One of the difficulties in
translating anything is in conveying the full meaning of a word or an
expression into the target language. There are certain words and
expressions that remain untranslatable. Many of these terms are to be
found in philosophy but just as often the differences in language
structure makes the work of a translator an unenviable task.
An example is the simple expression,
“I have a watch.” One might think that were we to translate this
into Russian we would have no difficulty whatsoever. This is true,
but we would not convey the same meaning from English into Russian.
The reason is that the Russian language no longer conjugates the verb
“to have”. This is because in Tsarist times the populace lost all
their freedoms and most all their possessions so the verb “to have”
fell into disuse. The structure provided is “By me there is a
watch”. This indicates the transitoriness of having something yet
not owning something. This is not the same meaning as the English “I
have a watch” but it is the closest equivalent. So, though words
are often translated, their full meaning remains to be discovered.
If we have these problems dealing
with Indo-European languages, then how many more can we possibly have
in dealing with Japanese? Indeed, many aspects of the Japanese
language seem to have adopted the motto of the Cheshire cat in
“Alice’s Adventures in wonderland”. The cat is noted to have
said, “Words mean what I want them to mean, nothing more and
Thus we find words as Mushin,
Munen, Musow, and Sutemi.
All these words mean the same thing! Mushin = Munen and Musow =
Sutemi. This is the concept of “No-mind, no form” found in Zen,
the attainment of which indicates mastery of self. Is this the same
Sutemi by which we call our falls and rolls. Yes, of course it is. Is
this the same Munen Musow that completes the Shinyo list. Why yes, of
course it is. And they mean the same thing? Why yes, of course they
The first thing students must do when
they enter the Dojo and begin to undertake their practice is to learn
how to fall and roll. And when they begin their rolls, the first
thing they see is how quickly the mat approaches their face. Thus,
they must forget their fears. They must relax and let their mind go.
They must exhale as they bend and roll and forget about falling. They
must “abandon themselves”. After years of practice and learning
myriad things, the student is often confused as to what technique to
use in any given situation. There are so many available, which one to
choose? Again, forget everything, abandon everything and relax. Only
then can the genuine response come. So, in the beginning we are
taught to unclutter our minds and then after having our minds
cluttered with techniques over the years, we are reminded again to
unclutter our minds. So, the last thing we learn in Shinyo is the
first thing we are taught, to unclutter our minds and do things
Now, this simple exposition of
meaning may provoke several into saying they never heard of such a
thing. Indeed! Such things have been taught for years - only the
association with the words has been missing. We hope to correct this
so the words and the teaching are brought into line and all can view
Danzan Ryu a little clearer.
One of the most misunderstood (or
shall we say least understood) words has been Kodenkan. Everyone
knows this means “School of the Ancient Tradition” but no one can
say what comprises this “Ancient Tradition”. We hope to provide
this explanation for the benefit of all, but first we should like to
develop the meaning of martial art.
Definitions: (Source: The American
Heritage Dictionary, 2nd.
adj. 1. Of,
pertaining to, or suggesting war. 2.
Pertaining to or connected with the Military profession. 3.
Characteristic of or befitting a warrior: “a
bull-necked, martial-looking man”
n. 1. Human effort to
imitate, supplement, alter, or counteract the work of nature. 2.a.
The conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms,
movements, or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of
beauty; specifically, the production of the beautiful in a graphic
or plastic medium. B.
The study of these activities. C.
The product of these activities. 3.
High quality of conception or execution, as found in works of
beauty; aesthetic value. 4.
Any field or category of art, such as music, ballet, or literature.
5. A nonscientific
branch of learning; one of the liberal arts. 6.a.
A system of principles and methods employed in the performance of a
set of activities: the art of building.
b. A trade or craft
that applies such a system of principles and methods: pursing
the baker’s art. 7.
A specific skill in adept performance, conceived as requiring the
exercise of intuitive faculties that cannot be learned solely by
study: the art of writing letters.
Thus, a Martial Art is an activity in
which a person utilizes conflict to create something beautiful
through the skillful coordination of mind / body / weapons.
If there is no sense
of conflict or struggle, then it is not Martial, rather a system of
If there is no sense
of beauty, then it is not Art, rather it is a science of conflict.
Martial endeavors have also been
referred to as a Science. On many diplomas awarded to students of
eastern martial skill is the following (using Jujutsu as the
Outstanding Achievement in the
in the Arts and Sciences of
What is the meaning of Science in
this context? And how is the study of martial skills a science?
The observation, identification, description, experimental
investigation, and theoretical explanation of natural phenomena. b.
Such activity restricted to a class of natural phenomena. c.
Such activity applied to any class of phenomena. 2.
Methodological activity, discipline, or study. 3.
An activity that appears to require study and method. 4.
Knowledge, esp. knowledge gained through
From the definition above, clearly
the first meaning is not the one commonly understood. However, the
practice of a martial skill does entail the meanings found in 2
and 3 above. It a
methodological activity, discipline and
study. It also is knowledge that is gained through practice, which is
Since most western schools teach only
the technique side of martial skills, they are in effect teaching the
Science of Martial skills. Not understanding the oriental philosophy
and how Art can be found in all endeavors and activities, Westerners
do not understand how they themselves can become Art. Thus, that
which is taught in the West is for the most part not Martial Arts but
rather Martial Science.
Another term commonly applied is
“technique”. It is interchanged with art when in fact it is a
precursor to art. Without techniques, there cannot be Art in the
Any description of any martial
technique begins with: step 1, step 2, step 3….It is systematic
because many things must be working together for the effective
accomplishment of the effort. Coordination, breathing, posture, body
movement and concentration all have to b in sync, otherwise the
technique is not
effective. It is not technique
until the various requirements are joined together in harmony to
effectively accomplish the result.
From the second definition above we
can see how technique and art have been interchanged. Technique is
the fundamentals of the performance. The performance (when infused
with the spirit of the player) is Art. Without technique there can be
no Art. But mastery of technique does not create Art. Only when the
spirit of the artist is infused into the work does the work become
Art. This is the true meaning of Martial Art.
Also important in the above meanings
(but omitted) is the word Harmony. Harmony can only exist if there is
conflict of some sort, for harmony is the resolution of conflict. In
the symbol for Yin / Yang there always remains a bit of Yang in the Yin
and Yin in the Yang. This indicates that nothing is ever pure. And
from the wave of the line separating the Yin from the Yang we find
that even as aggression waxes it must wane or weakens and by proper
application of principles can be brought into harmony or balance.
Ok, Ok. So, what has this to do with
the Kodenkan? Everything! For Kodenkan means “Ancient Tradition”
and these meanings are part of that “Ancient Tradition”. Are we
trying to say that Kodenkan really is a body of instruction that can
be identified and catalogued? Absolutely – still interested?
In Japan, to be considered an artist
is nearly the same thing as to have obtained enlightenment. This is
because art in the Japanese sense means the artist infuses his spirit
into the work or effort. After long years of practicing only the
basics and fundamentals of the art in conjunction with meditation,
the artist one day miraculously creates something artistic. One of
the more common examples used is in Sumi-e
(or monochromatic painting which is sometimes referred to as
India-ink). In this type of painting, the artist picks up his brush
and begins to paint with confidence, for there are no opportunities
for correction – no paint-over in Sumi-e.
Once the brush is put to the paper, the creative power of the artist
must guide the brush or be one with the brush. And this means that
the artist must paint in a state of Mushin
consciousness for the final product to display artistic expression.
Any hesitation and the paper is ruined, the artist must begin anew.
Any break in thought, and the brush stroke is wrong, the painting is
ruined and again it must be thrown away. Only when the mind is free
and spontaneous is it possible to create Sumi-e
art. Only with the mind free and spontaneous is it possible to create
art in general.
Thus, to be considered an artist
means one must embark on the path of spiritual development. For only
if the spirit has been developed can the artist give way to his
This is true in the martial arts, as
well. Here, conflict is used as the vehicle for artistic expression.
But again, true art is only possible after the spirit has undergone
development. The method for this development in Danzan Ryu is the
proper practice of Jujutsu.
So, Kodenkan (School of Ancient
Tradition) incorporates within it the meaning that if something is
done with the proper attitude in a repeated manner and requires one
to “still the mind”, then spiritual development has been
undertaken which will lead one into harmony with one's surroundings.
Professor Okazaki used to tell his students who arrived early to
meditate. Moreover, meditation was often done at the conclusion of
class as well. This is “stilling the mind” and a prerequisite for
success both in martial studies and artistic expression.
Also, to be a school of the ancient
tradition means that certain other criteria be met. This criterion
concerns itself with the manner and organization of instruction.
Briefly, it entails a system based on Ku-den
(oral tradition). Masters of the ancient schools never wrote down the
“how-to’s” as we do today. At most, they would have a list
together with some poems and possibly pictures formed a scroll
deepest meanings or mysteries of their school (Hiden
or Okugi) were passed
down only by oral teaching. This is one of the most underlying
principles of ancient schools without which there can be no claim to
ancient tradition. The reason is that the ancient masters had no
desire to separate the principles of their teaching from the
practice. To attempt to write about them would do this.
Thus, Kodenkan means more than
“seniors teaching juniors”, much, much more. The meaning of
Kodenkan embodies the idea of “perfection of character” (or
spiritual) development as well as a specific methodology of
instruction. It’s goal is the attainment of Mushin
consciousness or “stillness in movement” and is in keeping with
the full meaning of the practice of Judo (the Way of Yielding), which
finds its full expression through the harmonious interchange between
the participants that is the true resolution of conflict.
So we should no longer let other
groups dominate words through misuse, but rather use the words as
they were meant to be used. It is for this reason that this article
is being presented. It is also presented with the hope that it may
enrich the lives of those dedicated to the practice of Judo and the
arts of Jujutsu.
©1991, 2002, 2009; David A. Scheid, All Rights Reserved