Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Analysis of the Showa (Part 2)

Continuing from the previous post...

Way of the Warrior, Spirit of the Samurai, or Simply Bushido?
武士道の精神 Bushido no Seishin which is commonly translated as the "spirit of the warrior’s way." Here in lays the discrepancy in the cultural context of the term and its usage. What is the 'Way' of the 'Warrior'? What is the 'Spirit' of a 'Warrior'? I don't know about you, but when I hear the word 'Warrior' I think of the WWF Wrestling character, the Ultimate Warrior which is obviously out of context. But, this is the problem of vocabulary choice that needs to be addressed. Furthermore, the question needs to be addressed, is this kind of “spirit” still appropriate for application in our modern society? If we expect people to repeat this in order to advocate its message of ‘peace’ we must be sure the message is relevant and easily understood by everyone.
Let’s take a moment to contemplate the above questions. During my research I came across an explanation of the interpretation of the Showa used in Australia, it can be found on their website: pg=public.showa
In their introduction they state that the original Japanese is “impossible to accurately translate into English as many of the words do not have a direct translation.” I agree that it is very difficult translate old Japanese poetry and philosophies into modern English accurately. It may be impossible to translate them directly but not accurately. It is necessary to contemplate them and assess your level of understanding of Karate Do based on your interpretation of such things as the Showa.

There are many essays that address the concepts and the philosophical teachings of the Japanese martial arts. Each of them are nothing more than some one’s interpretation of the concept and their interpretations are based on their level of understanding of the "trinity" that I spoke of in the post titled, "The Trinity of Proficiency in Karate Do: Technical, Cultural, and Linguistic Ability." Rarely are such essays written by people who are already recognized 'experts' in that field when they are researching and writing. Usually, they come to be known or referred to as 'experts' afterwards. I strongly urge every serious practitioner of Karate Do to make efforts to attempt to understand these concepts for themselves and relate them to their own personal context within the study and practice of Karate Do. But, please keep in mind that all of our understanding is limited by a number of factors, a great deal of which are very personal in nature. When it is all said and done, we are talking about interpretation and this journey of understanding is a very introspective one.

With the above mentioned points in mind and the knowledge we have attained from deconstructing the lines of the Showa up to this point let’s compare the translation currently being used by The Australian Chito-Kai  and the North American organizations of Chito-Ryu Karate Do paying special attention to the lines dealing with the translation of the section involving (武士道精神) Bushido Seishin. Please pay careful attention to the second line of their interpretation.
We who study Chito-Ryu karate-do
Must never forget the spirit of the samurai
With peace, perseverance and hard work
We are sure to reach our goals
Comparing this to the versions commonly used by the North American Chito-Ryu Organizations, again paying careful attention to the line involving (武士道精神). The example below is the version that was used in North America before the 2007 revision.
We who study Karate-Do
Should never forget the spirit of the warrior's way,
Through Peace, Perseverance and Hard Work,
We will not fail to reach our goal
Notice that the section involving the 武士道精神 is translated directly as the “warrior’s way” in the version commonly used North America while the Australian Federation interpreted this as the “spirit of the Samurai”. Although the actual word ‘Samurai’ is not in the original document is it acceptable to take this leap and use such an interpretation in the same context? The answer to this question is, yes because when one looks up the characters 武士 Bushi in a Japanese English Dictionary one will find it translated first as “a Samurai” and also “a Warrior” followed by Bushido translated as “Chivalry”.

I know the Australian Shihan who translated this and I understand his reasoning for using the word Samurai rather than warrior. Furthermore, his use of spirit rather than way is a more accurate translation of 精神 Seishin, in my opinion. 精神 Seishin which literally means spirit, mind and soul but could also be used to imply intention or even moral when the characters 的に Teki ni  are placed with it. Doing so basically changes the word from spiritual to spiritually or moral to morally and the character 道 in 武士道 Bushido is literally the Way of the Bushi, as stated earlier. But, this concept of Bushido is also commonly translated as chivalry. Therefore, this “way of life” may be interpreted as a life lived by someone who faces constant challenges, struggles and must spend countless hours honing his or her skills for the sole purpose of preserving the lives and the safety of those whom they serve, possibly in battle. They must do so with a spirit and character that is both strong and morally grounded. This is well understood. The problem is what happens in our hearts and minds at that  moment when we hear or read the word “warrior” and we think of a savage power-hungry person crazed on inflicting pain on others.

The truth is that the warrior class of traditional Japan was one of the highest vocations that one could aspire to. When they were not defending their lords with honour and sincerity they devoted almost all of their time to their training and to their pursuit of other arts such as 書道 Shodo, Japanese Calligraphy, 茶道 Sado, The Way of Tea, and 生花 Ikebana, Flower Arrangement,were  among some of the most popular and widely known traditional Japanese arts that the members of the warrior class of Japan commonly undertook. It is also well known that there was an overall appreciation for poetry by many Samurai. The “warrior” described here is exactly the kind of person the Showa poem is referring to. Unfortunately, the word “warrior” does not bring to mind such a well-rounded, dedicated and honourable individual in the mental image of our current society. In this respect, I believe the word “Samurai” can adequately replace “Warrior” as in the Australian version of the Showa. However, with the recent popularization and understanding of the term Bushido in the mainstream media thanks to movies like ‘the Last Samurai’ the term Bushido may no longer need to be translated at all. Perhaps just saying “Bushido” would be even more appropriate. In this case the line would look more like “We must never forget the spirit of Bushido.” I am confident that they would agree with my interpretation of this section of the Showa in Australia as they also state on their website “Alternatively, bushido is often representative of the ways of traditional Japan that is now being swallowed up by the western influences.” Another possible interpretation could be, "We must never forget the way of Bushi."

(the First and Second Generation Soke of Chito-Ryu Karate Do Performing Bunkai, 1979)

The first couple of characters of the next line are very important to the style of Chito-Ryu Karate Do. I believe the true spirit of the concept of the founder of this style’s approach to the martial arts is illustrated in the meaning of these two characters 和 Wa, Peace and 忍 Nin (which can also be read as Shinobu) and means to Endure or Tolerate, commonly translated as Perseverance. The balance of both of these sometimes opposing yet complementary forces is very important in fostering someone who is strong in mind, body and spirit (See post on Shin Gi Tai). It is the character at the end of this line that some people may become confused with, 成し Nashi.  In order to bring all of this together and truly understand the message in context entirely, we really have to take a closer look at this character and its various usages.

Taking a Closer Look at 成
There are various ways to read this character but the meaning always deals with growth and change as illustrated in the following cases of 成る Naru, become (成に変わる) Naru ni Kawaru, Turn or Change into, (養成する) Yousei suru, the Cultivation (of ~), or training, as well as (成し遂げる) Nashi Togeru, Accomplish and Complete. This character Nashi and the Kana (もって) which can also be written using the character 以て Motte which means with or by means of~ can therefore be interpreted as “With Peace and Perseverance ~” or “By means of Peace and Perseverance ~” the following will be cultivated or accomplished. That which follows this is the final line of the poem which completes this sentence when translated into English, 力必達. Each of these characters must also be looked at closely individually and then placed together again. Next I would like to deconstruct these three, very important kanji with the aim of deepening our understanding of how they can be used individually and together and the message that resonates from them when used in this manner.

Analysis of 力必達
Most Japanese read the three characters together (力必達) as Rikihittatsu.The first character is 力 read a number of different ways, commonly Riki, Ryoku, and Chikara are used, but in the case of the Showa it is read as Tsutomeru. If you look up Tsutomeru, you will find the corresponding kanji to be different. 勤める Tsutomeru or 努める Tsutomeru are the two most common characters to come up if one were to search. The characters are different but the original (力) is found in both of them. It is the (部首) Bu Shu which can be translated as “section” of the kanji or Chinese character, which is commonly translated as 'radical' in most dictionaries. This Bushu in the character Tsutomeru is actually read as Chikara.

The next character is 必ず Kanarazu, which means Certainly, Surely, or without fail which is often used interchangeably with 常に Tsune ni which, as explained earlier, means Always.

The third and final character is 達 Tatsu but can also be read the following ways: Dachi, and Tooru is commonly placed after the character for child 子供 Kodomo or friend 友 Tomo to change the character into the plural; children or friends. But, there is another use of this character which is more appropriate in this context, that is 達人 Tatsu Jin translated as an Expert at ~ or in ~ or a Master of ~. In the case of the Showa Poem, it is used in a different respect than the examples provided above, but the last use of the character 達 is quite possibly the closest translation of the intended message that devoting ones life to Peace and Perseverance through the study of Karate Do one will inevitably become an expert in the art and attain a deep understanding of Bushido.

With the above statement in mind, one may translate these three characters into English any of the following ways: “Strength will be mastered” or “One will definitely master their strength”. Another acceptable translation may be “Strength is always mastered by those who ~” this is where we add the Peace (through harmony) and Perseverance (through hard work and endurance, mental toughness) one will master their strengths. Therefore, this section when added to the previous line could very well be read as “By cultivating Peace through harmony and Perseverance or through developing endurance and mental strength one will master their power.” Now take the important parts of a sentence like this and condense it. What do we get? “With Peace, Perseverance and hard work, we shall reach our goal" (Canadian Chito-Kai). Or would it be something more like “Through Peace, Perseverance and Hard Work, We will not fail to reach our goal" (Australian Chito-Kai). Or is there an even better interpretation? Perhaps something more like “Through the cultivation of Peace and Perseverance Strength will be mastered.” It can be assumed that such mastery is our goal, but the word goal is not mentioned literally in the Showa. As was stated earlier, there is no one and only, direct translation for any of these concepts let alone a poem like this one.

Clarification of my Purpose for Writing this Post
My purpose for writing this post was never to provide a 'direct translation' but rather to look at each of these characters individually, through a kind of deconstructive analysis and then again together as a whole in order to attain a deeper understanding of the intended message. I hope I have been able to do so in a coherent manner so that no matter which version has been adopted in your country, when you recite it, you will have a deeper understanding of the content of its message.

Note, one must keep in mind and consider the surrounding elements when contemplating the meaning of the Showa and it's translation into English. Karate Do “The way of empty hand” is concerned with developing strength in its practitioners through fostering such qualities as correct manners, attitude, spirit and strength of character, often using the physical training as a the vehicle to focus on deeper philosophical studies. Karate (or karate-jutsu, or more recently Kyogi Karate sports karate) is primarily concerned with developing the physical aspects alone. Bushido Seishin The ‘spirit’ of the Samurai or the Spirit of Bushido must be considered within the context of Japanese culture. I hope the above deconstruction made this point a little clearer. The samurai lived by the code of bushido (chivalry).

If we are to take the intended message of this specific point in the Showa literally, perhaps it is referring to the seven virtues of the Bushido:
1.Gi 義 Justice
2.Yuu 勇 Bravery
3.Jin 仁 Benevolence
4.Rei 礼 Politeness
5.Makoto 誠 Veracity
6.Meiyo 名誉 Honor
7.Chuugi 忠義 Loyalty

Alternatively, bushido is often representative of the ways of traditional Japan that is now being swallowed up by the western influences.

To conclude this analysis, after reviewing the various interpretations and possible translations, it may be said that anyone who can read the original Japanese version could take from it a number of specific and possibly very personal messages because each of the lines of the Showa may be interpreted a number of different ways depending on one's life and martial experience. But, it remains true that at the core of the Showa is the resonating message of the importantce of cultivating Peace through our determination and efforts to strengthen our body, mind and spirit through the continued practice of Karate Do. That said, I leave it up to you. I didn't write this analysis to give you a 'one and only' translation of this poem. I wrote this to help us better understand the message of the original poem. By understanding the original Japanese version we can take from it what we need, when we need it; the motivation to help us pursue our next challenge as we grow in our Karate Do life, our Karate no Michi.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Marc-Sensei, for taking on this very complex effort to translate the 'Showa' recitation! It seems that each and every character/concept in the 'Showa' contains varied facets and embedded aspects derived from other ancient-cultural information. A good example just recently mentioned is that of 修業 shu gyou. Another, is the very last character 達 tatsu, of 力必達 riki-hitsu-tatsu. A nice explication of this word can be found in the book "The Way of Water and Sprouts of Virtue" by the renowned scholar Dr. Sarah Allan. A clear explanation is given here on p.69, 達 tatsu, "which I have translated here as 'come out' also means to 'penetrate' or 'break through' the earth. Thus, for example, the Mencius [book of circa 320 bce in the Warring States period of China] referred to a spring [of water] when it first breaks through (達) [tatsu] as an unstoppable force." As the riki-hitsu-tatsu portion of the 'Showa' is made quite prominent in Chito Ryu, it may be of particular interest for us to consider what contexts are suggested here. I think we will all agree :-) !