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Old 12-04-2005, 06:39 PM   #13
Josh Reyer
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Location: Aichi-ken, Nagoya-shi
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 644
Re: Kaesu

Michael Hacker wrote:
My intention wasn't to get into a technical discussion, but I can see may need to happen in order to clarify my point.

I used to train in styles that do this technique exactly as you described; I no longer do. I think the "turning over" is the wrong place to focus. I believe that emphasizing the "turning over" leads people to think that they need to crank on the kote; this alone will generally not work without pain, threat of injury, or brainwashing.

The way I do it, "turning over" the kote is a byproduct of the technique. I don't turn over uke's kote; I set up a situation in which he pulls back and turns it over himself, then I follow, returning it to him. The key is not in the turning over of the kote, but rather in "returning" of it to a triangulated point just outside the little toe or heel, depending upon circumstances.

Ultimately, as speakers and translators of Japanese, I think we need to be very careful about attributing English meanings to Japanese words. Additionally, the way one phrase is translated into English does not necessarily hold true to how others should be handled.
I agree with the very last paragraph: it's the cardinal rule for translators. However, (and this is with all due respect), I don't feel "return" is the proper translation here, even though I also agree entirely with your description of a proper kotegaeshi.

You "return" the wrist; the kote necessarily turns over in the course of the technique. That you allow uke to turn over it himself is irrelevant; the technique name makes no such fine distinctions. It simply says that someone turns over the kote.

I can understand concerns about someone hearing a translation and thinking they have to crank it. Unfortunately, people often think that just seeing the technique demonstrated. It's up to the instructors to properly explain the technique, as you have here. The thing is, a Japanese person is just as likely to think they have to crank the elbow hearing "kotegaeshi" as an English speaker would hearing "forearm turn (over)". That's the nature of technique descriptions. They are glosses, quick-and-dirty appelations, not subtle descriptions.

Actually, I have no problem with "forearm return" as just such a gloss. If I were to create an English name for the technique, I might put it as "forearm reverse", for much the same reasons as you chose return. But when explaining what the Japanese means, I don't think "return" (as in to return a book to a library) is right. The Japanese in this case is idiomatic. A Japanese person hears (or reads) 小手返し, they see it performed, they understand it as in the phrases 手のひらを返す and 軍配を返す, not 本を棚に返す or 借金を返す.

For example, I have no real problem with translating 軍配を返す as "turn over (the) fan," although I'd probably choose to say "turn around (the) fan" instead. (Actually, I'd most likely translate it as "the referee signalled the start of the match.") I would not, however, choose to translate 図書館員に本を返す as "turn over the book to the librarian." I would, instead, say "return the book to the librarian," since the emphasis isn't on giving it to them, but on giving it back to them. Additionally, I don't have to physically turn the book end-over-end to accomplish my task.
Using turn over in the librarian case would be wrong. Just because "turn over" is the meaning in this case doesn't mean it's the meaning of it in every case. The Koujien dictionary lists 4 primary definitions of 返す, each with 3 or 4 sub-definitions. For most of those subdefinitions, a different English translation would have to be used.

Looks can be greatly deceiving. There's a reason they changed the name, and I agree with it. From what I know of the reason behind renaming the technique, the emphasis needed to change to get people away from cranking.
I wouldn't be surprised. But as I suggested above, it would seem that the Japanese name led to Japanese people cranking as well, since they changed the name and not just the translation. IMO, though, kotegaeshi/oroshi just leads to cranking, particularly in beginners. I don't think that'll change whatever it's called.

I personally wouldn't call koteoroshi a "take-down" but rather a "drop." To my ears, "take-down" has a significantly different flavor of meaning than "drop" does. I do believe that all it takes is to drop an inch (or less) at the right time and with the right target to make the technique work beautifully. Any more is too much.
I actually don't have a problem with "drop" (again, in the quick-and-dirty appelation sense). This is a tough one to get the nuance across. Oroshi has such a nuance of control that just won't seem to translate to English: "drop", "take-down" "bring-down", they all seem a bit too harsh. Perhaps "forearm-lower"?

Your understanding and use of the Japanese language in budo appears to be slightly different than mine. Perhaps that has caused our understand of technique to be a little different as well. Or perhaps it is the other way around. My understanding of the language has strongly colored my understanding of technique and vice-versa.
I would say that I don't use the Japanese language in budo, I simply use the Japanese language. By which I mean, my philosophy in any kind of translation (or in this case, commentary) is that I want the audience to have the same kind of understanding as a Japanese person. This means, as Alfred the Great so eloquently put it: "hwilum word be word, hwilum andgit of andgiete" "At times word for word, at times sense for sense." As a translator, I try to be a mediator, and impart as little of myself into the translation as possible. So while I understand that kotegaeshi is not about cranking the wrist nor the elbow, when telling someone what kotegaeshi means I would restrict myself to "turning over the forearm". Because a Japanese person doesn't derive any greater insight from the name than that (and I don't believe the sense of 返す as in "return a book" would occur to them here). There's translating the language, and then there's teaching the technique: I tend to keep those separate.

I was originally taught aikido in English, without any particular emphasis on what the words meant in English. I mean, we had access to glosses, but instruction wasn't beholden to them. I learned early on not to focus on the wrist in kotegaeshi, and not to crank. (That doesn't mean I didn't crank, but when you're a beginner there's always a gulf between theory and practice...)

Fast forward 11 years, 11 years that were all about the Japanese language, and not at all about aikido. Now I'm starting over again in a Japanese environment, where there's no English at all. But yet again, the names are just glosses to the technique, and the real instruction is what is shown and felt, rather than the names.

I'm ambivalent about the use of Japanese terms in an English aikido context. On one hand, I have great difficulty talking about sumo in English without using Japanese terms for techniques and kimarite. That's because I watch sumo in Japanese, I read sumo in Japanese, and often talk about sumo in Japanese. Sumo is tied into the Japanese language centers of my brain. And when I read the English glosses for kimarite (e.g., "frontal force out" for yorikiri), I find them lacking in the elegance of the original Japanese. So I can understand why the Japanese shihan prefer the Japanese terms, and why the early non-Japanese aikidoka do as well (as their instruction was in Japanese). Heck, at this point now, I probably feel the same way about aikido as I do about sumo.

On the other hand, too often I think things are done a little too fast and loose on the linguistic front; knowledge without understanding. Things get lost in translation, and then someone working off the translation further perpetuates the misunderstanding. And that's how you get things like kotegaeshi being called "wrist turn". Even the AikiWiki calls it a "reverse wrist". And let's not even get into the question of "ki"!

Of course, it's too much to ask people to become fluent in Japanese just to take aikido. Heck, I focused so much on Japanese that I stopped doing aikido, which is certainly not what we want. So I heartily applaud and support articles such as yours, or the articles in the Language section by Jun Akiyama. The more perspective the better.

I have none to steal. I was inviting you to write articles.
Well, I'd be happy to contribute in any way I can.

Josh Reyer

The lyf so short, the crafte so longe to lerne,
Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
- Chaucer
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