I have a new found respect for Michelin star chefs sweating in kitchens the world over. It is not their knife skills nor their ability to make the perfect chocolate fondant…no, it is their ability to do all of this whilst speaking a second language – the international chef’s language of haute cuisine: French.
It had never occurred to me why this was done. That is more than naive given that I speak Spanish, German, English AND Geordie. You see – cooking terms are one of the hardest things to learn in a foreign language because they are full of commands – chop this, peel that, blanch those, etc. To make it worse, commands are usually irregular and hard to remember. If all top notch chefs understand French terms and commands then they can work anywhere in the world, regardless. That, in a very roun-a-bout way is the same in Karate.
All commands are in Japanese. Counting is in Japanese. All movement is spoken in Japanese. This is for me the most unexpected but delightfully surprising benefits of studying karate. You mainly learn through repetition but mostly through association with movement. When I started to learn Spanish we were taught words with actions. I have never forgotten those words some 22 years after the fact. Combine movement, words and emotion (for me this is usually pain!), bingo – the word is indelibly etched in your subconscious.
Of course, being my usual over-enthusiastic self I have taken my learning home. I am trying to master counting from 1-10. I do this in the Dojo by counting reps but at home I am counting the stairs (up and down), the cutlery when I lay the table, the gears in the car…everywhere.
It is starting to annoy my wife, understandably. Especially when I wonder around the house mimicking the enthusiasm of Sensei by counting from 1 to 10, shouting the last two numbers at the top of my voice “koo, JOO!!!!” (9, 10)
I have just been told off for the 5th time and Abi is threatening to ‘one inch punch me’. Now I am feeling guilty for being annoying but at least the numbers 9 and 10 are now indelibly etched in my subconscious (and my wife’s, i am reliably informed). Ha haa! Just 8 more numbers to go…I had better carry on being annoying.