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niall 10-10-2010 03:40 AM

Kanji for budo - 先
This is some simple information on some kanji for budo for people who don't speak Japanese. Perhaps it's been mentioned before. In my last blog post I wrote about sen no sen and go no sen 先の先, 後の先. Peter Goldsbury suggested some background on the difference between sen and saki would be helpful. They are both written with the same kanji. Actually it's a mysterious word: one of the meanings is future and one is previous.

Kanji came to Japan from China and many kept a pronunciation (or pronunciations -- there can be several) similar to the original Chinese. That's called the on-yomi or on (sound) reading. For 先 that's sen.

Then they acquired a native Japanese pronunciation (or pronunciations) called the kun-yomi or kun (meaning) reading. For 先 that's saki.

This one kanji 先 is used in budo in words like:

sensei 先生 teacher
sempai 先輩 senior
sente 先手 initiative
kissaki 切っ先 sword point

The go in go no sen can be read as go (on-yomi) or ato (kun-yomi). It means after but another kun-yomi reading ushiro means behind so we use it in aikido in ushiro dori 後取.

Another common kanji in budo is 柔 ju (juu) soft or gentle. Ju is the on-yomi. We use it in 柔道 judo and 柔術 jujutsu. The kun-yomi is yawara.

Don't worry if it sounds complicated. Even Japanese people sometimes have trouble, especially with names.

This is the wikipedia entry for kanji:

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