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 Post subject: Differences between Western and Asian Books
Post #1 Posted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 3:04 am 
Oza

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The following discusses typical differences between Western and Asian books, AFA I have seen or heard of books. There are exceptions in both Western and Asian books: part of the Western books have Asian style, a relatively small fraction of Asian books have Western style.

Common features of both Western and Asian books:
- examples
- short per example comments (but pure problem books or pure game collections might not have them)

Additional features of Western style:
- a significant fraction of the books has generalised knowledge stated explicitly as principles, procedures, methods etc. plus accompanying explanations
- a rather great fraction of the books has reasonably detailed informal descriptions of (further) attempts of generalised knowledge

Additional feature of Asian style:
- a significant but rather small fraction of the books has reasonably detailed informal descriptions of attempts of generalised knowledge

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Post #2 Posted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 3:53 am 
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I believe you opened this thread (and the other) in response to a question of mine; thanks. Can you give a few brief examples of the phenomena you've listed, or are these just your intuition?

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Post #3 Posted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 5:23 am 
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If you have seen only Western translations of Asian books, you might not be aware that the translated books are not at all representative for the Asian books. Naturally, only books among the good to best books are translated. If, however, you visit bookstores in Asia (common bookstores, go club stores or go association bookstores), then chances are great that you find a high percentage of Asian style books and pure collections.

Examples of books of the styles (partly from memory; mostly I avoid buying examples-only books, so I need to rely on my memory and recall the kind of contents):

- Western examples only book: Get Strong at Joseki.
- Asian examples only book: Title unknown. Contents: only nobi examples.
- Western book with generalising contents: Fundamental Principles
- Asian book with generalising contents: Attack & Defense [I know only the English edition]
- Western book with informal attempts of generalising contents: Tesuji (Davies) (the means of generalisation lies in the two sorting schemes "function" and "shape")
- Asian book with informal attempts of generalising contents: Tesuji Dictionary (Fujisawa)

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Post #4 Posted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 6:22 am 
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Robert, have you read an Asian book before in its native language? If not, how can you judge the literature as a whole?

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 Post subject: Re: Differences between Western and Asian Books
Post #5 Posted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 6:47 am 
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I think that, in general, eastern teaching differs from western teaching in at least these two important ways.
1. Eastern teaching focusses much more on teaching from authority. Westerners are much more likely to ask "why?" when presented with an answer to their question, whereas easterners take the answer as a given, based on the authority of the teacher.
2. Eastern teaching focusses more on examples and repetition. Do 1000 tsumego, rather than learning tsumego principles.

I think that, for go, teaching by example and repetition is more likely to be successful in increasing your playing strength than teaching from principles. Why? Because 90% of playing strength is reading strength, and 90% of reading strength is pattern recognition. Pattern recognition is something our brains do very well, but it is not based on principles. Repetition trains your pattern recognition, therefore it works.

Westerners, however, often dislike this approach, because they want to feel that they understand moves. They therefore often prefer teaching based on principles, proverbs, and checklists.

If you are writing for a western audience, then I think attempting to explain things from principles is a good idea. Not because it gives better progress in playing strength, but because your readers prefer it, and are more likely to like and recommend your book, and hence increase your sales.

For a western audience, it is also less important that a book is written by a pro, because there is less focus on teaching from authority, hence authority is not as important. Easterners put far more value on the strength (and hence level of authority) of the author than a western audience does.


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 Post subject: Re: Differences between Western and Asian Books
Post #6 Posted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 7:17 am 
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I have posted a reply in another thread which is also relevant to this one. I won't repeat it here, to prevent further fragmentation of this discussion.

Edit: Ok, this is something of a joke, because I quoted HermannHiddema verbatim, but I agree entirely that what we want is a good discussion, and the differences between Asian and Western approaches has the potential to be a good one ... or a bad one. Our choice. I'd vote for choosing to have a good one, and in that spirit, I propose continuing the discussion here.

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Last edited by daal on Wed Jan 02, 2013 7:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post #7 Posted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 7:25 am 
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I agree with much of what Herman says. I think we also learn "principles" from repetition and practice. If you keep on asking why, ultimately things reduce to: "Why? Because it works" We learn that something works through playing experience. It's not enough to know that a move or sequence of moves is good, you have to know how to make it work in practice. In Japanese books we often see remarks to the effect that a certain problem is solvable at, say, the 5k level but if you can solve it in actual play you are dan level. Principles can indicate which moves are good but may be less effective in telling you how to use the moves in actual play. I think it is somewhat like learning to speak a foreign language. You can learn all the grammar rules and vocabulary but not be able to speak fluently. You learn to speak fluently through practice, and fluent speakers, who learned by practicing intensively (pattern recognition and repetition), may be able to function at a high level but not be able to explain rules of grammar explicitly. So intensive practice is necessary but intensive study of principles is not.

Regarding the strength of book authors, I've watched games of 5d amateurs critiqued by strong pros and the pros seem to find a lot of fundamental weaknesses. Of course pros find weak play and errors in the games of other pros, too. These faults in play occur at all levels which leads me to wonder to what extent the unrecognized fundamental errors of an amateur author are passed on to readers and whether this really matters.

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 Post subject: Re: Differences between Western and Asian Books
Post #8 Posted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 7:35 am 
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With my limited collection of Western and Asian go books, I find it difficult to just simply classify Western go books vs Asian go books the way RJ does. In general, I just find the body of Asian go books as a whole has much more depth and breadth compared with the body of Western go books. As such, Asian go books can afford to explore tangents which would scare off most Western go book publishers easily just because the size of the market is so different. Both Asia and the West have a large collection of go problem books, but there is not such a selection of good books for mid to high level dans in the West.

I do admire RJ's efforts to publish books with his distilled knowledge and they are quite helpful for people such as myself, but if I were to become a high dan later on, I'd probably need to read many more Asian books which explore the thoughts of Asian pros and how they ponder the intricacies of the game. Of course if, by the time I become a high dan (which is not likely in the near future), computers become so much stronger that they start challenging the top Asian pros in even games, then perhaps there will be a huge revolution in go thinking which could be distilled from the findings of how those computers play. But at this time, the thoughts of top Asian pros are still greatly admired by most people with at least a basic understanding of go and a deep interest in learning how to play better. I'm sure quite a few of whom are definitely looking forward to the remaining two volumes of the English version of Lee Sedol's self commented games.

Regarding learning by repetition for life and death and tesuji, etc., I believe that it is to build up the internal library of moves for the individual go players, then those who have talent can use them masterfully in their games. It seems similar to cooking. A home cook and a genius chef could start with the most beautiful ingredients and both make good dishes, but the genius chef will be the one who can make good dishes even when left with scraps which the home cook would rather throw away.

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 Post subject: Re: Differences between Western and Asian Books
Post #9 Posted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 7:59 am 
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tchan001 wrote:
there is not such a selection of good books for mid to high level dans in the West.

Yes, this is just an exceedingly small market. If we look at, e.g. the EGF rating list, there are some 7000 active players. Less than 350 of those are mid-dan level or better (rating 2300+), and only about 70 are high-dan level (rating 2500+). That's 5% and 1% of the total market respectively. It is just not economically viable to translate (or write) high-level books for such a small market.

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Post #10 Posted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 8:34 am 
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Personally, I prefer problem books to theory books, and there are more problem books in Asia. Case closed. (Is this metadiscussion?)

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Post #11 Posted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 8:36 am 
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HermanHiddema wrote:
I think that, in general, eastern teaching differs from western teaching in at least these two important ways.
1. Eastern teaching focusses much more on teaching from authority. Westerners are much more likely to ask "why?" when presented with an answer to their question, whereas easterners take the answer as a given, based on the authority of the teacher.
2. Eastern teaching focusses more on examples and repetition. Do 1000 tsumego, rather than learning tsumego principles.

I think that, for go, teaching by example and repetition is more likely to be successful in increasing your playing strength than teaching from principles. Why? Because 90% of playing strength is reading strength, and 90% of reading strength is pattern recognition. Pattern recognition is something our brains do very well, but it is not based on principles. Repetition trains your pattern recognition, therefore it works.

...


Hermann makes a good case for the idea that the eastern method is objectively better but as I suggested in another thread, I believe that while the western community does have the tendencies Hermann describes, we have them because they have proved more successful at producing certain desired results. In the case of go, it seems that either they are the wrong method for the task at hand, or that haven't produced the results yet. There is however a third possibility, which is that neither the western nor the eastern approach to teaching go is something static, but rather that through contact with one another, they are both in the process of evolving. While it's clear that the western approach has more evolving to do than the eastern one, it wouldn't be the first time that a successful model was improved upon through contact to new ideas.

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Post #12 Posted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 9:01 am 
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daal wrote:
Hermann makes a good case for the idea that the eastern method is objectively better but as I suggested in another thread, I believe that while the western community does have the tendencies Hermann describes, we have them because they have proved more successful at producing certain desired results. In the case of go, it seems that either they are the wrong method for the task at hand, or that haven't produced the results yet. There is however a third possibility, which is that neither the western nor the eastern approach to teaching go is something static, but rather that through contact with one another, they are both in the process of evolving. While it's clear that the western approach has more evolving to do than the eastern one, it wouldn't be the first time that a successful model was improved upon through contact to new ideas.


I think there is great value in the western model for many applications. For example, many people I know in the scientific community have expressed frustration that the eastern emphasis on rote memorization and teacher authority poorly prepares Chinese PhD students for the task of doing original research. They tend to work very hard at gathering data, but have trouble to then analyse it on their own.

Also for go there are certainly areas where principles and theory have high value, but playing strength isn't really one of them, IMO.

I think, to make a comparison, that playing go is not that different from, say, playing basketball. You could read all the books in the world on basketball theory, but if you then try to play it against a player who has been shooting hoops on the street all his life, you will quickly realise the value of practice over theory.

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 Post subject: Re: Differences between Western and Asian Books
Post #13 Posted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 9:49 am 
Oza

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HermanHiddema wrote:
tchan001 wrote:
there is not such a selection of good books for mid to high level dans in the West.

Yes, this is just an exceedingly small market. If we look at, e.g. the EGF rating list, there are some 7000 active players. Less than 350 of those are mid-dan level or better (rating 2300+), and only about 70 are high-dan level (rating 2500+). That's 5% and 1% of the total market respectively. It is just not economically viable to translate (or write) high-level books for such a small market.


Indeed. Several years ago I thought about translating a dan level set of books into English. :) Bottom line: I am not rich enough.

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 Post subject: Re: Differences between Western and Asian Books
Post #14 Posted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 10:09 am 
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tchan001 wrote:
With my limited collection of Western and Asian go books

:shock:

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Post #15 Posted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 12:11 pm 
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tchan001 wrote:
With my limited collection of Western and Asian go books, I find it difficult to just simply classify Western go books vs Asian go books the way RJ does. In general, I just find the body of Asian go books as a whole has much more depth and breadth compared with the body of Western go books. As such, Asian go books can afford to explore tangents which would scare off most Western go book publishers easily just because the size of the market is so different. Both Asia and the West have a large collection of go problem books, but there is not such a selection of good books for mid to high level dans in the West.

Kirby wrote:
Personally, I prefer problem books to theory books, and there are more problem books in Asia. Case closed. (Is this metadiscussion?)


I can't help but wonder is this is less of an East-vs-West issue and more an Academic-vs-Practical issue. The case of book publishing, I think is largely a function of market size and demographics. If you are a go book publisher with a large market, the time from conception to print of yet-another-problem-book is going to be much shorter than a book with essays about various points of go theory...the end result is that percentage-wise you see many more problem books being produced in countries with large markets available to them. Also, in the those countries with large markets you have many more "practical" players, who play the game because they want to get strong, not because they are looking for some deeper understanding of the game. In the West, go players have typically been disproportionately those of the more academic persuasion, hence much of the publishing/marketing is geared toward the academically minded.

I think the idea that repetition and rote memorization aren't emphasized as much in the West is slightly oversimplified - in practical tasks they are quite heavily emphasized, while in academic tasks theory gets more focus. Perhaps that is where the difference lies - in Asia there is a more practical approach to education and a less academic one? Herman's reference to basketball is a good one, I would also put forth the examples of tennis and golf. If you are learning to play tennis, you aren't going to spend much time on theory, you're going to be shown a basic groundstroke then you will need to go out and hit that stroke 10,000 times. Same with golf, you will be shown your basic form, then go to the driving range and start hitting a lot of balls. To extend this beyond sports, consider learning a trade. A person may have a (relatively) short bit of educational background building, but then will do most of their skill building as an apprentice/journeyman practicing that trade again and again...when it comes to a practical situation, the focus is on doing it.

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Post #16 Posted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 12:44 pm 
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I do not know quite what to make of this topic. In my case I own around 200 Japanese Go books. Of course there are many drill books but the majority are typical books aimed at amateur... book buyers. Let's face it, publishers do not care about theories of learning, they care about selling books! Your average book buyer in Japan is not looking for materials to support an organized, 50-hour per week study program. They are looking for the quick fix that will help them beat Sato-san at the office over lunch. They buy the colorful titles that promise to reveal the secrets of top-level play by the big names in five easy chapters. That is why those titles dominate the displays in bookstores: Yamashita on fighting, Takao on thickness, Cho Chikun on counting, and Takemiya on anything he wants to write about. Tami has reported on a number of such books in recent months and has captured what they are like quit well. Currently MYCOM seems like the most aggressive publisher in Go space and they are very much into the celebrity + strategic theme formula. Never forget that regardless of how many strong Asian players you see on the servers, the vast majority of Go books are bought by us typical duffers with a little time on our hands and a little money burning a hole in our pockets. We are interested in the stuff that dreams are made of, not more drills! :blackeye:

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Post #17 Posted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 1:07 pm 
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Mef wrote:
consider learning a trade. A person may have a (relatively) short bit of educational background building, but then will do most of their skill building as an apprentice/journeyman practicing that trade again and again...when it comes to a practical situation, the focus is on doing it.
And then there's the point that of those people learning a trade, only a fraction will truly practice or stretch themselves. The majority will be good enough to get by, and then stop expending effort.

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 Post subject: Re: Differences between Western and Asian Books
Post #18 Posted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 1:16 pm 
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ez4u wrote:
I do not know quite what to make of this topic. In my case I own around 200 Japanese Go books. Of course there are many drill books but the majority are typical books aimed at amateur... book buyers. Let's face it, publishers do not care about theories of learning, they care about selling books! Your average book buyer in Japan is not looking for materials to support an organized, 50-hour per week study program. They are looking for the quick fix that will help them beat Sato-san at the office over lunch. They buy the colorful titles that promise to reveal the secrets of top-level play by the big names in five easy chapters. That is why those titles dominate the displays in bookstores: Yamashita on fighting, Takao on thickness, Cho Chikun on counting, and Takemiya on anything he wants to write about. Tami has reported on a number of such books in recent months and has captured what they are like quit well. Currently MYCOM seems like the most aggressive publisher in Go space and they are very much into the celebrity + strategic theme formula. Never forget that regardless of how many strong Asian players you see on the servers, the vast majority of Go books are bought by us typical duffers with a little time on our hands and a little money burning a hole in our pockets. We are interested in the stuff that dreams are made of, not more drills! :blackeye:



Is 200 the number of books required to reach 6dan? I thought my library of 50 Go books was sufficient.:(

Looks like I have a long way to go..:)

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Post #19 Posted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 1:25 pm 
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RobertJasiek wrote:
...
Common features of both Western and Asian books:
- examples
- short per example comments (but pure problem books or pure game collections might not have them)

Additional features of Western style:
- a significant fraction of the books has generalised knowledge stated explicitly as principles, procedures, methods etc. plus accompanying explanations
- a rather great fraction of the books has reasonably detailed informal descriptions of (further) attempts of generalised knowledge

Additional feature of Asian style:
- a significant but rather small fraction of the books has reasonably detailed informal descriptions of attempts of generalised knowledge...


To me this is not very useful, for several reasons.

1) Even if the Western vs. Eastern differences laid out are true, so what? Is there anything to say about one way being better than the other?

2) I don't mean to sound like a jerk, but the word usage here is killing me. "A significant but rather small fraction of books has reasonably detailed informal descriptions of attempts of generalised knowledge." Seriously??? There isn't a simpler way to say this?

3) I believe in the "It's not the bricks, it's the builder" rule. There are good books written in the Eastern format, and good books written in the Western format - the quality being the result of the author's ability to communicate ideas and not on because it falls into one category or another.

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Post #20 Posted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 1:26 pm 
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hyperpape wrote:
Mef wrote:
consider learning a trade. A person may have a (relatively) short bit of educational background building, but then will do most of their skill building as an apprentice/journeyman practicing that trade again and again...when it comes to a practical situation, the focus is on doing it.
And then there's the point that of those people learning a trade, only a fraction will truly practice or stretch themselves. The majority will be good enough to get by, and then stop expending effort.


Of course, and go is not immune to this either (how many players relax stop studying seriously once they hit 1d on their rating system of choice?). I was simply meaning to point out that learning through repetition is quite common here in the West when your goal is just to be good at getting something done.

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