Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Analysis of the Showa (Part 1)

The 唱和 Showa is a motivational poem that is recited at the end of training sessions in ICKF dojo which also illustrates the principles discussed in this blog; The concept of pursuing one's life endeavours with 和 Wa, Peace and 忍 Nin, Perseverance and the reassurance that if one conducts themselves with honour and respect for others 力必達 Rikihitattsu 'Strength' will come and goals will be attained. This is a very important part of Karate Do training.

It was my intention to analyse the Showa in this post however, upon completion of the analysis, I feel it is too long for one post. Therefore I will be breaking the post into two parts. In the first part I will focus on the first half of the Showa poem, looking at the various meanings of the kanji and contemplating possible interpretations for them. I will do the same in the next instalment as well. It is my intent that by doing so we will  be able to, at the very least, deepen our understanding of the meaning of this motivational poem and, with this deeper understanding, recognize our own personal relationship to it and our training. 

(the Showa, Chito-Ryu Honbu Dojo, Kumamoto, Japan 2013)

The Chito-Ryu Karate Do Showa is a motivational poem that describes the essence of what it means to pursue the study of the martial way, the above photo is the Showa as displayed in the ICKF Sohonbu Dojo, Kumamoto, Japan.
There has been some debate among practitioners regarding the most accurate translation of this poem which has resulted in slight differences among various countries in the English translation of the original Japanese version. As far as I know, this poem is recited in every ICKF dojo world-wide after completing a training session. Most recite it in Japanese, English, and another language depending on the country in which they are practicing,a French translation, for example, is recited in Canada. I am not familiar with all of the details of the various translations for each country where Chito-Ryu Karate Do is practiced, but I am familiar with the Japanese and English translations used in North America (Canada and the United States), Scotland, Norway, Hong Kong, and Australia. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some of my views regarding my interpretation of this poem. I will make specific reference to two versions of the English translations currently used by ICKF dojo in Canada and Australia.
I would also like to make it clear that I am of the opinion that there is not and can never be only 'one true' or most 'accurate' translation of any Japanese poem or philosophical concept into the English language that could ever be used as the 'one and only' global standard. I am not qualified as a translator, but I do feel confident with my interpretation of specific Japanese concepts related to Karate Do. I do welcome all opinions regarding this and future subjects to be covered in this blog. I strongly feel that there needs to be more authentic material available to draw from so that we can better understand, more accurately the principles of the art that we are studying.
We are living in a world where information is spreading quickly, far more rapidly than in any other time in the history of humanity. We are constantly growing and evolving as a species and with this growth come changes of all sorts, not the least of which are changes in our language which is shaped by and therefore changes with socio-cultural shifts. Many scholars now refer to the English language not as one generic language to be learned and perfected but rather as a "living growing extension of the culture of the country in which it is being used to communicate specific cultural realities (11th International Asia TEFL Conference, 2013)."

When we deal with translation or, perhaps more accurately termed, interpretation, we must be aware of this fact and understand that we are now dealing with something different than years ago. Therefore, when we perform the task of translating or interpreting foreign languages such as Japanese into English we must consider the term “World Englishes” (in the plural) as we attempt to translate or interpret that material. We must be careful to deliver the information in an appropriate context depending on the region of the reader or listener. It is in this context that I try to base my personal interpretation of Japanese on and why I am able to accept variations in translations used by different people in different countries. Furthermore, I believe that the most important thing is accurately relaying the message to the audience appropriately not in defining the 'one and only true translation' of any given Asian cultural text. Therefore, in order to relay the intended message, the method of delivery, and even at times, the specific vocabulary used in the message must change depending on the audience. Please keep this in mind as you read my presentation of the Showa. And, please add to this depending on your background to develop an interpretation that best coordinates with your county's culture, in context. I strongly believe that if we all do this, the interpretation will be as authentic as possible in the given context and meaning will reach the hearts and minds of the practitioners as intended.

It is important to first understand the title. Within the title we can find many clues regarding the intended message or purpose of the passage. Therefore, I would like to spend some time to look more closely at the title, Showa.
Clearing up a Common Misunderstanding
First and foremost, I want to bring your attention to the character used in the title Showa which is 唱和 and not 昭和. At first glance these characters look very similar, but they are not the same and should not be used inter-changeably. They are both indeed pronounced the same (Showa) but the second kanji given above, 昭和, is used to define an era of Japanese History, the Showa era or period, from 1926 to 1989 which, coincidentally, falls under the time frame when the Chito-Ryu Showa poem was written, but has nothing to do with the title.

By taking a closer look at the characters used in the title of the poem, one will see that the first kanji is 唱 Sho, also pronounced Tona in the case of 唱える Tonaeru, this means to Recite or Repeat. Another use of this character, when it is placed before the character for the act of teaching 導 Do as in ( 指導 Shido), becomes 唱導 Shoudo, to Advocate, Advance, and Introduce. This may also be seen written as 唱道 Sho Do which represents the same meaning; to Advocate or to Set forth. Therefore, it may be said that 唱道 would be used to represent an avocation of something through recitation.
I am confident that all of these meanings, and many more than I am aware of, were taken into consideration when deciding the title for this poem as it was intended to advocate the message of Karate Do to the practitioners of this way of life,  (空手家 Karate Ka) across Japan and all over the world.
The second character in the title is 和 Wa, Peace commonly used with the character 平 Hei and is read as Heiwa, but the second Kanji (平) is also pronounced as Hira in many cases and when used on its own. The meaning of this character is Ordinary or when coupled with Wa, Peace, simply means Peace and or Quiet.
Now that we understand these two characters individually on a deeper level, let’s look at them together once again. If the character Sho means to Recite or Advocate and the character Wa means Peace then wouldn’t it be a safe assumption that the intended message of this poem is the 'Avocation of Peace through Reciting or Repeating its message'?! With this in mind, the message that “peace comes through, or as a result of perseverance” becomes even more clear. It may be said that peace through perseverance is the “foundational phrase” (Valentine, 2009) of this poem.
Now, with our deeper understanding of the title and the core meaning of the intended message let’s take a closer look at the rest of the poem. I ask that you keep this foundational phrase, “peace through perseverance” in mind as we do so. If you are an experienced practitioner in another 流派 Ryu-ha or 会派 Kai-ha or a different Japanese martial art, I ask that you contemplate the message and try to relate it to your system and its philosophy. I am confident that you will find many similarities.
I would like to deconstruct the poem by proceeding through it line by line and contemplating the key points by assessing the various readings and interpretations of the Kanji both individually and combined as I have done thus far. However, before we start it should be pointed out that this poem was revised in 2007 by the current 宗家 Soke to include the term “Chito-Ryu.” Before this revision the poem simply said (我々空手道を~) Ware ware Karate Do wo the original version of this poem was written by the 初代宗家 Sho Dai Soke, the first generation Soke. Organizations that split from the ICKF and the leadership of the current Soke but still recognize their ties to Chito-Ryu Karate Do in their lineage would therefore most likely still use the version of the Showa without “Chito-Ryu” incorporated in the first line of the poem.

 (Chito-Ryu Karate Do Sho Dai Soke, Chitose Tsuyoshi)

The first line begins with the characters 我々 Wareware The second character 々 by itself has no real meaning. It is only used to facilitate the repetition of the first character which means ‘I’ or ‘oneself’. In this context the word becomes plural of that and therefore, becomes ‘We’ or ‘Us’ in the context of referring to a group of people. In this case it is being used to refer to everyone who studies this style of Karate Do. Therefore, an appropriate translation of the first line is “We who ~ Chito-Ryu Karate Do.
Due to the difference in grammar, the sentence structure must be altered to accommodate English. This is where the confusion in translations and interpretations can arise. Adding the two characters 修業 Shygyo which means "study" or the pursuit (of learning something) from the next line and inserting them between Wareware and Chito-Ryu Karate Do in the English translation is the only way to make the sentence complete and understadable. Therefore, the most appropriate translations into an English would read, “We who Study Chito-Ryu Karate Do” or “We who are in the pursuit of learning the way of Chito-Ryu Karate” would be an acceptable translations. However, when dealing with translations such as this one the most simple and direct approaches are usually taken resulting in the first translation being used most often, if not always.
Next, let’s proceed by looking at the following characters that complete the line. 修業する Shugyo Suru  means to study and もの Mono sometimes written using the character 者 Mono or Shya means a person. If you recall, in my posts on 敬語 Keigo, Japanese Polite Language, the most humbe form of polite language is to lower oneself or their social standing. Refering to oneself Mono can also be interpreted as being polite. However, this is so ingrained in Japanese society that very few, if any would even pay attention to such a thing due to its commonality. So again, “We (the people) who Study Chito-Ryu Karate Do” makes the most sense for a translation of the first two lines of this poem and is the translation commonly used in North America and Australia ICKF Dojo.
Before we move onto the next lines, it should be noted that these are the lines where the various interpretations begin to differ among some countries. The first characters of this line are 常に Tsune ni and the last characters are 忘れず Wasurezu. 常に Tsune ni, which translates as Always or All the time and 忘れず Wasurezu, which is an eloquent way to say 忘れません Wasuremasen or 忘れない Wasurenai. If you are familiar with the meaning of the application of ません Masen and ない Nai on the end of another character, you will know that it changes the character proceeding it to a negative or its opposite. In this case the inclusion of Nai to the character Wasureru, to Forget, coupled with the character Tsune ni is kind of like a 'double negative' implying that we must make it a Rule to Never Forget stressing that, 'We who are following this path, or engaged in the study of, this style of Karate Do must make it a rule to always keep the following in our minds; in short, to never forget the following. The 'following' is what we will focus on in the next post.


1 comment:

  1. Marc Sensei, I'd be very curious to hear more about your interpretations of "shugyou". The commonly used "study" seems very inadequate, but I don't know of any better English word(s) to use. I have also seen two different ways to write shugyou in Japanese, 修業 and 修行. Based on my limited understanding I am aware that both could be "correct" when used in the context of the showa, however they both carry quite different connotations. I'd be very curious to hear your thoughts.