our purposes than disconnected etymological debates. There is no evidence that O Sensei cared much about that aspect of language.

That's fine for Osensei. But he's not my guide here, and on the whole I don't think he should be used as the arbiter of semantic meaning. The word "aiki" preceded him; he did not coin it. He did not name his art "aikido"; it was given that name by others. The phrase "aiki" (and the word "aikido") continues to be used outside the Ueshiba aikido context. So, rather than try to plumb the depths of the Kojiki for some coded understanding of how Ueshiba may have viewed the kanji 合, I argue for an idiomatic understanding of the words. I feel it is especially important in contexts such as these, where the vast majority of people have no facility in the Japanese language, and must work from what other people tell them. So, when someone goes off the idiomatic reservation, I feel its important that they clearly express that they are doing so.

As I said, you're free to use whatever folk-etymologies you think will help your understanding. That's my position. I have no interest in debating their validity or lack thereof, which is why I didn't address the rest of your post. I was merely addressing your misunderstanding regarding the composition of the 合 character. You specifically said Given that the etymology of the decomposed character itself ( some times unreliable, but valid in this case) is basically 入 一口"join-one-gate." I was merely pointing out that the etymology of the decomposed character is not in any way "join-one-gate".

Josh Lerner
11-09-2007, 10:59 PM
Literary usage requires larger context (your last criticism of me, as I recall).

Hi Eric,

I could be wrong, but just in case you are referring to the argument we had months ago about the word "aiki", I am (or, uh, was, I guess) a different Josh. We apparently have two language geek Joshes on Aikiweb who own copies of Kanjigen. You must just draw us like moths to a lightbulb.

Josh (Reyer) - I went to school in Nagoya. Please tell me you aren't also going to Nanzan and studying Iwama aikido.

Josh (Lerner)

Josh Reyer
11-10-2007, 12:28 AM
Well, I don't go to Nanzan. :D

I didn't participate in that thread because you were already making all the points that I would, and I thought that having another "Josh ____er" in the thread would just be confusing for all involved! :freaky: (Plus, having to argue that "ai" is kunyomi would have made my head explode.)

Still, I believe Erick could be referring to this thread (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=12951). Or perhaps our arguments over translation in the "Baseline Skillsets" thread.

Erick Mead
11-10-2007, 08:06 AM
My apologies on misattributing the prior discussion. What's another Josh? ( more or less) :)
That's fine for Osensei. But he's not my guide here, and on the whole I don't think he should be used as the arbiter of semantic meaning. The word "aiki" preceded him; he did not coin it. I think there is our disconnect. I do not view language disconnected from the stories we use it to tell or the stories we tell about it. It is one thing. I have cause to believe O Sensei was also of a similar opinion. I know there are large schools of thought in linguistics and language going the other way, but I am not in agreement with them, and I am in good company in this perspective.

Your earlier point is that interpretation given may properly vary according to use. My focus is O Sensei's interpretation for this art. The thread is, after all "defining aikido" not the "defining aiki," and analytically breaking the "aiki" from O Sensei's expressed understanding is of value only to provide context, and only denotative context, at that.

In the Kojiki-den, O Sensei's necessary source material for reading the Kojiki, the significance of things like "folk-etymology" to the context of O-Sensei's literary underpinnings in that text is plain. Kotodama is very much a process of the assocational and transformational aspects of sound and its meaning. Kojiki-den is a running argument about how the various kanji in the book should be read in Japanese. Even Motoori has been criticized for his "reach" in making some associations that fit his avowed political interest, and language is more subject to manipulation in view of present interest than in view of unchanging truth.

Meaning disregards history when other usage and understandings (even fanciful ones) are preferred or become associated. In American English, as example, "liberal" is a very dangerous word to try to apply, from historic evidence of its semantic boundaries, that same limit to its present semantic range.

O Sensei was a visionary, not a scholar, although he valued scholarship. It is more critical in understanding O Sensei's interpretation to have the concepts and relationship he COULD reasonably have associated with those meanings (scholarly-correct or not) than any far more accurate and historically sound etymology. The correspondence with his literary usage as a whole reveals the truth of it. .

As disclosed in his lectures, kotodama associational riffs and mythic imagery formed his visionary process, and folk-etymologies are of a piece with that kind of use of language. They are basically capsule stories about how we mean what we mean.

Lewis' Humpty Dumpty was at least half right. (See, if you get the literary allusion you know exactly what I mean, even though I didn't say it in so many words. If you don't, it is utterly opaque.)

Erick Mead
11-11-2007, 07:42 PM
I was looking back at the archive on this topic and I found this, which given O Sensei's attention to chinkon kishin is worth revisting:
...You know "ki" is really difficult to translate into English as we all know. But it's very easy to translate into Greek. Concept for concept it matches up with the Greek word "pneuma", a word you'll find all over the place in the Bible. Just about any time you see the words "spirit" or "breath" in scripture, it's a translation of the word "pneuma". When it says God breathed into Adam, it could also be translated as God put His Spirit into Adam. So here's the thing: the words "holy", "whole", and "health" all come from the same word. Holiness is oneness with the divine. When a broken bone heals, it becomes whole. The "Ai" of
Aikido is often translated as "harmony", but I think it's more accurate to translate it as "making whole" or "joining together". The syllable is foung in the word for plywood, and I hardly think they mean "wood of harmony". "Wood joined together" makes more sense. Osensei said on several occasions that his art was about joining with the divine. If becoming whole with the divine is "holy", and "ki" is spirit as written about in the Bible, I think it's not the least bit unreasonable to translate "Aikido" as "The Way of the Holy Spirit". ... Where "holy" means "making whole"... .

I'm reminded by something Jay Gluck wrote in Aikido Journal a couple years ago. There's footage of Osensei tossing around some MP's on a rooftop. At on point, they surround him, and when they come to get him, he just calmly walks past them. I love the still from this, because you see all these guys really obviously focussed on the center of their circle. But Osensei is casually standing off to one side. So Jay Gluck, who I believe was the camera operator, wrote that he showed this film to a missionary in Japan, who was put in mind of an episode in the New Testament when Jesus went to preach in His home town. In His usual way, He pretty much pissed off the locals, and they picked Him up and took Him out to the edge of town to dump Him off a cliff. Except when they got there, He just turned around and walked away. Apparently, Jay told this to Osensei, who said something along the lines of "of course. He was one with the divine and would have known Aikido instinctively."

I'm no expert on Japanese, and you could argue with how accurate it is to translate "Aikido" as "The Way of the Holy Spirit". But to me, that's what Aikido is.

Carl Thompson
11-11-2007, 11:51 PM
Then why practice an art that is called Ai - Ki - Do which I believe roughly translates out to "the way of harmony with ki"?

The following is from the English language versions of the Hombu (http://www.aikikai.or.jp/eng/index.htm) and Ibaraki Shibu dojo (http://www13.big.or.jp/~aikikai/e_aikido.html) websites:

At the heart of Aikido is the Eastern concept of Ki -- the universal creative principle. Aikido seeks to unite this universal Ki with the Ki (life force or breath) found within each person. Literally, Aikido translates as "the way of harmony with Ki".

Carl :)

dps
11-12-2007, 03:45 AM
http://www.aikikai.or.jp/eng/index.htm
"At the heart of Aikido is the Eastern concept ofハKi --the universal creative principle."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God
God (IPA: /ɡɒd/) most commonly refers to the deity worshipped by followers of monolatrist and monotheistic religions, whom they believe to be the creator and ruler of the universe.

Makes sense to me.

David

Erick Mead
11-12-2007, 06:59 AM
http://www.aikikai.or.jp/eng/index.htm
"At the heart of Aikido is the Eastern concept ofハKi --the universal creative principle."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God
God (IPA: /ɡɒd/) most commonly refers to the deity worshipped by followers of monolatrist and monotheistic religions, whom they believe to be the creator and ruler of the universe.

Makes sense to me.A good discussion, and an epitome of Chinese thought along those lines regarding Creativity-in-Itself (易即體 - 生生之謂易):
"Chinese Philosophy as World Philosophy" http://www.inbetweenness.com/Suncrates'%20Publications/CHINESE%20PHILOSOPHY%20AS%20WORLD%20PHILOSOPHY.pdf

Keith Larman
11-12-2007, 10:06 PM
Folk kinda glossed over Charles' point earlier on and never really addressed it. Maybe it is because I have a musical background as well as a hobby of etymology in English. But my understanding of "harmony" would be simply as things that "come together" or "match up". FWIW I looked up the etymology of the term (I'm channelling Josh now I suppose) ;) :

harmony

c.1384, from O.Fr. armonie, from L. harmonia, from Gk. harmonia "agreement, concord of sounds," lit. "means of joining," related to harmos "joint, shoulder," from PIE *ar-ti-, from *ar- "to fit together." Musical sense is oldest in Eng.; that of "agreement of feeling, concord" is from 1588.


Isn't that what we're talking about?

Erick Mead
11-12-2007, 10:43 PM
... Maybe it is because I have a musical background as well as a hobby of etymology in English. But my understanding of "harmony" would be simply as things that "come together" or "match up". harmony

c.1384, from O.Fr. armonie, from L. harmonia, from Gk. harmonia "agreement, concord of sounds," lit. "means of joining," related to harmos "joint, shoulder," from PIE *ar-ti-, from *ar- "to fit together." Musical sense is oldest in Eng.; that of "agreement of feeling, concord" is from 1588.

Isn't that what we're talking about?

Say on.

Harmonic motion. Formed by two independent pendula in connection. Both separate pendula and doubled pendula exhibit complex harmonic motion.
The attached figure is a Lissajous (or Bowditch) curve of a major chord, i.e -- two sine waves intersecting at right angles, which is the geometric description of complex harmonic motion.

Kinda familiar lookin', ain't it? Yokomenuchi kaitennage ura waza anyone?

Your arm is a double pendulum. So is your leg. So is your body standing on two feet together hinged at the hips. So are two people joining in aiki, ... etc. etc. .

Josh Reyer
11-12-2007, 11:30 PM
Folk kinda glossed over Charles' point earlier on and never really addressed it. Maybe it is because I have a musical background as well as a hobby of etymology in English. But my understanding of "harmony" would be simply as things that "come together" or "match up". FWIW I looked up the etymology of the term (I'm channelling Josh now I suppose) ;) :

Isn't that what we're talking about?

Well I'm talking about "iiai", which doesn't mean "speaking in harmony". And "kiriai", which doesn't mean "cutting in harmony". Or "oshiai", which doesn't mean "pushing in harmony". Using words with the same character, 合戦 "gassen" doesn't mean "harmonious battle". 合併 "gappei" means "merger", and is used even of hostile take-overs.

In the great monster movie classic, Gamera 3, the bad guy monster, Iris, sucked in the young girl who had cared for it. The girl fought against this, trying to escape. When she was sucked in, another character's reaction was 合流した! Gouryuu shita! "They've joined!" It wasn't particularly harmonious.

This is what I mean by idiom. That's why "harmony" is a stretch. To make "harmony" fit into the above contexts, we have to contort the word "harmony", looking to its etymology, or relying on unique interpretations and contexts. Harmony, as it stands today, has connotations of peace, concordance, and agreement. 合 has more neutral connotations. "Matching." "Fitting." "Joining." Indeed, when many of the top practioners of aikido talk about it, they often use the word "blending", and not "harmonizing". So, when the question is, "What does the 'ai' of aikido mean?", I submit that "harmony" is a bad translation; it forces the student's understanding to certain, singular area. "Matching" is much better. It allows the student to tap into the bigger linguistic picture that Japanese speakers have. When a translation gives its readers/listeners the same (or as near as possible) understanding as the original gives to its readers/listeners, then that's a good translation.

Carl Thompson
11-13-2007, 12:20 AM
Literally, Aikido translates as "the way of harmony with Ki".

So is this wrong are we only talking about the segregated jukugo "aiki"? Surely "aikido" itself is also a compound?

Even Jim Breen's (http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~jwb/cgi-bin/wwwjdic.cgi?1F) has it down as harmony.

合気道; 合氣道(oK) 【あいきどう】 (n) {MA} aikido; way of harmony with the universe

:) Carl

Josh Reyer
11-13-2007, 05:32 AM
So is this wrong are we only talking about the segregated jukugo "aiki"? Surely "aikido" itself is also a compound?

It is. But are we talking Ueshiba's aikido? Hirai's aikido? Nihon Goshin aikido? In Japan it's not uncommon for books regarding Daito-ryu to use "aikido" in their title.

Even Jim Breen's (http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~jwb/cgi-bin/wwwjdic.cgi?1F) has it down as harmony.


No doubt because new submissions to edict are automatically added to the server. I'll raise the question on sci.lang.japan and see what the good folk there (including Jim Breen) have to say. The entry will likely be edited.

Erick Mead
11-13-2007, 07:35 AM
In the great monster movie classic, Gamera 3 ... This is what I mean by idiom. That's why "harmony" is a stretch. To make "harmony" fit into the above contexts, we have to contort the word "harmony", looking to its etymology, or relying on unique interpretations and contexts. Harmony, as it stands today, ...The unquestioned authority of monster genre, notwithstanding, the question you did not answer is the historical usage. Aiki as a term predates modern usage. The appropriate way to interpret its use in the traditionalist-minded schools of budo is to look to its usage in its time of origin, which is intedned to be preserved in those traditions. This is particularly important when the term is used descriptively and intensively by a proponent of a concept who has access to,and preferential respect for, ancient writings and a desire to apply his view of their original understanding modernly.

Dictionaries record usage -- they do not dictate it. Modern general dictionaries do not do justice to terms of specialized use, or preserved use in a traditional setting, when modern usage in other contexts may have moved on. "Harmony" is not a definition pulled from thin air. It just so happens to accurately describe the physics of a physical art, with a concept that has been known since ancient times. It has a older linguistic basis shown in the Chinese that is consistent with that physical understanding in uses of the terminology well prior those you are referring to in the admittedly hallowed Gamera literary canon.

Ron Tisdale
11-13-2007, 08:43 AM
Gotta go with Josh again on this one.

I'm once more surprised that folks can't see the logic of his arguements. Oh well...

Best,
Ron (as my instructor is wont to say, "what is this blending???")

Keith Larman
11-13-2007, 08:53 AM
Harmony, as it stands today, has connotations of peace, concordance, and agreement.

Well, I think that is part of the point I am trying to make. Connotations. As you know quite well every word can have multiple connotations. Those connotations, however, do not always apply to every usage of a word. Hence the multiple definitions most every word is given in dictionaries. So while a word may have multiple connotations not all connotations apply in all contexts. It is a common pitfall in all translation since connotations are almost always the things that screw up translations. And obviously it happens on both sides of the equation. But do we toss out a word because some decide to take certain connotations absolutely? That's more a lack of deeper understanding than a limitation of the words used. The words are always limited and often connotations that don't transfer well are a major reason for it.

As a comparison, the organization I'm with (Seidokan -- Rod Kobayashi) has makoto figured quite prominently (obviously). Having had the good fortune of knowing my late sensei's family quite well I've had the opportunity to discuss sensei's choice of makoto with Mrs. Kobayashi (thankfully her English is a bit better than my Japanese and I hope I get it right). He had picked makoto for a variety of reasons *including* the organizational connotations of makoto in Japanese. So, we translate makoto as "sincere, earnest" and that's what sensei had written down for us. No problems there. But after sensei passed away some began to cite a spirit of makoto as their rationale for being overtly critical of decisions, overtly questioning authority within the new organizational structure, etc., Something really big was lost in translation there. I don't want to discuss the behavior or appropriateness of it (I wasn't involved directly and I'm sure everyone was being "sincere"), the irony was the use of "makoto" as a justification for being critical and difficult within an organization. It makes no sense at all if you understand the "larger meaning" of sei or makoto. Sincere with all the American connotations it may have isn't quite right. But in many ways it is a very good translation as well. The problem is that if we look for a "short and sweet" translation we will lose many subtleties. So the only way to really "get it" is to have long, drawn out discussions like we're having now. It doesn't mean the short and sweet isn't correct, just not quite enough to really "get it".

All language is like that and translations are always approximations as you so well know. Both sides will often have connotations that just don't transfer well. Which makes perfect sense given different cultures, social norms, etc. So I agree with you completely that many totally misunderstand the kanji and their usage of harmony along with its connotations of peaceful, happy, "getting along so nicely" goes hand in hand with that misunderstanding.

But in my training I've heard terms like match or blend in terms of application of the concept. Which to me really cemented the intended meaning of "harmonize". So when I hear someone say "harmony" I have no problem with it because I personally don't think of harmony as *automatically* meaning pleasing or peaceful as well. I think of matching up, sliding into the void, finding the opening, that kind of thing. And I think that it also has very useful connotations when we talk about the integration of mind and body of the practitioner. And when we talk about things like fudoshin, fudotai. Those are (in part) concepts of harmony in a similar sense to me.

So this is my long winded and rambling way of saying I agree with you in most ways. If we say that "Harmony may not be an optimal means of translating 'ai' because many give too much weight to certain connotations of the word harmony that are not relevant in this case" then I agree. But connotations are funny things and we are focusing in hard on one aspect while leaving all the rest out. So like reading the passage "That handsome man over there is certainly quite gay this morning" in a a book written 25 years ago, I have no problem understanding that the writer meant the man was in a somewhat energetically good mood. Context.

Shrug. I'm hesitant to toss out "harmony" as I think it is like tossing out the baby with the bathwater. But I feel like I'm talking in circles now... ;) But it is a subtle point and a good discussion. Heck, to give you more ammo ;) I think of some of the old kenjutsu techniques that involve ai-uchi -- "harmonious cuts". You both die. The movement is harmonious. And given the Japanese love for pattern and order even aiuchi has a "beauty" of sorts on a higher level. The aftermath, however, is rather messy... :D

Keith Larman
11-13-2007, 09:00 AM
Gotta go with Josh again on this one.

I'm once more surprised that folks can't see the logic of his arguements. Oh well...



Tis the nature of discussion to discuss... Fleshing out tiny details is often what helps folk understand things better otherwise we should just have a FAQ with definitions and no discussions at all.

Of course at this point maybe I'm just counting how many angels can fit on the head of a pin.

Keith Larman
11-13-2007, 09:11 AM
I should also add that I very much enjoy and look forward to Josh's posts. I learn quite a bit from each one.

Ron Tisdale
11-13-2007, 09:42 AM
As I look forward to your's Keith. You tend to know so much more about this stuff we do than I. Always a pleasure.

My comment was more pointed in a different direction...but your point is well taken there too. :D

Best,
Ron

Budd
11-13-2007, 09:46 AM
I think personal definitions that have more to do with belief and desire often have more importance than historical context. I suspect this applies to both the modern definitions and practice of aikido. In addition, it's likely that too many people are too invested in being "right" about their defnitions and practice to accept that an alternate view may be more "correct" based on objective criteria.

Keith Larman
11-13-2007, 10:22 AM
I think personal definitions that have more to do with belief and desire often have more importance than historical context. I suspect this applies to both the modern definitions and practice of aikido. In addition, it's likely that too many people are too invested in being "right" about their defnitions and practice to accept that an alternate view may be more "correct" based on objective criteria.

And I think that is partly why these discussion are so important. One of my favorite quotes of Nietzsche is

"For me all truths are soaked in blood"

Meaning we need to discuss, fight within our own knowledge systems and be willing to rebuild our beliefs. Of course some will not be convinced. Others will find reinforcement. But some will think deeply about what they think they know and there will be adjustments to their "web" of beliefs. It's all good.

Of course my quote from Nietzsche is itself a paraphrasing of my memory of a translation from the German... So who knows, maybe I got that wrong for all the same reasons... :D

Erick Mead
11-13-2007, 11:21 AM
I think personal definitions that have more to do with belief and desire often have more importance than historical context. I suspect this applies to both the modern definitions and practice of aikido. In addition, it's likely that too many people are too invested in being "right" about their defnitions and practice to accept that an alternate view may be more "correct" based on objective criteria. It's not about being right in the abstract. It's about being useful in reality. In this context, the historical understanding is part and parcel of the personal understanding of O Sensei framed by his beliefs and desires (which is my aim). Even when he chose to deviate from an historical usage or understanding, his departure was still defined by it.

Fred Little
11-13-2007, 11:58 AM
I am reminded of a box of imported couscous I once bought.

The instructions appeared on the box in Arabic, French, and English, and the English language instructions seemed to have been translated from French which seemed to have been translated from Arabic.

After a great many steps, the final instruction read "join the companions in a large vessel and serve."

More generally, as long as I'm blathering about food, I can "mix, blend, or join" in a variety of ways, depending on the ingredients and the desired product.

Folding in, gently stirring, and vigorous whisking will all mix the ingredients.

The following example requires all three:

In a double boiler, gently stir chocolate, cream and butter together over heat until you have a smooth consistency. Remove from heat and stir in egg yolks.

In a non-reactive bowl, vigorously whisk egg whites until you have soft peaks. Add sugar and continue to whip until you have stiff peaks.

Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold egg whites into chocolate mixture.

Add the mixture to ramekins that have been buttered and coated with a light sprinkling of sugar. Do not fill more than 3/4 full.

Bake at 375 in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes.

(Kuden: quantities of ingredients)

But if the instructions just say "blend" and you haven't been given more specific directions, there's a strong possibility that your souffle will fall flat and your uke won't fall at all.

Best,

FL

Budd
11-13-2007, 12:12 PM
In this context, the historical understanding is part and parcel of the personal understanding of O Sensei framed by his beliefs and desires (which is my aim).

I think that's a noble goal, but sometimes the line seems fuzzy between the beliefs and desires of O-Sensei and those trying to explain or interpret them ;)

Budd
11-13-2007, 12:13 PM
Fred, I am both amused and hungry. Nicely done!

Ron Tisdale
11-13-2007, 12:24 PM
Any post from Fred...

Priceless... :D

B,
R (what the heck is a ramekins?????) :(

Erick Mead
11-13-2007, 12:27 PM
In a double boiler, gently stir chocolate, cream and butter together over heat until you have a smooth consistency. MMMmmmmmm. Chocolate.....

Erick Mead
11-13-2007, 12:28 PM
Any post from Fred...

Priceless... :D

B,
R (what the heck is a ramekins?????) :(Baby rames, of course. What a silly question.

Ron Tisdale
11-13-2007, 12:53 PM
LOL! Good one, Erick!

B,
R

Keith Larman
11-13-2007, 03:15 PM
... But if the instructions just say "blend" and you haven't been given more specific directions, there's a strong possibility that your souffle will fall flat and your uke won't fall at all.

Of course it also depends if I'm blending over his forehead with a wimpy wire whisk or my commercial grade Kitchenaid...

Fred Little
11-13-2007, 03:32 PM
Of course it also depends if I'm blending over his forehead with a wimpy wire whisk or my commercial grade Kitchenaid...

Very much so.

One of my co-workers at a pizza parlor once once reached into the not-quite-stopped Hobart running the dough-hook attachment.

Inexorable kotegaeshi with compound fractures. Ugly business.

On the plus side, we can be reasonably sure that the Hobart had no malicious intent.

Best,

FL

MM
11-13-2007, 03:44 PM
Very much so.

One of my co-workers at a pizza parlor once once reached into the not-quite-stopped Hobart running the dough-hook attachment.

Inexorable kotegaeshi with compound fractures. Ugly business.

On the plus side, we can be reasonably sure that the Hobart had no malicious intent.

Best,

FL

Yes, but was the Hobart using aiki? Or just ki? ;)

dps
11-13-2007, 03:45 PM
Folding in, gently stirring, and vigorous whisking.....


I shall try these at next Aikido practice but I not sure how to whisk an uke.

David

Erick Mead
11-13-2007, 04:16 PM
I shall try these at next Aikido practice but I not sure how to whisk an uke.That's easy. I put ukes at whisk almost every practice.

Budd
11-13-2007, 04:28 PM
All right, enough! This thread is getting fried by a couple bad eggs that are sure to take a beating ;)

Carl Thompson
11-13-2007, 04:43 PM
It is. But are we talking Ueshiba's aikido? Hirai's aikido? Nihon Goshin aikido?

Thanks for your reply Josh. I also admire your detailed knowledge here and would like to stress that I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you.

I imagine the description referred to Ueshiba’s aikido, since it came from the Aikikai Foundation and Ibaraki Shibu Dojo websites. I am still curious to know if you think they have made translation errors on their own websites – mistakes which are mirrored on websites and in literature around the globe. Will you contact the Aikikai as well as Jim Breen?

You might also want to look at the Wikipedia entry:

Aikido is often translated as "the Way of unifying (with) life energy" [1] or as "the Way of harmonious spirit."

and

The word "aikido" is formed of three kanji:

合 - ai - joining, harmonizing
気 - ki - spirit, life energy
道 - dō - way, path

Kind regards

Carl

Peter Goldsbury
11-14-2007, 02:25 AM
Thanks for your reply Josh. I also admire your detailed knowledge here and would like to stress that I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you.

I imagine the description referred to Ueshiba's aikido, since it came from the Aikikai Foundation and Ibaraki Shibu Dojo websites. I am still curious to know if you think they have made translation errors on their own websites -- mistakes which are mirrored on websites and in literature around the globe. Will you contact the Aikikai as well as Jim Breen?

Kind regards

Carl

Hello Carl,

Why should Josh contact the Aikikai? He is merely giving his opinion on an Internet discussion forum.

I myself am not sure if the Aikikai's mistakes are mirrored on websites and literature around the globe (which is the original and which is the mirror?), but I think they exist and are real mistakes. I know from experience that the Aikikai's expertise in translation from Japanese to English is not of a high order and have called them on it--many times.

Several years ago I had occasion to translate into English the Aikikai's international regulations. They have been changed since I did this, but you can still see almost all the results on the English language section of the website. Actually, what they wanted me to do was to produce an English version of the regulations, in 'real' native-speaker English, but which would reflect 100% all the subtle nuances of the Japanese original. The shihan responsible for the Japanese original was the late Sadateru Arikawa and I spent several hours with him trying to understand what the Japanese version actually meant. Arikawa Sensei used to come down to Hiroshima for training seminars and we would go crash-bang on the mat and then retire somewhere to discuss the regulations. He kept changing the Japanese text and expected me to intuit his unspoken reason for the changes and then produce an English version that exactly captured what he was trying to state in Japanese.

So I gave up and eventually produced an English version that contained all the problems of the Japanese original, but have never again undertaken to do any translation for the Aikikai. I had this problem with a legal text. Imagine what the Bieris had to contend with when they translated the introduction to Budo Renshu.

Actually, there is so much that O Sensei wrote that has never been translated that spending pages discussing the 'real' meaning of Ai-ki-do is somewhat limited in scope. Of course, you can do this and take the Mead approach (more honeyed) or the Reyer approach (less common), but it might be better to apply it to rather more than one singe word.

After all, it is the sentences that really count. Or do you think that the meaning of sentences is the aggregate of the meaning of the words they contain?

Best wishes and apologies for the length of the post.

Erick Mead
11-14-2007, 11:00 AM
Several years ago I had occasion to translate into English the Aikikai's international regulations. ... He kept changing the Japanese text and expected me to intuit his unspoken reason for the changes ... I had this problem with a legal text. ... do you think that the meaning of sentences is the aggregate of the meaning of the words they contain?In my undergrad days in a course on Japanese law and politics, my professor once remarked to the effect that the meaning of a sentence in Japanese is rather more the aggregate of the words it doesn't contain.

Rupert Atkinson
11-14-2007, 12:47 PM
I have done lots of translation/proof-reading - some for Japanese, most for Korean. Often, the hardest thing is not the text, but dealing with the person behind the text. They, thinking they know English better than I do, insist on more literal translation, which rarely works, but keeps them happy.

When I worked as an assisstant editor, however, I became more forceful in pushing my 'opinion' and often got my way. Sometimes, you just have to forget being nice and be direct and tell 'the profs' that they have no idea what they are talking about - it is never easy though - not exactly the best way to make friends and influence people. And then, sometimes, the chief ed ignores me (as the writer has influence) and publishes the original proof-read junk anyway. Now, I steer well clear of translation. I still proof-read stuff - but just for nice people.

Carl Thompson
11-14-2007, 07:26 PM
Thanks for your comment Mr. Goldsbury. I appreciated the length of it and found the part about translating for Arikawa sensei particularly interesting.


I'll raise the question on sci.lang.japan and see what the good folk there (including Jim Breen) have to say. The entry will likely be edited.

I asked Josh if he would contact the Aikikai because he said he would contact Jim Breen and others about the definition. I find a lot of what he writes on this forum quite fascinating and informative, so I am particularly interested to know where he stands. I was just as interested to read your opinion that the Aikikai have got it wrong.

I myself am not sure if the Aikikai's mistakes are mirrored on websites and literature around the globe (which is the original and which is the mirror?), but I think they exist and are real mistakes.

Regarding the mirroring, I just glanced at a few sites on the "Your dojo's website" thread and it seems the "harmony" view is very commonly repeated. In some cases they copy the Aikikai definition word for word.

"Aikido" can be translated as "A way of coming to harmony with the life force of the universe." AI translates as "harmony", KI as "universal life force" and DO as "way" or "path."

Based on the universal creative principal of Ki, Aikido ("the way of harmony with ki") utilizes the oncoming force of an attacker, harmonizing with it, to dissipate the attack and immobilize the attacker regardless of their size and number.

Come and practice Aikido, the way of harmony, a dynamic martial art for the body, mind and spirit

etc

As I said, I am not necessarily disagreeing with Josh or your good self. I'm just curious to know who thinks this definition is wrong, why and to what degree.

Kind regards

Carl
]

Josh Reyer
11-15-2007, 12:01 AM
I don't believe I'll be contacting the Aikikai because as an outsider it's simply not my place to do so, and thus they would simply ignore me. There are others for whom it would be more appropriate, if they were so inclined.

I said I would raise the issue on sci.lang.japan and let Jim Breen know because that's what Professor Breen would want. The dictionary he hosts is essentially like Wikipedia when it comes to new submissions -- anyone is free to make submissions, and if one seems a bit off, Professor Breen welcomes people alterting him to the entry. In this case, he edited the entry to remove the direct translation, feeling that a direct translation is unnecessary. I also wanted to hear what other speakers of Japanese, native and otherwise, had to say. True to s.l.j form, the discussion was quickly hijacked by encoding and character sets. :)

I'm just curious to know who thinks this definition is wrong, why and to what degree.

I believe that the simple phrase "合, ai means 'harmony'" is at best misinformation, roughly on par with "English comes from Latin". I believe "aiki means 'harmony with ki'" is imprecise and a poor translation in general. I've said repeatedly that if people, particularly those of Ueshiba-style aikido, wish to define "aiki" as that (and note that a definition is distinct from a translation), then I have nothing to say to them.

I only speak up to clear up what I see as misleading and inaccurate representations of the Japanese language. (The grossest of which I have seen being the fellow quoted on E-Budo who said that "ai" was made up of "person", "one", and "mouth", signifying "person with one mouth", and thus, "everyone singing with one mouth", and thus, "harmony". Holy God, that is wrong on so many levels.) I do this only because the Japanese language means as much to me, and probably more, than budo. But in the large scheme of things, it's not a big deal. I'm aware I'm fighting a losing battle against an entrenched meme.

I'll end on one final note. "Harmony" is used to translate 合 in only two examples - aiki(do), and 和合 wagou. And wagou contains 和, which is frequently translated as "harmony", and can indeed mean "harmony" simply by itself.

And with that, I bow out of this discussion.

m(_ _)m Arigatou gozaimashita.

Ron Tisdale
11-15-2007, 07:37 AM
And I bow to your detail and willingness to share.

I've personally often wondered about some of the uses of harmony in the translation. And noted that how my own teacher views "harmony" is not necessarily fluffy and nice. :D

This discussion has answered a lot of my questions, and clarified quite a few things for me, and I really appreciate you and Peter taking the time to elucidate us.

Best,
Ron

MM
11-15-2007, 08:26 AM
Um, yeah, what Ron said. :)

Keith Larman
11-15-2007, 08:33 AM
And noted that how my own teacher views "harmony" is not necessarily fluffy and nice. :D


Yeah, I remember a time taking ukemi for one of my sensei and listening to him explain how he "harmonized" with my attack. I was flat out on the ground face down with my arm twisted up behind me somewhere after having gone down rather, um, "robustly". Later I found I had a mat burn on my face... And it was my fault as I had "zoned out a bit" as I was really tired that day. I remember thinking at the time that the perception of harmony seemed to depend on whether you were the one hitting the deck... Nothing "nice" there. But it was certainly direct, fluid and with minimal conflict as I went face first into the tatami. I'd hate to think what would happen if it was over concrete...

Ron Tisdale
11-15-2007, 08:47 AM
:D Yep. I feel your pain...:D

B,
R

Chuck Clark
11-15-2007, 09:01 AM
I still like "fitting appropriately" (a version of Tomiki sensei's way of translating aikido).

Best regards,

Keith Larman
11-15-2007, 09:35 AM
Joshua:

I really enjoyed this thread and these posts. Sometimes thing get a bit "out there" and it is good to have someone willing to discuss and hash out these things. Keeping things grounded if you will. ;) I most certainly admire your dedication and willingness to share what you know of the subtleties of the Japanese language.

So ...

m(_ _)m Arigatou gozaimashita

back at ya!

George S. Ledyard
11-15-2007, 11:47 AM
I don't speak Japanese, and like most of the folks training in the States, was brought up on the standard mistaken translations. Josh's pointing out that these are misleading is important. As I have begun to figure out a bit about "aiki" in my own training via waza, I have become aware of the inadequacy of the standard translation. It simply has little or no descriptive value. But looking at translations that are more "correct" from the standpoint of Japanese language, one finds a much greater depth of description, something that actually points the way to what one is actually attempting to do in the art. This is much more helpful than folks simply applying their own, uninformed preconceptions to the term.

Thanks to all the fluent Japanese speakers here who have helped set the record straight.

Carl Thompson
11-15-2007, 05:29 PM
Thank you very much for your answer Josh, and please don't bow out completely.

I do this only because the Japanese language means as much to me, and probably more, than budo.

I've been studying Japanese as long as I've been studying Aikido (not long enough as far as I'm concerned), and both are dear to me too. Rest assured that I have the utmost respect for your Japanese ability and look forward to your posts. It's because of my own passion for the language and Aikido that I want to prod and poke your opinions to see what happens. :D

I personally don't feel like I know enough to have a strong opinion on this, which is why I am always happy to see the thoughts of those who have dedicated themselves to understanding the language and Aikido.

My next question is: if "harmony" is a poor definition of the "Ai" part of "Aikido," even within the context of the full compound, how should we define it?

Peace out

Carl :)

Carl Thompson
11-15-2007, 10:09 PM
So, personally, I would translate "aikido" as "Way of Matching Energy". I like that translation because it is as universally applicable as "aikido".

Sorry, I forgot this for reference from earlier in the thread. ;)

Erick Mead
11-16-2007, 10:14 AM
I certainly entertain the idea that the "aiki" of DRAJJ and the "aiki" of Ueshiba-ha (and Hirai-ha?) aikido are different. ... One thing that is quite clear, though, is that "ai" by no means means "harmony".

"Ai" by itself indicates a joining and/or matching. It is not at all "harmonious", indicated by it's use other phrases: kiri-ai (a swordfight), tachiai (a duel, or else the violent crashing together at the beginning of a sumo bout), iiai (an argument), oshiai-heshiai (pushing and jostling). Any kind of joined interaction of two or more entities -- harmonious, dissonant, or otherwise -- is an "ai" of some kind. IMO, the English concept closest to this idea is "meeting", and it's colloquial equivalent, "getting together"....

So, personally, I would translate "aikido" as "Way of Matching Energy". Josh prefers this because of its "nicely vague" quality. That is precisely the opposite of what the process of definition is about -- to move toward precision -- not away from it.

The problem is not on the Japanese side of this debate. It is on the English side, and only because the word "harmony" is not primarily understood in its physical context.

Another interpretive problem is this: Josh (either one), for all his capability, is not an authority on this usage. Authoritative translations have EXPLICITLY used "harmony" in direct context to translate "aiki."

The best example of "harmony" as canonical translation:

"Aiki is the power of harmony, of all beings, all things working together."

That is the Bieri's translation of Abe Sensei's collection of the Doka. It also appears on the back cover of "Spirit of Aikido." The same translation appears elsewhere in Nidai Doshu's book, but I want to focus on a functional understanding of the translated usage of O Sensei.

Now if you read that statement in its metaphorical meaning of the fluffy-bunny, kumbaya-campfire-singing variety, then we have a problem, because aikido is properly none of those things, though it aspires to the peace that makes them possible. But it is a manufactured problem.

Aikido is primarily a physical art. Whatever campfire-singing intentions it may have are all mediated through its physicality -- not as metaphor. As a physical art art with a physical meaning the Doka statement should be understood PHYSICALLY.

"Harmony" is only problematic for the reasons that have been stated because its PHYSICAL meaning is being disregarded. It is in essence a strawman caused by a false and unstated assumption as the basis for its interpretation.

Understood physically, "Harmony" is EXACTLY the proper translation of what aiki physically DOES -- actually in keeping with Josh preferred sense of the Japanese meaning -- but itleads to a more precise understanding in ENGLISH of the physical meaning than his "nicely vague" choice.

"harmonia (Gr.) -- lit. "means of joining," related to harmos "joint, shoulder," from PIE *ar-ti-, from *ar- "to fit together."

The same root underlies "articulate" -- as in "articulated limbs."

In "Spirit of Aikido" there is this quote of O Sensei :

In aikido there are no forms and no patterns. Natural movements are the movements of aikido. Its depth is profound and inexhaustible.

Now reconsider the Doka:

"Aiki is the power of harmony, of all beings, all things working together."

If "harmony" is correct as a physical argument then the chain of reasoning between the two statements in which "aiki" should be equivalent should lead back to it. If it does not, then it isn't.

Since it is movement that does work, substitute from the other statement ... eliminate what is redundant and eliminate the term to be examined to avoid circular argument.

"Aiki is ...things [in natural movement] together."

Now the next step:

What is natural movement?

"No form - no pattern." The movement has no definition apart from the physical constitutents of the "beings or things" that are working [naturally moving] together.

To put my body into an arbitrary form (vice a natural one) requires muscular effort of my limbs (i.e.-- more than that necessary to stand and move).

So, what are the natural constituting elements of my physical being without regard to the musculature necessary to put it into arbitrary forms?

Flexibly linked (articulated) rods.

What is the natural movement of flexibly linked rods?

Pendular.

What is the proper term for pendular motion?

Harmonic.

What is the proper term for two pendula "naturally moving" or working together?

Complex harmonic motion.

What is our term of art for that form of motion?

"Aiki"

gdandscompserv
11-16-2007, 10:50 AM
Have you ever jumped on a trampoline with a partner? You know, when you try to bounce your partner higher in the air by coordinating your "down weighting" with your partner's. If the timing is right, you can send your partner ever higher into the air. That seems "aiki" to me.

Erick Mead
11-16-2007, 11:05 AM
Have you ever jumped on a trampoline with a partner? You know, when you try to bounce your partner higher in the air by coordinating your "down weighting" with your partner's. If the timing is right, you can send your partner ever higher into the air. That seems "aiki" to me. A double oscillator harmonic that drives the system to resonance (damped only by the restorative inefficiencies of the trampoline). For adults of moderate to large weight, if you overdrive the resonance you can break the trampoline. I don't recommend it, although it is quite cruel fun to watch other people do it.

gdandscompserv
11-16-2007, 11:38 AM
A double oscillator harmonic that drives the system to resonance.
Do we have a new definition of "aiki?":cool:

Josh Reyer
11-16-2007, 12:01 PM
Josh prefers this because of its "nicely vague" quality. That is precisely the opposite of what the process of definition is about -- to move toward precision -- not away from it.

I said I like the translation because the vagueness in the translation matches up with the vagueness of the original, and can thus apply to every style of aiki-related budo.

The essential difference between you and me, Erick, is that I keep looking at this from the global perspective. As far as I'm concerned, any translation of "aiki" has to account for pre-Ueshiba and non-Ueshiba aiki arts. How someone translated one of the Doka is in that case interesting, but hardly authoritative.

By the by, regarding this Doka and it's canonical translation:
"Aiki is the power of harmony, of all beings, all things working together."

The original is:
合気とは万和合の力なりたゆまずみがけ道の人々
Aiki to wa,
yorozu wagou no chikara nari;
Tayumazu migake
Michi no hitobito

In direct context, "harmony" is not used to translate "aiki". "Aiki" is left untranslated. "Harmony" is used in direct context to translate "wagou 和合".

Here, "aiki" is explained as the power of everything in harmony and unity. (和 = harmony, 合 = unity) Doesn't sound very fluffy bunny to me, and your physical explanation sounds apt. However, this particular doka is part of a series of doka on the "Aiki to wa" (Aiki is...) theme, and in addition to wagou, "love", "the form and heart of the kami", "unable to be expressed with mouth or brush", and "a way that is difficult to understand" are all used to directly define aikido, just like "yorozu wagou no chikara". My suggestion is explain the parsing of aikido with the core meanings of the kanji, vague though they may be, and use the Doka to expand that understanding, rather than create an ultra-context specific, non-idiomatic translations/definitions for the kanji.

合気とは愛の力の本にして愛はますます栄えゆくべし

合気とは神の御姿御心ぞいづとみづとの御親とほとし

合気とは筆や口にはつくされず言ぶれせずに悟り行へ

合気とは解けばむつかし道なれどありのままなる天のめぐりに

Erick Mead
11-16-2007, 04:19 PM
The essential difference between you and me, Erick, is that I keep looking at this from the global perspective. As far as I'm concerned, any translation of "aiki" has to account for pre-Ueshiba and non-Ueshiba aiki arts. ... To the extent there is a difference -- a point I remain agnostic about -- but basically unconvinced. But you are right, my only concern is Ueshiba's perspective.

Thanks by the way for providing the parallel kana with the romaji. My aikido books are in storage, weepingly, for the moment, ...
By the by, regarding this Doka and it's canonical translation:

The original is:
合気とは万和合の力なりたゆまずみがけ道の人々
Aiki to wa,
yorozu wagou no chikara nari;
Tayumazu migake
Michi no hitobito

In direct context, "harmony" is not used to translate "aiki". "Aiki" is left untranslated. "Harmony" is used in direct context to translate "wagou 和合". We have another disconnect in underlying assumptions of purpose when it comes to "defining." You are interested in defining the term as to what it most readily or routinely signifies. While that is a laudable and legitimate concern in itself -- I am interested in defining the thing signified by a particular person using the term.

His precision of language in the abstract is not my concern; his precise intent in using it toward the concrete, is.

Here, "aiki" is explained as the power of everything in harmony and unity. (和 = harmony, 合 = unity) Doesn't sound very fluffy bunny to me, and your physical explanation sounds apt. I prefer the Bieri's "Aiki is the power of harmony of all things working together." It appears, not withstanding that, that we are on the same page, if perhaps on opposites sides of the sheet. Turning it back and forth probably gets the more whole sense of it -- one reason, perhaps, for him providing so many Doka on a difficult topic we debate in two or three languages forty years after he ceased his active contribution to it.

However, this particular doka is part of a series of doka on the "Aiki to wa" (Aiki is...) theme, and in addition to wagou, "love", "the form and heart of the kami", "unable to be expressed with mouth or brush", and "a way that is difficult to understand" are all used to directly define aikido, just like "yorozu wagou no chikara".

My suggestion is explain the parsing of aikido with the core meanings of the kanji, vague though they may be, and use the Doka to expand that understanding, rather than create an ultra-context specific, non-idiomatic translations/definitions for the kanji. And my suggestion is that poetry uses image, as kanji also use image, and so we should follow the images. Concrete images can very usefully transcend the denotative boundaries internal to a language when the boundaries of meaning a different languages do not directly map in cultural context. With some minimal cultural reference many non-Japanese enjoy translations of waka and haiku, which speak to them, as well, if not AS well, as to Japanese.

Given, X is X and Y is Y. I am not interested in identity but function. When a person addressing a question relates them by saying that X is Y then Y defines X as a function of its operation. Of course, it always possible that Z also defines X, or some subset of Z, or other dimensional quantities, also if they are relevant.

I will address what I see in these "Aiki to wa ..." images in relation to physically real functions in a separate post which will require a bit more time.

Erick Mead
11-16-2007, 10:23 PM
My Tolkeinian take on some imagery of the Doka used to define aiki functionally:
合気とは愛の力の本...
"Aiki is the power of the root of love."

Love. Sympathy. Mirror neurons are the root of love -- Feeling another as oneself. A string of proper length and tension undergoes sympathetic vibration with any other vibrating element within sensible range.

合気とは筆や口..."Aiki cannot be captured with the brush Nor can it be expressed with the mouth..."

Not written -- not spoken, in other words: Non verba. Res. Mono. Thing. Concrete physical reality. It is a trait of kami that they are not purely numinous, they have a concrete locus. While not constrained in what form that may take, spirituality in Japan is deeply tied to the physicality of its manifestation.

合気とは解けばむつかし道なれどありのままなる天のめぐりに Bieri: "Aiki!
A way so difficult to analyze
(But one needs only to) follow
The natural rotations of the
Heavens."

Rotations. Here and as far as your perception will reach.
This one has some other interesting features, that are indicative of the subtleties of O Sensei's uses of language, only hinted at by his pun on "ai" 合/愛:

なれ means "practice" but also when written in some expressions with合 means secret or subversive intimacy (with sexual subtext), thus also suggesting the same male--female imagery prominent elsewhere

どあり means "degree or extent" but is also written in kanji 度合 and also suggests periodic behavior.

Other doka speak to this same trope(in Bieri's translation), this one is particularly nice::

"The honored techniques if KI
May manifest the spirit of the Great Snake
Or that of Bees
To make such spirits (tama) appear
Is the Way of Takemusu"

Snake- sinuous undulation. Bees -- buzz at high frequency; oscillatory images at both ends of the spectrum

CitoMaramba
11-17-2007, 02:06 AM
An effect of resonance:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/46/Tacoma_Narrows_Bridge_Falling.png
Not exactly "peaceful" is it?

dps
11-17-2007, 03:44 AM
Another effect of resonance:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4037354776795422979&q=bridge+swaying&total=33&start=0&num=10&so=0&type=search&plindex=5

David

Amir Krause
11-18-2007, 07:06 AM
I wish to contribute my own 2 cents,
Though I do not speak nor read Japanese.

I think I can make some very minor contribution:

When a Korindo Aikido Shihan came to visit the dojo , he told me about the meaning of Aiki in a an analogy, which I must admit I do not understand still, and may distort it somewhat:
He talked of the AI of aikido more in the sense of matching, or somewhere along the line of finding the right key for a lock, but not exactly.
He talked of Ki as the essence that stays the same in a branch, even after being in a fire. (I am not sure I understood him)

The person I am talking about was a Japanese working as a traditional \ old Japanese language teacher in a Japanese university. Thus I guess it is worth it to give you my impressions of that conversation with him. Though one should be careful - we talked in English while I was driving, English is not the native language of either of us, and we clearly did not have the same cultural connotations.

Amir

Carl Thompson
11-19-2007, 12:40 AM
Josh prefers this because of its "nicely vague" quality. That is precisely the opposite of what the process of definition is about -- to move toward precision -- not away from it.

Good point, but we all have different ideas of what aikido is, so in defining it, we have to use terms that can be applied broadly. Otherwise we have to explain why the definition doesn't apply across the board. Another thing is who are we defining aikido for? If it's for everyone, then it's not just the practitioners and linguists who need to be happy with the definition. For that reason, I favour keeping it simple.

Jim Breens now defines Aikido like this:

合気道; 合氣道(oK) 【あいきどう】 (n) {MA} aikido

Aikido is aikido. So if that isn't enough, people can consult the entry in an English dictionary. These are some results from dictionary.com

ai•ki•do
--noun
a Japanese form of self-defense utilizing wrist, joint, and elbow grips to immobilize or throw one's opponent.

[Origin: 1960--65; < Japn aikidō, equiv. to ai to coordinate + ki breath control + dō way (< MChin; see JUDO) ]
Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)

ai•ki•do
n. A Japanese art of self-defense that employs holds and locks and that uses the principles of nonresistance in order to debilitate the strength of the opponent.

[Japanese aikidō : ai, mutual + ki, spirit (from Middle Chinese khi) + dō, art (from Middle Chinese daw', thaw).]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Aikido
Japanese art of self-defense, lit. "way of adapting the spirit," from Jap. ai "together" + ki "spirit" + do "way, art," from Chinese tao "way."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2001 Douglas Harper
Aikido
noun
a Japanese martial art employing principles similar to judo

WordNet® 3.0, © 2006 by Princeton University.

However, I'm starting to waver back towards "harmony" being an okay definition again just based on a couple of conversations I had with some Japanese teachers of English. I haven't found any that disagree with the idea that the character 合 can mean harmony, even in isolation from the jukugo.

Going back to this statement…

Well, first, Kisshomaru was hardly an expert in English, let alone Japanese-English translation. I have no idea how involved he was in the editing process, and I doubt he had the bilingual knowledge necessary to comment authoritatively on various translations.

…I can't help but think that by now, there are enough bilingual people on the Japanese side who would know whether or not "harmony" is acceptable. The English version of the Aikikai Hombu website gets regular updates in competent English.

The "What is Aikido" section of the English version of the Yoshinkan Hombu website (http://www.yoshinkan.net/contentsE/aikidoE.html#) states…

The principal of Aikido is not to resist the law of nature, but to harmonize without using physical strength.

..and then this comes from their Q&A section:

Q: Why is Aikido called "The Martial Art of Harmony"?
A: Aikido techniques don't have unnatural movements.
For example, if your enemy pulls you, the action you take will not be to resist the pull, but to harmonize with the movement, and lead the attacker to a naturally unbalance position. Aikido always applies a harmonizing technique and that is the reason why Aikido is called "the Martial Art of Harmony".

Also for reference, this is a ki-society interpretation from their Ontario site (http://www.ki-aikido.ca/aikido.html).

Aikido is a relatively new spiritual martial art that emphasizes the importance of harmony in the world. Aikido is a non aggressive form of self defense. The translation for Aikido is "Ai" meaning harmony, "Ki" meaning energy and "Do" means the way, thus it is the art of harmonizing energy.

I agree with the changing of Jim Breen's dictionary, simply because it isn't necessary to go any further than referring people to the exact same word in English. Also, I don't disagree with the other definitions ("matching" also sounds okay). Harmony is just one interpretation. I'm mainly concerned about the idea that the interpretation "harmony" is wrong.

I looked up the kanji 合 on Chuck Muller's CJK Dictionary (http://www.buddhism-dict.net/cgi-bin/xpr-dealt.pl?54.xml+id('c5408'))and came across this definition

Meanings
• To unite, or combine two things. [同一] For two things to become one body. To gather, collect. To harmonize; [和] to fit, to match, to meet. [會] To mix with. [混]
• To marry. [婚]
• A partner, a spouse; the other half of a pair.
• To agree, to accord with.
• A unit of volume= 1/10 of a [升]
• To close, to shut.

(Note: To view it yourself log in as "guest" and leave the password blank)

Yoroshiku

Carl

Dan Rubin
11-19-2007, 01:26 PM
For what it's worth (which may be nothing), the following from the WikiPedia entry for "hapkido":

The spelling of hapkido (합기도) in Chinese characters is exactly the same as the pre-1946 rendering of aikido, 合氣道, the Korean pronunciation of 合 being hap (while in Japanese kun'yomi it is au). 合 hap means "harmony", "coordinated", or "joining"; 氣 ki describes internal energy, spirit, strength, or power; and 道 do means "way" or "art", yielding a literal translation of "joining-energy-way", but it is most often rendered as "the way of coordinating energy" or "the way of coordinated power."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hapkido

Mato-san
12-05-2007, 09:50 AM
just put your hands on someone that has aquired "aiki" and forget this thread

Mato-san
12-05-2007, 09:58 AM
Articulate Aikido from a keyboard I dare you !
put your hands on mine and then we can talk!

Erick Mead
12-05-2007, 10:24 AM
Articulate Aikido from a keyboard I dare you ! put your hands on mine and then we can talk! So, taking this position about the validity of non-personal knowledge to its conclusion -- do you believe that death is not real, simply because you have never actually experienced your own death? In fact, more philosophically, no one EVER actually experiences their own death. That does not mean that there is not a definable fact of death, or that it may be safely disregarded, because I have not experienced it.

Wisdom is the fruit of sad experience. Only narrow masochistic minds insist on their own personal experience as the only basis of useful truth. The wiser course is to be exceedingly glad to merely hear tell of it, and then govern ourselves accordingly. I can tell you a hundred errors I have made in performing aikido, and I have heard tell of thousands more. There is defined wisdom there. Errors -- being specific events -- have specific causes, and are reducible to analytic form easily communicated in this way. Regardless how little we can say in this mode about doing it consistently correctly we can at least say how to not do it as poorly as we know we did on a given occasion. Via negativa is as definitional as affirmative proposition, it's just not as simplistic.

After all, doing it correctly on any given occasion might just be sheer dumb luck.

Mato-san
12-05-2007, 10:31 AM
have you ever been close to death?..... anyhow respect the input!

Carl Thompson
12-06-2007, 07:48 PM
Articulations will never beat the actual experience of the thing being explained, but we need to refer to things somehow. If someone asks what aikido means, they might not appreciate an on-the-spot lesson. :D

I bought a smart new electronic dictionary in Akihabara on the weekend (Sharp's Papyrus PW-LT300). When I looked up the word 合う I got this as the first line of the definition:

http://www.sharp.co.jp/corporate/news/images/070201-a.gif

あう[合う]
1. {調和}
Harmonize (with); agree (with); (色などが) match (with)

It seems to me that all the styles, organisations, dojo and sensei defining the "ai" in "aikido" as "harmony" are not mistaken. Perhaps they should add a clause that there are other meanings too, but for me at least, there are too many native speakers and dictionaries telling me that it is okay. But I'm no expert and I would welcome further opinions.

Erick Mead
12-06-2007, 07:56 PM
have you ever been close to death?..... anyhow respect the input!I used to fly helicopters for a living. It is the business of the helicopter pilot to coax a tangle of parts to defy a fundamental law of the universe while maintaining a loose formation, and to imaginatively and incessantly contemplate the many ways they would all be immensely pleased to kill him -- and coming to love this exquisite form of abuse. If that's not "aiki," I don't know what is.

There are errors I deeply value other people having made, and that I , happily, do not have to experience to benefit from.

So, unless you consider "close" to be landing on a ship in the North Pacific in thirty foot seas on a deck barely the size of your rotor diameter -- with ten feet of clearance between a fifty-foot rotor arc and the hangar face -- no, not really "close," no.

The thing is, helicopters are different from airplanes. An airplane by its nature wants to fly, and if it is not interfered with too strongly by unusual events or a deliberately incompetent pilot, it will fly. A helicopter does not want to fly. It is maintained in the air by a variety of forces and controls working in opposition to each other, and if there is any disturbance in this delicate balance, the helicopter stops flying, immediately and disastrously. There is no such thing as a gliding helicopter.
This is why being a helicopter pilot is so different from being an airplane pilot, and why, in generality, airplane pilots are open, clear-eyed buoyant extroverts and helicopter pilots are brooders, introspective anticipators of trouble. They know if something bad has not happened it is about to.

Ron Tisdale
12-07-2007, 07:58 AM
So, unless you consider "close" to be landing on a ship in the North Pacific in thirty foot seas on a deck barely the size of your rotor diameter -- with ten feet of clearance between a fifty-foot rotor arc and the hangar face -- no, not really "close," no.

:D LOL...closer than I need to be.

Fact is, we are all close to death right now...we might not realize it though.

Best,
Ron

Josh Reyer
12-07-2007, 09:17 AM
But I'm no expert and I would welcome further opinions.

Carl, if you responded to every "What does 'Aikido' mean?" question with a string of definitions from J-E dictionaries, you'd get no protest from me.

Erick Mead
12-07-2007, 09:37 AM
Carl, if you responded to every "What does 'Aikido' mean?" question with a string of definitions from J-E dictionaries, you'd get no protest from me.Excepting only his own "Devil's Dictionary" in which the definition appears, Ambrose Bierce defined "dictionary" as:

"A malevolent literary device for cramping the growth of a language and making it hard and inelastic."

For bilingual dictionaries, I would say that applies double (or is it squared?)

Ron Tisdale
12-07-2007, 10:04 AM
I have a copy of that Devil's Dictionary somewhere...gotta find that!

Best,
Ron (one of my favorites)

Josh Reyer
12-07-2007, 10:30 AM
For bilingual dictionaries, I would say that applies double (or is it squared?)

Given that I am not wont to quote bilingual dictionaries when discussing the Japanese language, and have always argued for contextual, idiomatic understanding of it, an interesting question to ask might be why I would so heartily approve of Carl's quoting strings of definitions from J-E dictionaries.

Regardless of that, insomuch as Mr. Bierce's statements about dictionaries in general may be true, I'm afraid that bilingual dictionaries by their nature have absolutely zero effect on their constituent languages.

Erick Mead
12-07-2007, 11:16 AM
Regardless of that, insomuch as Mr. Bierce's statements about dictionaries in general may be true, I'm afraid that bilingual dictionaries by their nature have absolutely zero effect on their constituent languages.L' Academie Francaise is holding for you -- Line two ... Monsieur Larousse would like a word... several, in fact.

Dictionaries have uses, but it is mistake to become overly devoted of the scholastic perspective, so says the most influential of English lexicographers. There are number things useful to recall from him.

Samuel Johnson: "I am not so lost in lexicography as to forget that words are the daughters of earth, and that things are the sons of heaven."

And as to the need for examining literary usage to derive meaning : "Every quotation contributes something to the stability or enlargement of the language."

Toward a further definition of Aikido then let me offer the following drawn from Dr. Johnson's rich observations:

".. the excellence of aphorisms consists not so much in the expression of some rare or abstruse sentiment, as in the comprehension of some obvious and useful truth in few words."

More modernly: "aphorism : A short phrase conveying some principle or concept of thought."

Aikido, as an art, may be defined: "a physical aphorism of budo."

As Dr. Johnson would say: "Example is always more efficacious than precept."

And a curiously Aiki-like sentiment: ''Attack is the reaction; I never think I have hit hard unless it rebounds."

Carl Thompson
12-10-2007, 12:45 AM
...an interesting question to ask might be why I would so heartily approve of Carl's quoting strings of definitions from J-E dictionaries.

I imagine I might not like the answer, but thanks again for your comments Josh.

I am sorry if my badgering is becoming tiresome. I posted the Japanese-to-English dictionary quotes (and other references too please notice) because (since I am "no expert") I have to rely on the work of others in my attempt to understand this matter.

Although I'm well aware that dictionaries are only one tool in understanding a language, I think it is pretty relevant when so many of them on both sides of the language divide are saying more or less the same things. There is a variation in definition, but even those which do not explicitly mention "harmony" at least have meanings like "join," and "match" listed under the nuance of chowa 調和 -- "harmony". As Keith Larman pointed out (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=13530&page=2), "harmony" in English derives some meaning from "join" or "fit together".

The quote in the original post on this thread claimed that Aikido roughly translates as "the way of harmony with ki". Not accurately, not satisfactorily, just roughly. It was claimed that this was a bad translation by one poster and as a mistake by another. Josh gave some very convincing reasons for why we should not translate the character "ai" as "harmony"

"Ai" by itself indicates a joining and/or matching. It is not at all "harmonious"…

I'm also inclined to avoid the lovey-dovey harmony word myself but it is important to be objective. I was particularly intrigued by the notion that the character "ai" interpreted as "harmony" is not only bad, but also an actual mistake. This has fairly important implications. I have no problem with people having their own preferences about how to explain what the word "aikido" means. However, when I am effectively being told that almost every dojo and organisation I have ever trained in has been using an incorrect English definition, you'll forgive me for being curious and playing Sherlock.

It seems like some of us think "harmony" and are conjuring up cheesy images of angels all singing together and that it jars with their own vision of what a martial art like aikido is. That's fair enough. Just don't use the "harmony" definition. It's the claim that others who are using that definition are mistaken that concerns me.

Personally, I can't help but think of this from an art and design perspective. Look at a woodblock print by the likes of Hokusai, Kuniyoshi or Hiroshige and you can see harmony and correct fitting! Just joining and fitting alone can be mere symmetry or lining things up on the page. You need to join and fit things together in harmony to make a design function well - the quality artists and designers call composition. As a designer, I try to match things in harmony with an awareness of how the viewer's eye will be led.

The image can be a Musashi killing a giant nue or a beautiful mountain scene. Both can have visual harmony.

Regards

Carl

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/18/Miyamoto_Musashi_killing_a_giant_nue.jpg/250px-Miyamoto_Musashi_killing_a_giant_nue.jpg

Josh Reyer
12-10-2007, 03:44 AM
I imagine I might not like the answer, but thanks again for your comments Josh.

I can't imagine you wouldn't like the answer.

My position has always been that the statement "'ai' means 'harmony'" was misleading, and that things like "Way of Harmony with Ki" are bad translations. Certainly not bad interpretations to use in one's own practice, but very bad when talking general. My objection has always been idiomatic. "Ai", because of it's meanings of matching, joining, and uniting, can be used to refer to harmony in certain contexts. A prime example being 和合 wagou. Wa = peace, good relations, harmony, and gou = matching, joining, uniting - it's all one big nice things in perfect harmony.

But is the verb "au" used in any of the same kinds of context as the verb "harmonize"? Not particularly. Is harmony a common translation for many words that include 合? Only a precious few, and those with other kanji that have strong contextual links to English "harmony". (Notice that the words I'm using here are context and idiomatic. That "harmony" has etymological associations with "joining" means little, as few people, if any, say things like "I harmonized with my local neighborhood watch" or "I harmonized those two pieces together." Etymology means very little when it comes to translation.)

So, if someone asks, "What does "ai" mean?", I don't care for the single word "harmony" as an answer. But now, if you provide a list of definitions, "It means 'matching', 'joining', 'harmonizing', 'uniting'," then the person doesn't have an imperfect understanding of the word, now they have a grasp of the word's myriad meanings, connotations, nuances, and contexts. And that's the best kind of situation.

As for many dojos translating aikido as "Way of Harmony of/with/and Ki", well, it's a meme. It gives the newbie a little indication of the philosophy of Ueshiba aikido, at least. "Aikido" would be better explained than pithily translated, but people can't resist, as evidenced by the many replies of this thread and others.

The thing that gets me is that I'm not trying to have "harmony" stricken from the "ai(ki)" discussion. I'm for adding more information, providing more context, a better understanding of the word in the native Japanese idiom. But people are tenaciously attached to that H word.

Carl Thompson
12-11-2007, 12:22 AM
Thanks Josh

So, if someone asks, "What does "ai" mean?", I don't care for the single word "harmony" as an answer. But now, if you provide a list of definitions, "It means 'matching', 'joining', 'harmonizing', 'uniting'," then the person doesn't have an imperfect understanding of the word, now they have a grasp of the word's myriad meanings, connotations, nuances, and contexts. And that's the best kind of situation.

I fully agree and support you in that. If we give the impression that the "合" in "aikido" 合氣道 or "gassho" 合唱 only means harmony, it misrepresents the language. At the same time, if someone says the "合" in gassho has absolutely no meaning of harmony whatsoever then that would be misrepresentative too. People aren't "joining chants," "fitting yells" or "matching recitations". There is a strong connotation of the harmony definition. My concern was just the idea that the H word was not linguistically possible. I don't care if people think it's bad, but it seems important if they're saying that something is absolutely wrong when technically, it isn't. It's just potentially misleading. Aikido is still young and memes are probably the best we're going to get.

"Aikido" would be better explained than pithily translated, but people can't resist, as evidenced by the many replies of this thread and others.

Unfortunately, people will take words and use them. :disgust:

;) Carl