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Old 05-04-2007, 11:00 PM   #11
Peter Goldsbury
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Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
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Re: Parsing ai ki do

Graham Old wrote: View Post
I know nothing about Japanese, so maybe some of you can help. What's the best translation of Aikido into English? What are the acceptable variations of interpretation?

Way of finding harmony with your spirit?

The Way in Harmony with the Spirit?

Or, the spiritual way of harmony?

Or, a harmonious spiritual way?

Or, even, the way of peaceful living?!

Is it obvious what I'm asking, or am I just making a fool of myself? In Japanese, what are the objects and subjects?

I'm only asking because I have recently come across some translations that strike ms as suspiciously Western (e.g. the first one above).

I think you have to be very careful with the idea of parsing a single word, even though it is a compound of several Chinese characters, in the way you would parse a Latin sentence.

In a typical Japanese kanji dictionary there are hundreds of compound words containing the character for KI and these words have quite ordinary meanings. How would you parse a word like kishoudai (weather station), irokichiga (sex mania), or koukiben (air valve)? Or a word like KOUHI (coffee)? The first character means 'ornamental hairpin' and the second means 'string of pearls'. But the 'real' meaning is the stuff we drink.

You can get into endless difficulties if you try to find the 'real' meaning of a word by means of some kind of theory about the relationships of the characters that make up the word. There is no 'real' meaning of 'kishoudai' apart from 'weather station'.

There are similar difficulties involved in trying to find the 'real' meaning of a single word, like BU, for example, by some kind of theory about the elements that make up the character (stopping spears, or whatever).

'Aikido' does not usually appear in Japanese kanji dictionaries, because it is a made-up word. However, the meaning of aikido is never a problem for Japanese native speakers, for the definition is given in any dictionary, such as the Kojien (p.4).

The problem is that there is no single-word translation into English, so some non-Japanese try to find the 'real' meaning of the word by decomposing it into the characters, perhaps because it makes them feel good when they train. This is fine. I have no problems with this, just so long as they do not then suggest that this decomposition is the 'real' meaning of the word.

Best wishes,

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 05-04-2007 at 11:04 PM.

P A Goldsbury
Hiroshima, Japan
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