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Archive for October, 2013|Monthly archive page

Of Course Translation is Difficult

In Uncategorized on October 30, 2013 at 11:51 pm

It’s in another language

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By Antonio Graceffo

The material for our modern coaching class is in English. The teacher assigned about twenty pages of reading for homework, but when class started, he wanted to translate, NOT discuss, translate the pages. So in a three hour class, we got through about a page and a half of text. Chinese are just too tied to the original words and do the worst translations ever. Why can’t they accept that a translation is about meaning, not words?

Not relying on a single translation, the teacher asked each student to come to the front and explain some of the English text we had read for homework. There was so much specialized and colloquial language in texts that I just didn’t see how my Chinese classmates could understand it. The Chinese students at the sports university aren’t really the sharpest tools in the shed. If they were smarter, they would be at a big name university, studying an academic subject. The homework had been to read about twenty pages. So, I had jotted down some notes, a very short summary of each page. When I got to the front, I did what I normally do when I’m teaching. I put my notes at the podium and I walked around, talking to the audience, teaching. Just after I started talking, the teacher said, “only do the first two pages.” I looked and my notes for those two pages were only about three sentences. So, I went through, reading each paragraph and explaining it in Chinese. Obviously, I have problems translating into Chinese. Sometimes I had trouble explaining because I was missing the specific vocabulary, but I explained my way around it.

After a bit, the teacher told me to sit down. I thought I had done OK. It was far from perfect, but honestly, none of the other foreign students could have done that well. And I was funnier than the Chinese students. I had the whole class laughing. Later, the teacher caught me in the hall and in very tortured, slow, school English he said, “You—-have—-difficulty—translating into Chinese.” I was blown away. What a retarded thing to say. Obviously I have difficulty translating into Chinese, it’s a foreign language. Translators generally only translate into their mother tongue. Also, it’s the first month of a three-year program. It should be clear that I’m not perfect yet. Going into this program, you go from HSK 4 level reading straight into PHD level classes with very specialized sports and health vocabulary, words like: athletic peak, recovery, explosive power…

I looked at the teacher, and in English, I just said, “Of course.”

He jstared at me. I wasn’t sure if he didn’t know the word “of course” but his expression definitely conveyed that he didn’t feel I had answered his question. So, I repeated, “Of course.” And I walked away.

Thinking back on the incident, and similar snafus I have had at this university and during my 12 years in Asia, this is what I came up with:

  1. They seem incapable of evaluating our Chinese level. While my translation and presentation in the front of the room wasn’t perfect, it should be obvious that I had to be at a relatively high level to be able to do even that well. So, the sentence “you have difficulty translating into Chinese,” could have been delivered in Chinese.
  2. They are incapable of evaluating their own linguistic level: One reason I gave him the simple response “Of course”, was because it was obvious he would not have understood a thorough explanation in English.
  3. Because Chinese people would never admit their own failings, they seem to not get it when I say, “I can’t do it” or “Yeah, of course I can’t translate high level English into Chinese.” But it’s like this with everything, even sports training. On the wrestling team they told me to do a cartwheel, then a hand stand, then a forward roll, then a forward roll into a split. “I can’t do that last one.” I said. “No, I mean forward roll into a split.” The trainer explained. “Yes, I understand what you want, but I can’t do it.” He demonstrated. “Like that.” And waited for me to copy him. “I can’t do it.” I repeated. It went on and on with him simply restating and re-explaining. “I mean do a forward roll, but when you land, land in a split.” They don’t seem to be able to accept it when I say that I can’t do something. By the same token, maybe they don’t know when they can’t do something, like using that English text book in coaching science class. How the hell do they believe they are getting anything out of it?

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at amazon.com. The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army. The book is available at http://www.blackbeltmag.com/warrior_odyssey

See Antonio’s Destinations video series and find out about his column on  http://www.blackbeltmag.com

website

www.speakingadventure.com

Twitter

http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk

facebook

Brooklyn Monk fan page

Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

 

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

 

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Wrestling Linguistics: They hear what they want to hear

In Uncategorized on October 24, 2013 at 1:29 am

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By Antonio Graceffo

On my first night of wrestling training, after the warm up and exercises, the coach ordered everyone to go put on their wrestling jackets. While I was putting mine on, the coach said, “An Dong Ni is a foreigner and doesn’t have a wrestling jacket.” I was standing right in front of him, putting it on. Like the Emperor’s New Clothes, no one pointed this fact out to him, till finally one brave girl spoke up. “Look he’s wearing a wrestling jacket.” So the teacher asked me, “Where did you get that jacket?” It has the name of my master and my wrestling club in Beijing written on it. I was going to point that out, but instead, I said, “Beijing.” Sp he repeated, slowly, like he was talking to Hellen Keller “Where d-i-d y-o-u g-e-t t-h-e j-a-c-k-et?” To which I replied, “B-e-i-j-i-n-g.” The teacher looked lost, like he wanted someone to translate. “I guess he doesn’t understand the question.” He concluded. “I got it in Beijing.” I almost yelled, under my breath I added, “I told you twice already.” Then, I added “My sifu gave it to me.” He didn’t look convinced that I was wearing a wrestling jacket, but he decided to go ahead with the training and see if we could order one for me in the morning.

Before and after training each day we have to stand at attention, like in the military, “eyes right, front, parade rest, attention, cover, recover…” Then we have to count off. After that, the teacher puts us at parade rest and talks to us for a few minutes. During his talk, he asked me, in front of everyone, if I was married. I said, “no.” So he repeated the question. “Are you married?” And I repeated the answer. “No.” So, he told the group, “He doesn’t understand the question.” This pisses me off. In this culture, everyone is expected to do the same things, like getting married, for example. And it is such a given that everyone does what the culture dictates, that they even reject information to the contrary. So, I spoke up, “I was married, but now I am divorced.” I really think it’s no one’s business, but I wanted to be clear that I had both heard and understood him.

In all cultures, people tend to hear what they expect to hear. But in Asia, I find it a bit more extreme because the culture dictates that there are certain expected behaviors, as well as expected responses. This can be very frustrating for a language learner. You heard the question. You answered it. Then they ask again. And then you think, I must not have understood and that’s why they are asking again. So, they repeat it, but it sounds like the same question again. And you go in circles.

Another dimension to this phenomenon is that people often jump in to translate for you, and they make the situation even worse, because they aren’t working from the actual answers you are giving but from what they believe the correct answer should be.

The other night, in the elevator, after wrestling class, this girl wrestler asked me, “Do you like China.” She is always chatting me up, being friendly, but she inevitably, through no fault of her own, presses my buttons. She had no way of knowing I hate the “do you like China” question. The way I deal with it now is by saying, “Yes, I do. Do you?” Then I go around and ask each Chinese person in the room if they like China. I think it’s funny and Chinese people just think it is insane to ask them if they like China. The answer is so obvious, that they can’t even say it. I usually have to ask several times in order to get an answer. On that night, I said, “Yes, I do.” Then I immediately asked the Chinese guy standing next to me. “Do you like China?” Before he could answer, the girl butted in, “The foreigner is asking you if you have ever been to another country.” “No, I am not.” I interrupted. “I am asking if you like China.” Once again, the girl jumped in. “The foreigner is asking you if you would ever change your passport.” To which, the guy answered, “No.”

Now, what had started as a very small joke was turning into something ugly. I don’t like to be controlled, put down or insulted. I said to the guy, “I didn’t ask that. I asked if you like China.” Once again, the girl began to explain what I mean, when I cut her off and said, “You asked me if I liked China. Now I am asking him if he likes China. What’s the problem?” She looked both confused and frightened. The boy timidly answered, “Yes, I like China.”

The whole incident left me really angry. I use my funny questions as a way of breaking the ice and making friends with people. Also, by asking everyone the same question they ask me, I am showing that we are all the same. Why does it make sense to ask me if I like China but not to ask others? If you do that, then you are separating me from the group, rather than including me. But now, people saw me get angry. And in China, they NEVER try to understand what actually made you angry. They only know that you are angry and will steer clear of you. This exact pathology could play out ten more times and no one will ever come up with the theory, “Maybe he gets angry when we butt into his conversations and translate.” Instead, they will only understand, don’t talk to him  he hates elevators.

 

 

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at amazon.com. The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army. The book is available at http://www.blackbeltmag.com/warrior_odyssey

See Antonio’s Destinations video series and find out about his column on  http://www.blackbeltmag.com

website

www.speakingadventure.com

Twitter

http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk

facebook

Brooklyn Monk fan page

Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

 

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

 

 

MMA and Wrestling Training

In Uncategorized on October 20, 2013 at 5:26 am

 

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By Antonio Graceffo

My coaching science class makes me think a lot about MMA training. MMA is a really weird sport when it comes to training. In my mind, sports are divided into 3 major groups: performance (running and swimming), strength (weight lifting), or skill (shooting and archery). Obviously many sports, such as tennis, combine performance and skill. Some sports even combine elements of all of three, most notably American football or rugby. But no sport requires the variety of skills that MMA does. American football players are all specialists, playing offense or defense, or playing a particular position. Rugby players are probably more versatile, but they still only play rugby. The skill set in MMA includes boxing, wrestling, Muay Thai, Jiu jitsu and on and on. The only sport that might be similar in terms of skill would be a multi-discipline sport, such as modern pentathalon, which requires participants to run, swim, shoot, fence and ride horses. But to be more like MMA, they would need to carry, not ride, those horses across the finish line.

Skill is a mystery to me and I think is somehow less of a quantified science than is either performance or strength. And this is a unique aspect of MMA. While shooting, archery, bowling and other skill intensive sports probably require some level of fitness, those athletes are most likely not spending the insane hours, dragging truck tires and climbing pegboards, that MMA guys do.

Obviously there were martial artists who ran or lifted weights before MMA, but no major martial art incorporated fitness and strength training as an absolute integral portion of the training. When I used to box, apart from running, we almost never cross trained. The coach might, once in a great while, ask us to do pushups or sit-ups but it was sporadic. Karate and Taekwondo classes always began with some warm up exercises, a few pushups and sit-ups, a little running, but no martial art had all the crazy, completely exhausting MMA running, jumping and carrying drills. MMA is possibly the only sport where guys can lift so much weight but are still expected to have explosive speed, AND to be able to last for 15 minutes. Power lifters are stronger, but they can’t move as fast or last as long. Marathon runners can last longer, but they can’t lift as much weight. Taekwando guys can kick higher and faster, but they don’t have the strength or the physical toughness… MMA is an odd skill set. Strength, speed, skill, fitness, stamina, and physical toughness. The only sport that comes close is wrestling.

Before wrestlers began winning in the UFC, wrestling was almost an orphan sport that no one gave respect to or even thought about. But as MMA evolved, wrestling became the training model for MMA. Dan Gable, the greatest American wrestling coach of all time, was famous for inventing, as he put it, “New ways to make my guys tired.” His wrestlers trained twice a day on stamina, strength, explosiveness… They ran up and down stadium stairs and climbed ropes up to the ceiling. A lot of the MMA training, or the spirit of what would become the MMA obsession with fitness training, came from wrestling.

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at amazon.com. The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army. The book is available at http://www.blackbeltmag.com/warrior_odyssey

See Antonio’s Destinations video series and find out about his column on  http://www.blackbeltmag.com

website

www.speakingadventure.com

Twitter

http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk

facebook

Brooklyn Monk fan page

Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

 

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

 

Love Affair Travel Podcast: Interview with the Brooklyn Monk

In Uncategorized on October 17, 2013 at 12:32 am

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http://loveaffairtravel.com/antonio-graceffo-the-dust-of-911-nyc-to-shaolin-temple/

Antonio Graceffo: From the Dust of 9/11 NYC

to the Shaolin Temple

by LOVEAFFAIR on Oct 2, 2013 • 2:39 amNo Comments

He went from a military career

To a successful job in finance

But realised he didn’t truly know those around him.

A pivotal moment made him re-evaluate what was important in life,

So he dug out his teaching diploma

And went to follow his dreams, training at the Shaolin temple & building a new life as a martial arts anthropologist in Asia

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at amazon.com. The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army. The book is available at http://www.blackbeltmag.com/warrior_odyssey

See Antonio’s Destinations video series and find out about his column on  http://www.blackbeltmag.com

website

www.speakingadventure.com

Twitter

http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk

facebook

Brooklyn Monk fan page

Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Fight!!!! New documentary about my MMA coach, Melvin Yeo

In Uncategorized on October 6, 2013 at 12:29 am

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By Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo

Fight!!!! New documentary about my MMA coach, Melvin Yeoh, whose MMA academy I lived in, in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. features some interview and footage of the Brooklyn Monk. Melvin is about my favorite person in MMA. We get along well because we come from similar places. He has an masters degree in education and works as a school teacher full time. He is now signed to fight in One FC, the largest MMA promotion in Asia. There is also some interview footage with Jack Star who used to buy me pizza when I lived in the MMA academy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBAXhbyldpo&feature=c4-overview&list=UUrZI54AwWSCQ_U1egWQ8gNA

SS Independence

In Uncategorized on October 4, 2013 at 12:12 pm

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By Antonio Graceffo

A friend today was asking about my time as a US Merchant Marine. I served as a wheel watch on the SS Independence, at that time, the oldest ship still in the US fleet. On the bridge, we had a photo of a very young movie star, named Ronald Reagan, taking the wheel while he was on vacation. The ship was so old that we still had brass funnels hanging from the ceiling, so you could yell down to the engine room. The mate would always tell visitors, “We use these to order up our Mai Tais at cocktail hour.” The funnels didn’t work anymore, so we used a telephone to call the engine room and order changes in the speed of the screws. The thing I am proudest of on that bridge was that we had one of those huge brass wheels, and that was how I learned to steer. I may have been the last or one of the last US sailors ever to get certified on a brass wheel.

While I was serving on that ship, they installed a modern, jet-fighter style control panel, with autopilot and GPS. But, it could only make corrections of up to 15 degrees. So, when we were in a storm, I still flipped it over to manual and steered the way sailors had for centuries.

Merchant Marines was a brief period of my life, but one I remember very fondly. It was a time when I felt very connected to the proud and ancient maritime history that came at the time of the Renaissance and lead to the discovery of America.

And I still couldn’t drive a car.

Here is a picture of my ship. Notice how clean those smoke stacks are? Guess whose job it was to climb up the outside, several hundred feet, with a huge scrub brush and a bucket of water. I would hang in a swing and scrub those stacks clean about every other day.

I just looked it up. Apparently, the ship was decommissioned in 2001. The note read “Fate: Grounded and subsequently broken up off Alang, India”

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at amazon.com. The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army. The book is available at http://www.blackbeltmag.com/warrior_odyssey

See Antonio’s Destinations video series and find out about his column on  http://www.blackbeltmag.com

website

www.speakingadventure.com

Twitter

http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk

facebook

Brooklyn Monk fan page

Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

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