This Guest Post is by my friend, Mark Tankosich, who has dan rankings in both Sho-ha Shorin-ryu karate and Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei jodo. Along with the martial arts, his passions include the Japanese language. He currently lives and teaches in Hiroshima, Japan.
Goodin Sensei has asked me to write a bit about the Japanese word "ganbaru." "Ganbaru" is a verb that roughly means such things as, "to try hard," "to hang in there," or "to stick with (something)." It is frequently heard in Japan, very often in one of it's various conjugated forms. Perhaps you've heard some of these in the dojo or elsewhere.
"Ganbatte" is a somewhat polite and softer way of asking/telling someone to do their best or to not give up. It can probably be used with just about anyone, so long as they are not very superior to you. To be even more polite, you would add the word "kudasai" after "ganbatte." In my experience, "ganbatte kudasai" can safely be used even with very senior people.
"Ganbare!" means basically the same thing as "ganbatte," but is more of a command. It is the imperative form of "ganbaru," and thus is less polite and "harder" sounding. I don't think that you would want to use this form with someone who is very senior to you. On the other hand, because it is somewhat "forceful," it is often used to help motivate an equal or a subordinate who is struggling in some way.
"Ganbaro" is another common form of "ganbaru." The meaning of this is a little different than that of "ganbatte" and "ganbare," in that those two are directed at others, while "ganbaro" is also aimed at yourself. That is, "ganbaro" is a form that means something like "Let's do our best!" or "Let's all hang tough!"
It's true that sometimes learning the proper usage of Japanese words can be a little difficult. My advice to you?
I would like to thank Mark Tankosich very much for taking the time to explain the various forms of ganbaru. We are lucky to have skilled translators, such as Mark, who are not only fluent in English and Japanese, but familiar with Karate terminology as well.
My mother was born and raised in Japan. When she came to the United States and had me, she was more interested that I learn proper English than Japanese. As a result, I love Japanese culture and food but can't speak or write the language. But my mother did make me look up all the English words I did not understand in the dictionary and this helped me a great deal with my education and legal career.
As Mark points out, how you use a particular word can depend on to whom you are speaking. In Karate we are taught to be courteous. Learning the right words to use and the proper way to use them can help us to avoid unintentionally offending others.
One of the things I have learned is that it is better to communicate clearly and politely in English than to attempt to use poor or broken Japanese. Misunderstanding and unintended insult can result from the latter.
Thank you very much again, Mark.
Charles C. Goodin