Peter A Goldsbury
One of the problems in approaching Morihei Ueshiba is that much of what he is supposed to have said has been published only in translation and it is a pity that there are no bilingual versions of any collections of his discourses in print. The Bieri translation of Budo Renshu would be too expensive reprint, certainly in the original format. So we have Prof Stevens, who gives an interpretation of what he thought Ueshiba might well have meant, which then, in the hands of some AikiWeb posters, becomes an authoritative statement of what he actually said.
There are other ways of approaching Ueshiba, but the way I have chosen here is to start from the Japanese text, and then see how far we get. This is the 'evidence'. A useful comparison with the two translations allows one to see what they left out, what they 'edited', what they thought was perhaps too difficult. So, for example, all the vocabulary on the soul, originally from omyodo, is missing--and this vocabulary still makes a lot of sense to the average Japanese I know here in Hiroshima.
For example, Ueshiba writes waza in two ways: 技 and 業. The word has nine meanings in the Kojien. In modern Japanese the characters are not really interchangeable--and for both of the budo / bujutsu-related meanings, the preferred character is 技. But this does not appear to be the case for Ueshiba, who writes ushiro waza as 後業 in the Budo Renshu text. Of course, we really need to compare the Budo Renshu & Budo texts with all the other discourses and also with contemporary usage. This would take much time, which I suspect that neither the Bieris or John Stevens had.
What you describe is a real morass. While compelling, What method is available by which the only evidence we use (the actual written words he said) can become definitive? Your comment on "Comparing the test with other discourses and with contemporary usage"
is of course a requirement for study but it has not availed much in the past by way of useful information for aikidoka to understand Ueshiba's path or method.
Were one to be seriously considering reading Ueshiba and understanding the material than reading his other discourses and comparing to contemporary sources?
- Then I would suggest it would be wise to move the study past Ueshiba and incorporate other bujutsu that were "contemporary to him" in his time and form a frame of reference for some common understanding that existed in his time. This-may in fact offer a key in decifering his words "in their time." Something which I have not seen much of.
At any rate I attempted to offer a further twist for consideration. That the study of any material offered (the discounting of it's providence not considered) is in itself further complicated due to the fact that the translater is unfamiliar with the body of work they are attempting to discuss-Ueshiba's actual training method and goals. For that reason alone it would be wise(er) to stick with the most accurate word-for-word translation possible and put that out there for those who may actually have a better handle on the physical skills and concepts Ueshiba was advocating. Being that it has become even more obvious of late that there exists a body of work within the art of aikido that most in the art are unaware of --it is indeed -as you stated- a double edge sword. Budo men who just happen to be conversant in the language may be staged to just offer more confusion-not less.
I know that Larry Bieri and John Stevens are budoka, but this is a two-edged sword when approaching a text like Ueshiba's. Sure, they have a closer 'technical' idea of what he means than the average non-budoka Japanese, but I also suspect that they see things in the text that the budoka misses, especially the Japanese who is familiar with the Japanese of Ueshiba's vintage.
Budoka, expertise, and two edge swords
Yes, In this we agree completely. I made an argument for being concerned with what they actually "see" and what they just think they "see."
I was asking folks to consider if the translations should be severely restricted so that they do not end up interpreting instead of simply translating the text of a body of material that by and large may be over their heads. While you might see an innate ability from men who happen to be in Budo- I see potential trouble. I have my own experience with some Koryu experts who have run into trouble "translating" the ancient Japanese in their own "technically" oriented densho, and more recent experiences with a person (we both know) who is very well versed in the materials and subject you are discussing here and who is also an accomplished Aikidoka. Some have considered both his work and his skills to be a rather serious study of both the material surrounding Ueshiba's belief and his physical art. I had asked you in a previous post to consider that he is now reconsidering much of what he thought --he- understood (due to his recent encounter with what he considers is most likely Ueshiba's actual training method) of the various text he has translated. To wit; that the method and what it is doing to his body and his Aikido seems to logically match up with much of the cryptic texts he has spent half his life muddling through and "translating." In that sense the entire concept of waza-as I suggested previously- might be erroneous from the start. As Ueshiba's entire framework for the origin of movement and interaction may be anathema to a…modern budo man reading his words.
For my own purposes- I would be more interested in a word for word translation rather than an interpretation and guess work. The poems and flowery lingo -as they are -have a real basis in physical training to me and could even be taught literally along with hands-on instruction of how to move and interact.
I think you are onto something in that the column truly highlights some glaring errors in prior work that many, if not most took as fact.
Thank you so much for your time.