Mike Sigman wrote:
I don't think it matters who translated it. As Stevens notes in his book, the doka are meant to have meaning on several levels. In other words, it's not the literal translation that's going to be important, it's the nuanced subtleties.... and as usual in Asian writings, you can understand the subtle implications only if you already know them. Because a certain translation *sounds* good or "flows" nicely, is sort of beside the point.
It should be noted that there is a danger here in the translation. Like Mike points out in his later post, O'Sensei was privy to some pretty heavy hitting cultural nuances that his interpreters were not. So you have to take the translation with a grain of salt. Some nuanced subtleties may be added to fit the translators personal agendas. I'm not implying that Mr. Stevens or Abe Sensei have some personal agenda for misrepresenting O'Sensei's words, but that you need to be careful about how the translation reads.
For example, Thomas Merton's translation of "Lao Tse" differs from others primarily because he was a catholic priest. So, Stevens and others who translate O'Sensei's Doka while having developed their own theories about Aikido Philosophy, will opt for translation that more readily reinforces their own philosophy. Thereby, proving themselves correct. You also have to realize particularly when analyzing ancient Chinese texts that there are great debates and even feuds over what exactly a "literal translation" would be as often there is no exact English equivalent for the idea being expressed.
This by the way is a natural inclination and happens all the time when translating philosophical works into English, so I'm not trying to dissuade you from reading Stevens, or anyone else for that matter. Jest, make as much an informed opinion as you care to make.