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Sai
11th July 2001, 16:38
Hi all,
I was wondering about the difference between "JUTSU" and "JITSU" and while looking at some post, I came to this conclusion:

Jutsu means the techniques, the art while jitsu means truth. So if I translate Ninjutsu, it would mean something like "The Art Of Perseverance" and Ninjitsu "The truth using perseverance" so the two words would have a different meaning. Going further that way, we could say that the people using the term "Ninjitsu" to describe the martial art are wrong.

Anyone can correct me?

Don Cunningham
11th July 2001, 20:25
Here we go again...

The terms "jutsu" and "jitsu" are both different spellings of the same Japanese kanji, which translates sort of like "art." Neither spelling is totally incorrect and in some perspectives, both are wrong. The only absolutely correct use of jutsu in jujutsu and ninjutsu would be the Japanese kanji. Each of these terms use two kanji characters. While the first character is different, the second is the same for both.

Before there was some standardization of the "romanji" (English spelling using Roman characters like our alphabet), the common substitution for this kanji character was "jitsu." More recently, though, there was another effort to standardize romanji used for spelling Japanese terms. This time it was "jutsu" that was selected, thereby ensuring confusion and mass chaos throughout the Western martial arts world.

There is a kanji for "truth" which I understand does employ "jitsu" for the romanji substitution, but this really doesn't apply in this situation since both ninjutsu, ninjitsu, jujitsu, and jujutsu use the same exact kanji for the second character.

This is one of the difficulties in learning Japanese. It's one thing to learn how to pronounce the different terms, but many Japanese kanji with radically different meanings have identical pronounciations. Furthermore, the same kanji with one meaning can be pronounced differently depending upon the combination of characters used together as well as the context of the word. It really makes it confusing until you start learning to read kanji, then a sort of order becomes apparent.

Just when you think you're starting to get somewhere, though, the Japanese use three different written languages. Kanji uses pictographs, most taken from Chinese. These each represent a single concept. More complex concepts are represented by combining the simple ones. The other two written languages are phonetic where each character represents a sound. Words are formed by combining sounds nearly the same as our alphabet.

If you know 300 or 400 kanji, though, you should be able to understand simple store signs, markers on doors, maybe even a few headlines in the newspaper. I think there are about 10,000 standard kanji. An elementary aged child can read something like 3,000 or 4,000 before going into junior high school.

As you can see, Japanese is a very deep and complex language. I was first amazed when I found that many native Japanese don't always comprehend it. I was with a Japanese friend on a sightseeing trip. I asked him what the signs meant at a shrine complex we were visiting. After a few moments of carefully studying the signs, he embarrassingly informed me that he didn't have a clue.

This question comes up all the time on this forum. It seems that many try to interpret Japanese language based on their familiar English language rules. It is just not that simple, though. There are many complex cultural and syntax differences. It takes a long time to begin to understand this. Maybe that's why you find so many misusing titles like "soke" and "shihan" or even "sensei" who haven't taken the effort to comprehend the differences.

Don Cunningham
11th July 2001, 20:51
After re-reading your post, I thought you might also be interested in the kanji for "nin." It is really a combination of two kanji in itself, or maybe one kanji and a radical, I'm not sure.

In any case, the bottom part of the "nin" kanji consists of another kanji, "shin," which is usually translated as "spirit." This "shin" kanji is a pictograph of a human heart. The top portion of the "nin" kanji is a pictograph of a hand holding a knife. Thus, a hand holding a knife over the heart is generally translated as meaning "patience" or "perseverance."

I just thought it was interesting information and sort of related to the topic.

dakotajudo
11th July 2001, 21:45
Originally posted by Don Cunningham


As you can see, Japanese is a very deep and complex language. I was first amazed when I found that many native Japanese don't always comprehend it. I was with a Japanese friend on a sightseeing trip. I asked him what the signs meant at a shrine complex we were visiting. After a few moments of carefully studying the signs, he embarrassingly informed me that he didn't have a clue.


Not so surprising, if you think of how many native English speakers can't understand large portions of the English language.

But I do agree with the danger of reading too much into the romanization of non-Western languages. They seem to be only partially phonetic; some of the Chinese romanization make no sense to me (Tao vs T'ao).

Peter

Jeff Hamacher
12th July 2001, 00:06
Don, i think your explanation above is a pretty good thumbnail sketch of the "jutsu vs. jitsu" question, as well as a nice overview of kanji as used in japanese. transliteration is always a tricky business; and just think of the poor chinese who have to use kanji to represent the phonetic content of foreign loan words!

a couple of fine points: as far as modern japanese is concerned, there are approximately 6,000 ideograms in use, of which 1,945 are designated as "Common Use Kanji", i.e. those characters which appear in print media, public documents, etc. by the end of elementary school a japanese child is expected to know approximately 1,000 kanji, and by the end of junior high is expected to know all 1,945. a number of ideograms are not on the "Jouyou" list but still appear quite commonly. the remainder are characters used in various specialist fields, or characters which may have commonly appeared in publications of yesteryear but these days are often rendered in the phonetic characters that Don mentions above. if i remember correctly, the stats you gave, Don, are closer to the numbers of characters that chinese children learn at school. i have heard that as many as 40,000 kanji exist, but whether or not they are used is another matter.

the character for "jutsu" contains the meanings of "way, means" or "skill, technique". Jake Tarbox pretty much spelled it out in one of his posts. the character for "nin" is a combination of "ha", which is "blade", and "kokoro", which is the infamous "heart/mind/spirit" character that crops up everywhere. according to one of my dictionaries, the etymology goes something like: "'ha' represents the edge of a strong, well-forged blade; combined with 'kokoro', the character expresses the idea of a persevering, unbreakable spirit" [my translation].

certainly the most complex aspect of learning japanese has got to be the written language, but i might argue that every language has it's own tough spots. now that i've been working at it for a few years, i actually find learning kanji to be less demanding than memorizing French verb conjugations, for example, and over the course of my 32-year life i've studied French for nearly 20 years. i think that sometimes we lose sight of the fact that many people around the world cannot use their mother tongue as well as we, the foreign learners of those same languages, expect them to. and there are plenty of times when i try to read or write english and catch myself wondering, "how do you spell it again?", or "just what the hell does this word mean?!" you know you've been in japan too long when ...

later, jeff hamacher

Don Cunningham
12th July 2001, 03:52
Jeff,

I will yield to your estimates of the kanji characters studied in school. I was basing my numbers on something a Japanese engineer told me, so I am sure there is some exaggeration, along the same lines as how far uphill through the snow we had to trudge both to and from school.

As someone who might know a couple of hundred kanji on a good day, I am certainly no expert.

Jeff Hamacher
16th July 2001, 03:05
Originally posted by Don Cunningham
I will yield to your estimates of the kanji characters studied in school.
i didn't mean to come on too strong; sorry if it seemed that way.:)

I was basing my numbers on something a Japanese engineer told me, so I am sure there is some exaggeration, along the same lines as how far uphill through the snow we had to trudge both to and from school.
i think i recognize that game.;) and you have a good point here: the numbers i mentioned are only Ministry of Education benchmarks for the japanese language curriculum. many students probably learn greater numbers of kanji over the course of their public school education. on the other hand, i've overheard high school students admitting to friends that they can't read certain characters which i know for a fact are included in the elementary school list. so much for japanese literacy stats.

later, jeff hamacher