Thanks to a slow work afternoon and Kendo World Forums, I came across a fascinating Youtube video of a gentleman, who may or may not have been helping himself generously to the contents of the medicine cabinet give what felt like a thirty minute lecture on the pronunciation of tsuka.
As well as fuelling my old fashioned view that there is an awful lot of bandwidth out there chasing content, it made me think about, “how far should we go in pursuit of accurate kendo terminology”.
In my experience, people practicing the sword arts are generally more concerned about using the correct pronunciation of Japanese terms, than are the devotees of say judo and karate. This may be because, that, as followers of what are classed minority pursuits in the west, we are still close to our Japanese roots and most of us have heard the correct terms from Japanese sensei.
I was a keen judoka in my youth, before my discovery of kendo and long before I went to Japan and learned Japanese. Although my Japanese accent is not too bad, I still mispronounce judo terms, because they were ingrained before I understood the meaning. On the other hand, I have a fairly clear view of Japanese kendo terminology and how it should be pronounced, because I learned much of my kendo in Japan in Japanese. Because of this, I sometimes find it easier to instruct Japanese students in Japanese, than I do English players in my own language.
There are several very good kendo dictionaries available, but by and large, kendoka are taught the terms in Japanese. The newest beginner thinks about kote, men, dou, rather than mask, hand, trunk. There were a number of early videos from the AJKF where the translators and voice over artists used English terms for things that we all always refer to in Japanese and they sounded strange, to say the least.
On the other hand, however perfect your understanding of the two languages, it is impossible to accurately translate Kendo terms into English, unless you are a kendoka. I attended an IKF meeting, where the very skilled simultaneous interpreters were unable to follow the conversation and I and one of the Japanese directors had to take over, even though our language knowledge was a fraction of that of the pros.
Mr R.A Lidstone, who was a founding father of British Kendo, wrote a book called “Introduction to Kendo”. In this work, one of the explanations of sen described the “long hand forestall”. Now, even as a native English speaker and someone who vaguely understands the concept of sen, I have a great deal of trouble understanding this terminology, whereas as a mediocre Japanese speaker, sen, sensenosen and gonosen are easier to understand.
Hopefully, readers will see that my post is in the interest of clear communication and that i am not being pedantic, but whilst the You tube guy got the Tsuku right, his aaa was too long
photo shows Mr Lidstone in action.