Pronunciation Guide

In the romanization system used here, consonants and diphthongs are pronounced as written (g, j, and y are always 'hard'). Vowel sounds resemble those in Spanish and are given below. Final i and final u are often unstressed (e.g., shichi may sound like 'shich', and roku may sound like 'rok'). Long vowels and double consonants are held for an extra 'beat' and confer distinct meanings (e.g., ku vs. ; shikō vs. shikkō).

Counting to 10 in Japanese

  1. ichi
  2. ni
  3. san
  4. shi (or yon) 四
  5. go
  6. roku
  7. shichi (or nana) 七
  8. hachi
  9. kyū (or ku) 九

Numbers up to 99 are constructed by combining these elements. Some examples: jū-ichi 十一 ("eleven"), jū-ni 十ニ ("twelve"), ni-jū ニ十 ("twenty"), san-jū-go 三十五 ("thirty-five").

Common Aikidō Terms

This is a list of some Japanese terms you may occasionally hear around the dōjō. Literal translations are given within quotation marks.

aikidō 合氣道 = The word aikidō is made up of three kanji characters: ai - harmony; ki - spirit, mind, or universal energy; - way. Thus, aikidō is literally "the way of harmony with universal energy". However, aiki may also be interpreted as "accommodation to circumstances". This latter interpretation is somewhat non-standard, but it avoids certain esoteric metaphysical commitments and also epitomizes quite well both the physical and psychological facets of aikidō.

ai hanmi 合半身 = "Matching half-body". Stance where uke and nage each have the same foot forward (i.e., right-right or left-left). (opp. gyaku hanmi)

ashi-sabaki 足捌き = "Foot-maneuver". Basic foot movements: shuffle step (tsugi-ashi 次足), walking (ayumi-ashi 歩み足), pivot (tenkai-ashi 転回足), forward-step pivot (kaiten-ashi 回転足), pivot backstep (tenkan-ashi 転換足).

atemi 当身 = "Striking the body". Strike directed at the attacker for purposes of unbalancing or distracting. Atemi is often vital for bypassing or 'short-circuiting' an attacker's natural responses to aikidō 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 aikidō technique.

budō 武道 = "Warrior way". The martial arts, including armed (e.g. kendō 剣道) and unarmed (e.g. jūdō 柔道) arts.

bokken 木剣 = bokutō 木刀 = "Wooden sword". Many aikidō 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. The suburitō 素振り刀 ("elementary swinging sword") is a heavier version of the bokutō, used primarily for the basic practice in striking and thrusting known as suburi. (See also tanren bō.)

dan 段 = "Grade". Black belt rank. In standard aikidō, the highest rank it is now possible to attain is 8th dan. There are some teachers who hold ranks of 9th and 10th dan. These ranks were awarded by the Founder prior to his death and cannot be rescinded. (opp. kyū)

dōjō 道場 = "Place of the way". The place where we practice aikidō. Traditional etiquette prescribes bowing in the direction of the front (kamiza 上座) - the place where the picture of Ō-sensei usually hangs - whenever entering or leaving the dōjō. The side of the dōjō opposite the kamiza is where students are seated (shimoza 下座). Traditionally, more senior students are seated to the right side (jōseki 上席) facing the kamiza and more junior students to the left side (shimoseki 下席).

dōmo arigatō gozaimashita どうも有り難うございました = "Thank you very much (for a completed action)". After each class, it is proper to bow and thank the instructor and those with whom you have trained.

Dōshu 道主 = "Head of the way" (originally Kisshōmaru Ueshiba, son of the Founder, Morihei Ueshiba). The highest official authority in mainstream aikidō.

furi-kaburi 振りかぶり = "Raising aloft". Sword-raising movement. This movement is found especially in dai-ikkyō, irimi nage, and shihō nage.

gi 着 = dō-gi 道着 = keiko-gi 稽古着 = "Training garment". Either jūdō-style or karate-style gi are acceptable, but they should be white and cotton.

gyaku hanmi 逆半身 = "Opposite half-body". Opposing stance (right-left or left-right). (opp. ai hanmi)

hakama 袴 = "Divided skirt". Also called 'Samurai pants'. Usually worn by black-belt ranks, and in some dōjō it is also worn by those preparing to test for their first black-belt rank. In some dōjō the hakama is also worn by women of all ranks, and in some dōjō it is worn by all practitioners. This traditional Japanese garment has seven pleats, which are sometimes thought of as representing the seven virtues (shichitoku七徳) of Bushidō 武士道, the Samurai code of chivalry. Sometimes a senior student will fold the instructor's hakama after practice.

hanmi 半身 = "Half-body". Basic triangular stance (sankaku-tai 三角体) in aikidō. Often characterized by "right" (migi 右) or "left" (hidari 左) foot forward. (opp. shizentai)

hanmi hantachi waza 半身半立技 = "Half-body half-standing technique". Techniques with nage sitting, uke standing. See also tachi waza and suwari waza.

happō 八方 = "Eight directions". As in happō-undō ("8-direction exercise") or happō-giri ("8-direction cutting" with the sword).

hara 腹 = "Belly", but also 'heart/mind'. One's center of mass, located about two inches below the navel. Traditionally this was viewed as the location of the source of ki/spirit/mind. Aikidō techniques should be executed as much as possible with movement 'from' one's hara.

harai 払い = "Clearing-away". A movement characterized by sweeping away, especially of a weapon.

hajime 始め = "Begin". A command to start an exercise or technique. Often preceded by a command to get ready: "Good" (yoi 好い). Often followed by a command to stop: "Cease" (yame 止め). Another common command is "Turn around" (mawatte 回って).

henka waza 変化技 = "Change technique". Varied technique, especially beginning one technique and changing to another in mid-execution. For example: beginning dai-ikkyō but changing to irimi nage.

hiji-ate 肘当て = "elbow striking". A movement in which the arm rapidly applies a lifting pressure against the elbow or to the region between elbow and shoulder. (e.g., in the throw sometimes called hiji-ate kokyūnage)

hito-e-mi 一重身 = "Single-body", also called 'making the body small'. In paired weapons forms, defending against a strike by adopting the attitude of tsuki.

hyōshigi 拍子木 = "Clapping sticks". Wooden clappers, commonly used during breathing exercises.

irimi 入身 = "Entering the body". Entering movement. Also called "entering the body with a single step" (irimi-issoku 入身一足) or "path of an echo" (yamabiko no michi 山彦の道). (opp. tenkan)

jiyū waza 自由技 = "Free technique". Free-style practice of techniques. This may involve more than one attacker who may attack nage in any way desired.

杖 = "Wooden staff". Wooden staff about four feet in length. The originated as a walking stick. It is unclear precisely how it became incorporated into aikidō. Many movements come from traditional Japanese spear-fighting (yarijutsu 槍術), and others may have come from staff-fighting (jō-jutsu 杖術 or bō-jutsu 棒術), but many seem to have been innovated by the Founder. The is used in advanced practice.

kaeshi waza 返し技 = "Return technique". Technique reversal; uke becomes nage and vice-versa. For example, if nage tries to perform kaiten nage but fails to lead the head of uke downward sufficiently, uke may perform the "elbow scooping" (hiji o sukui agete 肘を掬い上げて) kaeshi waza.

Kaiso 開祖 = "Founder". The Founder of aikidō (i.e., Morihei Ueshiba).

kamae 構え = "Posture". The basic posture in aikidō. When practicing with the or bokken, the "high", "middle", and "low" positions are known as jōdan-no-kamae 上段の構え, chūdan-no-kamae 中段の構え, and gedan-no-kamae 下段の構え, respectively. Other, more advanced, postures are the "side" (waki-gamae 脇構え) and "eight-aspect" (hassō-no-kamae 八相の構え) positions.

kata 形 = "Form". A prescribed pattern of movement, especially with the or bokken in aikidō.

keiko 稽古 = "Practice".

ki氣 (modern form: 気) = "Mind, spirit, energy, vital-force" (Chinese = chi). Some aikidō practitioners believe that training in aikidō helps one to develop 'ki power'. Some claim that ki is responsible for certain near-miraculous abilities allegedly possessed by high-ranking martial artists. Historically, however, the concept of ki was intended to account for the difference between living and non-living things, or as a sort of fundamental stuff out of which all things originated in accordance with a form or principle (Japanese = ri, Chinese = li). Sometimes the expression 'extend ki' is used interchangeably with 'focus your intent'.

kiai 氣合い = "Spirit-harmony". A shout or cry, delivered for the purpose of focusing all of one's energy into a single movement. Occasionally used to refer to this 'focus' itself, rather than a shout.

ki musubi 氣結び = "Ki tying-together". A linking together of intent or 'energy' between partners, especially so as to yield smoothly synchronized motion.

kihon waza 基本技 = "Foundational technique". A basic form of practicing a technique, often at slow speed from a static start. (opp. nagare waza)

kōhai 後輩 = "Junior companion". Junior student; one who began his/her study of aikidō after you. (opp. sempai)

kokyū 呼吸 = "Breath". Part of aikidō is the development of kokyū ryoku 呼吸力 ("breath power"). This is the coordination of breath with movement. A prosaic example: When moving 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 mindfulness, heightened concentration, or mental equanimity. This is also the case in aikidō.

空 = "Emptiness".

kumi tachi 組太刀 = "Joined longswords". A paired weapons form of training, in which both partners execute attacks and defenses with bokken. Similarly, kumi jō 組杖 ("joined staves") is paired weapons practice in which both partners attack and defend with .

kyū 級 = "Class". White belt rank; any rank below shodan. Note that some American dōjō issue belts of different colors for different ranks, while others retain the traditional white belt for all ranks below black belt. (opp. dan)

ma-ai 間合い = "Space-harmony". Proper distancing or timing with respect to one's partner. Since aikidō techniques always vary according to circumstances, it is important to understand how differences in initial position affect the application of techniques.

ma-ai o toru 間合いを取る = "Space-harmony taking". Taking up slack by adjusting proper distancing. In paired weapons forms, for example, one partner might enter with weapon extended as the other partner raises a weapon overhead.

mae 前 = "Before". As in "falling forwards" (mae ukemi 前受身). (opp. ushiro)

mae kagami 前屈み = "Forward stooping". An exercise for testing proper balance. Similar exercises are ushiro sori 後ろ反り ("backward bending") and kata-ashi age 片足上げ ("single-leg raising").

misogi 禊 = "Ritual purification". Aikidō 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 aikidō may be looked upon as misogi.

mokusō 黙想 = meisō 瞑想 = "Meditation". Practice often begins or ends with a brief period of meditation. Purposes of meditation may include clearing one's mind, developing mental equanimity, enhancing awareness, focusing on presence in the moment, and cultivating unity of mind and body. 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 aikidō or into the nature of reality.

mushin 無心 = "No-mind". An ego-less, reflective mental state.

nagare waza 流れ技 = "Flowing technique". A more advanced form of practicing a technique, often at moderate speed from a dynamic start. (opp. kihon waza)

nage 投げ = "Throw". The one who throws. (opp. uke)

nen 念 = "Sense". Concentration, one-pointedness.

obi 帯 = "Belt". As in kuro obi 黒帯 ("black belt").

omote 表 = "Front". A class of aikidō movements in which nage enters in front of uke. (opp. ura)

onegai shimasu お願いします = "I make a request". This is said to one's partner when initiating practice. It may be interpreted as: 'I welcome you to train with me.'

osaeru = "Suppressing". To hold down or suppress, especially a weapon. For example: ken o osaeru 剣を押える ("sword suppressing").

orenai te 折れない手 = "Unbendable arm". An exercise embodying the principle of dynamic extension, as opposed to rigid tension or dead relaxation. A similar exercise is agaranai karada 上がらない体 ("unliftable body").

Ō-sensei 大先生 = "Great teacher". Morihei Ueshiba, the Founder of aikidō.

randori 乱取り = "Disorder/war taking". Free-style 'all-out' training, usually involving multiple attackers.

rei 礼 = "Bowing". May be executed as "standing bow" (tachi-rei 立ち礼) or "seated bow" (za-rei 座礼). Sometimes a direction is indicated, as in shōmen ni rei 正面に礼 ("bow to front"), sensei ni rei 先生に礼 ("bow to teacher"), sempai ni rei 先輩に礼 ("bow to senior student"), or otagai ni rei お互いに礼 ("bow to each other").

renzoku 連続 = "Successive". In weapons techniques, an attack on one side followed swiftly by an attack on the other side. As in renzoku tsuki ("successive thrusting") or renzoku uchikomi ("successive striking-in"). The latter usually consists of yokomen uchikomi followed by gyaku yokomen uchikomi and is also known as kiri-kaeshi 切り返し ("cut-returning").

riai 理合 = "Joining of principles". Synergy between techniques of sword, staff, and empty hands.

sabaki 捌き = "Maneuver". As in "hand-movement' (te-sabaki 手捌き), "foot-movement" (ashi-sabaki 足捌き), or "body-movement" (tai-sabaki 休捌き).

sempai 先輩 = "Senior companion". Senior student; one who began his/her study of aikidō before you. (opp. kōhai)

sensei 先生 = "Teacher". It is usually considered proper to address the instructor during practice as 'Sensei' rather than by name.

seiza 正座 = "Upright sitting". Sitting on one's knees. Sitting this way in comfort may require some practice, but it provides both a stable base and greater ease of movement than sitting in the "cross-legged pose" (agura no shisei 胡座の姿勢).

setsuzoku 接続 = "Connection". Aikidō techniques are generally rendered more efficient by preserving a connection between one's 'center' (hara) and the outer limits of the movement. Also, setsuzoku may connote fluidity and continuity in technique.

Shihan 師範 = "Master". Formal title of a master instructor.

shikkō 膝行 = "Going on one's knees". Also called 'Samurai walk'. Knee walking. Shikkō 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.

shinken shiraha dori 真剣白刄取り = "Real-sword naked-blade taking". Taking a sword in such a manner that the blade (preferably the non-sharp portion!) comes into contact with the bare hands.

shinkenshōbu 真剣勝負 = "Duel with real swords". This expresses the attitude one should have about aikidō training: One should treat the practice session with the focus and intensity suitable to a life-or-death duel with real swords.

shizentai 自然休 = "Natural body". Natural stance, with feet about shoulder-width apart. (opp. hanmi) Upon raising both arms, this becomes the "cheering posture" (banzai-no-kamae 万歳の構え).

shodan 初段 = "First grade". First degree black belt.

shōmen 正面 = "Front of face/head". (opp. yokomen)

shūgyō 修業 = "Training". Originally used to describe ascetic training, it carries a connotation of devotion.

sokumen 側面 = "Flank", "profile", or "lateral". (e.g., the throw sometimes called sokumen iriminage)

sōtei 想定 = "Assumption". Solo practice with an imagined partner.

soto 外 = "Outside". A class of aikidō movements executed outside, especially outside the attacker's arm(s). (opp. uchi)

suburi 素振り = "Elementary swinging". Basic or bokken practice in striking and thrusting.

suri-ashi 摺足 = "Sliding foot". Foot-sliding movement.

suwari waza 座技 = "Stable-sitting technique". 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 Daimyō 大名 (feudal lord). In theory, this made it more difficult for anyone to attack the Daimyō. See also hanmi hantachi waza. (opp. tachi waza)

tachi 太刀 = "Long sword". A type of Japanese sword.

tachi 立ち = "Standing".

tachi waza 立技 = "Standing technique". Techniques executed with both uke and nage in a standing position. See also hanmi hantachi waza. (opp. suwari waza)

taijutsu 体術 = "Body arts". Unarmed practice.

tai no henkō 体の変更 = tai no tenkan 体の転換 = "Body turning". Basic blending practice involving turning 180 degrees.

tai-sabaki 休捌き = "Body maneuver". Basic body movement, such as irimi 入身 ("entering the body") and tenkan 転換 ("turning") movements. As practiced, for example, in the exercises tai sabaki toshu hō 休捌き徒手法 ("body-maneuver empty-handed method") or tai sabaki tachi hō 休捌き太刀法 ("body-maneuver sword method").

tanren bō 鍛錬棒 = "Drill-training/hardening pole". Typically a long, heavy block of wood with a sword-like handle, used for developing strength and concentration for sword movements.

tanren uchi 鍛錬打ち = "Drill-training/hardening striking". Striking practice with the bokken. Originally practiced on bundles of sticks, now commonly practiced on rubber tires or on another bokken.

tantō 短刀 = "Dagger".

tegatana 手刀 = "Hand-sword". The edge of the hand. Many aikidō movements emphasize extension 'through' one's tegatana. Also, there are important similarities between aikidō sword techniques and the principles of tegatana application.

tenkan 転換 = "Turning" or "diverting". Turning movement, especially turning the body 180 degrees. (opp. irimi)

tenshin 転身 or 転進 = "Turnover" or "change of course". A movement where nage retreats 45 degrees away from the attack.

X-tori (or X-dori) X・取り = "Taking" away X. For example: tantō-tori 短刀取り ("knife-taking").

tsuba seriai 鍔競り合い = "Sword-guard competition". In paired sword forms, a forward extension of both weapons so that the hilt guards meet, similar to a corps-à-corps in French fencing.

tsuki 突き = "Thrusting" or punching. Sometimes characterized by "right" (migi 右 ) or "left" (hidari 左) foot forward, or by shuffle-step (tsugi-ashi 次足) or walking-step (ayumi-ashi 歩み足) foot motion. In weapons techniques, sometimes the term kote tsuki 小手突き ("wrist thrusting") is used to distinguish a short 'poking' thrust from the usual penetrating thrust characteristic of tsuki.

uchi 内 = "Inside". A class of techniques where nage moves i/nside, especially inside (or under) the attacker's arm(s). (opp. soto)

uchideshi 内弟子 = "Inside disciple". An advanced student who lives in the dōjō.

uchikomi 打ち込み = "Striking-in". Striking, especially with a weapon. As in shōmen uchikomi or yokomen uchikomi. Sometimes a distinction is made between simply striking (uchi) and stepping forward and striking (uchikomi).

uchitachi 打ち太刀 = "Striking-sword". In paired weapons forms, the one who delivers the final strike. Attacker. (opp. uketachi)

uke 受け = "Receiver". The one who is thrown (who receives 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 because, from a certain perspective, uke and nage are thoroughly interdependent. (opp. nage)

ukemi 受身 = "Receiving the body". The art of falling in response to a technique. Mae ukemi 前受身 are front roll-falls; ushiro ukemi 後受身 are back roll-falls; yoko ukemi 横受身 are side falls. Ideally, one should be able to execute ukemi from any position. The development of proper ukemi skills is as important as the development of throwing skills. While 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 aikidō techniques.

uketachi 受け太刀 = "Receiving-sword". In paired weapons forms, the one who receives the final strike (who, like uke, receives the technique). Defender. Sometimes also called shitachi 志太刀 ("aspiring-sword"). (opp. uchitachi)

ura 裏 = "Rear". A class of aikidō techniques executed by moving behind the attacker and turning. Sometimes ura techniques are called tenkan ("turning") techniques. (opp. omote)

ushiro 後ろ = "Behind". As in "falling backwards" (ushiro ukemi 後受身). (opp. mae)

waza 技 = "Technique". Although in aikidō we have to practice specific techniques, aikidō as it might manifest itself in self-defense may not resemble any particular, standard aikidō technique. This is because aikidō techniques are meant to encode strategies and types of movement which are modified in accordance with changing conditions. This was referred to by the Founder as takemusu aiki 武産合氣 ("warrior-birthing harmony-spirit"), the creative martial art which proliferates a multitude of techniques according to circumstances.

yokomen 横面 = "Side of face/head". Usually a distinction is made between a 'standard' strike to the side of the head executed with the striking hand (or forward hand, if using a weapon) palm upwards (yokomen uchi 横面打ち) and an 'opposite' strike to the side of the head executed with the striking hand (or forward hand, if using a weapon) palm downwards (gyaku yokomen uchi 逆横面打ち). (opp. shōmen)

yūdansha 有段者 = "Grade holder". Black belt holder of any dan rank.

zanshin 残心 = "Remaining mind/heart". Even after an aikidō 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.

(version 2017-04-09-a)

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