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Old 04-01-2005, 11:19 PM   #27
Peter Goldsbury
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Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
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Re: The meaning of omote and ura

Alfonso Adriasola wrote:
I believe prof. Goldsbury is refering to Doka #3. Here's a link to a set of translations. No idea if they're good or not, but they're consistent with other versions I've seen.

The index:

I was not thinking of this particular douka, but thank you for drawing attention to it and to the translation. I personally believe that when looking at O Sensei's douka, to have the Japanese text is essential and a glance at a few translations will show what I mean.

For those who can read Japanese, the original of Douka #3 referred to by Mr Adriasola is the following:

Oshie ni wa
uchitsuku hyoushi
satoku kike
gokui no keiko
omote narikeri.

The translation of this douka given on the seb site referred to by Mr Adriasola is the following:

In these teachings listen most
To the rhythm of the strike and thrust
To train in the basics (omote)
Is to practise the very secrets of the art.

A strikingly different translation is given by John Stevens on p.67 of The Essence of Aikido:

Learn to sense the
rhythm of attacking
thrusts and cuts:
The secrets of training
lie right on the surface.

Yet another translation is given by Larry and Seiko Bieri in "Budo Renshu". There the douka is given as No. 38:

When you instruct
Emphasize the strike and the thrust
For all the secret teachings
Are to be found in simple basics.

In this douka O Sensei uses the word 'omote', but the meaning is not immediately obvious as omote waza and two of the tranaslations give the meaning as basics or simple basics. The Bieris give an explanation that is in line with my previous posts. "Omote here refers to the first level or Kihon of training, i.e., the basics. In many classical traditions the term is used as the name of the first set of kata. Modern aikido uses it to indicate movements which are performed in "front" of the aite, as contrasted with "ura" techniques where one stands generally "behind" him."

However Mr Stevens does not mention techniques at all, but still gives a very accurate translation of "omote" as it is used in normal Japanese. All three translations come from books in which the endorsement of Kisshomaru Ueshiba is quite prominent. Nor is it possible to argue that this douka is "postwar", for "Budo Renshu", in which it appears, was published in 1933.

The douka I had in mind is No 73 in Stevens' edition and No 8 in "Budo Renshu". I cannot find it in the web site referred to by Mr Adriasola. The Japanese text is also to be found in "Aiki Shinzui", p.184.

Koujou wa
hiji mo keiko mo
araba koso
gokui nozomuna
mae zo mietari

The Bieris produce the following:

Progress only comes with constant practice
Built up and kept to oneself.
(Gloss: both practice and the resulting inner experiences)
Do not hope for 'secret teachings'.
They will lead you nowhere.

John Stevens has a similar version:

Progress comes to
those who train in the
inner and outer factors.
Do not chase after "secret techniques",
For everything is right before your very eyes.

The question here is the meaning of "hiji". In normal Japanese these are secrets or private matters; hidden aspects of one's life, such as skeletons in the closet. In neither translations do they appear to refer to 'ura' or secret techniques, since this would contradict the last statement.

So these douka indicate to me that O Sensei viewed aikido training differently from traditional koryu training.

Best regards,

PS. 'ushitsuku hyoushi' and 'hiji' have not appeared in their proper characters. I am using the very lastest version of Windows XP in Japanese and can do nothing about this, unfortunately. Those who want to read the Japanese will need to go to "Aiki Shinzui" or "The Essence of Aikido".

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 04-01-2005 at 11:26 PM.

P A Goldsbury
Kokusai Dojo,
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