Title: A Dictionary of the Martial Arts
Publisher's site: No site
Amazon link: A Dictionary of the Martial Arts
Price £9.99
ISBN #: 0 485 11 380 5
Date: 1991
Author/s Louis Frederic


Photograph of plain black book cover

A Dictionary of the Martial Arts

If I was going to going to commission a dictionary of a language that’s full of technical words, many of which are open to multiple interpretations, at the very least, I would ensure that the translator was either a native speaker of that language, or the language it was being translated into.

In this case, the dictionary is translated from Japanese into French by Louis Frederic, then from French to English by Paul Crompton. This immediately increases the likelihood of errors, and there were lots of translations that I thought were somewhat dubious.

However, it would be fairer to describe this an encyclopaedia of martial arts rather than a dictionary. It has extensive drawings, and at times it goes far deeper into some subjects than a mere word definition requires. For instance, under karate, it goes so far as to list the full competition rules.

Having said that, therein lies a major problem – whose competition rules? What style of karate? What governing body? At what level of competition? The author makes many generalisations of this nature.

Another problem, is the fact that you need to know the correct Romanji spelling of most words. Some with obvious multiple spellings (zuki, and tsuki) are represented in both forms (although there’s no tzuki). Furthermore, you have to at least know the basic sound of a word to find it, so if you wanted to look up a reverse round kick, if you didn’t know the Japanese, you’d have no chance of finding it.

The dictionary is very extensive in its scope, covering arts as diverse as aikido, kendo, archery, karate, judo, and more. It also covers Korean, Chinese and Indonesian styles.

As a book to simply open and browse, this has far more value than as a definitive linguistic reference source. If you wanted to know the general parts of a sword, or how to hold a bow, or some of the rules of judo, this is ideal. If you wanted to know the name and origins of a kata, it comes up lacking.

Furthermore, it doesn’t even attempt to offer a pronunciation guide, which is one of the prime functions of a dictionary.

The book is currently out of print, but you can still buy it from Amazon. It’s interesting, but far from definitive or reliable.

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