Peter A Goldsbury
However, even he confessed to being stumped by some of O Sensei's kanji combinations and even more by the contents. You will see.
I am pleased that you have not lost your Japanese after returning to the States and I am very pleased that some AikiWeb members like Josh Reyer are serious students of the language.
Of course, I can see more clearly the constraints that John Stevens was working under when he did his translations of O Sensei's discourses. He made choices that I would not have made, but his achievement is remarkable, nonetheless. The problem for me is that he has given O Sensei in English the status of aikido Holy Writ and I think this is unfortunate.
Let me ask a dumb question. If O Sensei intended to be understood (let us assume this is so, since he troubled to lecture and to write the Doka) and native and scholarly Japanese speakers have trouble grasping categorically what he meant -- then do we not have to ask the question if his language and intent was precisely outside of category in many respects -- of Japanese or any other language? This may make it less accessible in some respects, but more accessible without regard to strict language in another sense. Image and intimation speaks more than any category. On empirical grounds his communication mode has some demonstrated merit, whether it was a deliberately chosen or simply fortuitous strategy. .
As to holy writ that goes too far, obviously, and a point that also bugs me about Stevens. And despite some axe-handle familiarity with the language -- I have no realistic hopes of approaching the problem with the language's more properly surgical tools.
But writing about the holy is often walking in the "places between" (in either the Celtic or the Taoist sense) that defy commonplace category. The Japanese have enshrined him, perhaps merely because he defied their categories -- why should anyone else be different? Kotodama is an open invitation to ringing the changes on associational interpretation, so why should the native speakers have all the fun?