The following vocabulary list is by no means complete, but it contains some of the more commonly encountered terms one may encounter during an aikido class.
Agatsu = “Self victory.” According to the founder, true victory (masakatsu) is the victory one achieves over oneself (agatsu). Thus one of the founder’s “slogans” was masakatsu agatsu – “The true victory of self-mastery.”
Aikido = The word “aikido” is made up of three Japanese characters: ai – harmony, ki – spirit, mind, or universal energy, do – the Way. Thus aikido is “the Way of Harmony with Universal Energy.” However, aiki may also be interpreted as “accommodation to circumstances.” This latter interpretation is somewhat nonstandard, but it avoids certain undesirable metaphysical commitments and also epitomizes quite well both the physical and psychological facets of aikido.
Aikidoka = A practitioner of aikido.
Aikikai = “Aiki association.” A term used to designate the organization created by the founder for the dissemination of aikido.
Ai hanmi = Mutual stance where uke and nage each have the same foot forward (right-right, left-left).
Ai nuke = “Mutual escape.” An outcome of a duel where each participant escapes harm. This corresponds to the ideal of aikido according to which a conflict is resolved without injury to any party involved.
Ai uchi = “Mutual kill.” An outcome of a duel where each participant kills the other. In classical Japanese swordmanship, practitioners were often encouraged to enter a duel with the goal of achieving at least an ai uchi. The resolution to win the duel even at the cost of one’s own life was thought to aid in cultivating an attitude of single-minded focus on the task of cutting down one’s opponent. This single-minded focus is exemplified in aikido in the technique, ikkyo, where one enters into an attacker’s range in order to effect the technique.
Ashi sabaki = Footwork. Proper footwork is essential in aikido for developing strong balance and for facilitating ease of movement.
Atemi = (lit. Striking the Body) Strike directed at the attacker for purposes of unbalancing or distraction. Atemi is often vital for bypassing or “short-circuiting” an attacker’s natural responses to aikido techniques. The first thing most people will do when they feel their body being manipulated in an unfamiliar way is to retract their limbs and drop their center of mass down and away from the person performing the technique. By judicious application of atemi, it is possible to create a “window of opportunity” in the attacker’s natural defenses, facilitating the application of an aikido technique. “Atemi” can also have the connotation of a “vital strike”. As such, it is important that the strike be delivered to a vulnerable target and with sufficient force as to eliminate the attacker’s ability or willingness to continue the assault.
Bokken = bokuto = Wooden sword. Many aikido movements are derived from traditional Japanese fencing. In advanced practice, weapons such as the bokken are used in learning subtleties of certain movements, the relationships obtaining between armed and unarmed techniques, defenses against weapons, and the like.
Budo = “Martial way.” The Japanese character for “bu” (martial) is derived from characters meaning “stop” and (a weapon like a) “halberd.” In conjunction, then, “bu” may have the connotation “to stop the halberd.” In aikido, there is an assumption that the best way to prevent violent conflict is to emphasize the cultivation of individual character. The way (do) of aiki is thus equivalent to the way of bu, taken in this sense of preventing or avoiding violence so far as possible.
Chokusen = Direct. Thus chokusen no irimi = direct entry.
Chudan = “Middle position.” Thus chudan no kamae = a stance characterized by having one’s hands or sword in a central position with respect to one’s body.
Chushin = Center. Especially, the center of one’s movement or balance.
Dan = Black belt rank. In the International Aikido Federation (IAF), the highest rank it is now possible to obtain is 9th dan. In the Fuji Ryu Aikido Federation the highest practising dan grade is 6th dan. There are some aikidoka who hold ranks of 10th dan. These ranks were awarded by the founder prior to his death, and cannot be rescinded. White belt ranks are called kyu ranks.
Do = Way/path. The Japanese character for “do” is the same as the Chinese character for Tao (as in “Taoism”). In aiki-do, the connotation is that of a way of attaining enlightenment or a way of improving one’s character through aiki.
Dojo = Literally “place of the Way.” Also “place of enlightenment.” The place where we practice aikido. Traditional etiquette prescribes bowing in the direction of the shrine (kamiza) or the designated front of the dojo (shomen) whenever entering or leaving the dojo.
Dojo cho = The head of the dojo. A title. Currently, Moriteru Ueshiba (grandson of the founder) is dojo cho at World Aikido Headquarters (hombu dojo) in Tokyo, Japan.
Domo arigato gozaimashita = Japanese for “thank you very much.” At the end of each class, it is proper to bow and thank the instructor and those with whom you’ve trained.
Doshu = Head of the way (currently Moriteru Ueshiba, grandson of aikido’s founder, Morihei Ueshiba). The highest official authority in IAF aikido.
Engi = Interdependent origination (Sanskrit = pratityasamutpada). In Buddhist philosophy, phenomena have no unchanging essences. Rather, they originate and exist only in virtue of material and causal conditions. Without these material and causal conditions, there would be no phenomena. Furthermore, since the material and causal conditions upon which all phenomena depend are continually in flux, phenomena themselves are one and all impermanent. Since whatever is impermanent and dependent for existence on conditions has no absolute status (or is not absolutely real), it follows that phenomena (what are ordinarily called “things”) are have no absolute or independent existential status, i.e., they are empty. To cultivate a cognitive state in which the empty status of things is manifest is to realize or attain enlightenment. The realization of enlightenment, in turn, confers a degree of cognitive freedom and spontaneity which, among other (and arguably more important) benefits, facilitates the performance of martial techniques in response to rapidly changing circumstances. (see ku)
Fudo shin = “Immovable mind.” A state of mental equanimity or imperturbability. The mind, in this state, is calm and un-distracted (metaphorically, therefore, “immovable”). Fudomyo is a Buddhist guardian deity who carries a sword in one hand (to destroy enemies of the Buddhist doctrine), and a rope in the other (to rescue sentient beings from the pit of delusion, or from Buddhist hell-states). He therefore embodies the two-fold Buddhist ideal of wisdom (the sword) and compassion (the rope). To cultivate fudo shin is thus to cultivate a mind which can accommodate itself to changing circumstances without compromise of principles.
Fukushidoin = A formal title whose connotation is something approximating “assistant instructor.”
Furi kaburi = Sword-raising movement. This movement is found especially in ikkyo, irimi-nage, and shiho-nage.
Gedan = Lower position. Gedan no kamae is thus a stance with the hands or a weapon held in a lower position.
Gi (do gi) (keiko gi) = Training costume. Either judo-style or karate-style gi are acceptable in most dojo, but they must be white and cotton. (No black satin gi with embroidered dragons. Please.)
Gyaku hanmi = Opposing stance (if uke has the right foot forward, nage has the left foot forward, if uke has the left foot forward, nage has the right foot forward).
Hakama = Divided skirt usually worn by black-belt ranks. In some dojo, the hakama is also worn by women of all ranks, and in some dojo by all practitioners.
Hanmi = Triangular stance. Most often aikido techniques are practiced with uke and nage in pre-determined stances. This is to facilitate learning the techniques and certain principles of positioning with respect to an attack. At higher levels, specific hanmi cease to be of importance.
Hanmi handachi = Position with nage sitting, uke standing. Training in hanmi handachi waza is a good way of practicing techniques as though with a significantly larger/taller opponent. This type of training also emphasizes movement from one’s center of mass (hara).
Happo = 8 directions; as in happo-undo (8 direction exercise) or happo-giri (8 direction cutting with the sword). The connotation here is really movement in all directions. In aikido, one must be prepared to turn in any direction in an instant.
Hara = One’s center of mass, located about 2″ below the navel. Traditionally this was thought to be the location of the spirit/mind/(source of ki). Aikido techniques should be executed as much as possible from or through one’s hara.
Hasso no kamae = “Figure-eight” stance. The figure eight does not correspond to the arabic numeral “8,” but rather to the Chinese/Japanese character which looks more like the roof of a house. In hasso no kamae, the sword is held up beside one’s head, so that the elbows spread down and out from the sword in a pattern resembling this figure-eight character.
Heijoshin = “Abiding peace of mind.” Cognitive equanimity. One goal of training in aikido is the cultivation of a mind which is able to meet various types of adversity without becoming perturbed. A mind which is not easily flustered is a mind which will facilitate effective response to physical or psychological threats.
Henka waza = Varied technique. Especially beginning one technique and changing to another in mid-execution. Ex. beginning ikkyo but changing to irimi-nage.
Hombu dojo = A term used to refer to the central dojo of an organization. Thus this usually designates Aikido World Headquarters. (see aikikai)
Hidari = Left.
Irimi = (lit. “Entering the Body”) Entering movement. Many aikidoka think that the irimi movement expresses the very essence of aikido. The idea behind irimi is to place oneself in relation to an attacker in such a way that the attacker is unable to continue to attack effectively, and in such a way that one is able to control effectively the attacker’s balance. (See shikaku).
Jinja = A (Shinto) shrine. There is an aiki jinja located in Iwama, Ibaraki prefecture, Japan.
Jiyu waza = Free-style practice of techniques. This usually involves more than one attacker who may attack nage in any way desired.
Jo = Wooden staff about 4′-5′ in length. The jo originated as a walking stick. It is unclear how it became incorporated into aikido. Many jo movements come from traditional Japanese spearvfighting, others may have come from jojutsu, but many seem to have been innovated by the founder. The jo is usually used in advanced practice.
Jodan = Upper position. Jodan no kamae is thus a stance with the hands or a weapon held in a high position.
Kachihayabi = “Victory at the speed of sunlight.” According to the founder, when one has acheived total self-mastery (agatsu) and perfect accord with the fundamental principles governing the universe (especially principles covering ethical interaction), one will have the power of the entire universe at one’s disposal, there no longer being any real difference between oneself and the universe. At this stage of spiritual advancement, victory is instantaneous. The very intention of an attacker to perpetrate an act of violence breaks harmony with the fundamental principles of the universe, and no one can compete successfully against such principles. Also, the expression of the fundamental principles of the universe in human life is love (ai), and love, according to the founder, has no enemies. Having no enemies, one has no need to fight, and thus always emerges victorious. (see agatsu and masakatsu)
Kaeshi waza = Technique reversal. (uke becomes nage and vice-versa). This is usually a very advanced form of practice. Kaeshi waza practice helps to instill a sensitivity to shifts in resistance or direction in the movements of one’s partner. Training so as to anticipate and prevent the application of kaeshi waza against one’s own techniques greatly sharpens aikido skills.
Kaiso = The founder of aikido (i.e., Morihei Ueshiba).
Kamae = A posture or stance either with or without a weapon. kamae may also connote proper distance (ma ai) with respect to one’s partner. Although “kamae” generally refers to a physical stance, there is an important parallel in aikido between one’s physical and one’s psychological bearing. Adopting a strong physical stance helps to promote the correlative adoption of a strong psychological attitude. It is important to try so far as possible to maintain a positive and strong mental bearing in aikido.
Kami = A divinity, living force, or spirit. According to Shinto, the natural world is full of kami, which are often sensitive or responsive to the actions of human beings.
Kamidana = A small shrine, frequently located at the front of a dojo, and often housing a picture of the founder, or some calligraphy. One generally bows in the direction of the kamiza when entering or leaving the dojo, or the mat.
Kamiza = a term used in Japan to refer to the ‘top seat’ or important side within a room. The opposite term referring to the ‘bottom seat’ within a room is Shimoza.
Kansetsu waza = Joint manipulation techniques.
Kata = A “form” or prescribed pattern of movement, especially with the jo in aikido. (But also “shoulder.”)
Katame waza = “Hold-down” (pinning) techniques.
Katana = What is vulgarly called a “samurai sword.”
Katsu jin ken = “The sword that saves life.” As Japanese swordsmanship became more and more influenced by Buddhism (especially Zen Buddhism) and Taoism, practitioners became increasingly interested in incorporating ethical principles into their discipline. The consummate master of swordsmanship, according to some such practitioners, should be able not only to use the sword to kill, but also to save life. The concept of katsu jin ken found some explicit application in the development of techniques which would use non-cutting parts of the sword to strike or control one’s opponent, rather than to kill him/her. The influence of some of these techniques can sometimes be seen in aikido. Other techniques were developed by which an unarmed person (or a person unwilling to draw a weapon) could disarm an attacker. These techniques are frequently practiced in aikido. (see setsu nin to)
Keiko = Training. The only secret to success in aikido.
Ken = Sword.
Kensho = Enlightenment. (see mokuso and satori)
Ki = Mind. Spirit. Energy. Vital-force. Intention. (Chinese = chi) For many Aikidoka, the primary goal of training in aikido is to learn how to “extend” ki, or to learn how to control or redirect the ki of others. There are both “realist” and anti-realist interpretations of ki. The ki-realist takes ki to be, literally, a kind of “stuff,” “energy,” or life-force which flows within the body. Developing or increasing one’s own ki, according to the ki-realist, thus confers upon the aikido-ka greater power and control over his/her own body, and may also have the added benefits of improved health and longevity. According to the ki-anti-realist, ki is a concept which covers a wide range of psycho-physical phenomena, but which does not denote any objectively existing “energy” or “stuff.” The ki-anti-realist believes, for example, that to “extend ki” is just to adopt a certain kind of positive psychological disposition and to correlate that psychological dispositon with just the right combination of balance, relaxation, and judicious application of physical force. Since the description “extend ki” is somewhat more manageable, the concept of ki has a class of well-defined uses for the ki-anti-realist, but does not carry with it any ontological commitments beyond the scope of mainstream scientific theories.
Kiai = A shout delivered for the purpose of focussing all of one’s energy into a single movement. Even when audible kiai are absent, one should try to preserve the feeling of kiai at certain crucial points within aikido techniques.
Kihon = (Something which is) fundamental. There are often many seemingly very different ways of performing the same technique in aikido. To see beneath the surface features of the technique and grasp the core common is to comprehend the kihon.
Ki musubi = ki no musubi = Literally “knotting/tying-up ki.” The act / process of matching one’s partner’s movement / intention at its inception, and maintaining a connection to one’s partner throughout the application of an aikido technique. Proper ki musubi requires a mind that is clear, flexible, and attentive. (see setsuzoku)
Kohai = A student junior to oneself.
Kokoro = “Heart” or “mind.” Japanese folk psychology does not distinguish clearly between the seat of intellect and the seat of emotion as does Western folk psychology.
Kokyu = Breath. Part of aikido is the development of “kokyu ryoku,” or “breath power.” This is the coordination of breath with movement. A prosaic example: When lifting a heavy object, it is generally easier when breathing out. Also breath control may facilitate greater concentration and the elimination of stress. In many traditional forms of meditation, focus on the breath is used as a method for developing heightened concentration or mental equanimity. This is also the case in aikido. A number of exercises in aikido are called “kokyu ho,” or “breath exercises.” These exercises are meant to help one develop kokyu ryoku.
Kotodama = A practice of intoning various sounds (phonetic components of the Japanese language) for the purpose of producing mystical states. The founder of aikido was greatly interested in Shinto and neo-Shinto mystical practices, and he incorporated a number of them into his personal aikido practice.
Ku = Emptiness. According to Buddhism, the fundamental character of things is absence (or emptiness) of individual unchanging essences. The realization of the essencelessness of things is what permits the cultivation of psychological non-attachment, and thus cognitive equanimity. The direct realization of (or experience of insight into) emptiness is enlightenment. This shows up in aikido in the ideal of developing a state of cognitive openness, permiting one to respond immediately and intuitively to changing circumstances. (see mokuso)
Kumijo = jo matching exercise or partner practice.
Kumitachi = Sword matching exercise or partner practice.
Kuzushi = The principle of destroying one’s partner’s balance. In aikido, a technique cannot be properly applied unless one first unbalances one’s partner. To achieve proper kuzushi, in aikido, one should rely primarily on position and timing, rather than merely on physical force.
Kyu = White belt rank. (Or any rank below shodan)
Ma ai = Proper distancing or timing with respect to one’s partner. Since aikido techniques always vary according to circumstances, it is important to understand how differences in initial position affect the timing and application of techniques.
Mae = Front. Thus mae ukemi = “forward fall/roll.”
Masakatsu = “True victory.” (see agatsu and kachihayabi)
Michibiki = An aspect of aikido movement that involves leading, rather than pushing or pulling, one’s partner. As with many other concepts in aikido, there are both physical and cognitive dimensions to michibiki. Physically, one may lead one’s partner through subtle guiding or redirection of the attacking motion. Psychologically, one may lead one’s partner through “baiting” (presenting apparent opportunities for attack ). Frequently both physical and cognitive elements are employed in concert. For example, if uke reaches for nage’s wrist, nage may move the wrist just slightly ahead of uke’s grasp, at such a pace that uke is fooled into thinking s/he will be able to seize it, thus continuing the attempt to grab and following the lead where nage wishes.
Migi = Right.
Misogi = Ritual purification. Aikido training may be looked upon as a means of purifying oneself; eliminating defiling characteristics from one’s mind or personality. Although there are some specific exercises for misogi practice, such as breathing exercises, in point of fact, every aspect of aikido training may be looked upon as misogi. This, however, is a matter of one’s attitude or approach to training, rather than an objective feature of the training itself.
Mokuso = Meditation. Practice often begins or ends with a brief period of meditation. The purpose of meditation is to clear one’s mind and to develop cognitive equanimity. Perhaps more importantly, meditation is an opportunity to become aware of conditioned patterns of thought and behavior so that such patterns can be modified, eliminated or more efficiently put to use. In addition, meditation may occasion experiences of insight into various aspects of aikido (or, if one accepts certain buddhist claims, into the very structure of reality). Ideally, the sort of cognitive awareness and focus that one cultivates in meditation should carry over into the rest of one’s practice, so that the distinction between the “meditative mind” and the “normal mind” collapses.
Mudansha = Students without black-belt ranking.
Mushin = Literally “no mind.” A state of cognitive awareness characterized by the absence of discursive thought. A state of mind in which the mind acts/reacts without hypostatization of concepts. mushin is often erroneously taken to be a state of mere spontaneity. Although spontaneity is a feature of mushin, it is not straightforwardly identical with it. It might be said that when in a state of mushin, one is free to use concepts and distinctions without being used by them.
Musubi = “Tying up” or “uniting”. One of the strategic objectives in applying aikido techniques in to merge with (= musubi) and redirect the aggressive impulse (= ki) of an attacker in order to gain control of it. Thus “ki musubi” or “ki no musubi” is one of the goals of aikido. There is a cognitive as well as a physical dimension to musubi. Ideally, at the most advanced levels of aikido, one learns to detect signs of aggression in a potential attacker before a physical assault has been initiated. If one learns to identify aggressive intent and defuse or redirect it before the attack is launched, one may achieve victory without physical confrontation. Also, by developing heightened sensitivity to the cues that may precede a physical attack, one thereby gains a strategic advantage, making possible pre-emptive action or, perhaps, escape. This heightened sensitivity to aggressive cues is only possible as a result of training one’s awareness as well as one’s technical abilities.
Nagare = Flowing. One goal of aikido practice is to learn not to oppose physical force with physical force. Rather, one strives to flow along with physical force, redirecting it to one’s advantage.
Nage = The thrower.
Obi = A belt.
Omote = “The front,” thus, a class of movements in aikido in which nage enters in front of uke.
Omotokyo = One of the so-called “new-religions” of Japan. Omotokyo is a syncretic amalgam of Shintoism, neo-Shinto mysticism, Christianity, and Japanese folk religion. The founder of aikido was a devotee of Omotokyo and incorporated some elements from it into his aikido practice. The founder insisted, however, that one need not be a devotee of Omotokyo in order to study aikido or to comprehend the purpose or philosophy of aikido.
Onegai shimasu = “I welcome you to train with me,” or literally, “I make a request.” This is said to one’s partner when initiating practice.
Osaewaza = Pinning techniques.
O-sensei = Literally, “Great Teacher,” i.e., Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of aikido.
Randori = Free-style “all-out” training. Sometimes used as a synonym for jiyu waza. Although aikido techniques are usually practiced with a single partner, it is important to keep in mind the possibility that one may be attacked by multiple aggressors. Many of the body movements of aikido (tai sabaki) are meant to facilitate defense against multiple attackers.
Reigi = Ettiquette. Observance of proper ettiquette at all times (but especially observance of proper dojo ettiquette) is as much a part of one’s training as the practice of techniques. Observation of reigi indicates one’s sincerety, one’s willingness to learn, and one’s recognition of the rights and interests of others.
Satori = Enlightenment. In Buddhism, enlightenment is characterized by a direct realization or apprehension of the absence of unchanging essences behind phenomena. Rather, phenomena are seen to be empty of such essences – phenomena exist in thoroughgoing interdependence (engi). As characterized by the founder of aikido, enlightenment consists in realizing a fundamental unity between oneself and the (principles governing) the universe. The most important ethical principle the aikidoist should gain insight into is that one should cultivate a spirit of loving protection for all things. (see ku and shinnyo)
Sensei = Teacher. It is usually considered proper to address the instructor during practice as “Sensei” rather than by his/her name. If the instructor is a permanent instructor for one’s dojo or for an organization, it is proper to address him/her as “Sensei” off the mat as well.
Seiza = Sitting on one’s knees. Sitting this way requires acclimatization, but provides both a stable base and greater ease of movement than sitting cross-legged.
Sempai = A student senior to oneself.
Setsu nin to = “The sword that kills.” Although this would seem to indicate a purely negative concept, there is, in fact, a positive connotation to this term. Apart from the common assumption that killing may sometimes be a “necessary evil” which may serve to prevent an even greater evil, the concept of killing has a wide variety of metaphorical applications. One may, for example, strive to “kill” such harmful character traits as ignorance, selfishness, or (excessive) competitiveness. Some misogi sword exercises in aikido, for example, involve imagining that each cut of the sword destroys some negative aspect of one’s personality. In this way, setsu nin to and katsu jin ken (the sword that saves) coalesce.
Setsuzoku = Connection. Aikido techniques are generally rendered more efficient by preserving a connection between one’s center of mass (hara) and the outer limits of the movement, or between one’s own center of mass and that of one’s partner. Also, setsuzoku may connote fluidity and continuity in technique. On a psychological level, setsuzoku may connote the relationship of action-response that exists between oneself and one’s partner, such that successful performance of aikido techniques depends crucially upon timing one’s own actions and responses to accord with those of one’s partner. Physically, setsuzoku correlates with leverage and with the most efficient application of force to the task of controlling one’s partner’s balance and mobility.
Shidoin = A formal title meaning, approximately, “instructor.”
Shihan = A formal title meaning, approximately, “master instructor.” A “teacher of teachers.”
Shikaku = Literally “dead angle.” A position relative to one’s partner where it is difficult for him/her to (continue to) attack, and from which it is relatively easy to control one’s partner’s balance and movement. The first phase of an aikido technique is often to establish shikaku.
Shikko = Samurai walking (“knee walking”). Shikko is very important for developing a strong awareness of one’s center of mass (hara). It also develops strength in one’s hips and legs.
Shimoza = a term used in Japan to refer to the ‘bottom seat’ or least important side within a room. The opposite term referring to the ‘top seat’ within a room is Kamiza.
Shinkenshobu = Lit. “Duel with live swords.” This expresses the attitude one should have about aikido training, i.e., one should treat the practice session as though it were, in some respects, a life-or-death duel with live swords. In particular, one’s attention during aikido training should be single-mindedly focussed on aikido, just as, during a life-or-death duel, one’s attention is entirely focussed on the duel.
Shinnyo = “Thusness” or “suchness.” A term commonly used in Buddhist philosophy (and especially in Zen Buddhism) to denote the character of things as they are experienced without filtering the experiences through an overt conceptual framework. There is some question whether “pure” uninterpreted experience (independent of all conceptualization/categorization) is possible given the neurological/cognitive makeup of human beings. However, shinnyo can also be taken to signify experience of things as empty of individual essences (see “ku”).
Shinto = “The way of the gods.” The indigenous religion of Japan. The founder of aikido was deeply influenced by Omotokyo, a religion largely grounded in Shinto mysticism. (see kami)
Shodan = First degree black belt. (Nidan = second degree black belt, followed by sandan, yondan, godan, rokudan, nanadan, hachidan, kyudan, judan)
Shomen = Front or top of head. Also the designated front of a dojo.
Shoshin = Beginner’s mind. Progress in aikido training requires that one approach one’s training with a mind that is free from unfounded bias. Although we can say in one respect that we frequently practice the same techniques over and over again, often against the same attack, there is another sense in which no attack is ever the same, and no application of technique is ever the same. There are subtle variations in the circumstances of every interaction between attacker and defender. These small differences may sometimes translate into larger differences. To assume that one already knows a technique constitutes a “locking in” of the mind to a pre-set dispositional pattern of response, resulting in a corresponding loss of adaptability. Prejudgment also may deprive one of the opportunity to learn new principles of movement. For example, it is common for people upon seeing a different way of performing a technique to judge it to be wrong. This judgment is frequently based on a superficial observation of the technique, rather than an appreciation of the underlying principles upon which the technique is based.
Shugyo = Discipline. Traveling in pursuit of Truth. To pursue aikido, or any martial art, as a path to self-improvement involves more than training. The word “shugyo” connotes a continual striving for technical and personal excellence. Keiko, or training, is only one component of such striving. To pursue aikido as a Way, requires a continual reexamination and correction of oneself, one’s attitudes, reactions, dispositions to like or dislike, etc.
Soto = “Outside.” Thus, a class of aikido movements executed, especially, outside the attacker’s arm(s). (see uchi)
Suburi = Repetitive practice in striking and thrusting with jo or bokken. Such repetitive practice trains not only one’s facility with the weapon, but also general fluidity of body movement that is applicable to empty-hand training.
Sukashi waza = Techniques performed without allowing the attacker to complete a grab or to initiate a strike. Ideally, one should be sensitive enough to the posture and movements of an attacker (or would-be attacker) that the attack is neutralized before it is fully executed. A great deal of both physical and cognitive training is required in order to attain this ideal.
Suki = An opening or gap where one is vulnerable to attack or application of a technique, or where one’s technique is otherwise flawed. suki may be either physical or psychological. One goal of training is to be sensitive to suki within one’s own movement or position, as well as to detect suki in the movement or position of one’s partner. Ideally, a master of aikido will have developed his/her skill to such an extent that he/she no longer has any true suki.
Sutemi = Literally “to throw-away the body.” The attitude of abandoning oneself to the execution of a technique (in judo, a class of techniques where one sacrifices one’s own balance/position in order to throw one’s partner). (See aiuchi). In aikido, sutemi may connote an attitude of fearlessness by which one enters into an attacker’s space with no thought of preserving one’s own safety. Far from being simple recklessness, however, sutemi is based upon an absolute commitment to a strategy for neutralizing the attack. Techniques in aikido cannot be applied tentatively if they are to be effective. Rather, one must respond instantly to a threat and take decisive action. Thus, in a manner of speaking, sutemi requires not only throwing away the body, but throwing away the self as well.
Suwari waza = Techniques executed with both uke and nage in a seated position. These techniques have their historical origin (in part) in the practice of requiring all samurai to sit and move about on their knees while in the presence of a daimyo (feudal lord). In theory, this made it more difficult for anyone to attack the daimyo. But this was also a position in which one received guests (not all of whom were always trustworthy). In contemporary aikido, suwari waza is important for learning to use one’s hips and legs.
Tachi = A type of Japanese sword (thus tachi-tori = sword-taking). (Also “standing position”).
Tachi waza = Standing techniques.
Taijutsu = “Body arts,” i.e., unarmed practice.
Tai no henko = tai no tenkan = Basic blending practice involving turning 180 degrees.
Tai sabaki = Body movement.
Takemusu aiki = A “slogan” of the founder’s meaning “infinitely generative martial art of aiki.” Thus, a synonym for aikido. The scope of aikido is not limited only to the standard, named techniques one studies regularly in practice. Rather, these standard techniques serve as repositories of more fundamental principles (kihon). Once one has internalized the kihon, it is possible to generate a virtually infinite variety of new aikido techniques in accordance with novel conditions.
Taninsugake = Training against multiple attackers, usually from grabbing attacks.
Tanto = A dagger.
Tegatana = “Hand sword,” i.e. the edge of the hand. Many aikido movements emphasize extension “through” one’s tegatana. Also, there are important similarities obtaining between aikido sword techniques, and the principles of tegatana application.
Tenkan = Turning movement, esp. turning the body 180 degrees. (see tai no tenkan)
Tenshin = A movement where nage retreats 45 degrees away from the attack (esp. to uke’s open side).
Tsuki = A punch or thrust (esp. an attack to the midsection).
Uchi = “Inside.” A class of techniques where nage moves, especially, inside (under) the attacker’s arm(s). (But also a strike, e.g.,shomen uchi.)
Uchi deshi = A live-in student. A student who lives in a dojo and devotes him/herself both to training and to the maintenence of the dojo (and sometimes to personal service to the sensei of the dojo).
Ueshiba Kisshomaru = The son of the founder of aikido and second aikido doshu.
Ueshiba Morihei = The founder of aikido. (see O-sensei and kaiso).
Ueshiba Moriteru = The grandson of the founder and current aikido (2007).
Uke = Person being thrown (receiving the technique). At high levels of practice, the distinction between uke and nage becomes blurred. In part, this is because it becomes unclear who initiates the technique, and also because, from a certain perspective, uke and nage are thoroughly interdependent.
Ukemi = Literally “receiving [with/through] the body,” thus, the art of falling in response to a technique. Mae ukemi are front roll-falls, ushiro ukemi are back roll-falls. Ideally, one should be able to execute ukemi from any position and in any direction. The development of proper ukemi skills is just as important as the development of throwing skills and is no less deserving of attention and effort. In the course of practicing ukemi, one has the opportunity to monitor the way one is being moved so as to gain a clearer understanding of the principles of aikido techniques. Just as standard aikido techniques provide strategies for defending against physical attacks, so does ukemi practice provide strategies for defending against falling (or even against the application of an aikido or aikido-like technique).
Ura = “Rear.” A class of aikido techniques executed by moving behind the attacker and turning. Sometimes ura techniques are called tenkan (turning) techniques.
Ushiro = Backwards or behind, as in ushiro ukemi or falling backwards.
Waza = Techniques. Although in aikido we have to practice specific techniques, aikido as it might manifest itself in self-defense may not resemble any particular, standard aikido technique. This is because aikido techniques encode strategies and types of movement which are modified in accordance with changing conditions. (see kihon)
-tori (-dori) = Taking away , e.g. tanto-tori (knife-taking).
Yoko = Side.
Yokomen = Side of the head.
Yudansha = Black belt holder (any rank).
Zanshin = Lit. “remaining mind/heart.” Even after an aikido technique has been completed, one should remain in a balanced and aware state. Zanshin thus connotes “following through” in a technique, as well as preservation of one’s awareness so that one is prepared to respond to additional attacks. Zanshin has both a physical and a cognitive dimension. The physical dimension is represented by maintaining correct posture and balance even when a technique has been completed. The cognitive dimension consists partly in preserving the same overall mindset at all phases of technique application – there is nothing any more special about having completed a technique than there is about beginning or continuing it. Also, upon completing a technique, one’s state of cognitive readiness is not abandoned: one remains ready either for a renewed attack by the same opponent, or for an attack from another direction by a new attacker.
Zen = A school or division of Buddhism characterized by techniques designed to produce enlightenment. In particular, Zen emphasizes various sorts of meditative practices, which are supposed to lead the practitioner to a direct insight into the fundamental character of reality (see ku and mokuso). Practitioners of many martial arts, including aikido, believe that adopting a mindful attitude towards martial arts training can promote some of the same insights as more traditional meditative practices.
Zori = Sandals worn when off the mat to help keep the mat clean!
Common Attacks Katate tori (also katate mochi) = One hand holding one hand.
Kosa dori (also naname mochi) = One hand holding one hand, cross-body.
Morote tori = Two hands holding one hand.
Kata tori = Shoulder hold.
Ryokata tori = Grabbing both shoulders.
Ryote tori = Two hands holding two hands.
Mune dori = One or two hand lapel hold.
Hiji tori = Elbow grab.
Ushiro tekubi tori (ushiro ryote tori / ushiro ryokatate tori) = Wrist grab from the back.
Ushiro ryokata tori = As above from the back.
Ushiro kubi shime = Rear choke.
Shomen uchi = Overhead strike to the head.
Yokomen uchi = Diagonal strike to the side of the head.
Tsuki = Straight thrust (punch), esp. to the midsection.
Basic Techniques ikkyo (ikkajo / ude osae) = omote and ura (irimi and tenkan).
Nikyo (nikajo / kote mawashi) = omote and ura (irimi and tenkan)
Sankyo (sankajo / kote hineri) = omote and ura (irimi and tenkan)
Yonkyo (yonkajo / tekubi osae) = omote and ura (irimi and tenkan)
Gokyo (ude nobashi) = omote and ura (irimi and tenkan)
Throws Irimi nage (also kokyu nage) = Entering throw (“20 year” technique).
Juji nage (juji garami) = Arm entwining throw.
Kaiten nage = Rotary throw. uchi and soto, omote and ura (irimi and tenkan)
Kokyu nage = Breath throws.
Koshi nage = Hip throw.
Kote gaeshi = Wrist turn-out.
Shiho nage = “Four direction” throw.
Sumiotoshi = “Corner drop.” omote and ura (irimi and tenkan).
Tenchi nage = “Heaven and earth” throw. omote and ura (irimi and tenkan).
A = aardvark I = pizza U = blue E = egg O = bone Counting to 10 in Japanese:
ichi, ni, san, shi (yon), go, roku, shichi (nana), hachi, kyu (ku), ju.