Symbols

Originally posted by Pertti Ruha

My good friend Ingvar Hulterström and I have for many years discussed the learning, training, techniques, etc.. Ingvar is a psychologist and has been around since the early 80s and has many interesting ideas and opinions about what is the essence of martial arts in general and the Bujinkan in particular. He penned an article on nearly 20 A4 pages I thought pyttsa out portions.
[My own thoughts and comments I have marked so here // Pertti].

I suspect that there are historical reasons for this situation occurred, and what follows now is not exactly scientifically substantiated, but my own speculation. Even so, I think it is useful speculation.

If we start with the great martial arts today as an Example (Judo, Karate, etc.). After all, they were created around the early 1900s (1884 Judo and Karate in 1905 if I remember right [to compare with baseball that was introduced in Japan in the 1870s]). When you created these technical systems, it was a huge break with the martial arts they brought their techniques from. I want to say that there really are few who truly understand how extreme the difference really is. When you went from martial art to martial arts, this meant a shift from quality to quantity. It must be recalled that a very basic scientific principle: if something is measurable by its quantity, that quality is not measurable. That is why in science distinguishes between quantitative and qualitative methods [ acc Robert Pirsigs definition ]. For the battle is the quality that is interesting with death as its ultimate limit, which means that it has very high quality to not go into a battle that may be too difficult. In an MMA fight, you lose on a walkover if you act that way.

One should also remember that it was precisely the industrial logic that during the 1800s had swept over Japan with great force, and that involved a lot of big changes in the Japanese society. The transformation of the traditional martial art(s) to martial arts was, in my opinion, the result of the industrial logic foray into the Japanese culture. And it was these sports during the early 1900s that were introduced to the Western world. One might naturally ask whether it had even been possible for the former martial arts that have such an impact in the West? I do not believe it woulf have because the West since the end of the 1600s itself had undergone a major shift towards the industrial logic, and they had a very basic plan that would not does not fit. The deterministic martial arts fit, however, like a glove.

Most of those who began training in the Bujinkan in the 80s came from any of the major martial arts. But because Bujinkan’s Kihon, as I pointed out, is so totally distinct from the those sports, I think it took away the pedagogical models learned from these martial arts. This is probably due in part to Bujinkan’s educational model from the beginning felt so totally incomprehensible that one had to fall back on a deterministic [McDojo] model, but I also think that it was so from the beginning felt so totally alien to interpret the that it really was the martial arts because they were doing it even if it’s not really being seen yet.
An example of this is of course every time someone has been in Japan and suddenly had Kihon Happo changed. We expected a collection of concrete basic techniques that worked as the manager of a deterministic organization, from which all other techniques, with linear causality, then would flow. What we got, we could not understand, for what we got instead was something that worked as the word “Play” from the above example, we got a lot of practical techniques that circled around and pointed to the symbolic system as Kihon Happo really is.

Those who began training in the 80’s, if they are still there, today slashed deleted instructors. Because, I think, very few really understand Bujinkans educational foundation, is the basic premise of that also learn to move from the concrete to the symbolic non-existent, and they had left the martial arts [McDojo] pedagogy.

Of course it is the case that many of these instructors have themselves understood Kihon, but since you are still using a deterministic pedagogy means that this is not transferred to the students, it is thus no growth [!!!].

The above argument really requires that I try to say something about the educational foundation to make the transition from concrete to symbolic thinking. Because if it is, as I believe, that Bujinkan’s Kihon really is a complex symbolic system, it is precisely this shift from the concrete to the symbolic, we must investigate. But first I’ll have to start by talking a little about symbolic thinking, and why it is so fundamental to creativity and improvisation I mean is a completely necessary part of Bujinkan’s Kihon.

Man’s most fundamental, par excellence, of the symbolic thought is language. Without language, there is no symbolic thinking. Period! But to understand what it is in language that makes this possible, I have to take a little trip to a field of research called semiotics. Usually when we think of linguistics, we intend to linguistics, but where linguistics concerned with human language is the study of a major in semiotics, and dealing with all kinds of sign systems. Semiotics thus contains linguistics. As far as systems of signs, whether it is about human communication, or how our genetics interpret and expresses itself in relation to environmental factors, speaks in semiotics on three levels of signs: icon, index and symbol. The following table summarizes some important properties of these three levels.

Icon, Index, and Symbol

One can then see that there is a clear dividing line between the icon / index on the one hand and the symbol which in many ways has properties that are often not intuitively understandable. It is probably the case that many, when asked how they think the language works, would be based on the icon’s or index’s functioning, probably due to their way of functioning being most similar to what you would mean by communication; to any kind of behavior in a system is transferred to another system and there may be an effect (“go and brush your teeth” and then the child goes to brush their teeth). Or, maybe this is how we wish the language worked.

The composite phenomenon we call language consists, in man, of all three levels. The statement, “empty barrels rattle most” is said together with a little tired facial expression contains all the three levels, but it is very useful to analyze the statement in its various constituents. It is very possible that a patient with mental retardation understands what is said on the icon / index level, but do not perceive the symbolic content of the metaphor of “empty barrels rattle most” but his mind’s eye sees an empty barrel that rattle and therefore laughs. This makes it possible to understand that what previously seemed to be seen, that people with autism have had trouble for all communication is not really true. What they often have difficulty with is the symbolic or metaphoric level, not all communication.

What we see from the table above is that both icons and indices pointing to something in the real world and that this will not change; the importance of a “warning for moose-sign” is not dependent on context. The symbol, however, is entirely dependent on context, which means that it does not mean anything without it connected to other symbols in a sequence. Examples include the word “Play” from the example earlier.

What we see is that the word “Play”, a given meaning only when it is placed in a context so it goes to say that word as a symbol has no meaning when it stands alone. I suggest just the word’s symbolic meaning has to do with that one word can be interpreted in all three levels simultaneously; iconically as a wordmark, as an index (which then means that it has only one – obvious – meaning) and as a symbol.

At the same time, one can say that the symbol, before the significance chosen, contains many potential meanings, and this requires some form of election, we must partially choose which meaning is most appropriate at a given moment. To some extent we help in this choice situation of the structure that arises from the grammar of the sentence we create, read or hear, but only in part, we must choose a sentence many times. Some types of humor occurs when the paradox arises that a word has several sentences at once. This can be seen in the joke: “What is a tracked vehicle? Well, it is a vehicle with cassette. “Because of how these two sentences are constructed gives the word “cassette” rise to two meanings, but two meanings that can not coexist.

[Ex: Omote gyaku (表逆) is a symbol of an operational target and not a technique to be performed ritualisticly. The character表 we can express as “omote”, but also, depending on context, can be pronounced as “arawasu”, “uwagi” or “hyo”. According to a dictionary, we can translate it as “show, express, manifest, display surface; table; chart; charts”. A homonym for omote is the character 面 which translates to face and surface (Hatsumi Sensei uses both of these characters).

The sign of “gyaku” (逆) translates as “inverted; Reverse; Opposite; Wicked, disobey, rebel; rebel, traitor.” In addition, the same dictionary of synonyms for this sign is 倒 (because they both can also pronounce as “Saka”), which we use, for example, in the term for throwing technique “taoshi” i.e. precipitates.

Omote gyaku is thus a symbol of an operational target, which may vary depending on the situation. Many translate this to “Outward wrist break” but it is not entirely correct.]

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