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Old 10-22-2013, 08:49 PM   #51
aikidark
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

Also, though the writing of a pictogram may have been simplified over time for ease, does not corelate to a change in meaning. Did the simplification change how the word or its components is/are used? And did it change the compound as it has been meant to be used, with all of its inferences, through time. And what does any kind of a transliteration have to do with your original question?

Last edited by aikidark : 10-22-2013 at 08:55 PM.
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Old 10-22-2013, 09:09 PM   #52
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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I guess I could be more precise and say that the objectives of the people who created the art, and the philosophy the art is intended to teach, and what the art is designed for, but that gets a little long I think. The language is flexible enough to handle the discussion.
Well, if that's what you mean, then I agree with you. If it's important to you to understand a Japanese art as its Japanese creators understood it, and to pursue the goals that those creators had in mind, then it makes sense to try to get a Japanese perspective on it, and it makes sense that such a perspective would be hard to come by just training in the West under Western instructors.

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Old 10-23-2013, 01:07 AM   #53
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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Rather than merely echo Peter's reply, I thought I might point anyone who is interested to a fine piece of scholarship that addresses that notion in a fairly rigorous and sometimes surprising manner:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Taming-Sam.../dp/0674868099

To that, I would only add that while the concept of "michi" or "do" has a long provenance, the opening of those arts to broader social circles, while not entirely unknown, particularly during the very late Tokugawa era, didn't really become a mass phenomenon until the Meiji era, and both functional and conceptual change are associated with that opening.

Hope this helps.

FL
Thank you for the link, looks very interesting.

Peter, I guess one is faced with the original....the tao that can be spoken is not the original tao, that you mention...add to that, if you seek it, you cannot find it. Seeking the teacher, the right teacher especially if on does not know what to look for is going to be a huge hinderance. I think there are plenty of westerners that have brought back with them the tennets of budo, and have been given authority to teach their art. Additionally there are quite a few Japanese that have moved here and passed on their art to westerners, such that with a little effort one may find the right teacher. I dont believe this is just limited to aikido, as one can find many other martial arts forging the path in traditional styles.

I wonder if cultural influence may not be as important a factor as you place on it. Not everyone raised in Japan understands budo as a way of life, and budo has survived alongside, or inspite of cultural or social norms. Then I think it is important to ask what influence this might have had, if any on non warrior classes.

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Old 10-23-2013, 04:56 AM   #54
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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Also, though the writing of a pictogram may have been simplified over time for ease, does not corelate to a change in meaning. Did the simplification change how the word or its components is/are used? And did it change the compound as it has been meant to be used, with all of its inferences, through time. And what does any kind of a transliteration have to do with your original question?
Sorry about that. I misunderstood your question. A lot of people try to claim that the elements of kanji are influential in giving meaning to the kanji. My point there was that the elements we have ended up with have little to do with the origin of the character.

As for the meanings, the understanding of Tao has taken many many forms over the years. As I point out in the post, there are a variety of philosophical schools using the term and how they interpret and conceive of it has changed and evolved. That's why I think reading just the Tao Te Ching is not enough. On the other hand, the existence of foundational texts such as the Tao Te Ching, the Chuang Tsu and the Great Learning, tends to anchor the meaning of the term so it doesn't drift too far from the original.

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Old 10-23-2013, 05:04 AM   #55
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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I was in training in Tokyo when I was told directly by my Japanese friend that I could (not would) never understand Budo properly because I was not Japanese.
Oddly enough, with as much time as I have spent in Japan, I've never run into that. In fact many of the Japanese I meet are embarrassed that I have a better understanding of something they consider fundamental to Japanese culture better than they do.

There is an excellent interview here with a great 20th century budo teacher who points out, quite correctly I think, that modern Japanese are nearly as culturally different from Sengoku and Edo Period Japanese as Westerners. So if cultural purity is required to understand budo, than no living person is qualified. I'm not arguing particular cultural experience is required. I am arguing that particular historical and philosophical knowledge is. That knowledge is available to anyone who puts forward a little effort and thought.

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Old 10-23-2013, 06:44 AM   #56
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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There is an excellent interview here with a great 20th century budo teacher who points out, quite correctly I think, that modern Japanese are nearly as culturally different from Sengoku and Edo Period Japanese as Westerners. So if cultural purity is required to understand budo, than no living person is qualified. I'm not arguing particular cultural experience is required. I am arguing that particular historical and philosophical knowledge is. That knowledge is available to anyone who puts forward a little effort and thought.
Sorry, forgot to include the link. The interview is at http://www.shinyokai.com/interviews.htm

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Old 10-23-2013, 07:26 AM   #57
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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Oddly enough, with as much time as I have spent in Japan, I've never run into that. In fact many of the Japanese I meet are embarrassed that I have a better understanding of something they consider fundamental to Japanese culture better than they do.

There is an excellent interview here with a great 20th century budo teacher who points out, quite correctly I think, that modern Japanese are nearly as culturally different from Sengoku and Edo Period Japanese as Westerners. So if cultural purity is required to understand budo, than no living person is qualified. I'm not arguing particular cultural experience is required. I am arguing that particular historical and philosophical knowledge is. That knowledge is available to anyone who puts forward a little effort and thought.
It was interesting - about the same time, the guy's father came home from work (he worked out of town and was only home intermittently). I got real polite and bowed and said I was honoured to meet him. He got his son (this in in 1977) to tell me that he was a modern Japanese and didn't do all that formal bowing stuff even though it was a samurai family. The kid... I showed a photo of him to some other friends in Tokyo... apparently he was part of an ultra-right wing, ultra traditional group, so.. perhaps his father was more 'modern' than the kid.
Not long after the father told me to back off trying to be "too Japanese" my friend told me the good news that, because I wasn't Japanese, I could never understand or be any good at budo (I was training in judo at the time).

WRT Kata - sometimes I have trouble seeing the point of kata...

W
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Old 10-23-2013, 08:21 AM   #58
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

To the original topic, I would say that budo undergoes a shift - IMO a breakdown - when groups have less exposure to Japanese culture, particularly in America.

Because kata is absolutely everywhere in all interactions between human beings in Japan - I'm shocked that anybody who has lived there would call this notion nonsense, if you've got some empathy you only have to visit there once to see that this is true - and kata is focused on internalizing a form, that is sort of how "budo is supposed to work." That's not where the learning process stops, of course, not even in budo, but it needs to be a personal subversion to break from the kata or it won't mean anything.

In the West we tend to not have patience for the repetitive formal part. Culturally we are taught that it is a waste of time, and we idolize outsiders and naturals who either never had to learn the steps or just dispensed with all that and skipped right to success. Our educational methods became more cognitive in the 60s and 70s in general, also, with teachers asking us what we thought and trying to encourage us to experiement and play with concepts earlier on.

One thing I have noticed and commented on quite a bit is that it is very easy, if you don't have this inherent trust in the system, to decide that because you cannot make something work, *IT* doesn't work, and therefore should be dispensed with or modified. If you don't have seniors in your organization who understand the system as it was laid out and are willing to enforce a form, it starts to drift.

And budo is supposed to change you - you lose a lot if you think you can take a little bit here or a bit there, or step on the mat day one with the intention of adapting budo to meet your ideas.
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Old 10-23-2013, 08:36 AM   #59
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

Everyone adapts budo to meet their own ideas. If they didn't, budo would never change and everyone would do budo exactly the same way.

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Old 10-23-2013, 09:08 AM   #60
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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Everyone adapts budo to meet their own ideas. If they didn't, budo would never change and everyone would do budo exactly the same way.
But which ideas? That is the question. The first ideas you have when you step onto the mat, or the ideas that you develop over years and years of proper training? There is a big difference between saying "I think I will take up Aikido so I can learn the wrist locks" and something like "What if this feeling of extension from my back heel into uke's center is supposed to be in EVERYTHING?"

It is fundamentally impossible for everyone to do budo the same way - even if everybody is trying their hardest to engage in ignorant, mindless repetition.
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Old 10-23-2013, 10:24 AM   #61
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

Cliff, I really appreciate your insight.

Peter, nice link referencing shindo yoshin ryu, skimmed over it, will have to read it more in depth a little later today. This is exactly what I am talking about, though. The entire lineage of Takamura Ha Shindo Yoshin Ryu has been passed onto, and entrusted to a westerner.
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Old 10-23-2013, 11:14 AM   #62
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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But which ideas? That is the question. The first ideas you have when you step onto the mat, or the ideas that you develop over years and years of proper training?
Both. The ideas we bring with us and the ideas that develop over years of training. We all have both these things, and we all let both these things affect the way we train.
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There is a big difference between saying "I think I will take up Aikido so I can learn the wrist locks" and something like "What if this feeling of extension from my back heel into uke's center is supposed to be in EVERYTHING?"
There is a big difference. I just don't think I have the authority to decide which of these two is "right" or which amounts to "true understanding". I know which one is more interesting to me and more relevant to my life, but to claim to know any more than that is to speak for an art that never named me its spokesman.
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It is fundamentally impossible for everyone to do budo the same way - even if everybody is trying their hardest to engage in ignorant, mindless repetition.
I agree.

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Old 10-23-2013, 12:49 PM   #63
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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Both. The ideas we bring with us and the ideas that develop over years of training. We all have both these things, and we all let both these things affect the way we train.

There is a big difference. I just don't think I have the authority to decide which of these two is "right" or which amounts to "true understanding". I know which one is more interesting to me and more relevant to my life, but to claim to know any more than that is to speak for an art that never named me its spokesman.
It strikes me that you're talking about two different things here: what budo is, and why someone would do it. To me, the question that began the thread implies the former (it concerns what budo is) and does not at all address the latter.
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Old 10-23-2013, 03:38 PM   #64
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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Peter, nice link referencing shindo yoshin ryu, skimmed over it, will have to read it more in depth a little later today. This is exactly what I am talking about, though. The entire lineage of Takamura Ha Shindo Yoshin Ryu has been passed onto, and entrusted to a westerner.
And my conclusion was that with study and effort, there is no reason why a non-Japanese can't understand the depths and heights of budo. I concluded the blog post with

Quote:
For a teacher outside Japan, I think some reading of the classic texts from Taoism and Confucianism along with plenty of quiet thought about how they relate to budo practice is probably enough. Quiet thought fertilized with the ideas of Lao Tsu, Chuang Tzu and Confucius should bring about some profound realizations on the nature of practice and what the great teachers who created the Ways hope for us, their students, to achieve.

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Old 10-23-2013, 04:07 PM   #65
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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It strikes me that you're talking about two different things here: what budo is, and why someone would do it. To me, the question that began the thread implies the former (it concerns what budo is) and does not at all address the latter.
When I first asked Peter what this understanding is that he's talking about, he started talking about what budo is for and what is "worthwhile" about it. I do not think these things are separable from the question of why we practice budo.

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Old 10-23-2013, 08:12 PM   #66
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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When I first asked Peter what this understanding is that he's talking about, he started talking about what budo is for and what is "worthwhile" about it. I do not think these things are separable from the question of why we practice budo.
Well, this is still a departure from what budo is (yes, what it's for and what's "worthwhile" about it are not the same as what it is), but...why aren't they separable from the question of why we practice? Seems to me y'all are trying to come up with unified definitions, and maybe you can, of what budo is/is for/has that's "worthwhile". But there will never be a unified answer to why we practice.
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Old 10-24-2013, 01:58 AM   #67
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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Well, this is still a departure from what budo is (yes, what it's for and what's "worthwhile" about it are not the same as what it is), but...why aren't they separable from the question of why we practice? Seems to me y'all are trying to come up with unified definitions, and maybe you can, of what budo is/is for/has that's "worthwhile". But there will never be a unified answer to why we practice.
If coming to "truly understand" budo revolves around comprehending budo's purpose and perceiving what parts of budo are worthwhile or important (as Peter suggests), then it's impossible to "truly understand" budo, because it's impossible to categorically determine what budo is for and what is important about budo. We decide those things for ourselves on an individual basis; that's where the question of why we train comes in.

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Old 10-24-2013, 02:57 AM   #68
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

"Training in bujutsu is to foster yamato-damashii." Ueshiba Morihei, budo
"True budo is an offering to the emperor." Sugino Yoshio, budo kyohan

"aikidō is japanese and will allways be." a shihan.
"I can teach you only a part of what I know. Because you are not Japanese. You are not able to understand." a shihan.
"You will never be able to learn aikidō because foreigners are not able to form the japanese sounds correctly." a shihan

...
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Old 10-24-2013, 03:57 AM   #69
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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Carsten Möllering wrote: View Post
"aikidō is japanese and will allways be." a shihan.
"I can teach you only a part of what I know. Because you are not Japanese. You are not able to understand." a shihan.
"You will never be able to learn aikidō because foreigners are not able to form the japanese sounds correctly." a shihan
...
I should add, that this is a fairly typical Japanese mentality, not restricted to Aikido or Martial Arts in particular. This mentality is often referred to as "Nihonjinron" - that Japan, and ethnically Japanese people, are "uniquely unique".
Other examples of this, is that "you can never learn to be Japanese", that "Japan is the only country with 4 seasons" (I've actually met people that told me this, with a straight face), that "Japanese people used to walk differently than the rest of the world", and so forth.

It is, frankly, silly to say the least, and is a big part of the discrimination that half-Japanese children and foreigners face in the country.

I just wanted to point out, for those who don't know, that this has nothing in particular to do with Aikido, but is more a Japanese mentality all around.

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Old 10-24-2013, 07:32 AM   #70
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

Interesting mentality given the number of dojo around the world teaching aikido to non Japanese. This is what Osensei envisioned, right? That aikido would be spread around the world? He built a "silver bridge" to Hawaii in what....1950 was it? Now 63 years later, you can find an aikido dojo in just about every country on the planet.
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Old 10-24-2013, 08:03 AM   #71
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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Interesting mentality given the number of dojo around the world teaching aikido to non Japanese. This is what Osensei envisioned, right? That aikido would be spread around the world? He built a "silver bridge" to Hawaii in what....1950 was it? Now 63 years later, you can find an aikido dojo in just about every country on the planet.
Well, while not exactly the same, you do see these sorts of things often in Japanese culture.
Japanese people will be more than happy to spread their language, literature, culture and so forth to other countries, but many will at the same time insist, that to truly understand it, you will have to be Japanese. Even during WWII, you can sort of see this concept: Japan still had the same mentality back there, yet fought a massive war, to try and bring in major parts of Asia in under its rule.

It's somewhat self-contradictory, yes, but in my experience, Japanese culture is largely made up of extremes, and opposites. You can see this in vast areas of Japanese culture. An easy example: the Japanese do not openly talk about sex, and has massive issues with a declining birthrate, yet holds the most active porn industry in the world. Or that prostitution is outlawed, yet brothels ("Soaplands") are scattered visibly and openly in every major city in the country.

Seen through those eyes, it doesn't surprise me that someone could hold the belief that "Aikido is meant to be spread to the world, and bring peace through unity through the art" and at the same time say "You have to be Japanese to truly understand it".

Now, whether the founder intentioned it like that or not, I can't say. But that a student would later say so, doesn't surprise me in the slightest.

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Old 10-24-2013, 08:26 AM   #72
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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Philip Zeplin-Frederiksen wrote: View Post
Japanese people will be more than happy to spread their language, literature, culture and so forth to other countries, but many will at the same time insist, that to truly understand it, you will have to be Japanese.
they say this because they feel that you have to have been born Japanese to be properly exposed to all of the kata in their society.
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Old 10-24-2013, 08:47 AM   #73
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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they say this because they feel that you have to have been born Japanese to be properly exposed to all of the kata in their society.
Not sure if you are joking or not (with the little smiley at the end there!), but just to add that (at least in modern Japanese society) being "Japanese" is largely defined by your ethnicity, not your culture. While I love many things about Japan, this is not one of them, as I know many "foreigners" that have been born and grown up in Japan their entire life, but are not considered "Japanese" because one, or both, of their parents are not ethnically Japanese. In the same vein, ethnically Japanese people born outside of Japan and then returning to Japan later, are fully accepted as "Japanese", even if they do not know anything. It's a big weird!
The funniest thing I read once, was a post a friend who had just gotten a baby, put up. While reading up on material for his newborn, he encountered the quote, "Be sure to feed your baby lots of rice, or it will not grow up to be a proper Japanese". Fun (scary?) stuff!

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Old 10-24-2013, 09:10 AM   #74
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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Japanese people will be more than happy to spread their language, literature, culture and so forth to other countries, but many will at the same time insist, that to truly understand it, you will have to be Japanese
Japan, like all countries, contains a huge variety of opinion, though in Japan, most people keep their opinions to themselves out of fear of creating social upset. There are Japanese who believe that anything Japanese can only be understood if you are born and raised there. There are others who think that Japanese things can be readily understood by non-Japanese, and there are a huge number in between the two ends.

Japan was a closed society for 250 years, and even now, 160 years after it was blasted open, most Japanese have little or no real contact with non-Japanese. It's still essentially a closed culture. That doesn't mean you can't grasp the ideas and concepts that form the base of the culture, it just means that learning to function smoothly in Japanese culture is really, really difficult. It can be done, but I'm pretty sure the reward is nowhere near the value of the effort.

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Old 10-24-2013, 09:26 AM   #75
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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Japan, like all countries, contains a huge variety of opinion, though in Japan, most people keep their opinions to themselves out of fear of creating social upset. There are Japanese who believe that anything Japanese can only be understood if you are born and raised there. There are others who think that Japanese things can be readily understood by non-Japanese, and there are a huge number in between the two ends.
Of course, if it sounded like I was putting every single Japanese person in the same drawer, I'm sorry!
Particularly the younger generation is much more open in many ways, and much more inter-cultural. With that said, I see many of these principles still running deep even in my young Japanese friends. Particularly the point about Honne and Tatamae (public and private face, as you mention in the first sentence) is as widespread as anything. Naturally this means that people that don't agree won't say anything - though at the same time, it also means nothing changes, even if no one agrees with it. As the Japanese saying goes: "The nail that sticks out, will be hammered down".

Quote:
Peter Boylan wrote: View Post
Japan was a closed society for 250 years, and even now, 160 years after it was blasted open, most Japanese have little or no real contact with non-Japanese. It's still essentially a closed culture. That doesn't mean you can't grasp the ideas and concepts that form the base of the culture, it just means that learning to function smoothly in Japanese culture is really, really difficult. It can be done, but I'm pretty sure the reward is nowhere near the value of the effort.
This is a bit of a pet peeve of mine, and for that, I apologize going a bit off topic, and focusing too much on these things. But this is again the whole "Japan is uniquely unique" concept, which is just silly.

Japanese culture is no more difficult to learn, than any other. As long as you are not a foreigner living in your own little "gaijin bubble" (having only foreign friends, eating at only the foreign restaurants, etc.), it really doesn't take too long to get acquainted with Japanese customs, and how to smoothly fit in.

Japan is a wonderful country, with an incredibly rich history and a wealth of traditions. But it is no more unique, or difficult to grasp, than any middle eastern country, African country, European country, or any other culture. Of course, time and effort will be needed, to fully understand the deeper points within the culture - but the same could be said, for an American coming to Denmark, a Dane coming to Pakistan, a Pakistani coming to China, and so forth.

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