Sunday, February 19, 2012

Etymology and calligraphy for Bu 武 - martial

Modern Japanese: martial, manly, strong, powerful, mighty, brave, power of fighting
Mandarian: fierce, military, valiant, wushu
Cantonese: military, martial, warlike

What is the story and etymology though? What are the composite symbols and how to they interact to form the character bu 武? This was a tricky character to unravel. So many people have put their own theories and etymology on the character that it has become shrouded. Just yesterday I was involved in a debate in the dojo about it.

The character is made of two parts, or radicals.

In modern Japanese the character means: stop, halt, heave to, interrupt, suspend

This has caused a bit of confusion to the modern budo practitioner. The radical is actually a pictograph for a foot. The primitive origins of this character has a feeling of 'to walk' rather than the modern stop.

Primitive Chinese: A long handled non descript instrument - usually a hoe or ax
Mandarian: halberd, spear, lance

How do these radicals dance together to form the concept Bu 武?

The noted budo author Dave Lowry gives a common, but from what my research shows to be an historically inaccurate, etymology of the character.

"It would seem logical that the character for the spear alone would be sufficient to connote military. But, in making up the kanji for bu, the brushstrokes for spear are accompanied by additional strokes that mean "suppressing a revolt. " The whole character for military, then, actually refers to "quelling an uprising by use of the polearm. "

Another common interpretation I see many authors quote, the radical 止 means 'stop'. Thus many people therefore the character BU is interpreted to mean... To stop the spear, an interpretation implying a defensive and peaceful nature. While this is a nice poetic version useful for the modern dojo, it is clear this is not the historic root of the word.

Etymology of the character 'bu'武.

In old Chinese 止 did not mean stop. Originally it meant 'foot'. Added with this - 戈 - Remnant Primitive, A long handled non descript instrument - usually a hoe or ax.

to walk 止 with a weapon 戈 = 武 martial

The Funky Buddha blog reaffirms my research.

Funky Buddha

"Let's look at the kanji bu (武). Bu actually translates to military affairs or martial. The kanji is a compound of two other kanji: hoko (矛) which means halberd and ashi (足) which means foot. The kanji depicts a soldier/foot-soldier carrying a halberd, this in turn depicts military acts or martial. This is the accepted translation of bu."

Friday, February 17, 2012

Atari 当たり - 当り

A few weeks ago Hussey Sensei lent me a video that was published by the Aikido Shihan, Endo Sensei. The theme of the video is Atari 当たり. I love new terms and principles to search for in my practice.

In the context of aiki I had never heard the us of this term before. I usually have seen it in shooting arts. In kyudo 弓道 (way of the bow) 当たり or 当り Atari is the Ya (arrow) hitting the target.

Obviously in aikido it has nothing to do with the arrow. Maybe though it is where the attention to connection is shot. Here is a segment of the video that was lent to me where Endo Sensei demonstrates atari and musubi with a head connection.

Let us take a look at the modern Japanese character 当.

1: hit;
2: success;
3: guess; prediction;
4: affability; friendliness;
5: sensation; touch;
6: bruise (on fruit);
7: situation in which a stone or chain of stones may be captured on the next move (in the game of go);
8: bite (of a fish on a hook); strike; (Suffix)
9: per; each

As a side note, this is the same character that is used in the word atemi (当て身) I did a write up on that concept a while back. Check it out also

My Atemi 当て身 Article

This older form of this symbol, of course comes from China. The older version of the word looks like the following picture.

In modern Chinese this symbol means: bear, accept, undertake; just

So looking at the characters this time did not really help illuminate the concept of atari 当たり. Fortunately a few sensei have already taken a crack at solving this riddle.

"Atari is a concept that's not as well known, at least in the West. My first introduction to this term was from Robert House sensei, from Aikido of Commerce. Robert trained with Endo sensei in Japan in the late 80's and said he made many references to "ateru", which I believe is a reference to "atari". Robert described this concept as similar to the feeling of fly paper. There is a stickiness that uke must strive for in order to feel the ki of nage. The connecting point where uke and nage meet is the atari point. Only by maintaining this point can center and ki be transmitted to one another. This is not to say that this point is fixed or static. It can move up and down your body, it can be maintained with the hands, arms, shoulders, hips, even the head. This connection point shifts and moves during practice and it keeps the two as one unified body."

Dan Dease
Head Instructor
Central Florida Aikikai

Original Article

(Atari)"This means something like ‘to hit the mark’, ‘to catch’ (as in catching a fish with a line or rod). As I understand it, in Aikido it means taking control of your partner at the first instance of contact. This contact is first made through the point of contact – through the wrist, for example, with kata-te dori. This can only be achieved with completely relaxed shoulders and arms, but with a strong centre. The strength of your centre must radiate through your relaxed upper body."

- Dokodemo Diary