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Old 07-23-2001, 02:12 PM   #26
Andy
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Quote:
Originally posted by Nick
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...
And how is using English technique names in the dojo the same as not learning basic techniques?

If it helps people to talk about the techniques in English, German, Spanish, or sign language, then I say more power to them. Heck, you even said it yourself when you wrote, "If you think about it, we don't even need names for techniques... it just makes things easier..."; that was O-sensei's "tradition" of not naming techniques. He didn't name the techniques but, rather, his students did.

Aikido needs to grow, change, and evolve, and it's already done so since the time of O-sensei's death, thank goodness. I wouldn't want aikido to become stagnant due to "upholding traditions." As Colleen mentioned, we no longer have to wear hakama on the first day of our training.

Here's a good article on this very website on this topic:

http://www.aikiweb.com/spiritual/ikeda1.html

Sorry, Nick. I don't care for tradition worship. Less useless form, more heart.
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Old 07-23-2001, 02:12 PM   #27
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feedlebeemerstiefloom! Jim, Erik, come on, there are children who read this!
There was one fellow I recall who had beautiful technique, but refused to test---he couldn't keep the Japanese straight to save his life (or face as it were). Another whose ukemi was equally beautiful, but resisted volunteering to be a test uke for the same reason. Those of us to whom languages come fairly easily don't always recognise how hard it is for others. Admitedly, perhaps in part because Americans tend not to try so hard, since so many other countries learn English, but still there are those who just learn better with the English. Some learn better through kata. Some with matches. Some from hard static grabs and some from fluid attacks. Some when it's hard-hitting life threatening self defense, some when it is gentle peaceful movements. I think that it's neat that that is all Aikido.
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Old 07-23-2001, 02:35 PM   #28
Nick
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Quote:
Originally posted by Andy
Less useless form, more heart.
So what you're saying is that the actual technique we practice isn't as important as the "heart"? I agree that a good attitude is important, but if my aikido is horrible, and I don't care because I have "good heart", am I really learning anything? Not really...

I'm not one for "tradition worship"... I am, however, against people who have no idea what they're doing changing things, and then destroying their art because the people they tell about their "change" don't know any better...

If we surrender form before mastering the form, what's left? Not aikido.

Nick

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"Do not fall into the trap of the artisan who boasts twenty years of experience, when in fact he has had only one year of experience-- twenty times."
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Old 07-23-2001, 02:56 PM   #29
Erik
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Quote:
Originally posted by Nick
So what you're saying is that the actual technique we practice isn't as important as the "heart"? I agree that a good attitude is important, but if my aikido is horrible, and I don't care because I have "good heart", am I really learning anything? Not really...
I dub thee "Nick the Troll" for the duration of this thread.


Last edited by Erik : 07-23-2001 at 03:02 PM.
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Old 07-23-2001, 03:02 PM   #30
Andy
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Quote:
Originally posted by Nick
So what you're saying is that the actual technique we practice isn't as important as the "heart"?

What I said was, "Less useless form. More heart." By useless form, I'm talking about such things as forcing people to use Japanese when it's not necessary.

However, have you met people who are recognized in the aikido community but have really lousy techniques? I have. These people are recognized for what they've brought to the art (writing books, creating aikido communities, editing magazines, and so on) -- not for how well they can throw someone down onto the ground.

How about the (hypothetical) 70 year old man who comes into your dojo and practices, once a week, and bring a smile with him each and every time? Or the (non-hypothetical) semi-paralyzed blackbelt lady who used to be hale and practiced heartily until her she fell asleep at the wheel going home from a week-long seminar but has returned to the mat to be there and to train with the people who has supported her over the years?

I'm not saying I don't personally train with the intent to making my techniques more effective, but how far does having a good nikkyo that can snap a person's wrist and elbow into pieces get you in life?

And you didn't answer my question of, "how is using English technique names in the dojo the same as not learning basic techniques?" It seems like that's the parallel you tried to draw in your previous post...
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Old 07-23-2001, 03:51 PM   #31
Nick
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If you wish to gain wisdom, etc, then goto a zendo, and write a book on philosophy. I'm not saying aikido is only for people who want to learn how to fight, in fact I believe the exact opposite, it's for people who don't want to fight, no matter who they are. You train to make your technique more effective... then you can notice how these methods of injuring people can in fact help them.

I can talk about aikido and write essays and all of that all day. But does that mean that I should open up my own dojo? Of course not. I may be able to talk and argue with the best of them, but if my waza isn't up to par, I certainly should not be dojo-cho of anything.

As for why I prefer Japanese... for one, it's easier. For two, I like learning another language. Finally, if we start with small things like using all english, etc, it is my fear that eventually students will forget or blur the history of aikido with stories they liked "better" (O'sensei? Who's that?)

Personal Summary: Good technique (or striving to have it) with good philosophy is good. Good Technique with bad philosophy is bad. Bad Technique with good philosophy is bad.

Nick

---
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"Do not fall into the trap of the artisan who boasts twenty years of experience, when in fact he has had only one year of experience-- twenty times."
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Old 07-23-2001, 04:03 PM   #32
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Quote:
Originally posted by Nick
If you wish to gain wisdom, etc, then goto a zendo, and write a book on philosophy. I'm not saying aikido is only for people who want to learn how to fight, in fact I believe the exact opposite, it's for people who don't want to fight, no matter who they are. You train to make your technique more effective... then you can notice how these methods of injuring people can in fact help them.
Nick
Excellent

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Old 07-23-2001, 05:20 PM   #33
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What exactly is the significance of maai, zanshin, or atemi to an English speaker? How would you expect one to understand these terms without concrete examples? And in the presence of such examples, how do you judge distance, presence, and strike to be inadequate?

Aikido is not a Japanese martial art. We should consider it instead to be a partial reflection of the truth. As such, not the exclusive province of Japanese speakers.

Or, if we are really concerned about maintaining the purity of the practice, maybe we should bar the barbarian gaijin at the door?
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Old 07-23-2001, 05:28 PM   #34
Andy
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Quote:
Originally posted by Nick
If you wish to gain wisdom, etc, then goto a zendo, and write a book on philosophy. I'm not saying aikido is only for people who want to learn how to fight, in fact I believe the exact opposite, it's for people who don't want to fight, no matter who they are. You train to make your technique more effective... then you can notice how these methods of injuring people can in fact help them.

Are you saying that those who are more interested in the philosophical ideas of aikido shouldn't be training in aikido but should be going to a zendo? That aikido should be taught without any reference to its philosophy on the mat?

How can you teach a technique like shihonage which can easily break a person's elbow without referring to the philosophy of aikido of minimum harm to the attacker?
Quote:
As for why I prefer Japanese... for one, it's easier. For two, I like learning another language.

OK -- two reasons that apply to you personally. That's OK, of course.
Quote:
Finally, if we start with small things like using all english, etc, it is my fear that eventually students will forget or blur the history of aikido with stories they liked "better" (O'sensei? Who's that?)

That's a huge leap in logic with many assumptions in between.

I referred to sign language up above and have met people who have had to teach deaf people. They've said that they usually "translate" the name of the throw into English so people can understand more easily. Are you saying that these people shouldn't be taught aikido because they may "dilute" the art?

What other traditional things do you do in your practice? Do you take with you a letter of recommendation whenever you go to another dojo? Do you make sure to place your instructor at the "safe" seat of a table at a restaurant (and do you pay every time)? Do you spread salt in front of your dojo to ward off evil spirits?

Tradition is a spiritual/philosophical matter. Doesn't this go against your thought in the first paragraph quoted above?

Lastly, since you seem to be really intent on making sure that everyone's aikido is effective, how does using Japanese terminology make for more effective aikido?
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Old 07-23-2001, 06:21 PM   #35
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I'm saying that it seems wiser to worry about the different ways aikido can and cannot be used after you've gained some proficiency in the art, not before.

There's a difference between telling people philosophy and really feeling it in your life. If you tell a first or second time beginner, with no philosophy, martial arts, etc. training about concepts like masakatsu agatsu, ma-ai, etc... he may smile and nod, and if he's a smart person, he may understand what you mean intellectually. However, it may be years down the road before that beginner can begin to grasp what his teacher told him. It happens to all of us... there have been things that my instructors have told me, that, despite my ego's best attempt at denying it, are simply too advanced for me. I consider my practice incomplete until my tachiwaza and bukiwaza can match my kuchiwaza...

Now now... you seem to really go off on me on that last part. The reason why I care so much about maintaining at least some traditions, is simply because all things start small... calling something "first arm bar" instead of ikkyo, which is not a big problem and sometimes necessary. However, as aforementioned, my fear is that as we start to break small traditions, we will begin to break bigger traditions ("we're american, we don't need to bow" etc).

O'sensei didn't have to create Aikido. He could have kept it to himself, and turned away anyone who asked to learn under him. If we don't try to preserve at least some of that spirit and integrity that made O'sensei and his Aikido so great, can we really call what we do Aikido with no second thought?

As for why I am intent on making sure people have effective technique... well, of course I do. Aikido, though an art of peace, is at the same time, a martial art. Remove effectiveness and practicality, and all you have is art. Now people can learn beautiful movements, and gain wisdom from art, but to take a dance and call it Aikido, is wrong in my eyes.

If you want to learn a beautiful, dynamic form of art, take up ballet, not aikido.

Nick

PS-- yes, I do save my sensei a seat when we go out... wait, should I not call him sensei anymore? Is that too traditional?

Last edited by Nick : 07-23-2001 at 06:23 PM.

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Old 07-23-2001, 06:34 PM   #36
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Quote:
Originally posted by Nick
I can talk about aikido and write essays and all of that all day. But does that mean that I should open up my own dojo? Of course not. I may be able to talk and argue with the best of them, but if my waza isn't up to par, I certainly should not be dojo-cho of anything.
This is an interesting statement. What exactly does "up to par" mean? Here in the Bay Area, a great many individuals started running Aikido schools at shodan or even earlier in some cases. I'm not sure the standards back then were any better than ours now. Maybe some but certainly not a lot better. Some of these people have made invaluable contributions to our art. I seriously doubt many of them would have passed your acid test.

As I'm thinking about it, the name Terry Dobsen comes to mind. Terry, according to what many have said and the little bit I saw, did not have good technique. I'm not even sure he had average technique. Terry's gift was that he flipped the model around and gave us an art that could work on a different level. I don't think there are many who would say that his contribution to the art here in the US was anything but significant although there have been a few that have said his technique was awful.

While I agree that good technique is important (this is an ongoing discussion where I practice and I'm probably the loudest proponent of good technique), I can also understand and appreciate a worldview where it doesn't matter much. Ultimately, I don't think our art's contribution to the world will ever be measured by the quality shiho nage's of it's practitioners.
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Old 07-23-2001, 06:42 PM   #37
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O'sensei didn't have to create Aikido. He could have kept it to himself, and turned away anyone who asked to learn under him. If we don't try to preserve at least some of that spirit and integrity that made O'sensei and his Aikido so great, can we really call what we do Aikido with no second thought?


Japanese terminology does not make Aikido great.
Bowing does not make Aikido great.
Tradition does not make Aikido great.

Maybe you have confused it with chado?
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Old 07-23-2001, 07:17 PM   #38
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So, Nick,

How do you feel about casual Fridays at the workplace? Or calling your boss Nick vs Mr. Porter?

Should English terms be used in boxing or wrestling or ... tennis or cricket, in other countries? (you silly-mid-on)?

(In the west) The Japanese language simply adds to the mistique of aikido, IMHO, and it's not going away any time soon ... it just wouldn't be cricket without it.

Jim23

Remember, all generalizations are false
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Old 07-23-2001, 07:41 PM   #39
Lisa Tomoleoni
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I cannot say whether Aikido should or should not be taught in the Japanese language. I do believe, however, that some knowledge of where Aikido came from cannot help but to enhance our training. For example, most English-speaking people who do Aikido "practice" Aikido, or do Aikido "training"In Japanese we use the word "keiko", which means more than to just practice physical technique. The word keiko means, in literal translation,"to study the old". I cannot help but think that differences like this will make for differences in the way the art is learned, and passed down. Does this mean we should all go through all of our training sessions in Japanese? I don't know. When I am here at my home dojo, I teach in Japanese. When I go to Hombu, I learn in Japanese. When I teach at our branch in america, I teach in English, but use Japanese terminology and explain to the students various points such as the above. Do I expect them to become proficient in Japanese language? No, of course not. But I do feel that at least knowing, or hearing of, certain nuances that get lost in translation will help them to grow.
Lisa Tomoleoni
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Old 07-23-2001, 08:12 PM   #40
Nick
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Quote:
Originally posted by [Censored]

Japanese terminology does not make Aikido great.
Bowing does not make Aikido great.
Tradition does not make Aikido great.

Maybe you have confused it with chado?
Very true... and perhaps I have confused it with chado, as the arts do have quite a bit in common. The state of mind seen in a good chajin is very similar, if not exactly the same, as a warrior's. A story regarding Sen no Rikyu, the man more or less attributed with refining the tea ceremony into chado, comes to mind.

Sen no Rikyu was the teacher of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Hideyoshi, being a peasent by birth, wanted to learn this art of the samurai. However, one of his retainers was worried that Hideyoshi was spending too much time on tea and not enough with war strategy, and as thus decided to go and kill Rikyu. As he arrived, he talked with Sen no Rikyu for a time, but could find absolutely no opening.

The retainer became a student of Rikyu's that day.

I fear if we forget about tradition, we'll lose more than useless superstitions, we'll lose part of what made our teachers so great!

Nick

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Old 07-23-2001, 08:18 PM   #41
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Quote:
Originally posted by Erik


This is an interesting statement. What exactly does "up to par" mean? Here in the Bay Area, a great many individuals started running Aikido schools at shodan or even earlier in some cases. I'm not sure the standards back then were any better than ours now. Maybe some but certainly not a lot better. Some of these people have made invaluable contributions to our art. I seriously doubt many of them would have passed your acid test.

As I'm thinking about it, the name Terry Dobsen comes to mind. Terry, according to what many have said and the little bit I saw, did not have good technique. I'm not even sure he had average technique. Terry's gift was that he flipped the model around and gave us an art that could work on a different level. I don't think there are many who would say that his contribution to the art here in the US was anything but significant although there have been a few that have said his technique was awful.

While I agree that good technique is important (this is an ongoing discussion where I practice and I'm probably the loudest proponent of good technique), I can also understand and appreciate a worldview where it doesn't matter much. Ultimately, I don't think our art's contribution to the world will ever be measured by the quality shiho nage's of it's practitioners.
I'm not denying that. Our job as aikidoka, it seems, is to help stop fighting, etc... but how can we stop others from fighting if we can't stop the fight within ourselves (which comes through long practice)? The reason the budo masters of old were so kind to others is because they had no fear of being defeated, because their training had been long enough and good enough to where they had no worries of losing.

I'm not saying everyone has to be a meijin their first class teaching at their new dojo. We all (should) go to the dojo to learn, not show off. However, some proficiency and understanding of aiki technique is important, so that your students learn good aikido, and not your bad habits.

I must admit, this is mostly hearsay from what I've read... I've not been in Aikido long enough to teach a class... in time, though.

Nick

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Old 07-23-2001, 08:22 PM   #42
Nick
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Quote:
Originally posted by Jim23
So, Nick,

How do you feel about casual Fridays at the workplace? Or calling your boss Nick vs Mr. Porter?

Should English terms be used in boxing or wrestling or ... tennis or cricket, in other countries? (you silly-mid-on)?

(In the west) The Japanese language simply adds to the mistique of aikido, IMHO, and it's not going away any time soon ... it just wouldn't be cricket without it.

Jim23
Jim: I've never had a job, so I couldn't tell you about casual fridays. Perhaps we should wear jeans instead of hakama on friday classes? I live in the south, so perhaps the yudansha should wear belt buckles?

Nick

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Old 07-23-2001, 08:27 PM   #43
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You know, I've been in dojos that have beautiful shomens covered with dust, and students talk about tradition and ettiquette while leaving left over food on the chairs for others to pick up. I've also been in 'dojos' that were only such between freshman wrestling and the yoga classes, but the mats were washed before and after each night (even if the yoga folks did wear their shoes in anyway). I've been in dojos that clapped twice before class, three times, or not at all, and even, Nick, some that did not bow. But you know, they were all Aikido dojos (even the ones that forgot the tradition of cleaning). I've been in one whose sensei was one of O Sensei's students, and not only do they not bow to a picture of O Sensei, do not clap, and at the end of class they say "thank you, sensei" in English. A lot of Japanese terminology is used during, but this particular sensei seems to want his students to 'get it' more than any I've seen (and I've seen a lot of dedicated teachers)---and he teaches in English as clearly as he can. The point---again, for those whom Japanese works, great. But as someone else already said, it is not Japanese that makes it Aikido. And even more importantly, as has been said, it was not O Sensei who cataloged and named the techniques. I know who I was told was responsible, but am not EVEN going there right now.
This reminds me very much of the arguements over the changed to the vernacular in the Mass. Oh, my goodness, it's tradition many cried (ignoring that Latin was NOT the language of the first Mass, anyway), and bemoaned the universality of Mass being equally not understood no matter where you went in the world. Me, I missed the Latin, but I've studied five languages (including Latin) and bits of three others, most of which I jumble together if not using them a lot. I just like languages. How much better, though, for so many others who did not share that passion, to actually hear 'this is the Lamb of God' rather than what for them was just a bunch of syllables that cued them to a new stage of the Mass. I had trouble with first arm bar, because it was new, and I already knew Japanese names that were competing for Betz cells. But there was no confusion in the minds of the Nihon Goshin students. And if memory serves, they did use some phrases like hamni, probaly others---I wasn't looking for differences at the time, so really didn't notice anything other than the English names for techniques.
I think I owe the original person posting an appology: I didn't think Aikidoka would look down on anyone who didn't use Japanese; I am ashamed, as one who belongs to that 'traditional' style, to know there are others who do seem to put Japanese above English.
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Old 07-23-2001, 08:35 PM   #44
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Listen, use whatever language you want. That's not aikido. Hell, you don't even have to say anything to practice aikido! Some of my favorite instructors say nothing, preferring to let us practice the art than tell us how it "should be done"... my fear since the beginning of this thread is not that people use whatever language they want, but that they begin to make changes as they see fit, not bothering to see what they're losing in the name of what is "new"...

Colleen, I'm very sorry to hear you're ashamed of me. Perhaps I should try harder to impress you from now on.

Nick

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Old 07-23-2001, 09:16 PM   #45
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for me the language barrier has not been a problem...so far. but when I started Yoshinkan we had very different names for same consepts.

nage = tori

that is one i asked my teacher who is the tori and he goes what is a tori? i said the person who throws! he goes oh the nage! so...

also for tecneuges in shizenkai we go at a tecngie shomen uchi shionage omote when in yoshinkan we go shomen uchi shionage ichi! i am like what?? so i think all the great schools ( yoshinkan,aikiai, and others) should get together and make a basic struckture and things like omte and ura ( most of you might not know what ura is it is basically entering irimi). and unify underling concepts. but oh hell i may be just talking away to get away from work!

arigato! dali bomber!

P.S. docters didnt accually accept the notion of washing hands for over 50 years after it was introduced.... like most medical discoverys!

Dallas Adolphsen
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Old 07-23-2001, 09:18 PM   #46
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Not sure if this has been mentioned before but many of the terms used in Japanese Budo do not have direct translations into (insert desired language here). Aside from my standard reasons for using Japanese terms

- commonality in a world in which English is not the only language.

- a little bit of added mystic

- really not that difficult if you understand the component parts

the biggest reason is that at higher levels of understanding the poor substitutes of translation just are not going to cut it. Ma-ai is much more than distance, zanshin is far more than after action posture.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 07-23-2001, 09:35 PM   #47
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I think [Censored] answered that best: most of us know what maai, zanshin, etc mean BECAUSE they were explained to us in our native tongue. Now that we know, we use the phrase, but could easily substitute others. Some may have learned the same way I was taught Russian---our professor kept repeating--in Russian--take the chalk and write on the board to a room of bewildered students our first class, finally dragging one to the board and forcing chalk into his hand. Boy, maai could be a real bear to learn that way...
I go with commonality, although Jim and Dallas are good at pointing out that's not quite true, either. My only other excuse is it's an easy shorthand that I've already learned, but I recognise it's not so easy for others. But that's my choice, not everyones, and definately not the only or even necessarily right one.
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Old 07-23-2001, 10:02 PM   #48
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Quote:
Originally posted by PeterR
the biggest reason is that at higher levels of understanding the poor substitutes of translation just are not going to cut it. Ma-ai is much more than distance, zanshin is far more than after action posture.
True, but ask an average Japanese person off the street to define such terms as "maai," "zanshin," or "atemi" and you'll most likely not get a full-length lecture about them unless they were versed in a martial art.

(I'm guessing, though, that more Japanese people may know what "zanshin" really "means" as it may be used in sports and such.)

The point here being that although these terms may actually "mean" something in its original Japanese language, they really aren't any better to present its deeper meanings than English words (as Chris said) distance, presence, or strike.

My personal thought is that the same applies to the "descriptive" Japanese terms. I'm lucky in that I do get to have some bit of a notion as to what the technique may "look" like from its name (eg kaitennage, kotegaeshi/oroshi), but that's about it. Some names make no difference if it's in Japanese or English (ikkyo, nikyo, sankyo, yonkyo) unless its "descriptive" names are used (ude osae, kote mawashi, kote hineri, tekubi osae). The "poetic" sounding techniques like shihonage, tenbinnage, and iriminage give a clue but only after you've learned the techniques.

But, I will concede that basically being able to know what the attacks mean (eg katatedori ryotemochi, ushiro katatedori kubishime) can be quite helpful on tests...

-- Jun

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Old 07-24-2001, 07:29 PM   #49
Peter Goldsbury
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A few comments on Jun Akiyama's post.

I started aikido in England and had practised for ten years before coming to Japan. I have always had Japanese teachers, so, for me, what is universal about the art is clothed in Japanese forms. But it might be quite different for someone else, with a different background and training history.

Nevertheless, it is important to realise that the names of the techniques were not invented by O Sensei. In the Budo Renshu and Budo manuals, written in 1933 and 1938, respectively, it is the attacks which are classified and not the techniques. Thus O Sensei had formalised the attacks from simple street fighting to something more structured. But the names were invented by the deshi, as a memory aid to understanding the bewildering array of techniques which O Sensei showed (NB. showed, not taught). For us, too, the Japanese names are aids, rather than concepts with a 'deep' meaning.

I continually bombard my Japanese colleagues here with questions about aikido names and they usually do not have any clue of what I am talking about. Any more, that is, than the average Japanese. Thus, the names are ordinary terms with a narrower meaning, usually tied to a specific context ('omote' and 'ura', for example).

Aikido is not like a koryu and does not insist on the learning of complex kata forms in a specifically Japanese way. In fact, many Japanese teachers living overseas have had to adapt their teaching methods to suit their (predominantly western) students. Bcause it is more flexible, it is an interesting question how far aikido can strip away its Japanese cultural trappings and still be aikido. I think language is just one (very important!) aspect of a larger issue.

As I said, a few random thoughts.

Peter Goldsbury

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Old 07-25-2001, 08:02 AM   #50
Steve Speicher
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a tenkan is a tenkan by any other name...
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