Why do Japanese arts use the Japanese language?

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by skribs, Oct 7, 2019.

  1. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I think I've heard that term used, too. It certainly makes more sense in my head.
     
  2. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    Call it this, call it that, you say tomatoes, I say potatoes.

    But when do we eat?
     
  3. Dirty Dog

    Dirty Dog MT Senior Moderator Staff Member

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    When the steaks are done. None of that vegetarian crap for me!
     
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  4. JP3

    JP3 Master Black Belt

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    Interesting, I was always Taught Circle Throw. I checked it online to see if I was off, and found this:

    Tomoe nage - Wikipedia

    but... that's Wikipedia. Compare with the translation of "Overhead Trhow," which I'd guess is probably just someone calling it something in English to explain what it "looks like to us."

    Here's another where they don't use "Circle Throw" they instead use "CircuLAR Throw:"

    Glossary of Judo waza (techniques) terms: Tomoe-nage (Circular throw) | Judo Channel | Token Corporation: Official partner of the All Japan Judo Federation (Zenjuren)

    Translating Japanese to English is NOT an exact science, I don't think. We can get close, but not precisely, correct.
     
  5. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Translating any language is always an art. My understanding is that the Japanese language is fundamentally and conceptually different from English in ways that make most translations approximations.
     
  6. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Quick swerve on this, JP. How early is tomoe nage generally taught in the Judo curriculum? Same question for Danzan-ryu folks. I ask because Tomoe Nage has become part of my standard curriculum (though it's oddly not one of the Classical techniques in NGA).

    That Wikipedia article referred to yoko tomoe nage, so I had to look that one up. I hadn't seen that before. An interesting variation on the principles, and not what I expected. I thought it would be closer to our Groin Block (think tomoe nage, but sutemi is to the side, while uke still continues in the same direction as in tomoe nage).
     
  7. frank raud

    frank raud Master Black Belt

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    Which is why it is better to use the Japanese terminology for Japanese techniques if possible. We all know what tomoenage is, but have at least three variations on the description in English.
     
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  8. jobo

    jobo Grandmaster

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    but then the japanese are busy anglicising their language by replacing japanese terms with English ones, so clearly they don't think it best
     
  9. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Whatever is best understood in context is the best choice. With so many English-speakers in the arts, and other influences of English in the world, I’m not surprised there’s some influence on Japanese terminology.
     
  10. jobo

    jobo Grandmaster

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    its a bit more than '' some influence'' its quite significant in japan and lots of other countries, finding non english speakers in the younger generations is quite a challenge, its just natural for them to disperse english into their everyday language.

    Its going the way of welsh '' did you know Wales has its own language, that varius zelliots insist on trying to keep alive, even though next to no one speaks it fluently or at all in everyday conversation, they insist on Welsh language road signs and news broadcasts etc, to an audience of about 2000.

    listening to it, its quite easy to follow whats being said, as they haven't got a welsh word for anything that's been invented, discovered or conceptualized in the last 300 years
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2019
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  11. JP3

    JP3 Master Black Belt

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    Are they? Not saying they're not, but ... not going to Japan much I didn't know that.
     
  12. JP3

    JP3 Master Black Belt

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    Gerry,

    If one was teaching directly from the gokyo (series of 40 techniques) from Kodokan Judo, I think that Tomoe is #23 out of the 40, being in Group 3 (Dai-Sankyo) of the Gokyo. Yep, just found the breakdown on judoinfo.com, here:

    The Gokyo of Kodokan: 40 Throwing Techniques – Judo Info

    So, I think that's about at green belt is where the requirement, if you call it that, would show up... to be able to sort-of perform Tomoenage.

    But, the thing is, judo instructors are an independent lot, even with all the structuree that comes from international associations/organizations policing the quality and stuff.

    For me, I'd probably introduce Tomoenage to a person after their first promotion, as by then they'll have the basic idea of ukemi in their head, the idea of accepting the fall, rounding the body for rolling, etc. So, they're less likely to fall backwards like a plank (which Can be useful for some of the yoko-sutemiwaza, interestingly enough... just don't let go of uke as he's your "cushion" or "brake").
     
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  13. jobo

    jobo Grandmaster

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  14. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Thanks for looking that up for me. I tend to introduce it fairly early (close to where you're talking about), because I find it a more direct application of sutemi principles than some of the NGA sutemi waza.
     
  15. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Interesting thread in a number of ways.... just, for the record....

    Tomoe nage is probably best described as a "pendulum", or "droplet" throw... a tomoe is a swirling form, think of one half of the classic "Yin'Yang" symbol. The tomoe is found in a number of forms in Japanese culture, such as in groups of three (mitsu-tomoe) in a number of Japanese family crests as an example. "Kaiten nage" would be a "rotating", or "rolling" throw... a "stomach throw" would be "hara-nage".... a "circle throw" would be any of a number of terms, "en no nage" would be the most literal, although it could be "Enkei nage" (circular shape throw), "Marunage" (round throw), or a couple of others... but most commonly, the term "en" would be involved. And, while I'm here, from about page three, Blackknight mentioned that "Ken" means "punch"... actually, it means "fist", or "weapon", implying the object used to strike or attack... the most common term for a punch is "tsuki", more literally meaning "thrust (with a weapon, in context)"... classically, the idea or concept of punching in Japanese arts simply isn't the same as in Western ideals and cultural understanding.

    And that brings us to the thrust of the question... why use Japanese terminology all the time? Well, for one thing, I'd disagree with the premise that practitioners of Japanese arts think of Japanese as a universal language of all martial arts... however, we do tend to think of the Japanese terms as universal, or at least, intrinsic enough to the arts we study to validate using them for preference over less specific terms (from inaccurate, or more vague attempted translations)... a good example of which is the discussion of the above tomoe nage. A number of "translations" were given, none of which were actually accurate, but were attempts to describe the throw in English. Despite the variation in English descriptive terms, using the term "Tomoe nage" is universal enough (largely thanks to the usage within Kodokan Judo... we'll come back to that) that, regardless of the specific English characterisation, everyone knew the throw being meant. In fact, reading "the throw Captain Kirk used so often" meant nothing to me... but the term "tomoe nage" instantly told me what Gerry was talking about.

    By the same token, I have an immediate understanding of what an Ippon Seoi Nage is, regardless of how it is described in English (a "shoulder" throw... it's not, for the record... "one arm shoulder throw", which could be any of a number of variants I know that can be commonly called that... a "one arm throw", which again could apply to a number of actions... and so on). And again, just for the record, Seoi Nage is one of those things that has a common English description that is sometimes taken to be a translation, when it's not... it's commonly referred to in English as a "shoulder throw", however the term for "shoulder" (that would be a kata-nage, for the record) does not appear in the name at all... in fact, when you look at the name in Japanese, it is comprised of the characters "Sei" 背, meaning "back", as in your spine/shoulder blade side of your body, "O(i)" 負い, meaning "to bear (upon)", and "Nage" 投げ, which means "to throw"... giving an actual translation as "to throw by bearing the opponent upon your back", a fairly accurate description of the category of throws... but not what you find in the English terms.

    So why do we insist on using these Japanese terms? Often because they give information that is lacking in the English descriptions... it can be technical (as in Seoi Nage), cultural (such as the imagery in Tomoe Nage), historical, tactical (particularly within the older, classical arts), and more. It's less about the terms being universal, even within Japanese arts, as many different arts will use different terms for the same, or similar concepts... or use the same name for different ones. As an example, many are familiar with the term "Bo" meaning "staff"... or "Jo" meaning "stick"... and many have an idea of what those weapons are. However things are not quite that simple... for example, the "Bo" might be a Rokushaku-bo (almost exactly "six foot staff")... or it might be given a name such as Chobo (elongated stick), as used in schools such as Yagyu Shingan Ryu Heiho... or Nagabo (long staff)... or the length might be longer or shorter than what is expected (YSgR's Chobo, for instance, is closer to 5 feet, other schools use slightly longer staves for reach advantages, and so on). A "Jo" is commonly thought of as a four foot stick weapon, primarily from Shinto Muso Ryu, and also seen in many forms of Aikido... and is, like the Bo, sometimes called a Yonshaku-jo (four foot stick)... except Muhi Muteki Ryu refer to their staff weapon as a Jo, despite being close to 6 feet long... and the idea of a Jo's length, even in schools such as Shinto Muso Ryu, has varied over the years. Then we have other forms of Bo or Jo... such as Hanbo... Tanbo.... Tanjo... Te Giri Bo.... and many others that might or might not be recognisable... and might be used interchangeably, or might be very specific... and even that varies with the exact same terms. A classic example is the short sword... it might be called a Shoto, or a Wakizashi, or a Kodachi... and each might be used to describe the exact same thing... or might mean something specific, such as a specific weapon or part of a school's syllabus... and the one teacher might use the same term as either generic or specific... Japanese is all in the context. So don't worry, even Japanese martial artists get a bit confused by the Japanese terms!

    But why is it so important to use the Japanese terms? For that, we need to do a little historical study... starting in the Japanese school system with Kano Jigoro, founder of Judo, and his Kodokan training methodology...

    In the late 1800's, a young martial artist called Kano Jigoro, who had studied and become licenced in two distinct classical Jujutsu systems, Tenjin Shin'yo Ryu (a relatively "new" classical art, being in it's second generation when Kano studied it, having been formed at the very end of the samurai rule), and Kito Ryu (an older art that included a number of facets of education, such as fighting in armour). Kano took his studies in these arts, as well as his knowledge of a few others and his understanding of academic education methods, and began to formulate a new training methodology, which he would come to refer to as Judo, distinct from the older Jujutsu systems. He altered a number of technical aspects, as well as developing a new teaching approach, focused more on developing skills in a confined area, rather than the more tactical centric approach of the older arts. This came to be symbolised by the free-form training and competitive formats that Judo is known for (for the record, many older Jujutsu, and even weaponry arts had extensive free-form training methods and sparring-like approaches), to the point that Judo became, in it's early days, a way for classical practitioners to test their abilities within Judo's context. It would not be uncommon to see a practitioners name card as stating, for example, "Takenouchi Ryu Jujutsu, Chuden Menkyo (Middle Licence) - Kodokan 4th Dan", indicating that the person held a middle level licence in Takenouchi Ryu, a classical jujutsu and weapons art, and had tested their skills to the level of 4th Dan in the open training at the Kodokan or one of it's affiliates. Due to this cross over between schools, general terminology came to be recognised throughout various arts, becoming a sort of universal terminology within Japan itself. This was the beginning of the development of standardised terminology for Japanese arts.

    The next big development was found in the Japanese government. After the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate, and the development of the Meiji Restoration, where the Emperor Meiji, thorough his supporters, was restored as the ruler of Japan, and the Shogunate (military rulership) was overthrown, a number of edicts were passed that essentially ended the samurai, and the caste system that had ruled Japan for centuries. Having endured under the rule of the samurai for so long, much of Japan was not keen on embracing the culture that had acted as oppressive overlords for so long, leading to a great push back against anything seen as representing Japan's past. The newly formed government, however, as well as many business concerns, being headed by former samurai or samurai families, wanted to assist in preserving the culture of their ancestors, so a number of bodies were formed for the promotion and preservation of Japanese martial arts, under the guise of preserving unique Japanese culture. These bodies were responsible for things such as standardising modern martial arts, such as Kendo, Iaido, and so on, as well as being instrumental in helping rebuild the arts after the ban following WWII. They formulated the 9 Budo (Martial Ways/Arts) of Japan, giving particular status to nine "modern" budo arts as representative of Japanese culture; Kendo (modern sword art, which also acts as an umbrella for Iaido [sword drawing], and jodo [short staff]), Kyudo (archery), Judo (a throwing based competitive art), Aikido (a modern art based in locks, throws, and pinning methods), Karate-do (specifically referring to Japanese-based groups, such as Shotokan, Kyokushin, Wado-ryu etc, rather than the Okinawan forms, such as Uechi Ryu, Goju Ryu etc), Sumo (a very old form of grappling competition), Shorinji Kempo (ostensibly a mix of native Japanese arts and Shaolin-based kung fu... Shorinji Kempo is pretty much the Japanese pronunciation of "Shaolin Chuan-fa/Fist Methods"), Atarashii Naginata ("new" naginata, a long pole arm with a curved blade), and Jukendo (bayonet fighting based on older spear methods, and developed in the early 20th Century).

    The Nippon Budokan organisation developed a "Budo Charter" for the promotion of Japanese Culture through Martial Arts, and began to push these ideas with sponsored visits, lectures, demonstrations, and more throughout Japan and the world. This, of course, has lead to a strong connection between the concept of teaching Japanese martial arts, and the teaching (and promotion) of Japanese culture... which is expressed not only through the actions, but through the language, which, of course, gives a greater appreciation back to the source of the art itself... Japan.

    From this, we can see the usage of Japanese terms is three-fold (at least):
    - Ease of communication by using terms that are understood by all involved (in the relevant arts)
    - Lack of confusion by using many (often inaccurate) non-Japanese terms.
    - Promotion of Japanese culture through martial arts.

    Of course, each culture and community has it's own language... and the terms are found in each cultures art... to a greater or lesser degree. BJJ uses a mix of terms from different cultures, including Japanese (Kimono, Jiu-jitsu, etc), English (Mount, Guard etc), and Portuguese (Omoplata, Americana, and so on), reflecting it's mix of heritage and position in the world today... Chinese arts use Mandarin or Cantonese, depending on their origins... Korean arts often use Korean, especially in Korea (obviously!)... but Japanese arts tend to focus more on the idea of promoting Japanese culture, giving rise to the seemingly (but, I feel, not substantially) higher degree of usage of Japanese terminology. However I do feel that it is mainly used to speak within the context of Japanese arts, rather than being seen as "standard language" for all martial arts.
     
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  16. geezer

    geezer Grandmaster

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    Chris Parker! Welcome back sir.

    I don't believe you've posted here in several months, and your exceedingly well informed and highly detailed posts have been missed. I suppose that the edited version of your post I quoted above would have answered the OP's question adequately ...but what a loss of information it would have been for us all. Thank you for your input. :)
     
  17. jobo

    jobo Grandmaster

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    that's a very long post, but i cant see that any of the myriad of reasons you've given are a reasonable justification for using japanese terms

    I can't see why anyone would want to promote japanese culture, particularly historic japanese culture, its hasn't got the best reputation for kindness to your fellow man and i can see no great hardship in saying 'today we are going to use the 4 foot stick' I suppose the fundamental question is do using the terms make you better at ma and i can see no reason why they might? In which case its a useless complication

    it does rather smack of those folk who insist on using french just to show off their knowledge rather than trying to clearly express themselves
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2019
  18. marques

    marques Master Black Belt

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    My guesses:
    1. Translations are hard to do and often inaccurate.
    2. Japanese arts are used to impose Japanese cultural superiority... This may be a bit too strong, but the point 1. was a weak argument. I really think Japanese martial arts, on top of their value as arts, or sports or..., are used to carry their culture out of their island.
     
  19. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Hey Geezer,

    Thanks! As I've said though, even when I'm not here, I'm here... ha! Still, life happens, you know... and people like Tony have been doing well covering most of what I'd say in a number of threads anyway... and, to be honest, there are a few things that made being here a bit more wearying at times.... speaking of....

    So what? It's not about what's "reasonable" to you, and there is no need, desire, want, or prerogative to cater to your lacking grasp on the breadth of martial arts and the motivations, philosophies (yeah, I know you don't get that word either), approaches, or ideologies behind them or their practitioners. This is not about what is "reasonable" to you... it's about what's reasonable to the practitioners and the arts themselves.

    It's really quite simple. If you are in a school that uses a lot of the native terminology of the art itself (in this case, Japanese), then it gets used... regardless of whatever you may think is "reasonable", or "outdated", or "useless", or "annoying", or "a waste", or anything else. If you don't like it, I'm sure you know the way out... of course, if you're not in a school that uses such terminology, then your views mean nothing to the people who are in such schools.

    This idea of "I don't get it, it doesn't match my values, therefore no one should do it" is pretty small minded, honestly...

    Yeah, again, really not anything that matters as far as we're concerned.... you can think all of that, but frankly, you're so far outside of the situation or conversation that you don't factor at all. You don't think the Japanese culture is worth promoting? Fine, don't do it... but telling people who appreciate the culture, or telling the Japanese themselves that their culture is not worth promoting or preserving is rather insulting, don't you think? You see no issue in saying "today we are going to use the 4 foot stick"? Neither do we. Mind you, it's not just about naming the weapon (although that's part of it)... it's about an immersion in the mentality of the school... which comes from the language used as much as the physical actions. Does the terminology make you better at martial arts? Well.... yes. They make you better at the art that use them, as you gain more insight, more understanding, more association, and deeper grasp of the essence of the school itself. You don't see that? Cool. But that doesn't mean it's not there... it just means that your martial experience is different... now you get to accept that others have different experiences and ideas as to what a martial art is actually made up of.

    Then you don't understand it at all. I mean... you do know that there are certain words brought across from, for example, French, because they express concepts that aren't in existence in English, yeah? Terms that have a certain je ne sais quoi... and I know that some might read this and feel a form of schadenfreude... but that's fine as well... and the point remains.
     
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  20. jobo

    jobo Grandmaster

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    if the Japanese or ttheir devotees want to be insulted by pointing out historical facts of the mind blowing brutality of " historical' Japanese culture then so be it !

    was Japanese culture responsible for the barbarism of the japanese empire, yes of course it was, what other reason could their be but their culture thought that acceptable.

    let's put it this way, if a group set up a training camp, where they dressed up in german uniforms, practiced hurting people and speaking as much German as they could for the ways of hurting people, then they would quite rightly be called complete loons or extremists glorifying the excesses of the german empire. replace german with japanese and you have ma clubs and no one bats an eye
     
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