I can certainly respect your perspective and applaud much of your ideology (especially the point about clarity of application and utilitarianism versus blind ritual and idealism). Yes, empty traditionalism is as entrapping and possibly even worst than utter ignorance... but I also feel very deeply, that without these seemingly archaic or antiquated terms and traditions, which to my mind equate to their very Chinese-ness (for lack of a better terminology), will continue to add to the exquisitely rich tapestry which is woven into gong fu, taijiquan, xingyi, bagua zhang and many other Chinese martial systems. Personally, I do not wish to call my Sifu, "teacher", since for me, it is not simply a case of teacher and student... it is the direct line to Yang Luchan and countless masters before him, who raised this art and science to the masterpiece it is today.Michael wrote:I'm not sure that I would agree that it is cultural sterilization, but to the extent that this tendency toward genericism exists, I wholly endorse it. I think that it's important to strip away the flash and style from each component in order to better understand its real value. While "straight-sword" and "broadsword" are poor translations, I think that an excellent translation for jian is "sword." It helps remind us of the following:
a) There is nothing extraordinary about Chinese swords when viewed in a worldwide context.
b) While jian commonly take on certain shapes and sizes, few of these are intrinsic to the idea of a sword, or even a Chinese sword. In other words, many of the characteristics of jian are incidental.
Which leads us to the corollary,
c) Some aspects of Chinese swordsmanship are dependent on the typical characteristics of Chinese swords, and others are not. This differentiation is critically important.
It has nothing to do with ease of pronunciation, and everything to do with clarity of ideas.
From my windowsill, the view of 5,000 years of martial methodology and combative bio-mechanics are encoded in the cultural context, from which they were birthed. Sure, many elements of swordsmanship are universal and can be seen paralleled in multiple cultures. After all, a sword is a sword. but why shave away the "orientalism" of the CSA? Frankly, I am tempted to equate this kind of translation/sterilization as paramount to linguistic agnosticism. Not my cup of tea. I am a confirmed Taoist. Why? Not for "exoticism' or any other romantic notion. I have found my own nature within the empty posture of the flowing, ever-changing Tao. Because I so respect the wisdom of my Chinese forefathers and will not sit quiet when I am called to voice my mind, I challenge such audacity. MUJIAN and MUDAO are fine sounds to the ear and I am 100% behind the proliferation of these charming terms, in the dawning of the 21st century. Perhaps we agree on principle and not in color or texture? True enough, I would infer, on many levels.
We stand in the winds of modernization and digital mechanization. Shall the post-digital, proto holographic utilitarianism need to so sterilize every indigenous flair, tempo and annunciation of the native Chinese language, that we end up with what is equivalent to the simplified public taijiquan of the contemporary wushu scene? Please save us this degradation, for I have walked both roads, with an open mind and seen the light. for, are we not the TRADITIONAL Chinese Sword League? By traditional, I would assume that we cling to as much Chinese authenticity and realism as we can. There are enough white-washed martial systems out there, already. Neutered of their cultural roots and linguistic orientation. I believe Aidan is upholding this noble idea and I thank him for his contribution, however small or, upon a superficial conceptual glance, minor it may seem. I join with this archaic spirit and prefer to keep my study of these time-honored arts as CHINESE as I am able to, in the sphere of my own daily practice.
...And the jian is not just another sword, albeit the very essence of the sword. The jian encapsulates 5000 years of Chinese history, in it's sleek and sublime design. No longer a work-in-progress, the jian is a living symbol of our most advanced and longest lived Earth culture. Besides, such extreme beauty is a wonder to behold and more so to study. IMO, jianfa is perhaps the most advanced and perfect of all indigenous systems of swordsmanship and I have had some fair experience with most of them (and admire them each, for their unique qualities). Regardless of cultural origins or lineage, jianfa is the most versatile and effective methodology I have embraced and I don't want to call it by another name, thank you very much. Now, whether we refer to this as: "swordsmanship, jianfa or jianshu", it is one of the rarest gems our species has ever produced and far be it for any of us in, the East or the West, to strip away it's ancient roots and bark. To say the very least, about all the leaves (the spoken and written words)!!! It may sound like exoticism, romanticism or even purism... but it is actually, a deep love of Chinese culture and all that it can enrich our lives with.
Again, reality is subjective and we create what mythologies we choose. I am standing in a stance of respect for your viewpoint, yet... I fervently support my mate Aidan's inspiration. I am most curious to hear the opinion of my Sifu, Scott M. Rodell and my friend and fellow artisan, Graham Cave (not to mention Philip Tom or Peter Dekker).
Originally, this thread was a thought-provoking suggestion for a proper name for the choice weapon of both, the GRTC and the TCSL. While we have traversed the myriad of philosophical vantage-points, each on their own plateau and parameters, of what is most appropriate in the early 21st century (especially in the Western cultural context). I propose a balance of strict tradition and objective science. Nothing new to most of us, right? Still, there cries out a need, within the heart of each warrior/scholar, to hold certain ideals above all others. I personally thank and honor Laoshi Wang Yen-nien, first for holding fast to such an antiquated lineage as Yangjia Michuan taijiquan, in the onslaught of modernization. Second, for giving my teacher the understanding to impart some of this grand practice to me.
I do not need to neutralize cultural terminology, rather, I need to neutralize my own misunderstanding of my chosen art. Then and only then, would I be able to neutralize any adversity I am challenged to face. Is this not the way? Unless you expect me to abandon words like, Tao, Qi or Li... I suspect we will never see eye to eye. As you said, they do not have direct translations into other linguistic systems, so it is acceptable. I would choose to extend this Chinese-ness towards our wooden swords and other primary sword gear. I can't draw such A DEFINED a line in the sand, so to speak, about which should BE and should not be, spoken in Mandarin. Which, is not really a problem since, like they say, "To each their own". In my book, every individual has the unique chance to create their own universe or at least their own window in which to perceive a view into that universe. I appreciate other's unique universes... but I most honor and respect most, those ideals which directly have influenced my best moments, as a human being. In this light, I firmly proclaim my devotion to genuine Chinese terminology and revel in the beauty and character that these cultural relics, Chinese words, bestow upon our daily practice.
I guess all I can say is... I basically agree with the wisdom of your conception, however void of cultural anthropomorphizing. Your intellectual integrity and piercing objectivity, are honest and practical but I find it rather grey. Not grey like platinum or the early evening light of dusk... grey as in clinical and utilitarian. I am into rainbows (and the dynamics of international linguistics). Since what is obvious to most of us, is that it was, in fact, the allure of the orient and the unknown, which first drew us into this material practice. Was it not the abhorrence for the tedium of the occidental lifestyle, generated by disappointments in one's own culture (often times, most mundane and overly-rational), which prompted reaching beyond the familiar into the unknown? Your clear and direct quantification of demystification, is what drives us to reach beyond the superficial exotic package and find a jewel hidden in the emptiness of blind ritual. In this way we are totally in sync. Yet...This is exactly what I was talking about when I wrote about exoticism above. In other words, I believe that the "traditional taste" is based on an exoticization of traditional Chinese culture. And I don't blame you for feeling that way. I think it's what got a lot of us started to begin with and helps motivate us along the way. But I don't think it's healthy in the long run.
Must we be uni-cultural to learn traditional Chinese martial arts? I think not. Far be it for any of us, to strip the native tongue from the very culture which birthed it. I'm offended at the suggestion and will not bow to such bastardization. I mean no serious offense but I am in favor of Aidan's idea. Plain and simple, I love the culture of historical China. I am intoxicated by the language, calligraphy and various arts and musical traditions. What a profound cultural achievement! Perhaps more than any I have studied or encountered. Under this banner and in honor of this bright star, I enthusiastically second Aidan's idea of naming these wonderful wooden swords, "Mujian". Sweet and simple, descriptive and exotic. Also, my dear friend Graham has poured his heart and soul into his craft and the glaring need for an authentic Chinese name for these beauties, is far too understated, IMO. Kudos Graham!!!
I would personally, like to HEAR Chinese names for our helmets (our current ones, as well as the ones being envisioned within the GRTC & TCSL community) and our gambesons (which I would want tailored with historical Qing Dynastic styling, like the ones Seven Stars sells). A basic set of terms for these vital elements of jianfa and daofa would be awesome. Yes, even our very swordsmanship equipment, like we have for the FUNDAMENTAL AND SPECIFIC aspects of our vast repertoire of martial techniques, methods and body-mechanics. Genericizing these aspects of our lineage, is most distasteful to many of the long-time students of this game and after all... no harm is done by adhering to Ming and Qing Dynasty standards, traditional values and proper Chinese terminology. On the contrary, much good comes of it, as long as it doesn't become an obsessive-compulsive dogma, therefore a tangle of complex terminologies, requiring years to absorb and comprehend (as with Japanese martial arts, especially JSA). A little goes a long way, eh? Simplicity, traditional respect and more simplicity? Sounds good to me, as does mujian and mudao.
Bring on the mu-yanmaodaos!!! I can hardly wait.
Call it what you will... "A rose by any other name... "
Be well and practice often, Jon Palombi