Friday, February 24, 2006

Using Japanese, Korean, or Chinese terminology

I've been thinking about how martial art students are asked to train, and learn all the difficult stances, kicks, strikes, and patterns, and in addition to this, (in some dojo) they are asked to know all of these things in both their native language, AND in Japanese (Korean, Chinese, etc. depending on their art). Of course, I had to ask myself if I thought that it was a worthwhile effort to learn everything in Japanese. I like to be in agreement with what I've been asked to do. There are alot of reasons why people have learned the Eastern terminology. One reason is that it is good to be familiar with the words in case you wish to compete or train internationally. I can see the value in that.. even if each country will have a different accent to the term Tsuki.. there is a chance that there would be interactive communication when placed together. Personally, I do not ever assume that I will be at such a high level that I'd be interacting internationally with other karate-ka... other than on the internet. Another reason is that it continues the tradition from the country that originated the martial art. (similar to how latin, and Greek terms are used in music, or French is used in Ballet) I like this idea, but it doesn't motivate me to put forth the effort to learn all the complex terms. For me, learning Japanese is a way to train my mind. I have to find a way to learn, and remember those words, what they represent, and when/how to use them. As a mom, I rarely get academic stimulation. It has been shown that one has to use their memory, and mind to keep it young and active. "As we learn new skills and concepts, the brain sparks development of synaptic connections--the electrical /chemical circuits that link neurons, the brain cells. Each cell in the brain can potentially be connected to thousands of others. The more connections, the more dense the brain, and the greater the intellectual capacity. For most of us, the brain is thoroughly stimulated well into our 50s thanks to jobs, continuing education, relationships, child raising and so forth. But people who become less mentally active as they grow older often don't receive--or seek-the stimulation needed to continue forming synapses. Karlene Ball, a psychology professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, worked as a lead researcher in a major federally funded study of people aged 64-96. The study proved beyond a doubt that the cognitive functions of the elderly can be enhanced through demanding activities that forced them to reason and react quickly. Better news still: A follow-up 5 years later showed thai participants retained their cognitive abilities--even though they hadn't performed any practice exercises." Training in Karate is the elixer of youth for the mind of a person, we are constantly challenged to learn, react, and learn more! Adding the study, and memorizing of kata, history of the art, and it's founder, and learning Japanese/Korean/Chinese terms enhances the mental training offered to us to help us keep sharp, and focused.


John Vesia said...

It's true, we never stop learning. Another benefit to martial arts training. Interesting note: Kenpo (Ed Parker's system) - though it has Asian roots, adapts its terminology to the country it's taught in.


Stephen Irwin said...


Fantastic blog. I'll add a link to yours from mine.

Terminology? We use a mix of Japanese/Chinese (for kata names) and English LOL!

My old TKD instructor used to do everything in English because "we are learning martial arts, not a language".

supergroup7 said...

John... is Kenpo also called American karate? or something like that? Does it have a second name?

supergroup7 said...

Stephen, Thanks for visiting. I'm glad that you enjoyed my blog. I have fun adding to it.

In fact, I have to be honest.. I stole this "Using Japanese, Korean, or Chinese Terminology" addition from myself. What I mean is that I wrote it for my Kyokushin Kartate weblog found under supergroup7 at , and I liked it so much that I posted it here too. (Broke my own rule.. that I would keep the two weblogs totally seperate of content.. but I've broken the rule before once or twice when I really like what I have written.)

Each dojo/dojang/kwan/club will do their own thing as they train for various reasons. Whether they train in english, or swedish.. the end result should be the same, that we all learn to better ourselves physically, and mentally.

When I have time, I'll come and visit your weblog, and leave a few comments. I'm too busy today though. Saturdays are my busiest day in karate training, and in family responsibilities.

Take care!

John Vesia said...

Yes Mireille, sometimes Kenpo is referred to as American Kenpo, or Kenpo Karate.


Colin Wee said...

Kenpo would be Chuan Fa in chinese.

Colin Wee said...

It's interesting the use of language.

In Asia, we will take for granted that a word is just a word - it needs further clarification within the context of the sentence or situation. So there's a lot of room for ambiguity, humour, and more chatting. So when something is called X, we don't necessarily use the name to categorise the techniques. Meaning we don't attribute it a certain definition due to the name. However in English, an 'Up Block' is a block upwards. So being an English speaker, I'd start attributing characteristics based off of that name. Several years ago when I was sparring I had a eureka moment when someone aimed a spinning back elbow at my head - and I blocked it using an Up Block! I thought the whole thing was funny - that I was practicing what I thought was an 'Up Block' all those years when really what I was doing was moving my arm into a position over my head - and this helped prevent me from being knocked out from a sideways blow. That was a key lesson in my using various ways to communicate issues in class - using analogies, technique description (instead of names), looking at variations, and muscle dynamics, just to name a few. What I think is hilarious is when I visit a class and the instructor is trying his best to count in a foreign language, name techniques, and identify target areas. It makes the learning of the art so much more difficult - I already feel challenged using English as a mode of instruction. :-) Good post. Colin

[Mat] said...

I think it's essential.

You get in the mood of things, you feel a bit of all the history behind the punches, the katas, everything.

There is so much wealth in martial arts.

Closing your eyes to all that is almost a sin.