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How much Japanese do you use during training?
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This is a question mostly to the people here who teach/train outside of Japan, but I guess those who are in Japan but whose dojos consist primarily of non-Japanese speakers could answer this too: How much Japanese do you use during training?

For example, there are a number of words that are a part of training that are often spoken in Japanese, such as "kihon" or "junan taiso", but could just as easily be said in English as "basics" or "flexibility training" respectively.

Yet at the same time, there can sometimes be issues with these kinds of words. For example, the phrases "flexibility training" and "junan taiso" are effectively mirror images of one another.

On the other hand, while looking up the word "kihon" in a dictionary would give you "basics", there seem to be many different shades of meaning and connotation than that. (In fact, this has been quite extensively discussed on this board.) How do you resolve these kinds of issues?

Also, I would expect that all instructors would use Japanese terminology for the techniques of course, but do they ever explain what they mean in their own language? For example, would the instructor explain that "ganseki-nage" translates as "boulder-throwing," or would they just teach the name without any explanation?

And a very important question that goes with all of these: why?

Finally, how much Japanese would you say you understand? Is it just a few words here and there that you picked up from training, teaching, and trips to Japan, or did you actually study the language with the intent of communicating in Japanese?

(In case anyone is curious, I've always been fascinated by languages and the way people use them, and I'm quite curious as to how people on here use Japanese.)

Thank you for your help.

Posted on: 2008/5/17 15:57
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Re: How much Japanese do you use during training?
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Blain,

These are interesting questions.

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How much Japanese do you use during training?


May I start? I know you are aware of the Japanese language usage in two dojos here in Japan, but perhaps others are curious about this.

When working with Japanese 相手 (aite, partner) I know, I choose which language depending on that person's fluency. However, if I'm tired or out of sorts, I may struggle in Japanese. But of course, we should be training, not talking, on the mat

Quote:
On the other hand, while looking up the word "kihon" in a dictionary would give you "basics", there seem to be many different shades of meaning and connotation than that. (In fact, this has been quite extensively discussed on this board.) How do you resolve these kinds of issues?


Of course, there is a range of meaning in 基本 (kihon, foundation or basics). It's best to watch your sensei and from observing his/her movement, discover what s/he implies by the use of the word kihon.

Quote:
...would they just teach the name without any explanation?


You mean, a translation of the term into English. I haven't been in my hometown as a resident for some time, but when I was there, many, not all, of the shidoshi were aware of the English meanings of the technique names.

Quote:
Finally, how much Japanese would you say you understand? Is it just a few words here and there that you picked up from training, teaching, and trips to Japan, or did you actually study the language with the intent of communicating in Japanese?


I understand daily conversation and a lot of terms to do with martial arts in general and Bujinkan in specific, education, Buddhism and cultural jargon. I'm not literate in all these areas.

Blain, you didn't tell us about your fluency in Japanese or how you achieved it...

Posted on: 2008/5/17 17:36
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Bwahaha!!!
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Where do I start???

I use a lot of Japanese terminology... But I also follow these with a general translation in the same sentence. If you do a search for any of my posts since the first days of Kutaki, you will see that I always present a Japanese term and a general translation (even though I know that many of the early years were lost due to computer meltdowns).

In fact, I get many requests via PM or email for people asking me questions about Japanese terms... (this must make Kouryuu cringe as he knows how unknowledgeable my Japanese actually is, hehe... I see myself as still a student of the Japanese language and not a teacher, hehe)

In summation, I will retell my many times told story of the origin of my interest in the Japanese language. After starting my training with a Bujinkan group in the early 80's (which means none and far between)... I had to return to my home town with only a copy of the original 'Ninpo' Taijutsu' book from 1984. I went to a college professor at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, to inquire what price it would take for him to translate Hatsumi Sensei's book. After staring intently at the pages for what must have been 15 minutes, he told me I would be better off learning the language and translating it myself as he did not understand any of the terms... This was the Japanese Professor of the Language at this Major University who also was a 4th degree black belt and instructor on campus of Aikido'!!!

I specifically remember him pointing out Uke Nagashi / Recieving-Sink or Flow, Take Ori / Bamboo Break and Ganseki-Nage / Big-Rock Throw as not making any sense to him (and that referring to the sparse picture examples as absolutely no help). As a result, I gave copies of my basic translation of the first chapter of that book to Bill Atkins, Abby Allen and Ralph Severe in 1988... I still look at it with great pride.

My questions at seminars and classes also incorporate questions about names as well as being able to understand certain names of Kyu'sho / Vital Points or Taihen / Body-changes, that helps in my own training when I have absolutely no idea what the point of the reference may be... It gives me some help over others that have no idea.

I still have no idea what I am doing but I make an effort and persevere... For instance, Doug Wilson renamed me Hentai-Jaime from Slimey-Jaime and I kept asking Paul Masse if he was really making a joke about me and calling me gay or something bad... Now I claim it proudly... hehehe...

Posted on: 2008/5/17 17:41
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Re: How much Japanese do you use during training?
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Thank you for your answers Liz. This is exactly the kind of information I was looking for.

As for my (limited) Japanese abilities, I've been studying for about 12 years, first at university in Canada and then by living in Japan for the last eight years. Probably the way I got most of my fluency (if you can call it that) was by talking a lot, making LOTS of mistakes, and getting corrected.

Now if only I'd started training at the same time I started studying Japanese...

Posted on: 2008/5/17 17:44
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Bwa...2
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After rereading my post perhaps It is not apparent that the Japanese Professor was a Native Japanese whose English was moderate with a heavy accent.

Posted on: 2008/5/17 18:32
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Re: How much Japanese do you use during training?
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1) How much Japanese do you use during training?

If there is a name for the... thing, then I use it. Though I don't normally use Tsuki for strike, Uke for blocking and such, unless it is called for as a name.

Oh, and "Shikin" is done in Japanese.


2) On the other hand, while looking up the word "kihon" in a dictionary would give you "basics", there seem to be many different shades of meaning and connotation than that. (In fact, this has been quite extensively discussed on this board.) How do you resolve these kinds of issues?

If I know these, then I tell them. And most likely some think I go too far with this, too, at times.

3) Also, I would expect that all instructors would use Japanese terminology for the techniques of course, but do they ever explain what they mean in their own language? For example, would the instructor explain that "ganseki-nage" translates as "boulder-throwing," or would they just teach the name without any explanation?

If I know it, I tell it. And if I don't know it I try to tell that, too, and then try to find out.

4) And a very important question that goes with all of these: why?

I see the language as a big part of the martial art we are studying, another side to the wrist twisting.

5) Finally, how much Japanese would you say you understand? Is it just a few words here and there that you picked up from training, teaching, and trips to Japan, or did you actually study the language with the intent of communicating in Japanese?

Have studied Japanese for two semesters under teacher, and then continued on and off on my own, but am not anywhere near fluent, more on the "word here, word there" type.

Posted on: 2008/5/17 19:55
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Re: How much Japanese do you use during training?
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Speaking as a total gaijin, non-Japanese speaking 'Merican, I use Japanese terminologies as much as I feel it is necessary (and I can do so correctly).

For one thing, Bujinkan arts are Japanese and the eventual goal for many will be to someday make the voyage to Japan. Having familiarity with common dojo terms and phrases, in my opinion, should be part of learning the kihon (basics) in part because it connects the training to it's Japanese roots and prepares the student for training in Japan.

With that said, I am not into Japanophilia and do not pretend to be a Japanese linguistic scholar. However, exploring the subtle variances, symbolism and layers of meaning behind Japanese names can lead to a clearer understanding of a kata or technique.

For example, in the "kihon" thread, Chris gave a great explanation regarding Omote Gyaku, it's meanings and misunderstandings. There are many other examples where exploring the name behind a technique will provide important elements or background into the essence of the technique.

So, in my classes, I will often use Japanese names, but will also explain not only the general English translation, but any other tidbits about the name that I know.

Likewise, when I am training, I listen to my instructor's use of Japanese language for the very same reasons. It adds important elements in my own understanding of this art.

Posted on: 2008/5/18 6:23
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Re: How much Japanese do you use during training?
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Quote:


With that said, I am not into Japanophilia and do not pretend to be a Japanese linguistic scholar. However, exploring the subtle variances, symbolism and layers of meaning behind Japanese names can lead to a clearer understanding of a kata or technique.



I agree. Words add a deeper layer than just what they say. My teacher didn't allow me to pass my 1st kyu way back when because I hadn't learned the Japanese for what I was doing for just the reason Darren pointed out. Besides we need a common training language. I don't speak Brazilian, but hopefully we can understand the names of whatever it is we are working with if I happen to train with a, er, Brazilian.

Posted on: 2008/5/18 7:43
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Re: How much Japanese do you use during training?
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Quote:

Stardog Champion wrote:
This is a question mostly to the people here who teach/train outside of Japan, but I guess those who are in Japan but whose dojos consist primarily of non-Japanese speakers could answer this too: How much Japanese do you use during training?


Good question: I use as much as I can (which is really limited to Dojo-Japanese). If I know the name of the technique or the basic command, I use the Japanese word instead of the English word (I translate to English if there are new people around).

My reason though - is a bit different. I use Japanese - so if my students are in another dojo and the new place is using Japanese, it isn't completely lost on my guys.

If I knew they would never be faced with that scenario, I would be a lot less conscientious about using it.

-Daniel

Posted on: 2008/5/21 6:34
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Re: How much Japanese do you use during training?
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Though I don't speak Jap I try to be aware of the Jap terms for techniques and all that. Watching Soke on video really helps in this.

My Shidoshi used more Japanese in the past when we had native Japanese training in our dojo in Singapore. We don't really do much of that now.

As Daniel said, I don't want to be lost visiting any dojo where they use the Jap terms. That would be embarassing, especially for a dan grade... :)

Junjie

Posted on: 2008/5/21 14:31
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