BJJ-J: Learning Japanese Through BJJ — 胸を借りる

柔術

Learning Japanese Through BJJ

胸を借りる

While preparing for a competition, one of my coworkers said the above phrase to me in Japanese (むねをかりる, mune o kariru).  The literal translation is “to borrow one’s chest” – which had me confused to say the least.

The phrase apparently originates from sumo and is said to a superior for having “the honor of training with them.” Further research revealed that it’s only said by a person of lower ranking to one of higher ranking, (後輩) kouhai to (先輩) sempai, and never the other way around.  It’s also used in baseball (野球, yakyuu) and other sports.

To me, I think this phrase is quite appropriate in BJJ.  After all, every BJJ practitioner knows that you can’t learn BJJ by yourself.  We must always “borrow someone’s chest” in order to train.

Let’s look closer at the words in this phrase.  Usually  (むね, mune) is translated as “chest,” a physical source of power and pressure. But 胸 can also refer to one’s “heart” and “feelings.”

In this way, 胸 refers to both the physical and spiritual aspects of a person — those things that makes a person a person and not some piece of driftwood or any old inflatable training dummy.  Your partner, whether they be kouhai or sempai, are physical beings and emotional beings, capable of great strength but also with the capability of becoming injured; full of passion and feelings just like you.

The most important part of this phrase, however, is the verb 借りる. It is usually translated as “to borrow,” which is a very different way of looking at sparring.

Despite what we may say to others, there’s always a part of us that is comparing ourselves to our partners. Often times, we fall into the trap of using our partners for our own ends, as goal posts for our own journey.

This phrase suggests a drastic alternative from this way of thinking. Instead of trying to pit your will, or your “chest” against your partner, this phrase instead recommends borrowing – using that other person’s “chest” with the intention of returning it.

Think of your gym as a library and each person you roll with a book in that library.  In a good library, books are taken care of when they are checked out for a roll and rotate around to as many people as possible.

Because what’s unique about this BJJ library is that each book changes every time they are checked out and read, or rolled with. Ever reread a favorite book from childhood and discovered even more things to love about it since growing up?  That’s the same thing that happens with each book, each person, as they learn more about BJJ.

This brings us back to how you learn BJJ.  We’re on the mats to beat our chests to try and scare off our partners, nor are we trying to beat and crush our partners’ chests as we train. We are borrowing from each other, learning from each other, expanding the library that is BJJ.

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BJJ-J: Learning Japanese Through BJJ — Basics

柔術

Learning Japanese Through BJJ

One of the more interesting reasons why I like training at MY Team Okinawa is that the classes are taught in both English and Japanese due to the unique diversity of the gym.  It’s a great situation for both beginners and advanced language learners.  Beginners of both Japanese and English are able to learn and use simple phrases in real context because the same words are used all the time (ex. grab the sleeve, push the leg, etc.) and advanced learners are able to converse with native speakers in a low-key, completely no pressure environment.

So let’s start with the basics! Covered in this post are body parts, parts of the gi, and basic directional words and verbs.

*This is not intended to be an exhaustive list but rather an introduction to the most commonly used Japanese words in BJJ. If you would like to see something added to this list (or notice a mistake!), please feel free to write it in the comments.

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Womens BJJ competition

Why should women learn BJJ?

Photo Credit: SLImagesCa via Compfight cc

Why not?

There are a ton of sites that list various reasons why women should learn BJJ. I’ve listed some of my favorites at the bottom of this post because they’re a great reference for any woman interested in starting BJJ classes.

There are also another ton of posts that list why women actually learn BJJ. Subtly different but equally important, these unique stories of women who have become loyal supporters and high-level practitioners serve as motivation and encouragement for other women in BJJ.

But as great as these posts are, it’s always bothered me that they are always titled with some variation of the question, “Why should women learn BJJ?”

It seems like a valid question but what it’s always sounded like to me is a response to an unspoken, and thus supposedly understood, stance that women shouldn’t learn BJJ.

And that, my friends, is BS.

It shouldn’t matter why anyone decides to learn BJJ. That reason is your own and no one has the right to question it. What matters most is how you learn BJJ.

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