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••• The International Writers Magazine:Judo in China

China Doesn’t Use Japanese Judo Terminology
• By Antonio Graceffo, PhD, China MBA
Parallel to my dissertation research on Chinese traditional wrestling, I completed a bit of research on Japanese judo because of the similarities between the two arts.

Antonio G

I began practicing judo at Shanghai University of Sport, but decided to take my belt grading exams in the US, so that I was certain the belts would be registered and recognized internationally. Although I knew how to execute my throws, I nearly failed the US exam because applicants are tested on their knowledge of the Japanese terminology of the techniques. And of course, I didn’t know these terms because in China, we only use Chinese language during training.

When I returned to China, I met with my judo teacher and explained to him that I needed to learn the Japanese names, as well as the Chinese names for the throws. My teacher, had been training judo full time since he was a child, and living in a full time training facility since age 12. Basically, for more than half his life his only purpose has been to eat, sleep, and train judo twice a day. He had competed nationally and internationally, winning both gold and silver medals. Additionally, he was a judo major at the sports university and would be awarded his degree in two years’ time. And yet, he didn’t know the Japanese names for the throws.

I posted about this dilemma on Facebook, when a guy from Staten Island named Thomas Doyle told me that I was wrong, and that my Chinese judo teacher knew and used the Japanese judo terminology. He went on to say that my teacher, who is one of my best friends and MMA training partners, was having me on because I was a “round eye.” I countered with logic such as, the fact that the Chinese hate the Japanese and would never disdain to use their language. I also pointed out that a percentage of the Chinese wrestling community believes (mistakenly) and tries to prove, that judo evolved out of Chinese wrestling. I sent him a few articles and papers from Chinese academic archives, demonstrating both of these points. He rejected my evidence, and instead of coming up with better research, he asked people on his Facebook page if Japanese vocabulary was used in judo training in China. They all agreed that it was, and their proof was that it was used in other countries, such as The US, Spain and Greece. When I popped onto his page and asked, it turned out that none of them spoke Chinese or had trained judo in China. So, I immediately called his data invalid. It also turned out that none of the people on his page had written a PhD level dissertation which involved judo in China. The argument-story, of course, ended with Thomas Doyle insulting, and then blocking me.  

Unimpeded by naysayers, my research continued. A few days later, a Chinese judo textbook I had ordered finally arrived. After reading it, I came up with yet another reason why Chinese can’t use Japanese Judo terminology. In Japan, Japanese judo terminology is written with Chinese characters, but pronounced in Japanese. In the US if you came to a Chinese character in an English text about Japanese Judo, most readers would neither know nor care if the character were Chinese. They would simply ignore the character and read the phonetic in brackets after the name of the technique. For example, in an English language judo textbook if you saw the Chinese characters you would be directed to the Japanese pronunciation of “judo” rather than the Chinese pronunciation of “Róudào”. As a result, Japanese judo techniques in US, and around the world, use the same phonetic pronunciations of Japanese words. But in China, when I am reading a judo text, when I come to the name of a throw, it is written in Chinese characters, the same as the rest of the book. And there is no signal that this one character, and only this one, should be pronounced in Japanese, rather than Chinese. Additionally, even if there were some signal, Chinese readers wouldn’t know how to pronounce a given character in Japanese.

I think this concept may turn into an actual paper or at least an article that I will do on the use of Chinese characters and words in karate, taekwondo and judo. It has been interesting watching the development of MMA in Asia, and seeing how the various languages dealt with or invented new terminology for MMA and jujitsu techniques.

For some, research ends with name calling and blocking. For me, research just leads to other research.

About the Author

Dr. Antonio Graceffo is a lecturer at Shanghai University. He holds a PhD from Shanghai University of Sport, where he wrote his dissertation, in Chinese. He received his China MBA, from Shanghai Jiaotong University, and is currently pursuing a second PhD in economics, while writing a series of economic research papers about the Chinese economy.


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