Thursday, July 23, 2015

Mistranslations... still there

We've known for a while, those who wanted to hear, that a lot of problems with "traditional" Western understanding of martial arts (very specially karate, but also kendo, Chinese systems...) was a matter of translation, of trying to explain very intimate sensations to people with a different language paradigm. As long as this has been known, it's annoying that it's still there.

For example, Jesse Enkamp's article on the Pinan kata. Or the translation of the 20 precepts of Shotokan. Check both versions.

We've had people fluent in Chinese in most of the West for decades. And yet, no "traditional" karateka thought of digging into that source? Respect to tradition, my ass! Then we have the Nijû kun... My fight with that meaning of sente's been boiling for a while. As a recap, there are two mistakes: one, that sente is no "first strike" but more similar to initiative; the other that if you never have the initiative in an assault, you die. No ifs, no buts. And the way it's become almost a religious mantra (you'll find woodcarvings of that precept far more often than any of the others) is disgusting and dangerous.

But it's not the only one. "Do not think you have to win. Think that you do not have to lose." Bullshit. Wiki translates the second part as "Think, rather, of not losing", which is completely different. The difference between "I will NOT lose!" [ie, I'll reach home safe and sound] and "No one's asking me to lose, after all".

The list of precepts is not wrong. The translations are. The interpretations are a damn disgrace. The blind obedience to that all is sickening.

We have people labelling themselves as "warriors", "fighters", and yet they get all huffy when you point to them that, well, they're demostrably wrong and, even more, wrong in such a way that it cripples them.

We should do skeet shooting with photographs of several scores of MA pioneers.

Take care.

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