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Old 07-22-2001, 12:02 PM   #1
ronin_10562
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Question The use of Japanese in the dojo

I have just finished reading Mr. Lynch's article at Aikido Journal http://www.aikidojournal.com/article...lynch_111.asp. The heart of the article is the use of Japanese language in the dojo that is not Japanese. I have felt there is a certain elitism that many Aikidoka have about using Japanese in class even though all the students are English speaking.
Nihon Goshin Aikido techniques are all in English. The class is run using the English language, but there is a test for Sho-Dan on Japanese terms so knowledge of Japanese terms is important,but using it to teach isn't.
My question is why do Aikidoka look down at schools that don't use the Japanese terms. Its as if the school is perpetrating a fraud if they don't use the Japanese language.

Walter V. Kopitov

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Old 07-22-2001, 12:24 PM   #2
Nick
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for one, it's easier... more aikido schools will recognize "shomenuchi kokyunage tenkan" than "over head strike controlled throw with a circular takedown"... and, I suppose, they feel it's a betrayal of tradition... also, the concepts such as ma-ai, etc, really have no good translation into english...

Nick

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Old 07-22-2001, 01:14 PM   #3
mj
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Quote:
Originally posted by Nick
for one, it's easier... more aikido schools will recognize "shomenuchi kokyunage tenkan" than "over head strike controlled throw with a circular takedown"... and, I suppose, they feel it's a betrayal of tradition... also, the concepts such as ma-ai, etc, really have no good translation into english...

Nick
I would have to disagree with that, partly, Nick.
Different styles use entirely different japanese names for the same techniques.
So that doesn't feel right to me.
However, I agree with you on terms such as ma-ai, ki, zanshin etc, but they are not 'techniques' (?)

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Old 07-22-2001, 01:36 PM   #4
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I would disagree with that article for these reasons: I spent a month while TDY studying in a Nihon Goshin dojo. I loved what I learned, and the very nice students and sensei who let me visit for that month. But to me, every technique was 'something something arm-bar' or 'arm-bar something'---really no easier for me to learn. I wondered then if the same English names were used from dojo to dojo---and in full gratitude I will say this was the first place I actually got the hang of ushiro kubishime koshinage, or as it was known to me then 'mugger's throw'. I think, as Nick said, there are some things that take several English words to describe the same thing as one Japanese (it was, after all, developed in Japan, maybe if it started here the concepts and theories would have grown up around one word English terms). Also, just as when the Mass was in Latin, or even now when the language of the skies is English, one common language to mean certain commands helps. You may not get much of the finer points of correction while visiting in say, an Italian or French dojo, but 'dozo' or 'dome' at least give you a heads-up about what is happening (like the 'agnus dei' in the Mass example).
I changed at one point from a style that might write a technique say 'kata-tori kokyunage' to one that instead would say 'kata-tori kokyunage hantai tenkan' or 'kata-tori kokyunage tenshun michibiki kaeshi'. At first you might say the second group was elitist, or showing off. But on a test there is no struggle as sensei is trying to get the student to figure out which kokyunage he is wanting to see (my first dojo got around this by referring to them as 'third kyu kokyunage, fourth kyu kokyunage, etc. meaning at which test level he introduced that particular version).How much easier to just describe it by its name (although named in Japanese). But I think we do this in sports all the time: strike, ball, birdie, safety, etc---it's just easier.
And to get back to the original point, I don't think anyone looks down on schools that use only English; what i got from the article was the author was criticising schools that use Japanese. Once again, I think there is room in the world of Aikido for both--i just find the Japanese easier.

Last edited by guest1234 : 07-23-2001 at 05:34 PM.
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Old 07-22-2001, 03:19 PM   #5
Anne
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Smile

Another example in favor of using Japanese terms are international seminars. I've been to seminars where the translation of what the Japanese sensei said wasn't very well. But most people could follow the explanations because they recognized the Japanese key words. Apart from the fact that translating every term in several languages would cost too much precious training time.

yours,
Anne

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Old 07-22-2001, 04:38 PM   #6
Nick
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ok then, perhaps I can put it this way...

if a koi (carp) is put in a pond with nothing around it, it will grow fat and soon become sick. However, if you put a stone in the pond, the koi will remain strong by swimming around it.

Tradition is the stone we swim around. If we take little bits of the stone away, at first it won't really make a difference (E.G. using japanese in the doj---training hall) but, as we continue to take bits and pieces off of the stone (We don't really need to bow to O'sensei, I mean, he's dead, who cares?), what will be left for us? Certainly not aikido... or should we not even call it aikido? Is that too conservative?

The upholding of tradition is what allowed you to learn aikido in the first place. If we wish for aikido to continue into future generations, we must continue to swim around the stone of tradition...

Nick

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Old 07-22-2001, 06:19 PM   #7
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Hmmm, I think I've just been called an overweight goldfish . While I like the Japanese for the reasons I already said, I don't like the idea that we do things 'because we always have'. That stone already has erosions, unless all in your dojo wear hakama from the moment they step on the mat. Respect, which can be bowing to O Sensei's picture in one form, is good. But I've seen dojos where they bow and clap before his picture, and disrespect each other on the mat; others bow but do not clap, and actually some where there is no picture of O Sensei, and some where there is no picture and they do not bow or clap. None of it correlated to the respect I saw demonstrated there to each other or the art. The concept of respect (or rei) is important, not that one outward manifestation be performed as it was in O Sensei's dojo.
Japanese terms are a convient shorthand understood in a variety of countries if it is used in the teaching of the art, I would bet French is used in a like manner in fencing but don't really know. But I don't endorse it's use just because O Sensei spoke Japanese; that would be the kind of behavior I think the article spoke about.
Still, a cool metaphor you've got there, Nick.
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Old 07-22-2001, 06:35 PM   #8
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I always find this a very frustrating topic.

I don't speak Japanese, beyond what I learn in aikido (with the exception of the names of a few sushi dishes ) and have always said that it must be so much easier for Japanese students who don't have the language barrier to deal with.

Years ago, when I studied taekwon-do, I had an instructor who was a very high ranking Korean. The funny thing was that he used English almost exclusively - boy it made it much easier (we still learned the Korean names over time). Before that, when I studied Japanese karate, the locals used all Japanese, and it confused the heck out of me ... hmm.

I find the language barrier an extra obstacle to overcome. However, it probably won't go away anytime soon, so, we'll just have to accept it.

By the way, have any of you guys been shite lately?

Jim23

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Old 07-22-2001, 07:18 PM   #9
Nick
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The reason I am so adamant about maintaining tradition is, in fact, because it is the way "it's always been", but it's always been that way for a reason...

People have been building chairs for hundreds of years now. The basic shape and function of a chair has not changed. The correct way to build a chair has not changed. It's become... tradition. If you modified your chair too much, it would be unbalanced and uncomfortable. Imagine if you had a chair that, while it had lumbar support, a nice cushy back and padded armrests, one of the legs was smaller than the others. One example of how breaking "tradition" can lead to disaster.
This is not to say there can be no variations. We have rolling chairs, high chairs, booster chairs... but all are basically built the same way. This can be thought of like aikido. Despite the different "styles" and the different people practicing them, if we don't maintain our tradition of building strong, balanced aikido, we'll be in a pretty uncomfortable place...

Nick

Last edited by Nick : 07-22-2001 at 07:54 PM.

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Old 07-22-2001, 08:13 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by Nick
The reason I am so adamant about maintaining tradition is, in fact, because it is the way "it's always been", but it's always been that way for a reason...

People have been building chairs for hundreds of years now. The basic shape and function of a chair has not changed. The correct way to build a chair has not changed. It's become... tradition. If you modified your chair too much, it would be unbalanced and uncomfortable. This is not to say there can be no variations. We have rolling chairs, high chairs, booster chairs... but all are basically built the same way. This can be thought of as aikido. Despite the different "styles" and the different people practicing them, if we don't maintain our tradition of building strong aikido, we'll be in a pretty uncomfortable place...
For thousands of years, doctors treated patients without washing their hands. They probably caused as many problems as they helped. One day, someone came along and changed the tradition because he had found a better and different way. He washed his hands.

As to chairs, I sure wouldn't want to work on my computer with a chair and desk built to specs created in the 1800's. I rather like the idea that people have tweaked with the edges.

Japanese martial arts were created in a Japanese vacuum for Japanese in a Japanese world. It was a closed world. Today, martial arts and the world for that matter is much more open with a wide and far reaching interchange of cultures, ideas and people. Japanese traditions are not even remotely able to stand up to this dynamic and we should be glad of that. We romanticize the Japanese, yet, we forget all the bloodshed, the atrocities, the racism, the lofty status of women, and all the other problems caused precisely because of that culture's traditions. Not that anyone else is any better, it's just that neither are they.

Nick, I agree that blindly throwing away tradition is not always a good thing but blindly following tradition is just as bad. If there's a better way to do something then we should try it. Expanding and broadening the art will not only make it stronger but will make it significantly stronger. Aikido will survive just fine.
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Old 07-22-2001, 08:18 PM   #11
Nick
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Exactly... there's a difference between changing it, and throwing it away. If modern doctors did not pay attention to those before them, imagine how horrible our medicine would be! If the masters of old had ignored tradition for the "newer, better ways" (and indeed many did... many koryu died with the modernization of Japan in 1868), we would not have aikido. If Takeda-sensei had decided that he didn't need to preserve some dumb tradition, or O'sensei had decided just to carry a gun rather than improve himself, we would not be posting here on this forum.

As for why I respect the Japanese, Chinese et al of old (if not today)... it can be explained by looking at their bows. Look at a bow that a modern, western deer hunter uses. With scopes, pulleys, lasers, poly age fibers, unbreakable materials, and heat seeking arrows (well, maybe not those), it is almost unrecognizable. Look at a Japanese yumi used for kyudo. It was probably made almost the exact same way that one would have been made almost 400 years ago. The yumi is just as deadly as the western bow. The difference lies in the Japanese philosophy of growing inside, honing your technique and skill, rather than simply finding a new way to make it faster and stronger and prettier and lighter and smaller and... you get the idea.

This is not to say the western search for new technology has not been without benefits. That you are looking on a computer screen reading this is proof enough. We can make our outer, material circumstances better for a while, but to truly grow, to truly live we have to turn inward...

Our job as aikidoka is to make aikido better, without straying from the path of aiki. How can we know where we are headed, or where we should head, if we don't know (or, God forbid, don't care) where we have been?

Nick

Last edited by Nick : 07-22-2001 at 08:25 PM.

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Old 07-22-2001, 08:21 PM   #12
guest1234
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Then perhaps you can see the use of English rather than Japanese in those dojos that do so as a rolling chair, and not suggest they are eroding the art by using English? For an art that stresses unity and acceptance, it seems like the tone of most posts on these threads is 'why my dojo is better--more true to O Sensei, more useful in real life, etc--- than yours."
Some learn better with the English names, some the Japanese; let's be glad there are ways for both types to learn without worrying that those who use Japanese are pretentious, or those who do not are turning their back on what is important to Aikido.
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Old 07-22-2001, 08:27 PM   #13
guest1234
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Excellent example, Erik, I wish as a physician I't thought of it. You guys type fast, too. To steal from Erik, Nick, washing ones hands was not built on previous medical practices, it was a radical breaking with previous thought, seen as worthless by those who held to the traditional views of medicine. Much, I imagine, as some of the traditional martial artists viewed the new outside-the-box approach of Aikido. Growth is necessary for life.
Oh, and for what it is worth, we caused MUCH more problems with dirty hands; unwashed hands of physicians made childbirth an extremely risky business.

Last edited by guest1234 : 07-22-2001 at 08:30 PM.
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Old 07-22-2001, 08:31 PM   #14
Nick
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I hate to say it... but some dojo are better than others. I hardly represent my dojo, (I just like arguing) but if people learn some judo and jujutsu, water it down so that it could NEVER work in a self defense situation, and call it aikido, should we not admonish them for fear of being "pretentious"?

My classes are taught in english. The techniques have Japanese names. That's how my teachers learned it, and our head instructor, who learned it from O'sensei. Not because we think we're cool because we use japanese, not because of any kind of arrogance... it's just how they were taught, and therefore how they teach.

"Aiki cannot be exhausted
by words written or spoken.
Without dabbling in idle talk,
Understand through practice"

If you think about it, we don't even need names for techniques... it just makes things easier... things are the way they have been for a reason. They're the way they should be...

Nick

Last edited by Nick : 07-22-2001 at 08:41 PM.

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Old 07-22-2001, 08:36 PM   #15
Nick
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Quote:
Originally posted by ca
Excellent example, Erik, I wish as a physician I't thought of it. You guys type fast, too. To steal from Erik, Nick, washing ones hands was not built on previous medical practices, it was a radical breaking with previous thought, seen as worthless by those who held to the traditional views of medicine. Much, I imagine, as some of the traditional martial artists viewed the new outside-the-box approach of Aikido. Growth is necessary for life.
Oh, and for what it is worth, we caused MUCH more problems with dirty hands; unwashed hands of physicians made childbirth an extremely risky business.
which would you prefer to deliver your child? A trained physician with unwashed hands, or someone who took a CPR course a few years ago, but has shiny tools and anti bacterial soap?

Convienences and innovations are nice, but worthless unless backed up with the form that makes up the art. This can be seen in the aikido student who looks for better, more "fun" ways to perform a technique when he hasn't even properly learned the technique in the first place. Without a thorough grounding in the kihon, the basics, whether we washed our hands or not seems irrelevant...

Nick

Last edited by Nick : 07-22-2001 at 08:44 PM.

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Old 07-23-2001, 06:37 AM   #16
JJF
 
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I'm a bit confused when it comes to the carp-story. I mean.. I usually run around in circles all the time, but I'm definately not in great shape.
Anyway: Am I the only one who finds it intersting that a style calling itself "Nihon Goshin Aikido" insists on using english terms when it comes to naming techniques? Why not go all the way and translate the name of the style ? Perhaps something like "Japanese five-spirited way of lifeforce and harmony" ? Nah wouldn't really work would it ?
I agree that classes should be thaught in a language understandable by the majority of the people present. In our dojo that would be danish unless we have foreign visitors. Then it would often be in english. However every technique or basic principle is called by its japanese name and whenever I go abroad to train in foreign dojo's I really apreciate that I can understand and recognice the things that the sensei says. I can partially understand why english people would concidere using their own terms but to translate into danish terms (small country, and not that many aikido-ka's) would make little or no sense.
My opinion: Don't discard tradition without carefully concideration and don't hang on to tradition with any less concideration. Tradition can be a great thing, but seldom for the sake of tradition itself.

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Old 07-23-2001, 08:07 AM   #17
andrew
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Quote:
Originally posted by mj

Different styles use entirely different japanese names for the same techniques.
So that doesn't feel right to me.

I'm glad you said partly, because that's not at all true. Ikkyo is Ikkyo (etc). Some might be more precise or concoluted in their description of the attack, mention some taisabaki in the technique name or whatever, but the techniques have the same names.

andrew
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Old 07-23-2001, 08:57 AM   #18
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hmm... don't some styles use ikkajo, nikajo, etc? Anybody know exactly what those mean?

Nick

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Old 07-23-2001, 10:06 AM   #19
ronin_10562
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To JJF, Goshin means Self-Defense perhaps we should also use Kanji in addition to using the Japanese terms.

Nick, As I understand it Ikkyo is first principle and Nikkyo is second principle etc.. The first two principles are sometimes reversed. So that depending on the dojo or oganization the name and techniques are not in sync.

I understand there are some japanese concepts that don't have a good translation, but many of the technique names are descriptive. Thrust to the stomach and do an entering throw.(Tsuke irimi nage)Whats the big deal?
I'm not against using Japanese terms, but I dislike the holier then thou attitude some practitioners have.

I started my training in 1974 and after more then two decades in the Martial Arts I find it easier to teach using the English language. The students learn quickly in their native language. I also learned a little Spanish to help the students that don't speak english, and on the rare occasion I have a Japanese student I practice my Japanese.

In my opinion it is the instructors responsibilbity to teach in a manner that all students can understand. It shouldn't be a test and those that fail aren't allowed to learn because they have difficulty with the Japanese language.

Walt

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Old 07-23-2001, 11:39 AM   #20
Nick
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it actually seems like learning the vocabulary has been very easy... now if only the art were so easy!

All of us take on a "holier than thou" attitude sometimes... it's not always a bad thing, but too much of it certainly is...

Nick

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Old 07-23-2001, 01:36 PM   #21
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Here at ACLA all technique is described using the Japanese, but class is otherwise taught in English. Personally, I enjoy learning bits of Japanese, as much as I enjoy slowly learning kanji from the scrolls and paintings in our dojo.

This reminds me of a story Sensei Furuya told once, about a blind student he had, and how interesting his grasp of technique was because he wouldn't see his partner. I wonder sometimes if I would be a better student if I couldn't hear Sensei's instructions, but instead had to focus my entire concentration on observing the technique as he performs it for us...

m.
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Old 07-23-2001, 01:56 PM   #22
Nick
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Also... if a student does not progress as quickly because using Japanese names for techniques is not "convienent", is that really the teacher's fault? Confucious once said something to the effect of "If I give a student one corner of a square, and they cannot return to me the other three, they have not warranted further teaching"... If nothing else, something as trivial as vocabulary weeds out the "kewl d00ds" who just want to learn how to "kick some butt"...

The job of a teacher is to teach. The job of a student is to learn, even if it requires some extracurricular activity (that is, researching and *gasp* thinking about Aikido outside the dojo)

Nick

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Old 07-23-2001, 02:23 PM   #23
Erik
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Quote:
Originally posted by Nick
Also... if a student does not progress as quickly because using Japanese names for techniques is not "convienent", is that really the teacher's fault?
Mayhaps it is and mayhaps it isn't. Now that we understand dyslexia we are able to teach individuals who suffer from it. Things didn't work out so well in the past for those who suffered from it. Not that Confuscious would have had a clue what that was, so I guess he would have removed those lesser folks from consideration.

Honestly, I can't believe we are even having this discussion. Language is just language. It is a method of communication and nothing more. If the Nihon Goshin folks do good technique and are good people who cares if they call ikkyo "feedlebeemerstiefloom". In fact, if we all called it that, and we all knew what it was, it would be exactly as good as ikkyo.

Last edited by Erik : 07-23-2001 at 02:26 PM.
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Old 07-23-2001, 02:39 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally posted by Nick
hmm... don't some styles use ikkajo, nikajo, etc? Anybody know exactly what those mean?

Nick
Maybe seeing them in context will help:

Shomen uchi ikkajo osae ichi

Katate mochi nikajo osae ni

and even

Shomen uchi yonkajo osae ichi

"You say Nage (or was that Tori?) and I say Shite"

Jim23

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Old 07-23-2001, 02:44 PM   #25
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Shomen uchi feedlebeemerstiefloom osae ichi

NOW we're talking!

Jim23

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