InYo: Journal of Alternative Perspectives Nov 2007

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Prelude to Translation, or Translation Prior to the Acquisition of Foreign Language Skills, Using Gorin no Sho as an Example (1).

Copyright © Raymond Sosnowski 2007. All rights reserved.

Raymond Sosnowski (Maryland, USA)
Copyright 2007 (except for literary quotes covered by copyrights of the original authors)


Since the end of my active writing phase for the The Iaido Newsletter and the Journal of Japanese Sword Arts from1997 through 2001, I have lost three very influential teachers/mentors: Through Haruna-sensei (8-dan Iaido), I came to know Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu (MJER) Iaido as well as Niten Ichi Ryu Kenjutsu as taught by the 9th soke, and passed on to Kim Taylor (Seidokai at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada).

Mears-sensei (5-dan Iaido) – how he absolutely hated that term sensei applied to himself – was my Iaido mentor; I was one of his five original “Hard Bastards” designated in 1997 (“I know who the rest of you are”).

Finally, I had the privilege of studying with Imai-soke, the 10th soke of Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu, in Guelph in September 2003 due to the efforts of Kim Taylor; I had originally met him and his successor, Toshio Iwami (1948 – ), at America-Japan Week in Boston (MA) in May 1996 while I was living in NH [1979 – 2001], but missed reconnecting with him until 2003. Receiving a verbal “YOSH’!” (“OK!”) from him was a well earned stamp-of-approval.

I have remembrances of all three on my home zen altar dedicated to Kannon (Avolakiteshavara, Sanscrit/Pali), the bodhisattva of compassion. Musashi (1584 – 1645) dedicated Gorin no Sho to Kannon. Yamaoka Tesshu (1836 – 1888) was also a devotee.


Consider the following:

You get the picture. The bodies of literature represented by the above authors are all the products of translation, that is, renderings into a language that is different from the original by someone other than the original author. In these examples, a great gulf of time also separates authors and translators.

A repartee of Ogden Nash humorously highlights this endeavor:

Translations are like mistresses:
the beautiful ones aren’t faithful, and
the faithful ones aren’t beautiful.”

For any given, single work in a foreign language, there can be no one unique translation; many are possible (for example, the Bible currently has over 50 distinctly different English-language translations). This work will be a meta-lesson in how to deal with this “second-hand” literature.

There is the school of thought that uses multiple translations of a foreign language text in order to grasp the essence of the material in lieu of becoming a foreign language scholar in one or more arcane languages. Of course, they have to be good translations; for instance, Prof. Karl Friday (Dept. of History, University of Georgia, Athens, GA) contends there is yet to be a definitive translation of Musashi’s Gorin no Sho; he contends that the problem is the lack of accuracy in the translations, which is the result of inadequate background knowledge of the subject. In the mean time, we will use the available texts at hand.


In Part I, this article will initially focus on the basics, that is, what one needs to get started; details of supplementary material are given in Appendix II. In Part II, a brief review of Musashi’s literary legacy is presented. At this point, we will be ready to approach our example directly, and we will examine passages from Gorin no Sho from four, and in some cases, five, different [translated] sources. A brief introduction to the Japanese language appears in Appendix III, but it is not necessary to understand the body of this work; it does, however, point out a number of practical difficulties that translators have to face while translating from Japanese to English. Finally, we will revisit our basic premise in light of the examples that we have examined.



I will introduce the basics with a word about translators, after which I will examine the basic knowledge we need to have in order to handle the task at hand. I will highlight the basic tools that we need to have on hand and the types of problems what we will encounter along the way. In the subsequent section, I will examine the principles of translation at a high level in order to be able gauge the perspectives of the translators of our example texts.


I will begin to explore the principles of translation by establishing a small set of useful Definitions. I will then go on to highlight The Translator’s Agenda, which is a very important aspect in translation that tends to be overlooked for the most part. Finally, I will outline The Model, which is the heart of the translation process.


“Translation” is the art/technique/process of moving/conveying/transforming meaning/ideas/concepts from the source language to the target language. “Transliteration” is a one-to-one mapping between words; however, “translation” is a mapping between abstractions. If we equate words to points and abstractions to regions/areas of points, transliteration is equivalent to functions operating in Euclidean space, whereas translation is equivalent to topological transforms in more abstract (read: non-rigid) spaces. In the former case, results are assumed to be unique, and in the latter case, they are not. Mathematically, non-unique results are just that – there is no associated connotation, good or bad. Practically, the existence of non-unique solutions can be troublesome.

Additional criteria, such as the translator’s biases, which are outside of the realm of the problem, and the translator’s agenda (see below), are brought to bear at this point to create a translation. Therefore, multiple English translations exist from the same foreign language source document; this leads us to a fundamental conclusion: there can be no unique target-language translations. It likewise follows that there can be no best translation; needless to say, out of a set of translations, it may be possible to rank order them, and the “best” one would be the one that was ranked first in the list. However, that ranking would be subjective; another person could pick a different order, which could change the translation that was deemed the “best.”

The Translator’s Agenda, Hidden and Otherwise

Let us consider the agent of translation, the translator, and how he or she figures into the picture. Here is another fact that tends to be ignored in translation: every translator has an agenda, which may be conscious, unconscious or both. Check the translator’s introduction or notes in the text for a discussion about his, her or their agenda. A simple agenda is to produce a translation that is as literal as possible, shades of transliteration, while being as free as necessary in order to render clear, current and non-idiomatic English usage. Another would be to produce a free translation into commonly understood English at, say, the secondary school level – recall the Ogden Nash quote in the INTRODUCTION.

For example, in high school I had (and still have) a copy of an English translation of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars by Rex Harrison, which had been assigned by our instructor along with our Latin textbook. The translator opted to use the first-person singular pronoun “I” in order to create the effect of a personal journal or memoir, which was a part of his agenda. This was a definite departure from the original Latin, which used the equivalent of the third-person singular pronoun “he,” which gave the effect of a somewhat passive, third-party observer or reporter, which, I was told, was the style of the times.

Be aware of the hidden agenda, which may be in the background in spite of a written agenda; examples include “this translation must pass muster with a committee of experts or a board of overseers,” “my tenure depends on this, so my real target audience is my (highly over-specialized) academic peers,” and “let’s slant the translation along the lines of the current commercially successful fiction in order to insure favorable reviews and a ride on the coat tails of these successful works.” You get the idea. By picking up on the translator’s agenda, we can understand some of the extra-linguistic criteria behind the translation. If the translator does present a written agenda, then try to read between the lines for a possible hidden agenda.

The Model: Dynamic Equivalence

The model that I use here for translation is “Dynamic Equivalence,” that is, the transfer of ideas/meaning from one language to another. In other words, the translator attempts to recreate the same response with the target language that accompanied the original document in the source language in spite of the cultural and temporal differences; this model comes from the work of Eugene Nida in the 1960’s and 1970’s (see Bell, 1991). A few points are in order here before we go on:

  1. There are some words and phrases in any foreign language that simply cannot be translated.
  2. The degree of clarity of the text can vary, and it can also very within parts of the text; there are some authors who are intentionally vague.
  3. Be aware of the environment, the culture and the history in which the original text is embedded; there are always those aspects of text, which assumes that the reader understands the embedded cultural references.

We can think of Dynamic Equivalence as a decode-encode process. Consider that we have a message (with the smallest unit of a message being a sentence) in the source language with associated lexicon and syntax (terms defined in Appendix II). The purpose of Dynamic Equivalence is to transfer the meaning of the message, known as semantics, into the target language with its own associated lexicon and syntax. The tempering process associated with Dynamic Equivalence is called “Discourse Strategy,” that is, the attendant format is based on the type of discourse, such as a letter, speech, lecture or pronouncement, for example.

The first step is to decode or unpack the original message: “objects” become nouns, “actions” become verbs, “quality,” “frequency,” and “relation” become adjectives and adverbs; “agents” and “objects” that are not specified, but are understood from context, should be made specific. Notice here that we are not simply mapping parts-of-speech to parts-of-speech; this would simply be a more abstract version of transliteration. In the second step, these parts of speech are encoded or repacked in the target language as the translated message. For more details, see Bell (1991). For the mathematically inclined, we can think of transliteration as a 1-to-1 functional mapping of points f:st from a source s to target t, and translation as a regional mapping of sets of points F:{S} {T} from source set {S} to target set {T}. I consider translation to be both an art and a science; in general, the science occurs in the decode aspect whereas the art occurs in the encode aspect. We will look at a series of end products in the next part.



Miyamoto Musashi is known to have left at least five written works with respect to kenjutsu (sword art) and training (Tokitsu, 2004). The first, Hyodokyo (“The Mirror of the Way of Strategy”) was written between 1605 and 1608 when Musashi was between 21 and 24 years old. As a text of 28 articles (21 in another version) it can be considered to be an embryonic form of Gorin no Sho (Tokitsu, 2004).

The second, Heiho/Hyodo Sanjugo Kajo (“The 35 Articles of Swordsmanship”) (Miyamoto, 1641; Tokitsu, 2004), is the more mature compilation of Musashi’s ideas on swordsmanship from February 1641, and written simply as a set of 35 short articles at the request of his lord, Hosokawa Tadatoshi (1585-1641). The third is an extension of Heiho/Hyodo Sanjugo Kajo called Heiho/Hyodo Shijuni Kajo (“The 42 Articles of Swordsmanship”) (Tokitsu, 2004), also written in 1641, and handed down to Motomenosuke Teruo, the younger brother of his successor Nobuyuki Teruo.

Musashi’s fourth work, Gorin no Sho, was written later from 10 October 1643 through 12 May 1645 in a cave called Reigendo on the island of Kyushu after the untimely death of his benefactor, Hosokawa Tadatoshi, to his successor Nobuyuki Teruo, who became the second soke (headmaster) of Niten Ichi Ryu, Musashi’s “two-heavens-in-one” [sword] school. Gorin no Sho is a much more mature work than Heiho/Hyodo Sanjugokajo and Heiho/Hyodo Shijuni Kajo; the latter works tend towards the tactical aspects whereas the former tends towards the strategic aspects (Uozumi, 2002).

The Dokkodo or “The Solitary Way” (Muromoto, 1994; Musashi, 2002; Tokitsu, 2004) is the final work of Musashi, his ideas on life and training. The Dokkodo is dated 12 May 1645, the same day that Gorin no Sho was completed, and is a set of rules or orders (19 in one version, 21 in another) that contains Musashi’s last admonitions to his students.

Shinmen Miyamoto Musashi Fujiwara Genshin, born in 1584, died a week later on 19 May 1645 at age 61, a lone warrior born at the end of the Sengoku Jidai, a period of civil war that lasted almost a century, who survived through the rocky founding of the Tokugawa Shogunate.



There are six generally available translations of Gorin no Sho in English:

Included in the massive Tokitsu (2004) text is Musashi’s life and legacy (reviewed in Watkin, 2004b); Wilson (2004) wrote about Musashi’s life separately (reviewed in Watkin, 2004a). Note that Kaufman (1994) is not a translation, and has been excluded from consideration; Sato (1995) has translated excerpts from Gorin no Sho, which makes it of limited use here.

As the title suggests, Gorin no Sho is a text in five parts; there is also a short initial section called “Introduction,” “Prologue,” and “Preface,” respectively, in the three earlier translations (1974, 1982, and 1993, respectively), which the latter three translations (2001, 2002, and 2004) do not include. The five parts, which we would most likely refer to as “chapters” or “principle sections,” are:

  1. Chi no Maki (the “Earth Scroll”),
  2. Mizu no Maki (the “Water Scroll”),
  3. Hi no Maki (the “Fire Scroll”),
  4. Kaze no Maki (the “Wind Scroll”), and
  5. Ku no Maki (the “Emptiness/Void Scroll”).

Given that maki means “volume” or “roll,” or a “bolt (of cloth)” in another context, it seems more appropriate here to translate it as “scroll” rather than “book,” which is also appropriate. In the first two and the last two translations, the conclusion of each of the five parts is dated 12 May in the “second year of Shoho (1645); if those are truly the dates of completion, then they were not likely written sequentially one after the other, but rather in a somewhat parallel fashion. The “five rings” (or “spheres”) here actually refer to the Chinese “five elements” that constitute all matter; in Chinese literature, the five elements are “fire,” “earth,” “metal,” “water,” and “wood;” the use of five-element theory is closely linked to the practice of the Chinese internal art of Hsing-I Ch’üan (“form-and-will boxing”), and appears in other Chinese arts as well. Remember that Musashi only had the Chinese Classics readily available for literary reference with respect to military matters.

Chi no Maki, the “Earth Scroll,” sets the ground rules and provides the context for the next three parts. Mizu no Maki, the “Water Scroll,” concerns Musashi’s own sword style/school. Hi no Maki, the “Fire Scroll,” provides the strategy to use the preceding and the following scrolls. Kaze no Maki, the “Wind Scroll,” concerns all the other schools of swordsmanship. And Ku no Maki, the “Emptiness/Void Scroll,” is the punch line, the key to understanding everything.

Translator’s Notes

The first place to visit is information outside of the translation that is provided by the translator(s), which was highlighted in PART I. Victor Harris (Miyamoto, 1974) provides the most substantial “Introduction,” which includes sections on “Japan during Musashi’s Lifetime,” “Kendo,” “Kendo and Zen,” and “Concerning the Life of Miyamoto Musashi,” along with 22 illustrations of art about Musashi, art by Musashi, and a few photographs of interest. Harris was trained as a mechanical engineer, lived and worked for several years in Japan, and was working as a technical interpreter of Japanese according to the fly leaf. He also studied kendo in his native England as well as in Japan. He has included a number of footnotes in his translation. In my opinion, footnotes are good in the sense that the translator is working closely with the original text, and lets the reader in on those hard-to-translate aspects, especially when there is no really good English word or phrase that is appropriate; many times this highlights cultural differences, especially those differences that are specific to a historical period.

The Nihon Services’ translation (Miyamoto, 1982) provides both a translator’s note and introduction. In the note, Bradford J. Brown, Esq., Executive Director of Nihon Services, states

..., it is our intention to provide you with a basic familiarity with the actual content of the original work, ... (p. xv)”

The “Introduction” contains sections on “Zen,” “Bushido,” and “Heiho.” There are no actual footnotes in the translation, but each scroll is preceded with a commentary by the translators. In my opinion, commentary, like footnotes, is a good thing; however, I personally prefer to have the commentary either embedded within the translated text (but easily distinguished from the translated test somehow) or expressed as footnotes. In this case, I did find that a section of commentary as a prologue to each chapter was acceptable. By the way, each section within each scroll also includes the section title in romanji (words using roman letters approximating Japanese pronunciation), and this is the only translation that mentions the existence of Heiho Sanjugokajo. All the translators are just that, professional translators; one also has a law degree and a long time association with Zen, while another has an advanced degree in Japanese history.

The Dr. Thomas Cleary translation (Miyamoto, 1993) provides a rather short translator’s preface and introduction; since the book also includes another translation – Family Traditions on the Art of War by Yagyu Munenori – the actual introduction for Gorin no Sho is even shorter. His introduction includes a section on “Zen and Martial Arts.” A set of End Notes is provided for each translation. Dr. Cleary’s degree is in East Asian Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University. He is well-known translator of Chinese and Japanese texts, many in the Taoist and Zen traditions.

Hidy Ochiai is a well-known and well-respected Karate master, in the true sense of the word. His translation and associated commentary, which he refers to as Analysis, begins with a short Part 1” entitled Absolute Victory. It contains three chapters, Winning and Success, A Biographical Sketch of Miyamoto Musashi, and Mind of the Samurai,” which consists of three sections, Belief and Confidence: A Musashi Anecdote,” “Victory without Fighting: A Bokuden Anecdote,” and “A Resolute Mind: A Masahiro Anecdote.” At the end of the book, he includes “Notes,” “Map of Japan and Legend,” “Bibliography,” and “Translator’s Postscript. The introductory chapter Winning and Success begins with a business scenario, but expands beyond that niche, making Gorin no Sho relevant to every day life. The compact biography is one of the best I have read. The three anecdotes set the tone for the translations and commentaries to follow. The end sections make for a complete book. He is the only one who does not get hung up on Zen.

In his relatively short introduction, Wilson (Musashi, 2002) gives us a synopsis of Musashi’s life (which is more fully covered in his separate book on the life of Musashi [Wilson, 2004]), along with two essays on “The Kyoto Renaissance” and “Buddhism and The Book of Five Rings. The former provides a historical frame into which we embed Musashi’s life and writings. The latter is similar to the former, that is, it provided a Buddhist frame into which we embed Musashi’s life and Gorin no Sho; although mentioning Zen, it looks the larger picture of Buddhism in its several different manifestations. At the end of the introduction is a translation of Musashi’s Dokkodo, which is translated as “The Way of Walking Alone” (“The Way of Self-Reliance”).

Tokitsu (2004) is in a class by himself; his massive tome is divided into three large parts:
  1. The Life of Miyamoto Musashi
  2. Musashi’s Writings (including notes by several disciples)
  3. Miyamoto Musashi and the Martial Arts

It is the most complete study of Musashi in English in a single text. He includes several plates of Musashi’s paintings as well Musashi’s Dokkodo (whose title is translated as “The Way to be Followed Alone”). He makes three passing references to Zen in “Part III.

The Translators’ Agendas

In the middle of the section on the PRINCIPLES OF TRANSLATION, I briefly went over the idea of the translator’s agenda, which is the perspective that the translator imposes on the resulting work. Victor Harris (Miyamoto, 1976) does not directly come out with his agenda; however, in the front fly leaf of the hardcover edition, which he did not write, is

A Book of Five Rings heads every Kendo bibliography; but the philosophy behind it – influenced by Zen, Shinto and Confucianism – can be applied to many other areas of life other than Kendo. For example, many entrepreneurial Japanese businessman use it today as a guide for business practice, ....”

In the translator’s introduction, he specifically mentions “Kendo” and “Kendo and Zen;” and in the back flyleaf it states

Having begun Kendo in England, he traveled to Japan upon the completion of his professional studies, living there for three years where he lectured at Komazuma University. He continued his study of Kendo .... Upon returning to England he worked as a technical interpreter in Japanese.”

This thread would lead me to believe that Harris was motivated by his affection for Kendo; he is the only one of three acknowledged martial arts practitioner among this group of translators (Hidy Ochiai and Dr. Kenji Tokitsu are the others).

Recall that even if the translator does state a specific agenda (see below, for example), there is also the possibility of a hidden, that is, unstated, agenda; you simply have to use all the written material in the book, including the fly leaves, back covers (especially the endorsements), and biographical sketches “About the Author(s),” in order to uncover this hidden agenda; sometimes you have to go beyond this particular work to other works by the translator. It is a lot like solving a puzzle or a mystery – find the clues and fit them together as best you can. Unfortunately, there are generally no neat solutions, and no answer keys to look up the answer – such is life.

Recall that in the Nihon Services’ translation (Miyamoto, 1982), in the translator’s note, Bradford J. Brown, Esq., Executive Director, states “..., it is our intention to provide you with a basic familiarity with the actual content of the original work, ...” In the biographical sketches at the end of the book, we see that the other three translators are all Senior Staff Translators of Nihon Services, which is “an interpreting, translating, and business counseling service based in New York City.” This information would lead me to believe that this translation is marketed to the American business community.

Like Harris, Dr. Thomas Cleary (Miyamoto, 1993) does not directly come out with his agenda. His publisher has categorized this book of two translations as both “Business” and “Martial Arts.” In addition, the back cover states

The Book of Five Rings – which has become a well-known classic among American business people, studied for its insights in the Japanese approach to business strategy – .... Unlike previous editions of The Book of Five Rings, Thomas Cleary’s is an accessible translation, free of jargon, with an introduction that gives the spiritual background of the warrior tradition.”

That phrase “free of jargon” is quite telling; this information would lead me to believe that this translation is also marketed to the American business community, just like the Nihon Services’ translation (Miyamoto, 1982).

Hidy Ochiai (Miyamoto, 2001) says in his Translator’s Postscript,

Translating a work from one language to another is no easy task by any means. … In the case of Musashsi’s writings, an additional difficulty is that it was written in the middle of the seventeenth century, and the Japanese language then was different from that of the present day. Compared to similar writings by other sword fighters in the same era, Musashi’s writing is clearer and easier to understand. But still difficulties exist. One must be faithful to Musashi’s thoughts, intentions, and philosophy, which he attempts to describe in the book, and yet a direct translation to English would not, in some places, make any sense at all. (p. 161)”

Finally, there is a translation where the business hype is gone. Further on he writes,

It is my humble and sincere hope that I have contributed even a little toward the understanding of this precious gift from a great samurai who lived his whole life in order to discover and actualize something eternally applicable to a meaningful human life. …(p. 161)”

Like Harris, I would say that Ochiai-s. is motivated by his quest to better understand budo rather than some passing fad.

Wilson (Musashi, 2002) does not come out with his agenda directly. In the Forward, he points to translating Gorin no Sho as the completion of translating the trilogy of “Japanese warrior thoughts and concerns” – the other two are:

There is also the following remark on the front flap of the hardback edition:

In this new rendering by the translator of Hagakure and The Unfettered Mind, William Scott Wilson adheres rigorously to the seventeenth-century text, and clarifies points of ambiguity in earlier translations.”

Well, it’s a tall claim, but it seems that Wilson is being professionally motivated as a translator.

Tokitsu (2004) devotes his first appendix of 11 pages (pp. 337 ­ 347) specifically to the translation of Gorin no Sho. He begins with

The text of the Gorin no Sho used throughout is from the 1942 edition of the most common version, the one edited by Takayanagi Mitsutoshi. This edition is based on the text handed down in the Hosokawa family.”

In making my translations, I compared different versions and different transcriptions into modern Japanese of Musashi’s texts. Where the versions presented significant differences, I have so indicated in a note (p. 337).”

Even the Japanese read translations of the original work from medieval to modern Japanese. True to his word, there are 78 pages of notes from Gorin no Sho (pp. 362 – 439); the actual translation only takes up 60 pages (pp. 137 – 196) and it’s in a larger font too. Later, he makes the point

All through the translation, I have tried to maintain the contribution to the overall meaning that comes from putting Musashi’s instructions into practice, yet I was constantly vigilant to avoid personal interpretations (p. 341).”

He contends that Gorin no Sho is not “a text that stands by itself” but a “synthesis of notes that Musashi’s students might have taken if they had their master’s permission and if they had had writing ability comparable to Musashi’s (p. 340).”

Dr. Tokitsu presents us with a parsimonious interpretation of Gorin no Sho – it’s an expanded syllabus of the art. Dr. Tokitsu has had extensive martial arts training, mostly in empty hand arts (Shotokan Karate, and Shito Ryu Karate along with the Chen and Yang styles of T’ai Chi Ch’uan), He did Kendo as a youth, and has had some training with Tetsuzan Kuroda in [Komagawa-Kaishin Ryu] Kenjutsu and [Tamiya Ryu] Iaijutsu (although it’s not mentioned in his bio, there is an anecdote in Appendix 1 about studying Shishin Takuma-ryu Jujutsu with Kuroda-soke). Unfortunately, without being a practitioner of Musashi’s sword style, Dr. Tokitsu truly cannot get into the mindset of a practitioner.

The three earlier translations (1974, 1982, and 1993, respectively) all have this fixation on Zen! How did Zen fit into the life and times of Musashi? Much less than we all like to read into it (2). Zen at the beginning of the Tokugawa Shogunate was just one of many sects of Buddhism; there was and still is Shinto and various other flavors of Buddhism – this is at least acknowledged in passing in the fly leaf of the Victor Harris translation, but not in the actual text per se). Yet, it is Zen that is specifically mentioned in the introductions of these three translations. In the latter three translations (2001, 2002, and 2004), Zen receives little or no mention.

This Zen fixation appears to be a 20th century phenomenon, subjecting all documents pertaining to samurai culture to a Zen filter [see Victoria (1998) for an interesting explanation of this]; here three of our early translators are no different. Likewise, only one translator of these three, Victor Harris, has a martial arts background, although it is Kendo, Japanese fencing, which is a gendai budo, that is, a modern (post WW-II) martial way. Ideally, a translator should be familiar with the relevant history, culture and language of the times [remember that language usage changes over time; just recall trying to read Beowulf in “Old English” and Shakespeare in “Middle English” – not so fond memories of (third year) high school English literature], as well as religions of the historical period, the practice of kenjutsu, especially Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu, and the traditions of koryu (“classical/ancient styles/schools”), which is one, very tall order that has yet to be filled – the latest translation by Tokitsu (2004) comes the closest to filling this bill.

An Aside – Food for Thought

Consider that Musashi had an affinity for Kannon [Kwan Yin in Chinese; see Palmer, Ramsay and Kwok (1995)], the “goddess” of compassion; she is specifically mentioned in Musashi’s “Introduction” to Gorin no Sho. It strikes me as quite curious that Musashi did not have this relationship with the martial deities like Futsu-nushi-no-mikoto, the guardian deity of Katori Jingu (shrine), or Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto of the Kashima Jingu. Also Hotei, one of the seven good luck gods (originally a Chinese monk, circa 800 A.D.), is a recurring subject in Musashi’s brush work – Musashi was quite the artist; his works include calligraphy, sumi-e (brush drawings), sculptures, and iron tsuba (sword guards) [see the Harris translation (Miyamoto, 1974) for examples]. Uozumi (2002) says that his devotion to Kannon, as well as the recurring theme of Bodidharma/Daruma (Damo), the legendary six patriarch of Zen who brought Zen from India to China (as well as the founder of the famous Shaolin Martial Arts), in his sumi-e was due to the influence of Zen on Musashi.

The Comparisons

For the purpose of exposition, we will use a few excerpts from the Mizu no Maki, the “water scroll,” for our comparisons because we can compare it to the present day practice of Niten Ichi Ryu Kenjutsu (Taylor, 1994/5). The rest is left as an exercise to the reader/student; that is, after all, the purpose of this exposition – to learn a new set of skills (3). Since we have six translations to consider, I will use the initials of the translators as a short hand to differentiate between them: “VH” for Victor Harris (Miyamoto, 1976), “NS” for Nihon Services [Corp.] (Miyamoto, 1982), “TC” for Dr. Thomas Cleary (Miyamoto, 1993), “HO” for Hidy Ochiai (Miyamoto, 2001), “WSW” for William Scott Wilson (Miyamoto, 2002), and “KT” for Dr. Kenji Tokitsu (2004).

First Comparison

Let’s start with the “opening line” of Mizu no Maki.

The spirit of the Ni Ten Ichi school of strategy is based on water, and this Water Book explains methods of victory as the long-sword form of the Ichi school. (VH, p. 53)”

I have entitled this chapter the “Book of Water,” because water is the source of inspiration for the method of winning, in the Heiho of the Niten Ichiryu school. (NS, p. 35)”

The heart of the individual Two Skies school of martial arts is based on water; putting the methods of the art of the advantage into practice, I therefore call this the Water Scroll, in which I write about the long sword system of this individual school. (TC, p. 17)”

I call this volume Water, for herein I use the characteristics of water to describe the method to gain victory. (HO, p. 63)”

The heart of the martial Art of the Two-Heaven Style takes water as its foundation, and exercises the practice of advantage. Because of this I have named this ‘The Water Chapter,’ and here write about the swordsmanship of this style (WSW. p. 63)”

The mind of strategy of my School of Two Swords takes water as its fundamental model. Therefore I title this text the Scroll of Water because the idea here is to practice a method of pragmatic effectiveness. (KT, p. 150)”

Can you believe that these lines were derived from the same line of original text? If this is the first time you have seen this kind of comparison among translations, then it usually comes a quite a shock to see the various different renditions. Let’s parse a few of the conceptual phrases:

the spirit” (VH); “the source of inspiration” (NS); “the heart” (TC & WSW); “the characteristics” (HO); “the mind” (KT).

Ni Ten Ichi school” (VH), “Niten Ichiryu school” [redundant] (NS); “the individual Two Skies school of martial arts” [very wordy] (TC); “Two-Heaven Style” (WSW); “School of Two Swords” (KT).

strategy” (VH & KT); “Heiho” (NS); “putting ... into practice” (TC).

methods of victory” (VH); “the method of winning” (NS); “the methods of the art of the advantage” [wordy] (TC); “the method to gain victory” (HO); “practice of advantage” (WSW); “method of pragmatic effectiveness” (KT).

One obvious comment is in order here: to be “free of jargon” so to speak, the TC translation is quite wordy, and yet has certainly added no more clarity than the other translations; in the same vein, the WSW and KT versions, although just as wordy, seem a bit clearer (and the KT version seems to be the clearer of the two). The VH, TC, WSW and KT versions are more similar to each other whereas the NS and HO are more similar. The HO translation, although terse, it to the point; however, it is disconnected from the topic of this scroll, that is, Niten Ichi Ryu Kenjutsu.

Second Set of Comparisons

Next, let’s consider the headings of the sections of Mizu no Maki since the NS translation has provided the romanji for them, which allows us to look up meanings in romanized Japanese-English dictionaries, that is, transliterate – if you can use an English-language dictionary, then you can basically do this – and thereby evaluate what the various translators have done in their renderings into English. This bit of translation does go beyond my original premise encapsulated in the title, but it is instructive to cross-check the translators’ works. I have also included the titles from Sato’s (1995) excerpts of Mizu no Maki as HS when appropriate.

In the transliterations that follow, English Language synonyms are separated with slashes (/), and distinctly different meanings with a vertical bar (|). Lone question marks (?) mean that dictionary words could not be found; question marks with words mean either the dictionary meaning is questionable or that I took a guess based on other dictionary information. I have used the possessive “A’s B” in English for “X no Y” in Japanese in order to preserve the original word order rather than “B of A” (where “X” transliterates to “A,” and “Y” to “B”), which would reverse the original word order; however, in some cases the English unfortunately sounds stilted. Without the kanji, one cannot guarantee that the appropriate meanings have been included. Since I used several commonly-available abridged dictionaries, it is not surprising that the translations of some of the words could not be found [I resolved two previous “?’s” by going to Nelson’s (the definitive Kanji-to-English dictionary), which is well beyond the scope of this exposition].

The following list is rather long, but does contain a number of representative headings; all thirty-two of them are included in Appendix IV. It is not necessary to dwell on them all. As a first pass, it will probably be more instructive to just skim them and concentrate on several that catch your attention.

1. “Heiho Kokoro Mochi no Koto

<Strategy[‘s] mind|heart/feelings durability, matter/affair of>

Spiritual Bearing in Strategy” (VH, p. 53)

The Mental Attitude in Heiho” (NS, p. 36)

State of Mind in Martial Arts” (TC, p. 17)

Mental Bearing” (HS, p. 262)

The Mental Attitude in Martial Strategy” (HO, p. 63)

The Frame of Mind for the Martial Arts” (WSW. p. 64)

The State of Mind in Strategy” (KT, p. 151)

2. “Heiho no Minari no Koto

<strategy’s attire/dress/appearance, matter/affair of>

Stance in Strategy” (VH, p. 54)

Posture in Combat” (NS, p. 37)

Physical Bearing in Martial Arts” (TC, p. 18)

Physical Bearing” (HS, p. 263)

Postures in Martial Strategy” (HO, p. 64)

Appearance in the Martial Arts” (WSW. p. 66)

Posture in Strategy” (KT, p. 152)

6. “Go Ho no Kamae no Koto

<five types’ fighting-posture, matter/affair of>

The Five Attitudes” (VH, p. 56)

The Five Positions” (NS, p. 39)

Five Kinds of Guard” (TC, p. 20)

The Five Sword-Holding Positions [with a footnote to kamae]” (HO, p. 67)

The Five Stances” (WSW. p. 69)

The Five Guard Positions” (KT, p. 154)

8. “Itsutsu no Omote no Shidai

<five front circumstances>

The Five Approaches” (VH, p. 57)

The Five Positions” (NS, p. 41)

Procedures of the Five Formal Techniques” (TC, p. 21)

The Five Sword-Holding Positions” (HO, p. 68)

Concerning the … Five Fundamentals” (WSW. p. 72)

The Series of Five Technical Forms” (KT, p. 155)

12. “Munen Muso no Uchi to Iu Koto

<no thought/feeling, no plan’s inside, saying/telling [of/about]>

No Design, No Conception” (VH, p. 60)

On the Blow Free from Worldly Thoughts – The Spontaneous Blow” (NS, p. 46)

Striking without Thought and without Form” (TC, p. 25)

Striking with `No-thought, No-feature’” (HS, p. 265)

Striking without Thought or Consciousness” (HO, p. 72)

The No Thought – No Concept Strike” (WSW. p. 78)

The Strike of Non-thought” (KT, p. 159)

16. “Momiji no Uchi to Iu Koto

<maple/autumn-leaves’ strike/cut, saying/telling [of/about]>

The Red Leaves Cut” (VH, p. 61)

The Scarlet Maple Leaf Blow” (NS, p. 47)

The Crimson Foliage Hit” (TC, p. 26)

A Strike Called ‘Red Leaves’” (HO, p. 73)

The Autumn-Leaf Strike” (WSW. p. 80)

The Crimson-Leaves Strike” (KT, p. 160)

Consider that the titles of all but one section (8) has either “no Koto” (“thing/matter/affair of”) or “to Iu Koto” (“saying/telling (of/about)”) at the end of the title of the section, which we might render as “In the matter of ...,” and “Concerning/On ...,” respectively. Notice that in many cases it is simply ignored, that is, not translated at all because it is just a convention whose meaning is analogous to punctuation; however, NS does use the construct in English for Sections 5, 7, 12, 13, 18, 23 and 27, TC for Sections 5 and 9, and WSW for Section 8 – VH, HO and KT do not use these constructs at all. (The complete list appears in Appendix IV.)

Just as a general comment here, as you look through the list of translated headings, in many cases it is obvious that one of them is much better than the other two at conveying the meaning; for different headings, it is a different translator – no one translation has a monopoly on the best English renderings; furthermore, I suspect that different readers will not always agree on which one is the “best” to them – such a process is highly subjective depending on backgrounds and experiences.

Consider the aggregate of English titles for each section. In general, each one gives a different perspective, feeling and connotated meaning. Together, in many cases, they give a more comprehensive meaning that is lacking when considering only one of the translated versions. Notice that only in the NS translation are some Japanese words retained as is, that is, not translated [heiho (strategy), in particular]; the HO translation has one instance too. Also notice that everyone translated “kamae” (Sections 6 & 9), which really could have been left untranslated.

Although each section deserves comment, it would certainly belabor the point; therefore, only a few select sections (1, 2, 6, 8, 12 & 16) are commented on. In Section 1, consider “Spiritual Bearing” (VH), “Mental Attitude” (NS, HO), “State of Mind” (TC & KT), “Mental Bearing” (HS), and “Frame of Mind” (WSW); VH’s use of “spiritual” seems out of place, whereas the other renditions seem to better capture the essence of the section.

In Section 2, “Stance in Strategy” (VH), “Posture in Combat” (NS), “Postures in Martial Strategy” (HO), and “Postures in Strategy” (KT) seem to be a little misleading in terms of apparent connotation next to “Physical Bearing in Martial Arts” (TC), “Physical Bearing” (HS), and “Appearance in the Martial Arts” (WSW).

In Section 6, “The Five Attitudes” (VH), “The Five Positions” (NS), and “Five Kinds of Guard” (TC) all seem to be a bit off while I find “The Five Sword-Holding Positions” (HO), “The Five Stances” (WSW), and “The Five Guard Positions” (KT) a bit better; however, simply calling this section “The Five Kamae” would have been fine. In Section 8, which is a detailed discussion of Section 6, all the translations seem to miss the mark; something like “The Five Kamae Explained” would certainly be more appropriate.

The translations “Striking without Thought and without Form” (TC), “Striking without Thought or Consciousness” (HO), and “The Strike of Non-thought” (KT) in Section 12 appears to capture the essence of the topic of the section.

In Section 16, “The Red Leaves Cut” (VH), “The Scarlet Maple Leaf Blow” (NS), “The Crimson Foliage Hit” (TC), “A Strike Called ‘Red Leaves’” (HO), “The Autumn-Leaf Strike” (WSW), and “The Crimson-Leaves Strike” (KT), it is VH who points out in a footnote that this section title is an allusion to the dying leaves of autumn falling from the tree branches through the air. In an end note, KT further points out:

These leaves [momiji AKO maple] fall readily with the first winds of winter. Here the leaf that falls is a crimson leaf, which also evokes the color of the opponent’s blood. Musashi seems to be bringing together these two images in his description of this technique. (KT, p. 402)”

Another Aside – Mizu no Maki and the Niten Ichi Ryu Kenjutsu Curriculum

Just a brief aside is in order here; since Mizu no Maki is concerned with the practice of Niten Ichi Ryu, a quick comparison between this scroll and the ryuha’s (school’s) curriculum (given in the Appendix I) is apropos. Sections 1 through 5 (a complete Section list is in Appendix IV) along with Sections 17 and 23 are applicable to all the kenjutsu kata for tachi, kodachi and nito; Sections 6, 8, and 9 are applicable to the five nito kata. The following sections are associated with the accompanying kata:

section 10 - tachi kata 1, 2, 3, 9, 11; kodachi kata 1, 7.

section 12 - tachi kata 11

section 13 - tachi kata 4, 5, 6, 8; kodachi kata 2, 3, 4

section 16 - tachi kata 6

sections 20, 21 - tachi kata 10, 11; kodachi kata 4; nito kata 2, 3, 4, 5

section 25 - tachi kata 1; kodachi kata 1, 2, 7; nito kata 2

section 26 - tachi kata 7, 10; kodachi kata 3, 4, 5, 6

section 28 - tachi kata 7; kodachi kata 5; nito kata 4, 5

Section 7 on the “tao” (“the Way” in Chinese) of the tachi is very general, section 11 covers a subtle timing issue, and section 15 deals with power using finesse. Section 18 points out the difference between utsu (cut/striking) and ataru (slash/hitting), and section 19 uses the image of the short-armed Chinese monkey to make a pragmatic point – don’t overexpose your arms. Section 22 on “stickiness” seems to be more directed at balancing hard and soft – it seemed to speak to the practice of T’ai-Chi T’ui-Shou or “push hands.” Section 24 seems to be focusing on the tactics of parrying, and Section 27 on kiai, but in a manner that does not focus on the kiai of the nito kata. Section 29 is simply a strategy for handling multiple opponents. Finally, sections 14, 30, 31, and 32 are all rather cryptic.

Last Set of Comparisons

Finally, let’s consider section 6, “Go Ho no Kamae no Koto” [“The Five Attitudes” (VH), “The Five Positions” (NS), “Five Kinds of Guard” (TC), “The Five Sword-Holding Positions” (HO), “The Five Stances” (WSW), “The Five Guard Positions” (KT)]. These are the kamae of Niten Ichi Ryu employed with daito (long sword), shoto (short sword), and nito (two swords, AKA daisho, a contraction of daito and shoto), which we have nito examples for in Taylor (1994/5); approximations of all the kamae appear in Taylor (2000) [I say approximations because several have been modified given our contacts with the soke of Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu in 2003 and subsequent years; see Hyakutake-Watkin (2003), and Taylor (2004 & 2005)].

Note that these are not the standard five kamae of iaido, kendo and aiki-ken (aikido sword practice with bokken or wooden sword). Notice that all six translations have used an English word for “kamae;” any of our books and manuals of swordsmanship simply use the Japanese word “kamae” without translating it at all. For the comparisons, I will follow the TC rendition: there are five “paragraphs” in this section – VH uses four; NS, HO and KT three; and WSW two.

The first paragraphs are [the use of the ellipsis (…) means that the “paragraph” is joined to the previous “paragraph” if the ellipsis begin the quote, or the following “paragraph” if they end the quote]:

The five attitudes are: Upper, Middle, Lower, Right Side, and Left Side. These are the five. Although attitude has these five divisions, the one purpose of all of them is to cut the enemy. There are none but these five attitudes. (VH, p. 56)”

The five positions, Jodan [“upper position”], Chudan [“middle position”], Gedan [“lower position”], Migi no Waki [“right guard position”], and Hidari no Waki [“left guard position”] are called the Five Directions. Although the positions are divided into five, they all have the aim to cut men. As regards positions, there are no others besides these five. (NS, pp. 39-40)”

The five kinds of guard are the upper position, middle position, lower position, right-hand guard, and left-hand guard. Although the guard may be divided into five kinds, all of them are for the purpose of killing people. There are no other kinds of guard besides these five. (TC, p. 20)”

The five sword-holding positions consist of upper, middle, lower, right side, and left side. Although we make a distinction between five different sword-holding positions, it must be kept in mind that they all have a common purpose, namely to cut down your opponent. … (HO, p. 67)”

The Five Stances include the Upper, the Middle, the Lower, the Right-Side Stance and the Left-Side Stance. The stances are divided into five, but they are for the purpose of cutting a man down. There are no other than these five. … (WSW. p. 69)”

The five guard positions are the high, middle, low and those of the two sides, left and right. The five guards can be distinguished, but all of them have as their goal to slash the opponent. There is no guard position other than those five. … (KT, p. 154)”

It is remarkable how close these translations except for the use of the main descriptive word: attitude (VH) [too vague], position (NS, HO) [somewhat misleading], guard (TC) [somewhat restrictive], stances (WSW) [can be misleading], and guard position (KT) [good enough]. Interestingly, it is NS rather than anyone else who includes the Japanese terms for the five Kamae. Again, see Taylor (1994/5) for illustrations of these nito postures and Taylor (2000) for approximations of all the kamae.

The second paragraphs are:

Whatever attitude you are in, do not be conscious of making the attitude; think only of cutting. (VH, p. 56)”

No matter what position you take, do not think of it as a position; think only of it as a process of cutting. ... (NS, p. 40)”

Whatever guard you adopt, do not think of it as being on guard; think of it as part of the act of killing. (TC, p. 20)”

“… But regardless of the position you assume, do not be caught up with the idea of the position itself; instead, you must think of cutting down your opponent. (HO, p. 67)”

“… No matter which of these stances you take, you should not think of the stance itself, but rather that you are going to cut your opponent down. (WSW. p. 69)”

“… Whatever guard position you assume, do not think of taking a position, instead think of being ready to strike. (KT, p. 154)”

Notice the subtle differences in meaning; first, “making the attitude” (an active process), “it as a position” (static situation), “it as being on guard” (state of being/existence), and “the position you assume,” “the stance you assume,” and “the guard position you assume” (active processes); and, second, “cutting” (active process), “it as a process of cutting” (abstract action), “it as part of the act of killing” (concrete action), and “cutting down your opponent” and “ready to strike” (active processes & concrete actions).

The third paragraphs are:

Your attitude should be large or small according to the situation. ... (VH, p. 56)”

... As for a great or small posture, it is good to take the most efficacious stance according to the circumstances. ... (NS, p. 40)”

Whether you adopt a large guard or a small guard depends on the situation; follow whatever is most advantageous. (TC, p. 20)”

As far as determining how big or small your sword-holding position should be, use whatever size of position is most advantageous to the situation. (HO, p. 67)”

Whether the stance is large or small, it should follow the circumstances and the advantage you wish to take. (WSW. p. 69)”

The choice of a wide or narrow guard depends on your assessment of the situation. ... (KT, p. 154)”

Again there are subtle differences in meaning.

The fourth paragraphs are:

... Upper, Lower and Middle attitudes are decisive. Left and Right attitudes are fluid. Left and Right attitudes should be used if there is an obstruction overhead or to one side. The decision to use the Left and Right depends on the place. (VH, p. 56)”

The upper, middle and lower positions are fixed [firm] positions. The two side positions are fluid. The right and the left positions are useful for when there is an obstruction overhead or to one side. Whether to elect the right or the left position is to be decided according to circumstances. (NS, p. 40)”

The upper, middle and lower positions are solid guards, while the two sides are fluid guards. The right and left guards are for places where there is no room overhead or to one side. Whether to adopt the right or the left guard is decided according to the situation. (TC, p. 20)”

The fundamental sword-holding positions are upper, middle, and lower; there applications are possible on both sides. In a situation where you have an obstacle overhead or on either side, you must decide which position should be used, right or left, depending on the predicament you are in. (HO, p. 67)”

The Middle, Upper and Lower are stances of the body; the two side stances are stances of free and easy movement. The Left-Side and Right-Side Stances are those used to check the area above you and to the two sides. For their use, you should judge according to the circumstances. … (WSW. pp. 69, 71)”

“… The high, middle or low guard positions are the substantial positions, and the side positions, right and left, are circumstantial ones. Thus, when you are fighting in a place of limited height where one of the two sides is obstructed, take the side guard position, either right or left. You choose between the right and left in accordance with the situation. (KT, p. 154)”

Again there are similar but subtle differences in the English.

The final paragraphs are:

The essence of the Way is this. To understand attitude you must thoroughly understand the Middle attitude. The Middle attitude is the heart of attitudes. If we look at strategy on a broad scale, the Middle attitude is the seat of the commander, with the other four attitudes following the commander. You must appreciate this. (VH, p. 56)”

One must understand that the best position, the secret of this school, is the Chudan position [“middle position”]. The Chudan position is the essence of this school. Figuratively speaking, the Chudan position is analogous to the seat of a general in a great battle. The other four positions follow and obey the general. One must study this very hard. (NS, p. 40)”

What is important in this path is to realize that the consummate guard is the middle position. The middle position is what the guard is all about. Consider it in terms of large-scale military science: the center is the seat of the general, while following the general are the other four guards. This should be examined carefully. (TC, p. 21)”

It has been said that the most important of all positions is the middle one. The middle sword-holding position is the basis of all positions. Making an analogy with warfare, the middle position is similar to the general in importance. The four other positions follow the general, so to speak. One must appreciate this point well. (HO, p. 67)”

“… You should understand that in this Way, it is largely said that the Middle Stance is best. The main intention of the stance is itself found in the Middle Stance. Look at the martial arts in terms of large armies. The Middle Stance is the seat of the commanding general, and the four other stances follow after him. You should investigate this thoroughly. (WSW, p. 71)”

Do not forget this instruction: The middle-level guard is fundamental. In fact, the middle-level position is the original guard. Observe that as you broaden your strategy, you will understand that the middle-level guard position corresponds to the place of the general. The four other positions come after that of the general. You must examine this well. (KT, p. 154)”

Consider the main aspects:

Notice the quite different stress within each aspect; these differences are now more than just subtle.


Although the VH translation was my first exposure and has the best introduction, and I have read a lot by Dr. Cleary, predisposing me to his style and manner of prose as in TC, it appears to me that the NS, HO or KT translations come the closest to filling the needs of practicing Martial Artists. I like the way that the NS translation does not over-translate, that is, it retains the Japanese words rather than using the translated English terms at places where it is appropriate. It is comforting to see familiar language; in the translated terms, you can easily miss the connection, especially if the connotations are misleading. HO achieves a similar effect in translation; in particular, he does not translate the title of the fifth scroll, leaving it in the original Japanese, Ku. KT attempts to look at the text as a student manual rather than a complete and stand alone work.


In Part I, this article initially focused on the basics, that is, what you need to get started. We introduced the basics with a word about translators, after which we will examine the basic knowledge needed in order to handle the task at hand. We explored the principles of translation by establishing a small set of useful definitions. We highlighted “The Translator’s Agenda,” a very important aspect in translation that is easily overlooked. Finally, we outlined “The Model, which is the heart of the translation process.

In Part II, a brief review of Musashi’s literary legacy was presented. We highlighted the structure of Gorin no Sho, and the “Translator’s Notes.” We speculated on “The Translator’s Agenda.” Then we examined passages from Gorin no Sho from six different translated sources. We examined the opening line of Mizu no Maki, the “Water Scroll”, the section titles of Mizu no Maki, and section 6 of Mizu no Maki titled “Go Ho no Kamae no Koto.” In the process we learned to appreciate the difference between translation and transliteration. In addition, we compared the contents of Mizu no Maki with the curriculum of Hyoho Niten-Ichi Ryu Kenjutsu (given in Appendix I) as an aside.

The process of using multiple texts for comparisons used excerpts from Gorin no Sho. Obviously, such a study, even for one text is a long and involved process. But it can be done. Other classic texts of interest include the Tao Te Ching by Lao-tzu, The Art of War by Sun-tzu, and the anthology The T’ai Chi Classics [I have already pointed out peculiar difficulties in using the Classics in Sosnowski (1999)].


I would like to thank the New Hampshire Humanities Council and St. Anselm College in Manchester, NH, who sponsored the course “Principles of Translation” in the Spring of 1991 as part of their decade long series, “The Word of God;” and I would like to thank Br. Andrew Thornton, OSB, of St. Anselm College for the marvelous job he did as the course instructor. In addition, I would like to thank my Japanese language instructor, Dr. Shizuko Suenaga, for all her help and encouragement in Japanese I & II at the University of Massachusetts – Lowell. Finally, I wish to thank Prof. Karl Friday from the University of Georgia, Athens, GA, for kindly reviewing my original draft and making a number of useful recommendations, and Colin Hyakutake-Watkin for kindly reviewing my third draft and making a number of useful recommendations.


Bell, Roger T., 1991. Translation and Translating: Theory and Practice, Longman, London. 298 pp.

Hyakutake-Watkin, Colin, 2003. “Hyoho Niten  Ichiryu Seminar, Guelph, Ontario, 2003,” posted to Physical Training of the Electronic Journals of Martial Arts and Sciences in October 2003 at <>.

Imai, Masayuki, 1994/5. “Comments on Musashi’s Gorin no Sho” (translated by Colin Watkin-Hyakuake). Furyu 1(3), 34 - 38, Winter.

Kaufman, Steve, 1994. The Martial Artist’s Book of Five Rings: The Definitive Interpretation of Miyamoto Musashi’s Classic Book of Strategy, Charles E. Tuttle Co., Inc., Boston. 106 pp.

_____, 1641. “Heiho Sanjugokajo – The 35 Articles of Swordsmanship of Miyamoto Musashi,” Budo Shimbun [electronic magazine], 15 May 1993. [Available at <>.]

_____, 1974. A Book of Five Rings: A Guide to Strategy, translated by Victor Harris, The Overlook Press, Woodstock, NY. 96 pp.

_____, 1982. The Book of Five Rings: Gorin no Sho, translated with Commentary by Nihon Services Corp. (Bradford J. Brown, Yuko Kashiwagi, William H. Barrett, and Eisuke Sasagawa), Bantam Books, New York. 116 pp.

_____, 1993. The Book of Five Rings including Family Traditions on the Art of War by Yagyu Munenori, translated by Thomas Cleary, Shambhala, Boston. 114 pp.

_____, 2001. A Way to Victory: The Annotated Book of Five Rings, translation and commentary by Hidy Ochiai, The Overlook Press, Woodstock, NY. 162 pp.

_____, 2002. The Book of Five Rings, translated by William Scott Wilson, Kodansha, Tokyo. 157 pp.

Muromoto, Wayne, 1994. “Musashi’s Dokkodo – The Lonely Path of an Old Warrior,” Furyu 1(1), 55-59, Spring (Premier Issue). [In Muromoto’s article, the Dokkodo is a list of 21 articles; in another version from the now defunct e-magazine Budo Shimbun, 3 July 1993, it’s 19 articles, which is now available at <>.]

Palmer, Martin, and Ramsay, Jay, with Kwok, Man-Ho, 1995. Kuan Yin: Myths and Prophecies of the Chinese Goddess of Compassion, Thorsons (HarperCollins), London. 226 pp.

Sato, Hiroaki (trans.), 1995. Legends of the Samurai, The Overlook Press, Woodstock, NY. 391 pp.

Takuan, Soho, 1986. The Unfettered Mind: Writings of the Zen Master to the Sword Master (William Scott Wilson, tr.), Kodansha Intl., Tokyo. 101 pp.

Sosnowski, Raymond, 1999. “A Review of the T’ai-Chi Classics – Study Material for Internal Principles,” Ryubi – The Dragon’s Tail, the Newsletter of Kashima Shinryu/North America, 7(2), 9-17, 10 July 1999.

_____, 2002. “Book Review: A Way to Victory: The Annotated Book of Five Rings, translation and Commentary by Hidy Ochiai.” Posted to The Iaido Journal of the Electronic Journals of Martial Arts and Sciences at <> on 5 September 2002.

Taylor, Kimberley A. C., 1994/5. “Niten Ichi Ryu: The Sword of Miyamoto Musashi,” Furyu, 1(3), 27 - 33, Winter.

___, 2000. Niten Ichi Ryu: the Sword of Musashi Miyamoto, Seidokai Press, Guelph, Ontario, 84 pp. [A 100 page text, published in 1996, had been distributed privately to Taylor’s students in Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu Kenjutsu.] Available from <>.

_____, 2004. “2004 U. Guelph Hyoho Niten Ichiryu Seminar,” posted to The Iaido Journal of the Electronic Journals of Martial Arts and Sciences in August 2004 at <>.

_____, 2005. “2005 Niten Ichiryu Seminar at Guelph,” posted to The Iaido Journal of the Electronic Journals of Martial Arts and Sciences on 23 June 2005 at <>.

Tokitsu, Kenji, 2004. Miyamoto Musashi: His Life and Writings, Shambhala, Boston. 488 pp. [reviewed in Watkin, 2004b.]

Uozumi, Takashi, 2002. “Research into Miyamoto Musashi’s Gorin no Sho” (translated into English by Steve Harwood), Kendo World 1(2), 7-19.

Victoria, Brian (Daizen) A., 1998. Zen at War, Weatherhill, New York. 228 pp.

Watkin, Colin, 2004a. “Martial Arts in the Modern World, a Book Review of ‘The Lone Samurai: The Life of Miyamoto Musashi’ by William Scott Wilson,” posted to The Iaido Journal of the Electronic Journals of Martial Arts and Sciences in November 2004 at <>.

_____, 2004b. “Martial Arts in the Modern World, a Book Review of ‘Miyamoto Musashi - His Life and Writings,’ by Kenji Tokitsu,” posted to The Iaido Journal of the Electronic Journals of Martial Arts and Sciences in November 2004 at <>.

Wilson, William Scott, 2004. The Lone Samurai: The Life of Miyamoto Musashi, Kodansha, Tokyo. 287 pp. [reviewed in Watkin, 2004a.]

Yamamoto, Tsunetomo, 1979. Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai, William Scott Wilson (trans.), Avon Books, New York, NY. 180 pp.


Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu consists kenjutsu kata for daito or katana (long sword), shoto or wakizashi (short sword), and nito or daisho (two swords, the long and short swords), and bojutsu kata as well as several kokyu undo (breathing exercises) with the nito bokuto, nito kokyu-ho. The kenjutsu curriculum consists of the following five sets of thirty-four two-person kata (Taylor, 2000):

Tachi/Itto Seiho.

1. Sasen (thrust with initiative).

2. Hasso Hidari (hasso [stance], left [cut]).

3. Hasso Migi (hasso [stance], right [cut]).

4. Uke Nagashi Hidari (deflection, left).

5. Uke Nagashi Migi (deflection, right).

6. Moji Gamae (mojiri stance).

7. Hari Tsuke (slap away & thrust).

8. Nagashi Uchi (repeated deflection).

9. Tora Buri (tiger’s swing).

10. Kazu Ki (“lots of happiness”).

11. Ai Sen Uchi Dome (together-timing hit-stop).

12. Amashi Uchi (extra hit).

Kodachi Seiho.

1. Sasen (thrust with initiative).

2. Chudan (middle posture).

3. Uke Nagashi (receive & deflect).

4. Moji Gamae (mojiri stance).

5. Hari Tsuke (slap down).

6. Nagashi Uchi (repeated deflection).

7. Ai Sen (same timing).

Nito Seiho.

1. Chudan (middle [stance]).

2. Jodan (upper [stance]).

3. Gedan (lower [stance]).

4. Hidari Waki Gamae (left side-stance).

5. Migi Waki Gamae (right side-stance).

Sessa (Setsusa).

1. Se(tsu)sa Uchidome (stop-the-cut).

2. Se(tsu)sa Uchibarai (inside sweep).

3. I(tsu)pyoshi Sotobarai (all-at-once outside sweep).

4. I(tsu)pyoshi Uchibarai (all-at-once inside sweep).

5. Ryusui Uchidome (flowing-river stop-the-cut).


1. Shikko Hidari (glued-together left).

2. Shikko Migi (glued-together right).

3. Irimi (enter).

4. Sekka no Uchi (cutting straight to the target).

5. Juji Shukonomi.

In all these kata, uchitachi (“attacking sword”[-person]) is armed with a daito (long) bokuto (I find it curious that there are no nito vs. nito sets). In the first three (original) sets, they are named for the arms of shidachi (“receiving sword”[-smen]); in the latter two sets, shidachi is armed with nito bokuto. These bokuto are particular to this ryuha, being lighter and thinner than what we usually see (Taylor, 1994/95).

Matsuo Haruna, chief instructor at the Musashi Dojo in Ohara, Okayama-ken, who has lead clinics in Hyoho Niten Ichi-Ryu Kenjutsu in Guelph in 1997 (Sosnowski, 1997), 1998 (Sosnowski, 1998), and 1999, has said that only the first three sets of kata are original to HNIR, and that the latter two sets of kata were added by Musashi’s successors (Taylor & Ohmi, 1996). Kim Taylor, who is most likely the only person publically teaching HNIR Kenjutsu Kata in North America, says that these the latter two sets of kata, Sessa (Setsusa) and Aikuchi, are oyo waza (applied techniques) that are not practiced very often (Taylor, 1994/95); in fact, he says that they are quite useful for the practice of nito [two shinai (one long and the other short)] kendo (Taylor, 2000). In the orthodox curriculum of Imai-soke and Iwami-soke, the latter two sets do not seem to be practiced.

Haruna-s. also has told us that HNIR also has an almost equally strong bojutsu component of twenty kata, seven kata of bo vs. bo, and thirteen kata of tachi vs. bo (Sosnowski, 1997); the Musashi-style bo is a bit longer than the jo of Shindo Muso Ryu (Taylor & Ohmi, 1996). Unfortunately, Haruna-s. is not familiar with these bojutsu kata (Taylor & Ohmi, 1996). The bo as used by the current soke is, in fact, a rokushaku bo (six-foot staff) with a diameter of 1⅛ inches. This is a rather beefy staff, quite a contrast to the rather thin bokuto.

Appendix References

Sosnowski, Raymond, 1997. “Haruna-sensei in Guelph for the 7th Annual Seidokai Summer Seminar & Shinsa,” Journal of Japanese Sword Arts #82, 9(6/7), 19-22, June/July, and The Iaido Newsletter #82, available at <>.

___, 1998. “Ide, Haruna & Oshita in Guelph for the 8th Annual Spring Iaido Seminar,” Journal of Japanese Sword Arts #93, 10(7/8), 30-34, July/August, and The Iaido Newsletter #93 available at <>.

Taylor, Kimberley A. C., 1994/95. “Niten Ichi Ryu: The Sword of Miyamoto Musashi,” Furyu, 1(3), 27-33, Winter.

___, 2000. Niten Ichi Ryu: the Sword of Musashi Miyamoto, Seidokai Press, Guelph, Ontario, 84 pp. [A 100 page text, published in 1996, had been distributed privately to Taylor’s students in Niten Ichi Ryu Kenjutsu.] Available from <>.

___, & Ohmi, Goyo, 1996. “An interview with Japanese Sword Instructor Haruna Matsuo,” Journal of Asian Martial Arts, 5(2), 80-89. [Reprinted in Taylor (2000).]



The central premise of this article deals with the products of translators, so a few words about them are in order. For our purposes, there are basically two types of translators: professional and non-professional – the connotations of the term “amateur” are to be avoided here. In some cases, the difference between to two may be blurred; suffice it to say that a professional derives the majority of his or her income from working as a translator (this is a good working definition). “Professional” also implies some degree of formal education. The amount of formal education in the non-professional can span the range from none to advanced degrees. Furthermore, the formal education has varying widths and depths: from modern language to medieval or “classical” forms, from common vocabularies to highly specialized vocabularies.

Basic Tools

There is a basic assumption here that the reader has a working knowledge of English, that is, reading, writing and speaking. As such, one should have a working knowledge of and access to the basic tools, such as a collegiate-level dictionary (such as the American Heritage Dictionary, 3rd Edition), a thesaurus (such as Roget’s), and a handbook of English grammar (Shertzer, 1986; Walsh & Walsh, 1966). One must sufficiently understand the structure of their own language before attempting to branch out to another language.

Anticipated Problems

There is a series of problems that we can anticipate in advance. These include idioms, untranslatable words or phrases, language specific constructs, assumed context, and the inherent difficulties with non-prose (things like poetry and humor). Idioms are phrases whose words are disconnected from the understood meaning; for example, “with a grain of salt” has nothing to do with seasoning food, but rather implies “with reservations” and “skeptically.” For those familiar with the Oriental Arts, terms like “ch’i” from the Chinese and “ki” from the Japanese and Korean Languages are untranslatable words – there is simply no equivalent word in English; it is a completely foreign concept, and takes at least a paragraph to describe and explain. We will touch on several language specific constructs in “Appendix III: Notes On The Japanese Language.” Assumed context is particularly relevant in speech and associated written conversations; certain aspects that are understood simply go unsaid (many screen plays will provide a multitude of examples). However, assumed context can also be found in everyday prose as well; several aspects in Japanese will also be highlighted below. Finally, the translation difficulties found in prose are only compounded in extra-prose forms such as poetry and humor (suffice it to say that humor generally does not translate; one needs to explain too much before you can “get it”).

More Definitions

A little vocabulary building is necessary in order to gain a better appreciation and understanding of translating. The first term we need to tackle is “transliteration,” that is, the word-for-word mapping from one language to another; for many of us, this is what basically passed for translation in our high school language classes (French, German and Latin for me). Initial forays in applied Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the 1950’s and 1960’s made this assumption; during the early part of the Cold War, an automatic Russian-to-English text mapping system was attempted. To test the system, a series of English sentences were fed in, mapped into Russian, and then mapped back into English. Realistically these results were very poor. A humorous anecdote from those attempts having the end result “The vodka is good, but the meat is rotten” came from the initial English input of the Biblical quote “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

So, what is “translation?” My American Heritage Dictionary (3rd Edition) gives nine different meanings to “translate” as a transitive verb, of which the first meaning, “to render in another language,” is relevant here. As a general-purpose tool, the AHD is quite adequate, but as a domain-specific (linguistics in our case here) resource, it does fall short. Let’s try a different approach, a multi-word approach [it is cumbersome to be sure, but can do a much better job of getting the point, that is, the meaning, across, if appropriate “groups of words” are used]. “Translation” is the art/technique/process of moving/conveying/transforming meaning/ideas/concepts from the source language to the target language. By this definition, transliteration can be considered a simplification (or an extreme over-simplification) of translation.

Now here are three terms that come up repeatedly in the linguist’s vocabulary. The first is “lexicon” which refers to the dictionary (for meanings) or a specialized vocabulary within a language. From this we can conclude that transliteration is a “lexicon-only” process. The second term is “syntax,” that is, the rules governing sentence construction; in other words, grammar. Can a language be defined simply in terms of a lexicon and syntax? Again, from the applied AI of linguistics, here is another anecdote: the following sentence is lexically and semantically valid, “Colorless green dreams sleep furiously,” but is actually utter nonsense; this brings up the term “semantics,” that is, the meaning of sentences.



Although, we are not really going to be doing translation per se, it is a good idea to have an overview of Japanese, in order to be aware of the differences that will cause any translator problems in mapping a text into English. The first topic, “Levels of Politeness and Honorifics” is somewhat foreign in English. The bulk of the topics, “Tenses,” “Articles,” “Understood Pronouns,” “Lack of Gender and Number in Nouns,” and “Idioms,” are typical of any inter-language study. Japanese peculiarities are highlighted in “Fixed Sentence Structures and Particles,” and “Questions and Punctuation.” Finally, we will highlight “Kanji and Kana,” the written symbols of the Japanese language.

Levels of Politeness and Honorifics
One of the first peculiarities of the Japanese language, are the levels of politeness: language usage according to status and gender. If you know anything about Japanese business, there is a great deal of emphasis placed on the exchange of meishi (literally, “name card”), that is, business cards – some look like mini-resumes; if this is the first meeting, then conversation cannot commence until everyone figures out their relationships, in this case, status, to everyone else present. The Japanese still maintain a vertical society in which no one is your equal – the Japanese social world is divided into two parts, those who are your superiors/seniors (“sempai”) and those who are your inferiors/juniors (“kohai”). Likewise, there are different uses of language based on gender. Such differences are relatively non-existent in English, and therefore simply do not translate.

There are four general levels of politeness in Japanese:

        1. Abrupt – for talking to children, animals and inferiors (inappropriate use of this level constitutes “rude” speech in Japanese).

        2. Casual/Plain – for talking to family and close friends.

        3. Normal Polite – for general business talk.

        4. Very Polite – for talking to high superiors.

Sometimes just the word endings change, and other times different words are used (“synonyms” based on level of politeness).

Along with the levels of politeness is the use of honorifics with people’s names. Except in casual conversation among family members or close friends, everyone is generally addressed as “<surname>-san” where the surname is the family or last name. The suffix “-san” is genderless, and translates as “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” “Miss,” or “Ms.” depending on context. VIPs are generally addressed as “<surname>-sama,” and professional people (professors, doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc.) as “<surname>-sensei;” “sensei” literally means “one who has gone before.” Unlike these other honorifics, “Sensei” may also be used alone to address another person; you never ever refer to yourself as “Sensei” – in fact, when referring to yourself (as in introducing yourself), you would not use any honorific at all – no matter what your status, this is a degree of self-humility expected of everyone!

Our Western “classless” society has gradually phased out the general use of honorifics entirely; in some cases, even to the point of referring to people you do not know by their first or given names! In Japanese, this is all just plain rude. Thus we see a very basic cultural difference between the two languages, which does not translate well (to Western ears, the constant use of honorifics sounds overly formal and rather “stuffy”).


In Western languages, we are used to dealing with definite and indefinite articles, “the” and “a/an,” respectively, in English; no such constructs exist in Japanese. The use of articles in translation come from context (Japanese depends a great deal on context); in English and other languages, the articles will shade the meaning of a sentence, sometimes making a great deal of difference (4).

Understood Pronouns

Although pronouns do exist, personal pronouns tend to be dropped when they are obvious by context, especially in the first person (“I”, “we”). Use of the second person (“you”) is considered too direct, hence, rude, and is also avoided, especially in conversation. In the third person, once the noun is established as the subject or object, then the pronoun in subsequent sentences is dropped based on context. So, in Japanese, you have to pay close attention because the usual pronoun “clues” that we recognize in English are generally dropped.

Lack of Gender and Number in Nouns

Although there speech differences based on gender, there is no “gender” associated with nouns and other parts of speech. In addition, there is no difference in nouns due to number – singular and plural are given by the same word. Number is given in context; explicit plurals are associated with a number/count or another count-indicating adjective (like “few” or “many” which always indicate more than one in English). There is a tendency in English when using Japanese words to add an “-s” ending to make that word plural, like “kata” and “katas;” technically, this is wrong – one kata, ten kata – but the latter case just “sounds” wrong to our English-tuned ears; however, we do have a few words like this – deer, for example.


In the Indicative Mood (statements and questions), Japanese has only two tenses, a present/future and a past; English basically has three: past, present and future, based on strict temporal lines. In Japanese, the past tense refers to completed action or existence. The present/future refers to “incomplete” action – it is either happening now (present), or has yet to start [therefore, it cannot have been completed] (future). Here is yet another example of context; explicit temporal references are found in adverbs or temporal phrases. So the translator must pay attention to these temporal clues. If the original is vague, intentionally or otherwise, with respect to time, then the translator’s job becomes quite difficult in rendering appropriate tenses.


Japanese is a language rich in idioms. For example, the verb “to live” in the negative form [which is denoted in a change in the verb ending, and not a separate word like “not” in English], can mean “Excuse me,” “Pardon me,” “I’m sorry,” and “Thank you,” depending on circumstances (read: context). Likewise, the transliteral “to do rudeness/impoliteness” means “May I?” when invited to enter, and “Good-bye” when leaving a room or house – in Japanese culture, “coming and going” constitutes a change in the status quo, that is, a disturbance, which in any form, even if necessary, has the connotation of being rude. Common idioms use body parts or color; “fast hands” in Japanese is the idiom for a womanizer [it works in both cultures], but a “red stranger” means a complete stranger, for example.

Fixed Sentence Structures and Particles

One very interesting aspect of Japanese is a relatively fixed sentence structure:

subject, indirect object, direct object, verb.

The subject may be understood. Any dependent clauses, temporal indicators, and conjunctions precede the subject; modifiers to any nouns precede those nouns. My impression of Japanese is that the sentence is a “verbal kata,” a form with regular structure. However, certain violations of basic word order are done for emphasis.

Outside of word order, how do we parse a sentence? Japanese has set of “little words” called particles that are analogous to our prepositions; in fact, particles can be considered to be “post-positions,” and they follow nouns to indicate their use and verbs to modify their use. For nouns, particles indicate subjects, objects, and possession. For verbs, particles can shade meaning (adding emphasis, for example), and join clauses as in conditionals (“if ... then”). The most commonly used particle with a verb changes the declarative sentence into a question – you simply add it to the end of the declarative sentence with its fixed structure, and it becomes a question.


Japanese has very few punctuation marks; there are equivalent punctuation marks for a period, a comma, quotation marks, brackets, and a dash. There are no hyphens, colons, semicolons, question marks (this function is determined by a particle following the verb) or exclamation points (this function is also associated with particles). The Japanese dash is used where a colon would be used, or a dash indicating an interruption, or ellipsis indicating a long pause (time passing).

Kanji and Kana

For many people, their only exposure to Japanese is through “romanji,” the rendering of Japanese syllables into roman letters, like “kata.” Well, romanji is not Japanese because Japanese has no alphabet. Japanese consists of two writing systems, kanji, which are the Chinese “characters,” and kana derived from abbreviated kanji to represent the various syllables. There are four groups of kanji:

  1. pictograms which are stylized representations of physical objects (such as river, mountain or gate),

  2. symbols which are logical designs indicating more abstract ideas (such as over, under, middle),

  3. ideograms which are two or more pictograms or symbols written together to produce a related idea (for example, take “tree;” two “trees” is “forest,” three “trees” is “woods,” and “tree” plus “talent” is “timber”), and

  4. phono-ideograms which are multiple-part kanji consisting of a base element or radical and modifying element or elements which change the meaning of the radical to some degree.

Just imagine how a dictionary based on kanji would be arranged (see below).

There two kinds of kana, hiragana and katakana. Literally all Japanese writing and speech can be rendered in hiragana; however, Japanese is so sound poor (lacking in a large set of syllables) that many homonyms exist (which make for an interesting class of puns), which, in turn, implies that the meanings are not always clear. But hiragana is generally used for particles and verb endings; also when new kanji is introduced, small-size hiragana is placed underneath (for horizontal writing) or beside (for vertical writing) the kanji to indicate how that kanji is to be pronounced – this is called furigana. Katakana is used for foreign “loan-words” and onomatopoeia (inanimate sounds of nature, animal noises, etc), names of animals and plants, domestic telegraphs, and as a form of emphasis (especially in advertising in Japan these days).

Katakana covers all the basic (46), modified (25 - 2 = 23) and contracted (36 - 3 = 33) syllables found in hiragana, along with an expanded set of (25) syllables that are not contained in Japanese, but are contained in other foreign languages as perceived by the Japanese. Any [non-Japanese] person’s name would be rendered into katakana after the proper Japanese syllables are identified; for example, my name, Raymond Sosnowski, is pronounced as “reimondo sosunoosukii” where the double vowels “oo” and “ii” indicate “long” vowels as in the length of time sounded, and the “u’s” in the “su’s” are almost not pronounced [“sos’noos’kii,”where the apostrophes mark the unpronounced vowels] – this rendering is not unique because a more Slavic-style pronunciation would yield “sosinoosukii” and “sosinovisukii” [“sosinoos’kii” and “sosinov’s’kii”].

Also, with kanji and kana there is no concept of upper and lower cases. Spacing is completely different; although Japanese can be written like English is – horizontally from left to right and arranged top down – originally it was written vertically from the top down, and arranged right to left. It is accepted that Japanese is written in kanji, hiragana and katakana, mixed together as appropriate. Needless to say, training to write kanji in the Japanese school system is a long, involved and rigorous process; the process is so structured that, no matter where you are in Japan, at a given grade level, the exact same lesson is taught on any given day throughout Japan! 1,945 kanji characters are to be memorized, along with proper brush-stroke sequence [as many as 19(!), and order counts], for basic literacy by the end of 9th grade. For your information, kanji is arranged in the dictionary according to the number of strokes in the radical or root character; however, counting strokes is not exactly as straightforward as you might think.


This is a rather high-level overview of Japanese; of course, there are many more peculiarities of Japanese compared to English. Our purpose here is to relate how different Japanese and English are, and how this affects translation. A favorite publication of mine used to be the now-defunct Mangajin, a magazine for learning Japanese through the use of manga, Japanese illustrated literature (commonly called “Japanese comics,” but really a separate format when compared to English-language comics), and English-language comics. I enjoyed seeing comics like Calvin & Hobbs, and later, Dilbert, rendered from the Japanese into transliterated English, along with the original English. It also became quite obvious to me what a tough job it was to translate something as simple as a three or four panel comic strip.

English Language References and Bibliography

Meyer, Herbert E., and Meyer, Jill M., 1986. How to Write, Storm King Press, Washington, DC. 102 pp.

Plotnick, Arthur, 1982. The Elements of Editing: A Modern Guide for Editors and Journalists, Macmillan Publishing Co., New York. 156 pp.

Shertzer, Margaret, 1986. The Elements of Grammar, Collier (Macmillan), New York. 168 pp.

Strunk Jr., William and White, E. B., 1979. The Elements of Style, 3rd Edition, Macmillan Publishing Co., New York. 92 pp.

Walsh, J. Martyn, and Walsh, Anna Kathleen, 1966. Plain English Handbook: A Complete Guide to Good English, Fifth Revised Edition, McCormick-Mathers Publishing Co., Wichita, Kansas. 184 pp.

Japanese Language Bibliography

Akiyama, Nobuo, and Akiyama, Carol, 1995. Mastering the Basics: Japanese, Barron’s Educational Series, Hauppauge, NY. 232 pp.

Bleiler, Everett F., 1963. Essential Japanese Grammar, Dover, New York. 156 pp.

Haig, John H., and the Department of East Asian Languages and Literature, University of Hawai`i at Manoa, 1997. The New Nelson Japanese-English Character Dictionary, based on the Classic Edition by Andrew N. Nelson, Charles E. Tuttle Company, Rutland, VT. 1600 pp.

Japan Travel Bureau, 1991. Illustrated Japanese Characters, JTB Illustrated Series Volume 13. Tokyo. 191 pp.

Japan Travel Bureau, 1995. Illustrated Say It in Japanese, JTB Illustrated Series Volume 16. 191 pp.

Kenkyusha, 1980. Kenkyusha’s New English-Japanese Dictionary, 5th Edition, Kenkyusha Ltd., Tokyo. 2480 pp.

Kindaichi, Haruhiko, 1978. The Japanese Language, translated and annotated by Umeyo Hirano, Charles E. Tuttle, Rutland, VT. 295 pp.

Lamplin, Rita L., 1995. Japanese Verbs and Essentials of Grammar: A Practical Guide to the Mastery of Japanese, Passport Books, Lincolnwood, IL. 143 pp.

Lovret, Frederick, 1993. Budo Jiten, 2nd Edition, Taseki Publishing Co., San Diego. 139 pp.

Tanimoti, Masahiro, 1994. Handbook of Japanese Grammar, Charles E. Tuttle, Rutland, VT. 313 pp.



The following list is rather long, primarily because it is complete. The representative headings appear in the main body of this work; all are included here. It is not necessary to dwell on them all. For the first time through, it will probably be more instructive to just skim them, and to concentrate on several that catch your eye.

1. “Heiho Kokoro Mochi no Koto

<Strategy[‘s] mind|heart/feelings durability, matter/affair of>

Spiritual Bearing in Strategy” (VH, p. 53)

The Mental Attitude in Heiho” (NS, p. 36)

State of Mind in Martial Arts” (TC, p. 17)

Mental Bearing” (HS, p. 262)

The Mental Attitude in Martial Strategy” (HO, p. 63)

The Frame of Mind for the Martial Arts” (WSW. p. 64)

The State of Mind in Strategy” (KT, p. 151)

2. “Heiho no Minari no Koto

<strategy’s attire/dress/appearance, matter/affair of>

Stance in Strategy” (VH, p. 54)

Posture in Combat” (NS, p. 37)

Physical Bearing in Martial Arts” (TC, p. 18)

Physical Bearing” (HS, p. 263)

Postures in Martial Strategy” (HO, p. 64)

Appearance in the Martial Arts” (WSW. p. 66)

Posture in Strategy” (KT, p. 152)

3. “Heiho no Metsuke to Iu Koto

<strategy’s look/focal-point, saying/telling [of/about]>

The Gaze in Strategy” (VH, p.54 )

The Point of Concentration in Heiho” (NS, p. 37)

Focus of the Eyes in Martial Arts” (TC, p. 19)

Eyeing Things” (HS, p. 263)

Eye Focus in Martial Strategy” (HO, p. 65)

Using the Eyes in the Martial Arts” (WSW. p. 67)

The Way of Looking in Strategy” (KT, p. 153)

4. “Tachi no Mochiyo no Koto

<sword usage, matter/affair of>

Holding the Long Sword” (VH, p. 55)

How to Hold the Long Sword” (NS, p. 38)

Gripping the Long Sword” (TC, p. 19)

How to Hold your Sword” (HO, p. 66)

The Way to Hold a Sword” (WSW. p. 68)

The Way of Gripping the Sword” (KT, p. 153)

5. “Ashitsukai no Koto

<foot-/leg-errand, matter/affair of>

Footwork” (VH, p. 55; HO, p. 66)

On Footwork” (NS, p. 39; TC, p. 20)

Use of the Feet” (WSW. p. 68)

The Way of Moving the Feet” (KT, p. 154)

6. “Go Ho no Kamae no Koto

<five types’ fighting-posture, matter/affair of>

The Five Attitudes” (VH, p. 56)

The Five Positions” (NS, p. 39)

Five Kinds of Guard” (TC, p. 20)

The Five Sword-Holding Positions [with a footnote to kamae]” (HO, p. 67)

The Five Stances” (WSW. p. 69)

The Five Guard Positions” (KT, p. 154)

7. “Tachi no Michi to Iu Koto”

<sword’s way, saying/telling [of/about]>

The Way of the Long Sword” (VH, p. 56; TC, p. 21)

On the Way of the Long Sword” (NS, p. 40)

The Path of the Sword” (HS, p. 264)

The Way [with a footnote saying this connotes “art”] of the Sword” (HO, p. 67)

The Way of the Sword” (WSW. p. 71)

The Pathway of the Sword” (KT, p. 155)

8. “Itsutsu no Omote no Shidai

<five front circumstances>

The Five Approaches” (VH, p. 57)

The Five Positions” (NS, p. 41)

Procedures of the Five Formal Techniques” (TC, p. 21)

The Five Sword-Holding Positions” (HO, p. 68)

Concerning the … Five Fundamentals” (WSW. p. 72)

The Series of Five Technical Forms” (KT, p. 155)

9. “Kamae Arite, Kamae Nashi no Oshie no Koto

<fighting-postures being/existing, fighting-postures without lessons/instruction, matter/affair of>

The ‘Attitude No-Attitude’ Teaching” (VH, p. 58)

The Teachings: Postures and No Postures” (NS, p. 44)

On the Teaching of Having a Position without a Position” (TC, p. 23)

On ‘Positioning and Non-positioning’” (HS, p. 264)

The Positions without Prescribed Position of the Sword” (HO, p. 70)

The Lesson of the Stance-No-Stance” (WSW. p. 76)

The Teaching of the Guard without a Guard” (KT, p. 157)

10. “Teki o Utsu ni Ichi Hyoshi no Uchi no Koto

<enemy, to strike/hit/beat, in one[/single] (musical) time/rhythm, matter/affair of>

To Hit the Enemy `In One Time’” (VH, p. 59)

The Blow of a Single Moment to Hit the Opponent” (NS, p. 45)

Striking Down an Opponent in a Single Beat” (TC, p. 24)

Striking the Opponent in a Split Second” (HO, p. 71)

Strike Your Opponent in One Count” (WSW. p. 77)

A Single Cadence for Striking your Adversary” (KT, p. 158)

11. “Ni no Koshi no Hyoshi no Koto

<two lower-back[/hip]’s (musical) time/rhythm, matter/affair of>

The `Abdomen Timing of Two’” (VH, p. 59)

The Two-Hip Timing” (NS, p. 45)

The Rhythm of the Second Spring” (TC, p. 24)

Rhythm-Timing of the Second Action” (HO, p. 71)

The Double-Action Rhythm” (WSW. p. 77)

The Passing Cadence in Two Phases” (KT, p. 159)

12. “Munen Muso no Uchi to Iu Koto

<no thought/feeling, no plan’s inside, saying/telling [of/about]>

No Design, No Conception” (VH, p. 60)

On the Blow Free from Worldly Thoughts – The Spontaneous Blow” (NS, p. 46)

Striking without Thought and without Form” (TC, p. 25)

Striking with `No-thought, No-feature’” (HS, p. 265)

Striking without Thought or Consciousness” (HO, p. 72)

The No Thought – No Concept Strike” (WSW. p. 78)

The Strike of Non-thought” (KT, p. 159)

13. “Ryusui no Uchi to Iu Koto

<flowing strike/cut, saying/telling [of/about]>

The Flowing Water Cut” (VH, p. 60)

On the Flowing Water Blow” (NS, p. 46)

The Flowing Water Stroke” (TC, p. 25)

The Striking Method Called ‘Flowing Water’” (HO, p. 72)

The Strike of Running Water” (WSW. p. 78)

The Flowing-Water Strike” (KT, p. 159)

14. “En no Atari to Iu Koto

<circle’s vital-point-strike, saying/telling [of/about]>

Continuous Cut” (VH, p. 60)

The All-Encompassing Cut” (NS, p. 47)

The Chance Hit” (TC, p. 25)

Striking with Perpetual Movements” (HO, p. 72)

The Connection Strike” (WSW. p. 79)

The Chance-Opening Blow” (KT, p. 160)

15. “Sekka no Atari to Iu Koto

<?’s vital-point-strike, saying/telling [of/about]>

The Fire and Stones Cut” (VH, p. 60)

The Spark of the Flint Blow” (NS, p. 47)

The Spark Hit” (TC, p. 25)

A Strike Called ‘Sparkling Stone’” (HO, p. 73)

The Flint-and-Spark Hit” (WSW. p. 79)

The Blow Like a Spark from a Stone” (KT, p. 160)

16. “Momiji no Uchi to Iu Koto

<maple/autumn-leaves’ strike/cut, saying/telling [of/about]>

The Red Leaves Cut” (VH, p. 61)

The Scarlet Maple Leaf Blow” (NS, p. 47)

The Crimson Foliage Hit” (TC, p. 26)

A Strike Called ‘Red Leaves’” (HO, p. 73)

The Autumn-Leaf Strike” (WSW. p. 80)

The Crimson-Leaves Strike” (KT, p. 160)

17. “Tachi ni Kawaru Mi to Iu Koto

<sword in trading places with one’s body, saying/telling [of/about]>

The Body in Place of the Long Sword” (VH, p. 61)

The Long Sword instead of the Body” (NS, p. 48)

The Body instead of the Sword” (TC, p. 26)

Independent Movement of your Body and Sword” (HO, p. 73)

The Body Taking the Place of the Sword” (WSW. p. 80)

The Body Replacing the Sword” (KT, p. 161)

18. “Utsu to Ataru to Iu Koto

<to strike/hit/beat and to strike/hit/make-contact, saying/telling [of/about]>

Cut and Slash” (VH, p. 61)

On ‘Utsu’ and ‘Ataru’” (NS, p. 48)

Striking and Hitting” (TC, p. 26)

The Intentional Strike and Accidental Contact” (HO, p. 74)

The Strike and the Hit” (WSW. p. 81)

The Strike and the Hit” (KT, p. 161)

19. “Shuko no Mi to Iu Koto

<(Chinese short-armed) monkey’s body, saying/telling [of/about]>

Chinese Monkey’s Body” (VH, p. 62)

The Body of the Short Armed Monkey” (NS, p.49; TC, p. 27)

The Body of an Autumn [with a footnote to “short-armed”] Monkey (HO, p. 74)

The Body of the Shuko” (WSW. p. 81)

The Autumn Monkey’s Body” (KT, p. 161)

20. “Shikko no Mi to Iu Koto

<?’s body, saying/telling [of/about]>

Glue and Lacquer Emulsion Body” (VH, p. 62)

The Body of Lacquer and Glue” (NS, p. 49)

The Sticky Body” (TC, p. 27)

The Method Called ‘The Body of Lacquer and Glue’” (HO, p. 75)

The Body of Lacquer and Glue” (WSW. p. 82)

The Body of Lacquer and Paste” (KT, p. 162)

21. “Takekurabe to Iu Koto

<bamboo-comparing, saying/telling [of/about]>

To Strive for Height” (VH, p. 62)

Comparing the Height of Bamboo” (NS, p. 50)

Comparing Height” (TC, p. 27)

Measuring your Height against your Opponent’s” (HO, p. 75)

Comparing Stature” (WSW. p. 82)

Comparing Heights” (KT, p. 162)

22. “Nebari [tenacity] o Kakuru to Iu Koto

<stickiness, ?, saying/telling [of/about]>

To Apply Stickiness” (VH, p. 62)

Stick-To-It-iveness” (NS, p. 50)

Gluing” (TC, p. 27)

The Method of ‘Being Sticky’” (HO, p. 75)

Applying Glue” (WSW. p. 83)

Making Your Movements Stick” (KT, p. 162)

23. “Mi no Atari to Iu Koto

<body’s vital-point-strike, saying/telling [of/about]>

The Body Strike” (VH, p. 63)

On the Body Strike” (NS, p. 51)

The Body Blow” (TC, p. 28)

Tackling your Opponent” (HO, p. 76)

The Body Blow” (WSW. p. 83)

Banging into Your Opponent” (KT, p. 163)

24. “Mitsu no Uke no Koto

<three receptions (of techniques), matter/affair of>

Three Ways to Parry his Attack” (VH, p. 63)

The Three Ways to Parry” (NS, p. 51)

Three Parries” (TC, p. 28)

The Three Techniques of Parrying you Opponent’s Sword” (HO, p. 76)

The Three Parries” (WSW. p. 84)

The Three Parries” (KT, p. 163)

25. “Omote o Sasu to Iu Kote

<face, to prick/stick/stab, saying/telling [of/about]>

To Stab at the Face” (VH, p. 63; NS, p. 52)

Stabbing the Face” (TC, p. 29)

Stabbing at the Face” (HO, p. 77)

Stabbing the Face” (WSW. p. 85)

Piercing the Face” (KT, p. 163)

26. “Kokoro o Sasu to Iu Koto

<heart, to prick/stick/stab, saying/telling [of/about]>

To Stab at the Heart” (VH, p. 64)

To Stab the Heart” (NS, p. 52)

Stabbing the Heart” (TC, p. 29)

Stabbing at the Heart” (HO, p. 77)

Stabbing the Heart” (WSW. p. 85)

Piercing the Heart” (KT, p. 164)

27. “Katsu to Iu Koto

<to scold, saying/telling [of/about]>

To Scold “Tut-TUT!”“ (VH, p. 64)

On Calls” (NS, p. 53)

The Cry” (TC, p. 29)

The Katsu-Totsu [with a footnote that these are phonetic kiai] Method” (HO, p. 77)

Katsu-Totsu” (WSW. p. 86)

Katsu-Totsu” (KT, p. 164)

28. “Hari Uke to Iu Koto

<slapping reception (of technique), saying/telling [of/about]>

The Smacking Parry” (VH, p. 64)

The Slapping Away Parry” (NS, p. 53)

The Slapping Parry” (TC, p. 30)

Slapping-Down Block” (HO, p. 78)

Slap and Parry” (WSW. p. 86)

The Parry with the Flat of the Sword” (KT, p. 165)

29. “Tateki no Kurai no Koto

<multiple-opponents’ situation, matter/affair of>

There Are Many Enemies” (VH, p. 65)

The Order of Opponents when Fighting Alone” (NS, p. 54)

A Stand Against Many Opponents” (TC, p. 30)

Facing Many Enemies” (HS, p. 265)

Fighting Multiple Opponents” (HO, p. 78)

Encountering Many Opponents” (WSW. p. 87)

Conduct against Many Adversaries” (KT, p. 165)

30. “Uchiai no Ri no Koto

<exchanging-blows, underlying-principles-of, matter/affair of>

The Advantage when Coming to Blows” (VH, p. 65)

Principles of Exchanging Blows” (NS, p. 55)

Advantage in Dueling” (TC, p. 31)

The Principle of Combat” (HO, p. 79)

The Principle of Exchanging Blows” (WSW. p. 89)

The Principle of Combat” (KT, p. 166)

31. “Hitotsu no Uchi to Iu Koto

<one strike/cut, saying/telling [of/about]>

One Cut” (VH, p. 66)

The One Strike” (NS, p. 56)

The Single Stroke” (TC, p. 31)

Single Strike” (HO, p. 79)

One Strike” (WSW. p. 89)

The Single Strike” (KT, p. 166)

32. “Jikitsu no Kurai to Iu Koto

<direct-thought(?)’s situation, saying/telling [of/about]>

Direct Communications” (VH, p. 66)

The Meaning of the Spirit of Direct Communication” (NS, p. 56)

The State of Direct Penetration” (TC, p. 31)

Direct Transmission” (HO, p. 79)

Direct Transmission” (WSW. p. 89)

Direct Communication” (KT, p. 166)

End Notes

  1. Author’s Comments: I first became acquainted with this approach in a course entitled “Principles of Translation” sponsored by the New Hampshire Humanities Council in the Spring of 1991 as part of their decade long series, “The Word of God.” Although the course was taught by a Catholic Brother, who provided us with the Ogden Nash anecdote (see the INTRODUCTION” above) on the first evening of class by the way, the approach to “Principles of Translation” was literary rather than overtly religious; the Bible, in fact, was approached as an “anthology,” which I found to be a very nice touch. My original outline and notes for this article date back to January 1994 when I had originally planned to submit this as an article to Budo Shimbun, a now-defunct e-magazine published by Frederick Lovret from sometime in 1992 until November 1997; however, it was not until January 1997, when I was in between my two semesters of Japanese language study, that I decided to use Gorin no Sho as the literary example, and to submit it to The Iaido Newsletter (TIN), which was soon after renamed the Journal of Japanese Sword Arts (JJSA) [now defunct]. In the first revision, two large sections of material were removed as being inappropriate for a print article. In the second revision, aimed at an on-line audience, I decided to restore that material, but relegate them to appendices; they appear as Appendix II” and Appendix III” at the end of this article. Also, the second revision contained the addition of a new translation of Gorin no Sho (Musashi, 2001), of which I have finalizing the review (Sosnowski, 2002). In the third revision, two more translations are added for a total of six translations.

  1. Although Musashi did practice Zazen (seated meditation), he does not interject Zen into his heiho. It does not appear in Gorin no Sho. And although there are some parts of some scrolls actually missing (nobody seems to mention this little “fact”), it does not appear in his other writings. If it was so important, one would think that it would have been included in more than one of his writings. Instead, it is Musashi’s contemporary, Yagyu Munenori, who was one of the first people to articulate the link between Zen and Kenjutsu. See Uozumi (2002).

  1. Since we are not doing translation per se, we will not formally be using the model of Dynamic Equivalence here. Suffice it to say that these results can be considered to be the results of analysis using this kind of model – for us, this model sits prominently in the background of this part of this work. Consider this while going through the comparisons.

  1. My favorite example on articles comes from Genesis 1:1 whose opening is translated as “In the beginning, ....” However, Biblical Hebrew has a definite but no indefinite article; there is no definite article used in the opening of Genesis 1:1 – it should read “In [a] beginning, ...,” which changes the meaning tremendously because it implies the possibility of more than one beginning! This “subtle” aspect caused so much consternation that a congress of rabbis was convened at the beginning of the second millennium to take up the issue of interpretation; in essence, they said that although it says “In [a] beginning, ...,” it really means “In the beginning, ...,” that is, there was only one creation. Such is the politics of religion – all this fuss due to an assumed “missing” article.

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