Introduction to



Beginning the Journey


Table of Contents

Table of Contents. i

A Personal Note. ii

Introduction. iii

History of Aikido. 1

Training. 2

Aikido and Combat Effectiveness. 3

Weapons Training. 4

About Bowing. 5

Training the Mind in Aikido. 5

A Note on Ki 7

Ranking in Aikido. 8

Basic Aikido Vocabulary. 8

Common Attacks. 20

Basic Techniques. 21

Throws. 21

Pronunciation. 21

Counting. 21

The Essence of Aikido. 23

A Brief History of Japan. 23

Aikido Kanji Dictionary. 31

Iaido/Iaijutsu. 42

Dojo Etiquette. 43


A Personal Note

Much of this document was originally The Aikido Primer by Eric Sotnak ( The following is Mr. Sotnak’s introduction:

Introductory notice:

Please feel free to copy and distribute this primer to fellow aikidoists, non-aikidoists, friends, enemies, or people who just need something to put them to sleep. Should you wish to customize it for your own dojo, you may do so, but do, please, endeavor to make any changes commensurate with the overall spirit of the thing. If you want to avoid being blamed for any mistakes in this document or for the content, you could include this introductory notice or attach my name somewhere else within the document. I hereby disclaim any responsibility for the content or for errors within any versions of this document not modified by myself.

I have adopted the Western convention for personal names in this document, i.e., first name first, family name second.

This version is dated September 1999.

Most of the remainder of this document was culled from resources on the Internet. Particular thanks to Jun Akiyama for his wonderful website, AikiWeb ( All photographs herein contained are the copyrighted property of their respective copyright holders.

And there is a very small part of this document that comes from my personal experience as an Aikidoka. I do plan to update/rewrite this document frequently to include more of my personal observations. I also plan to eventually add diagrams of techniques.

Good luck, and may you find peace and happiness on your journey.


Steven M. Fellwock

Lincoln, Nebraska

September 2000



An Introduction to Aikido



Although Aikido is a relatively recent innovation within the world of martial arts, it is heir to a rich cultural and philosophical background. Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969) created Aikido in Japan. Before creating Aikido, Ueshiba trained extensively in several varieties of jujitsu, as well as sword and spear fighting. Ueshiba also immersed himself in religious studies and developed an ideology devoted to universal socio-political harmony. Incorporating these principles into his martial art, Ueshiba developed many aspects of Aikido in concert with his philosophical and religious ideology.

Aikido is not primarily a system of combat, but rather a means of self-cultivation and improvement. Aikido has no tournaments, competitions, contests, or “sparring.” Instead, all Aikido techniques are learned cooperatively at a pace commensurate with the abilities of each trainee. According to the founder, the goal of Aikido is not the defeat of others, but the defeat of the negative characteristics which inhabit one’s own mind and inhibit its functioning.

At the same time, the potential of Aikido as a means of self-defense should not be ignored. One reason for the prohibition of competition in Aikido is that many Aikido techniques would have to be excluded because of their potential to cause serious injury. By training cooperatively, even potentially lethal techniques can be practiced without substantial risk.

It must be emphasized that there are no shortcuts to proficiency in Aikido (or in anything else, for that matter). Consequently, attaining proficiency in Aikido is simply a matter of sustained and dedicated training. No one becomes an expert in just a few months or years.

An Introduction to Aikido


History of Aikido

Aikido’s founder, Morihei Ueshiba, was born in Japan on December 14, 1883. As a boy, he often saw local thugs beat up his father for political reasons. He set out to make himself strong so that he could take revenge. He devoted himself to hard physical conditioning and eventually to the practice of martial arts, receiving certificates of mastery in several styles of jujitsu, fencing, and spear fighting. In spite of his impressive physical and martial capabilities, however, he felt very dissatisfied. He began delving into religions in hopes of finding a deeper significance to life, all the while continuing to pursue his studies of budo, or the martial arts. By combining his martial training with his religious and political ideologies, he created the modern martial art of Aikido. Ueshiba decided on the name “Aikido” in 1942 (before that he called his martial art “aikibudo” and “aikinomichi”).

On the technical side, Aikido is rooted in several styles of jujitsu (from which modern judo is also derived), in particular daitoryu-(aiki)jujitsu, as well as sword and spear fighting arts. Oversimplifying somewhat, we may say that Aikido takes the joint locks and throws from jujitsu and combines them with the body movements of sword and spear fighting. However, we must also realize that many Aikido techniques are the result of Master Ueshiba’s own innovation.

On the religious side, Ueshiba was a devotee of one of Japan’s so-called “new religions,” Omoto Kyo. Omoto Kyo was (and is) part neo-Shintoism, and part socio-political idealism. One goal of Omoto Kyo has been the unification of all humanity in a single “heavenly kingdom on earth” where all religions would be united under the banner of Omoto Kyo. It is impossible sufficiently to understand many of O-Sensei’s writings and sayings without keeping the influence of Omoto Kyo firmly in mind.

Despite what many people think or claim, there is no unified philosophy of Aikido. What there is, instead, is a disorganized and only partially coherent collection of religious, ethical, and metaphysical beliefs which are only more or less shared by Aikidoka, and which are either transmitted by word of mouth or found in scattered publications about Aikido.

Some examples: “Aikido is not a way to fight with or defeat enemies; it is a way to reconcile the world and make all human beings one family.” “The essence of Aikido is the cultivation of ki [a vital force, internal power, mental/spiritual energy].” “The secret of Aikido is to become one with the universe.” “Aikido is primarily a way to achieve physical and psychological self-mastery.” “The body is the concrete unification of the physical and spiritual created by the universe.” And so forth.

At the core of almost all philosophical interpretations of Aikido, however, we may identify at least two fundamental threads: (1) A commitment to peaceful resolution of conflict whenever possible. (2) A commitment to self-improvement through Aikido training.


Aikido practice begins the moment you enter the dojo! Trainees ought to endeavor to observe proper etiquette at all times. It is proper to bow when entering and leaving the dojo, and when coming onto and leaving the mat. Approximately 3-5 minutes before the official start of class, trainees should line up and sit quietly in seiza (kneeling) or with legs crossed.

The only way to advance in Aikido is through regular and continued training. Attendance is not mandatory, but keep in mind that in order to improve in Aikido, one probably needs to practice at least twice a week. In addition, insofar as Aikido provides a way of cultivating self-discipline, such self-discipline begins with regular attendance.

Your training is your own responsibility. No one is going to take you by the hand and lead you to proficiency in Aikido. In particular, it is not the responsibility of the instructor or senior students to see to it that you learn anything. Part of Aikido training is learning to observe effectively. Before asking for help, therefore, you should first try to figure the technique out for yourself by watching others.

Aikido training encompasses more than techniques. Training in Aikido includes observation and modification of both physical and psychological patterns of thought and behavior. In particular, you must pay attention to the way you react to various sorts of circumstances. Thus part of Aikido training is the cultivation of (self-)awareness.

The following point is very important: Aikido training is a cooperative, not competitive, enterprise. Techniques are learned through training with a partner, not an opponent. You must always be careful to practice in such a way that you temper the speed and power of your technique in accordance with the abilities of your partner. Your partner is lending his/her body to you for you to practice on – it is not unreasonable to expect you to take good care of what has been lent you.

Aikido training may sometimes be very frustrating. Learning to cope with this frustration is also a part of Aikido training. Practitioners need to observe themselves in order to determine the root of their frustration and dissatisfaction with their progress. Sometimes the cause is a tendency to compare oneself too closely with other trainees. Notice, however, that this is itself a form of competition. It is a fine thing to admire the talents of others and to strive to emulate them, but care should be taken not to allow comparisons with others to foster resentment, or excessive self-criticism.

If at any time during Aikido training you become too tired to continue or if an injury prevents you from performing some Aikido movement or technique, it is permissible to bow out of practice temporarily until you feel able to continue. If you must leave the mat, ask the instructor for permission.

Although Aikido is best learned with a partner, there are a number of ways to pursue solo training in Aikido. First, one can practice solo forms (kata) with a jo or bokken. Second, one can “shadow” techniques by simply performing the movements of Aikido techniques with an imaginary partner. Even purely mental rehearsal of Aikido techniques can serve as an effective form of solo training.

It is advisable to practice a minimum of two hours per week in order to progress in Aikido.


Aikido and Combat Effectiveness

Many practitioners of Aikido (from beginners to advanced students) have concerns about the practical self-defense value of Aikido as a martial art. The attacks as practiced in the dojo are frequently unrealistic and may be delivered without much speed or power. The concerns here are legitimate, but may, perhaps, be redressed.

In the first place, it is important to realize that Aikido techniques are usually practiced against stylized and idealized attacks. This makes it easier for students to learn the general patterns of Aikido movement. As students become more advanced, the speed and power of attacks should be increased, and students should learn to adapt the basic strategies of Aikido movement to a broader variety of attacks.

Many Aikido techniques cannot be performed effectively without the concomitant application of atemi (a strike delivered to the attacker for the purpose of facilitating the subsequent application of the technique). For safety’s sake, atemi is often omitted during practice. It is important, however, to study atemi carefully and perhaps to devote some time to practicing application of atemi so that one will be able to apply it effectively when necessary.

Aikido is sometimes held up for comparison to other martial arts, and Aikido students are frequently curious about how well a person trained in Aikido would stand up against someone of comparable size and strength who has trained in another martial art such as karate, judo, ju jutsu, or boxing. It is natural to hope that the martial art one has chosen to train in has effective combat applications. However, it is also important to realize that the founder of Aikido deliberately chose to develop his martial art into something other than the most deadly fighting art on the planet, and it may very well be true that other martial arts are more combat effective than Aikido. This is not to say that Aikido techniques cannot be combat effective – there are numerous practitioners of Aikido who have applied Aikido techniques successfully to defend themselves in a variety of life-threatening situations. No martial art can guarantee victory in every possible circumstance. All martial arts, including Aikido, consist in sets of strategies for managing conflict. The best anyone can hope for from their martial arts training is that the odds of managing the conflict successfully are improved. There are many different types of conflict, and many different parameters that may define a conflict. Some martial arts may be better suited to some types of conflict than others. Aikido may be ill suited to conflicts involving deliberate provocation of an adversary to fight. While there are some who view this as a shortcoming or a liability, there are others who see this as demonstrating the foolhardiness of provoking fights.

Since conflicts are not restricted to situations that result in physical combat, it may be that a martial art which encodes strategies for managing other types of conflict will serve its practitioners better in their daily lives than a more combat-oriented art. Many teachers of Aikido treat it as just such a martial art. One is more commonly confronted with conflicts involving coworkers, significant others, or family members than with assailants bent on all-out physical violence. Also, even where physical violence is a genuine danger, many people seek strategies for dealing with such situations, which do not require doing injury. For example, someone working with mentally disturbed individuals may find it less than ideal to respond to aggression by knocking the individual to the ground and pummeling him or her into submission. Many people find that Aikido is an effective martial art for dealing with situations similar to this.

In the final analysis, each person must decide individually whether or not Aikido is suited to his or her needs, interests, and goals.

Weapons Training

Some dojo hold classes which are devoted almost exclusively to training with to jo (staff), tanto (knife), and bokken (sword); the three principal weapons used in Aikido. However, since the goal of Aikido is not primarily to learn how to use weapons, trainees are advised to attend a minimum of two non-weapons classes per week if they plan to attend weapons classes.

There are several reasons for weapons training in Aikido. First, many Aikido movements are derived from classical weapons arts. There is thus a historical rationale for learning weapons movements. For example, all striking attacks in Aikido are derived from sword strikes. Because of this, empty-handed striking techniques in Aikido appear very inefficient and lacking in speed and power, especially if one has trained in a striking art such as karate or boxing.

Second, weapons training is helpful for learning proper ma ai, or distancing. Repeatedly moving in and out of the striking range of a weapon fosters an intuitive sense of distance and timing – something which is crucial to empty-hand training as well.

Third, many advanced Aikido techniques involve defenses against weapons. In order to ensure that such techniques can be practiced safely, it is important for students to know how to attack properly with weapons, and to defend against such attacks.

Fourth, there are often important principles of Aikido movement and technique that may be profitably demonstrated by the use of weapons.

Fifth, training in weapons kata is a way of facilitating understanding of general principles of Aikido movement.

Sixth, weapons training can add an element of intensity to Aikido practice, especially in practicing defenses against weapons attacks.

Seventh, training with weapons provides Aikidoka with an opportunity to develop a kind of responsiveness and sensitivity to the movements and actions of others within a format that is usually highly structured. In addition, it is often easier to discard competitive mindsets when engaged in weapons training, making it easier to focus on cognitive development.

Finally, weapons training is an excellent way to learn principles governing lines of attack and defense. All Aikido techniques begin with the defender moving off the line of attack and then creating a new line (often a non-straight line) for application of an Aikido technique.

About Bowing

It is common for people to ask about the practice of bowing in Aikido. In particular, many people are concerned that bowing may have some religious significance. It does not. In Western culture, it is considered proper to shake hands when greeting someone for the first time, to say “please” when making a request, and to say “thank you” to express gratitude. In Japanese culture, bowing (at least partly) may fulfill all these functions. Bear in mind, too, that in European society only a few hundred years ago a courtly bow was a conventional form of greeting.

Incorporating this particular aspect of Japanese culture into our Aikido practice serves several purposes:

The initial bow, which signifies the beginning of formal practice, is much like a “ready, begin,” uttered at the beginning of an examination. So long as class is in session, you should behave in accordance with certain standards of deportment. Aikido class should be somewhat like a world unto itself. While in this “world,” your attention should be focused on the practice of Aikido. Bowing out is like signaling a return to the “ordinary” world.

When bowing either to the instructor at the beginning of practice or to one’s partner at the beginning of a technique it is considered proper to say “onegai shimasu” (lit. “I request a favor”) and when bowing either to the instructor at the end of class or to one’s partner at the end of a technique it is considered proper to say “domo arigato gozaimashita” (“thank you”).

Training the Mind in Aikido

The founder (Morihei Ueshiba) intended Aikido to be far more than a system of techniques for self-defense. His intention was to fuse his martial art to a set of ethical, social, and dispositional ideals. Ueshiba hoped that by training in Aikido, people would perfect themselves spiritually as well as physically. It is not immediately obvious, however, just how practicing Aikido is supposed to result in any spiritual (= psycho-physical) transformation. Furthermore, many other arts have claimed to be vehicles for carrying their practitioners to enlightenment or psychophysical transformation. We may legitimately wonder, then, whether, or how, Aikido differs from other arts in respect of transformative effect.

It should be clear that any transformative power of Aikido, if such exists at all, cannot reside in the performance of physical techniques alone. Rather, if Aikido is to provide a vehicle for self-improvement and psychophysical transformation along the lines envisioned by the founder, the practitioner of Aikido must adopt certain attitudes toward Aikido training and must strive to cultivate certain sorts of cognitive dispositions.

Classically, those arts, which claim to provide a transformative framework for their practitioners, are rooted in religious and philosophical traditions such as Buddhism and Taoism (the influence of Shinto on Japanese arts is usually comparatively small). In Japan, Zen Buddhism exercised the strongest influence on the development of transformative arts. Although Morihei Ueshiba was far less influenced by Taoism and Zen than by the “new religion,” Omoto Kyo, it is certainly possible to incorporate aspects of Zen and Taoist philosophy and practice into Aikido. Moreover, Omoto Kyo is largely rooted in a complex structure of neo-Shinto mystical concepts and beliefs. It would be wildly implausible to suppose that adoption of this structure is a necessary condition for psychophysical transformation through Aikido.

So far as the incorporation of Zen and Taoist practices and philosophies into Aikido is concerned, psychophysical transformation through the practice of Aikido will be little different from psychophysical transformation through the practice of arts such as karate, kyudo, and tea ceremony. All these arts have in common the goal of instilling in their practitioners cognitive equanimity, spontaneity of action/response, and receptivity to the character of things just as they are (shinnyo). The primary means for producing these sorts of dispositions in trainees is a two-fold focus on repetition of the fundamental movements and positions of the art, and on preserving mindfulness in practice.

The fact that Aikido training is always cooperative provides another locus for construing personal transformation through Aikido. Cooperative training facilitates the abandonment of a competitive mind-set that reinforces the perception of self-other dichotomies. Cooperative training also instills a regard for the safety and well being of one’s partner. This attitude of concern for others is then to be extended to other situations than the practice of Aikido. In other words, the cooperative framework for Aikido practice is supposed to translate directly into a framework for ethical behavior in one’s daily life.

Furthermore, it should be clear that if personal transformation is possible through Aikido training, it is not an automatic process. This should be apparent by noticing the fact that there are Aikido practitioners with many years of experience who still commit both moral and legal infractions. Technical proficiency and broad experience in the martial arts is by no means a guarantee of ethical or personal advancement. This fact often comes as a great disappointment to students of Aikido, especially if they should discover that their own instructors still suffer from a variety of shortcomings. In fact, however, this itself constitutes a valuable lesson: Technical proficiency is an easier goal to attain than that of personal improvement. Although both of these goals may require a lifetime of commitment, it is considerably easier to make the sort of sacrifices and efforts required for technical proficiency than it is to make the sacrifices and efforts required for substantive personal transformation and improvement.

The path to self-improvement and personal transformation must begin somewhere, however. Perhaps the most important (and easily forgotten) starting point for both students and teachers of Aikido is to bear constantly in mind that the people one is training with are one and all human beings like oneself, each with a unique perspective, and capable of feeling pain, frustration and happiness, and each with his or her own goals of training.

If one takes seriously the notion that part of one’s Aikido training should aim towards self-improvement, one may sometimes have to consider how one will be viewed by others. Someone may have superb technical ability and yet be viewed by others as a self-centered and inconsiderate bully.

A Note on Ki

The concept of ki is one of the most difficult associated with the philosophy and practice of Aikido. Since the word “Aikido” means something like “the way of harmony with ki,” it is hardly surprising that many Aikidoka are interested in understanding just what ki is supposed to be. Etymologically, the word “ki” derives from the Chinese “chi.” In Chinese philosophy, chi was a concept invoked to differentiate living from non-living things. But as Chinese philosophy developed, the concept of chi took on a wider range of meanings and interpretations. On some views, chi was held to be the most basic explanatory material principle – the metaphysical “energy” out of which all things were made. The differences between things depended not on some things having chi and others not, but rather on a principle (li, Japanese = ri) which determined how the chi was organized and functioned (the view here bears some similarity to the ancient Greek matter-form metaphysic).

Modern Aikidoka are less concerned with the historiography of the concept of ki than with the question of whether or not the term “ki” denotes anything real, and, if so, just what it does denote. There have been some attempts to demonstrate the objective existence of ki as a kind of “energy” or “stuff” that flows within the body (especially along certain channels, called “meridians”). So far, however, there are no reputable studies that conclusively demonstrate the existence of ki. Traditional Chinese medicine appeals to ki/chi as a theoretical entity, and some therapies based on this framework have been shown to produce more positive benefit than placebo, but it is entirely possible that the success of such therapies is better explained in ways other than supposing the truth of ki/chi theory. Many people claim that certain forms of exercise or concentration enable them to feel ki flowing through their bodies. Since such reports are subjective, they cannot constitute objective evidence for ki as “stuff.” Nor do anecdotal accounts of therapeutic effects of various ki practices constitute evidence for the objective existence of ki – anecdotal evidence does not have the same evidential status as evidence resulting from reputable double-blind experiments involving strict controls. Again, it may be that ki does exist as an objective phenomenon, but reliable evidence to support such a view is so far lacking.

There are a number of Aikidoka who claim to be able to demonstrate the (objective) existence of ki by performing various sorts of feats. One such feat, which is very popular, is the so-called “unbendable arm.” In this exercise, one person extends her arm while another person tries to bend the arm. First, she makes a fist and tightens the muscles in her arm. The other person is usually able to bend the arm. Next, she relaxes her arm (but leaves it extended) and “extends ki” (since “extending ki” is not something most newcomers to Aikido know precisely how to do, is often simply advised to think of her arm as a fire-hose gushing water, or some such similar metaphor). This time, the other person finds it far more difficult to bend the arm. The conclusion is supposed to be that it is the force/activity of ki that accounts for the difference. However, there are alternative explanations expressible within the vocabulary or scope of physics (or, perhaps, psychology) that are fully capable of accounting for the phenomenon here (subtle changes in body positioning, for example). In addition, the fact that it is difficult to filter out the biases and expectations of the participants in such demonstrations makes it all the more questionable whether they provide reliable evidence for the objective existence of ki.

Not all Aikidoka believe that ki is a kind of “stuff” or energy. For some Aikidoka, ki is an expedient concept – a blanket-concept that covers intentions, momentum, will, and attention. If one eschews the view that ki is an energy that can literally be extended, to extend ki is to adopt a physically and psychologically positive bearing. This maximizes the efficiency and adaptability of one’s movement, resulting in stronger technique and a feeling of affirmation both of oneself and one’s partner.

Irrespective of whether one chooses to take a realist or an anti-realist stance with respect to the objective existence of ki, there can be little doubt that there is more to Aikido than the mere physical manipulation of another person’s body. Aikido requires sensitivity to such diverse variables as timing, momentum, balance, the speed and power of an attack, and especially to the psychological state of one’s partner (or of an attacker).

In addition, to the extent that Aikido is not a system for gaining physical control over others, but rather a vehicle for self-improvement (or even enlightenment [see satori]), there can be little doubt that cultivation of a positive physical and psychological bearing is an important part of Aikido. Again, one may or may not wish to describe the cultivation of this positive bearing in terms of ki.

Ranking in Aikido

Policies governing rank promotions may vary, sometimes dramatically, from one Aikido dojo or organization to another. According to the standard set by the International Aikido Federation (IAF) and the United States Aikido Federation (USAF), there are 6 ranks below black belt. These ranks are called kyu ranks. In the IAF and USAF, colored belts do not usually distinguish kyu ranks. Other organizations (and some individual dojo) may use some system of colored belts to signify kyu ranks, however. There are a growing number of Aikido organizations and each has its own set of standards for ranking.

Eligibility for testing depends primarily (though not exclusively) upon accumulation of practice hours. Other relevant factors may include a trainee’s attitude with respect to others, regularity of attendance, and, in some organizations, contribution to the maintenance of the dojo or dissemination of Aikido.

Whatever the criteria for rank promotion, it is important to keep in mind that rank promotion does not necessarily translate into ability. The most important accomplishments in Aikido or any other martial art are not external assessments of progress, but rather the benefits of your training to yourself.

Basic Aikido Vocabulary

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 swordsmanship, 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 affect 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.

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.

Chiburi – “Shake off blood.” A sword movement where the sword is quickly drawn to one side at the end of a strike. Thus chiburi migi = shake off blood to the right.

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 IAF Aikido, the highest rank it is now possible to obtain is 9th 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 gozaimas’ta – Japanese for “thank you very much” (for something that has already taken place). At the end of each class, it is proper to bow and thank the instructor and those with whom you’ve trained.

Domo arigato gozaimasu – Japanese for “thank you very much” (for something that is currently taking place).

Doshu – Head of the way (currently Moriteru Ueshiba, grandson of Aikido’s founder, Morihei Ueshiba). The highest official authority in IAF Aikido.

Douitashimashite – Japanese for “you are welcome.”

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 that, 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 undistracted (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 in 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 (dogi) (keiko gi) – Training costume. Either judo-style or karate-style gi is acceptable in most dojo, but they should be white and cotton. (No black satin gi with embroidered dragons, please.)

Gomen nasai – Japanese for “Excuse me, I am sorry.”

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 Aikido and Kendo. In some dojo, the hakama is also worn by women of all ranks, and in some dojo by all practitioners. The hakama has seven pleats. “The seven pleats symbolize the seven virtues of budo,” O-Sensei said. “These are jin (benevolence), gi (honor or justice), rei (courtesy and etiquette), chi (wisdom and intelligence), shin (sincerity), chu (loyalty), and koh (piety). We find these qualities in the distinguished samurai of the past. The hakama prompts us to reflect on the nature of true bushido. Wearing it symbolizes traditions that have been passed down to us from generation to generation. Aikido is born of the bushido spirit of Japan, and in our practice we must strive to polish the seven traditional virtues.”

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 that is able to meet various types of adversity without becoming perturbed. A mind that is not easily flustered is a mind that 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 spear fighting, 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 achieved 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.

Kamiza – 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.

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.” Practitioners became increasingly interested in incorporating ethical principles into their discipline as Japanese swordsmanship became more and more influenced by Buddhism (especially Zen Buddhism) and Taoism. 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 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 Aikidoka 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. 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 disposition 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 focusing 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/-100process 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 essenceless-ness 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, permitting 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.

Omoto Kyo – One of the so-called “new-religions” of Japan. Omoto Kyo is a syncretic amalgam of Shintoism, neo-Shinto mysticism, Christianity, and Japanese folk religion. The founder of Aikido was a devotee of Omoto Kyo and incorporated some elements from it into his Aikido practice. The founder insisted, however, that one need not be a devotee of Omoto Kyo 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 – Etiquette. Observance of proper etiquette at all times (but especially observance of proper dojo etiquette) is as much a part of one’s training as the practice of techniques. Observation of reigi indicates one’s sincerity, 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.

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 focused on Aikido, just as, during a life-or-death duel, one’s attention is entirely focused 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 Omoto Kyo, 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 maintenance 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 doshu.

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 that 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); arm pin

Nikyo (nikajo / kote mawashi) – omote and ura (irimi and tenkan); wrist turn

Sankyo (sankajo / kote hineri) – omote and ura (irimi and tenkan); wrist twist

Yonkyo (yonkajo / tekubi osae) – omote and ura (irimi and tenkan); wrist pin

Gokyo (ude nobashi) – omote and ura (irimi and tenkan); arm stretching


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


In order to count up to 99, all you need to know is the Japanese terms for 1 through 10.

one = ichi

two = ni

three = san

four = yon (or shi)

five = go

six = roku

seven = nana (or shichi)

eight = hachi

nine = kyu

ten = jyu

Above ten, we would say something to the effect of “10 and 2” to stand for “12.” Therefore,

11 = “ten (and) one” = “jyu ichi”

12 = “ten (and) two” = “jyu ni”

13 = “ten (and) three” = “jyu san”

14 = “ten (and) four” = “jyu shi” or “jyu yon”

15 = “ten (and) five” = “jyu go”

16 = “ten (and) six” = “jyu roku”

17 = “ten (and) seven” = “jyu nana” or “jyu shichi”

18 = “ten (and) eight” = “jyu hachi”

19 = “ten (and) nine” = “jyu kyu”

For numbers from 20 through 99, you would say something like “3 tens and 6” to mean “36.”

36 = “3 tens and 6” = “san jyu roku”

43 = “4 tens and 3” = “yon jyu san”

71 = “7 tens and 1” = “nana jyu ichi”

99 = “9 tens and 9” = “kyu jyu kyu”

Counting higher is basically the same.

100 = “hyaku”

1000 = “sen”

10000 = “man”


101 = “hundred (and) one” = “hyaku ichi”

201 = “two hundred (and) one” = “ni hyaku ichi”

546 = “five hundred (and) four tens (and) six” = “go hyaku yon jyu roku”

3427 = “san zen yon hyaku ni jyu nana (or shichi)” (note that “sen” becomes “zen” after a voiced consonant line “n”)

23456 = “ni man san zen yon hyaku go jyu roku”

Some anomalies:

Use “shi” for “four” only in the single digit column. So, you can use “shi” or “yon” in 3654, but use “yon” for 40, 400, 4000, etc.

Use “shichi” for “seven” only in the single digit column. So, you can use “shichi” or “nana” in 9607, but use “nana” for 70, 700, 7000, etc.

600 = “roppyaku” (not “roku hyaku”)

800 = “happyaku” (not “hachi hyaku”); 8000 = “hassen” (not “hachi sen”)

The Essence of Aikido

The following are some of O-Sensei Ueshiba’s teachings concerning the essence of Aikido:

Aikido is a manifestation of a way to reorder the world of humanity as though everyone were of one family. Its purpose is to build a paradise right here on earth.

Aikido is nothing but an expression of the spirit of Love for all living things.

It is important not to be concerned with thoughts of victory and defeat. Rather, you should let the ki of your thoughts and feelings blend with the Universal.

Aikido is not an art to fight with enemies and defeat them. It is a way to lead all human beings to live in harmony with each other as though everyone were one family. The secret of Aikido is to make yourself become one with the universe and to go along with its natural movements. One who has attained this secret holds the universe in him/herself and can say, “I am the universe.”

If anyone tries to fight me, it means that s/he is going to break harmony with the universe, because I am the universe. At the instant when s/he conceives the desire to fight with me, s/he is defeated.

Nonresistance is one of the principles of Aikido. Because there is no resistance, you have won before even starting. People whose minds are evil or who enjoy fighting are defeated without a fight.

The secret of Aikido is to cultivate a spirit of loving protection for all things.

I do not think badly of others when they treat me unkindly. Rather, I feel gratitude towards them for giving me the opportunity to train myself to handle adversity.

You should realize what the universe is and what you are yourself. To know yourself is to know the universe.

A Brief History of Japan

Modern knowledge about the first peoples to inhabit the Japanese archipelago has been pieced together from the findings of archaeologists and anthropologists and from the myths of ancient Japan. Although the date of the first human habitation is not known, anthropologists have identified one of the earliest cultures in Japan as the Jomon culture, which dates from about 8000 BC. A hunting and gathering culture, it used stone and bone tools and made pottery of distinctive design. In the 3rd century BC, a new people, known as Yayoi, who probably emigrated from continental Asia, disrupted Jomon culture. They introduced rice cultivation, primitive weaving, wheel-made pottery, domesticated horses and cows, and simple iron tools. Yayoi culture overlaid and fused with the earlier Jomon culture.

Early Historical Period

The earliest written Japanese histories, the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters, 712) and the Nihon Shoki (Chronicles of Japan, 720), include legends about the origins of the Japanese people and attribute the foundation of the state to a mythological emperor Jimmu in 660 BC. Another legend concerns the empress Jingo (AD c.169-269), who allegedly conquered Korea. These records provide more reliable chronicles of Japanese history from the 5th century.


Yamato Period

Beginning in the 3rd or 4th century AD a new culture appeared – either from within Yayoi society or from the Asian mainland. Its leaders left massive tombs with pottery, figurines, armor, jewelry, weapons, and other evidence that they were mounted warriors with long iron swords and bows. From this culture emerged rulers from the Yamato plain in the southern part of the main Japanese island of Honshu; they claimed descent from the sun goddess and achieved political unity – apparently in the mid-4th century. By placing the sun goddess at the head of the Shinto deities the hereditary Yamato emperor reinforced his leadership position. Initially, the emperors ruled through alliances with other tribal chieftains, but the latter were gradually subordinated by a system of court ranking. This development was influenced by Chinese concepts of statecraft, learned through Japan’s military endeavors in Korea. Japan also adopted Chinese script, and Buddhism was introduced from Korea about 538.

In the 6th century the centralized control of the Yamato court began to break down. At the end of the century, however, the regent Prince Shotoku Taishi reasserted court authority. He promulgated (604) a 17-article constitution based on the Chinese political theory of centralized imperial government, redefining the sovereign’s position in Chinese terms. Imperial authority was further asserted by the Taika reforms of 646, by which, following Chinese precedent, the emperor claimed all land and an elaborate taxation system was initiated. In 702 the Taiho Laws, comprising new civil and penal codes, were promulgated.

Nara Period

The first permanent capital was built at Nara in 710. In the following century a hereditary court aristocracy replaced tribal elites, and status became the basis for official influence. Japan was thus transformed from a tribal into an aristocratic culture. Court patronage made Buddhism a major force, which in turn reinforced state power. Nara was the center not only of government but also of the major Buddhist temples; in 752 the statue of the Great Buddha (Daibutsu) was dedicated there. Buddhist priestly intrusion in state affairs provoked a reaction, however. Finally, Emperor Kammu (r. 781-806) asserted imperial independence and established a new capital at Heian (modern Kyoto) in 794.

Heian and the Fujiwaras

In Heian, safe from Buddhist interference, imperial authority increased; however, the simplification of government that accompanied the move to Heian allowed the Fujiwara family to assert great influence. The Fujiwara had the privilege of intermarriage with the imperial house, and many emperors were married to Fujiwara women or were their sons. Fujiwara men proved capable administrators, and they used their family ties to dominate the government. In 858, Fujiwara Yoshifusa (804-72) had his grandson, the infant Emperor Seiwa, placed on the throne and made himself regent. Until the end of the 11th century the Fujiwara used the position of regent to dominate the emperors, adults as well as children.

Under imperial patronage two new Buddhist sects emerged in Heian. Tendai and Shingon, more Japanese in spirit than earlier Buddhist sects, ended the monopoly of the Nara Buddhist establishment. A reassertion of tribal, or clan, authority also accompanied the move to Heian. The imperial land system established by the Taika reforms decayed, and land increasingly fell into private hands. Aristocrats and religious institutions assembled huge tax-free estates (shoen). Private armies were created, and a class of rural warriors (Samurai) emerged.

Notable among the samurai class were the Taira and Minamoto families. Initially local military leaders, both clans were drawn into court politics. In 1156 they applied military force to settle a court dispute, and a war in 1159-60 left the Taira as the effective rulers. The Taira dominated court politics by force and by marital ties with the imperial line. In 1180, Taira Kiyomori placed his grandson Antoku on the throne, briefly reviving the Fujiwara practice of using the regency to dominate the government.

The Shogunates

In 1180 the Minamoto revolted against the Taira and in the Gempei War (1180-85) defeated them and established the Kamakura shogunate, the first of the military governments that would rule Japan until 1868.

Kamakura Period

The shogun Minamoto Yoritomo (r. 1192-99) assigned military governors and military land stewards to supplement the civil governors and estate officials. While establishing military authority, however, Yoritomo failed to ensure the effective succession of his own family. His sons were first dominated, and then eliminated, by the Hojo clan, which from 1203 held the position of shikken (shogunal regent).

After 1221, when the retired emperor Go-Toba failed in his attempt to overthrow the shogunate, military authority was increased. Warriors, while largely illiterate and unskilled in administration, proved effective governors. The Hojo upheld the military virtues on which the shogunate had been founded and proved apt successors to Yoritomo.

In 1274 and 1281 the shogunate was tested by two Mongol invasions. The Japanese warriors, assisted by storms that came to be described as divine winds (kamikaze), drove away the invaders. The Kamakura period was also one of spiritual awakening. Buddhism was simplified, and new sects – Pure Land Buddhism, True Pure Land, and Lotus – guaranteed salvation to all believers.

By the early 14th century, however, political and social stability were breaking down. In 1334 the Kamakura shogunate was destroyed when Emperor Go-Daigo reasserted imperial authority (the Kemmu Restoration). Many powerful military families such as the Ashikaga flocked to assist the emperor. He failed to reward them properly, however, and in 1336 he was driven from Kyoto and replaced by another puppet emperor. Go-Daigo established a rival court in Yoshino, and for 56 years there were two imperial courts.

Ashikaga Period

In 1338, Ashikaga Takauji was made shogun, creating the Ashikaga shogunate. The Ashikaga reached the height of their power under the third shogun, Yoshimitsu (r. 1368-94). He controlled the military aspirations of his subordinates and ended (1392) the schism within the imperial house.

The shogunate rested on an alliance with local military leaders (shugo), who gradually became powerful regional rulers. The great shugo, however, became increasingly involved in the politics of the shogunate, and by the mid-15th century many had lost control of their provincial bases. Their weakness became apparent in the Onin War of 1467-77. Beginning as a dispute over the shogunal succession, it turned into a general civil war in which the great shugo exhausted themselves fighting in and around Kyoto, while the provinces fell into the hands of other shugo and eventually under the control of new lords called daimyo. The war effectively destroyed Ashikaga authority. The shogun Yoshimasa (r. 1440-73) simply turned his back on the troubles; he retired (1473) to his estate on the outskirts of Kyoto, where he built the Silver Pavilion (Ginkaku) and became the patron of a remarkable artistic flowering.

The Onin War marked the beginning of a century of warfare called the “Epoch of the Warring Country.” In the provinces new feudal lords, the daimyo, arose. Independent of imperial or shogunal authority, their power was based on military strength. They defined their domains as the area that could be defended from military rivals. Ties were fixed by vassalage, and land holdings were guaranteed in return for military service. The daimyo concentrated their vassals in castle towns and left the villagers to administer themselves and pay taxes. The castle towns became market and handicraft industrial centers, and a new style of urban life began to develop.

This was the Japan found by the Europeans who began to visit the country after 1543. The Portuguese began trade in 1545, and in 1549 the Jesuit missionary Saint Francis Xavier introduced Roman Catholicism. Christianity conflicted with feudal loyalties, however, and was completely banned after 1639. At that point all Europeans, except the Dutch, were also excluded from Japan.

Period of Unification

Between 1560 and 1600, Japan was reunified by a succession of three great daimyo: Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu. Nobunaga began the military process in 1560 and by 1568 had extended his influence to Kyoto. He set up a puppet shogun and established control over central Japan. After Nobunaga’s death (1582) during a rebellion, Hideyoshi continued the military unification of the country, completing the process in 1590. The use of firearms (supplied initially by the Europeans), the construction of fortified castles, the disarmament of the peasants, and a major land survey were the chief tools of pacification. When Hideyoshi died in 1598, centralized authority was secure, and the warrior class had been segregated from other members of society.

The third great unifier, Tokugawa Ieyasu, was a military leader who emerged as the guarantor of Hideyoshi’s young heir, Hideyori. In 1600, Ieyasu defeated his military rivals at Sekigahara and asserted his predominance. He was appointed shogun in 1603, but in 1605 he turned that office over to his son and devoted the rest of his life to consolidating Tokugawa control. In 1615, Hideyori was attacked and finally eliminated, and when Ieyasu died the following year, the Tokugawa held unchallenged feudal supremacy over the whole country.

Tokugawa Period

From their castle town of Edo (modern Tokyo), the Tokugawa ruled Japan as shoguns until 1867. A careful distribution of land among their vassal daimyo, relatives, and outside daimyo ensured their control of the major cities – Kyoto, Osaka, and Nagasaki – and the chief mines. Thus they controlled the main economic centers and strategic military points, while unrelated daimyo administered some 250 autonomous domains. The daimyo spent half their time in Edo attending the shogun and left their families as hostages when they returned to their domains.

The Tokugawa period saw the flowering of urban culture and a monetized commodity economy. Edo had a population of over 1 million, and both Kyoto and Osaka had more than 400,000 people. The samurai stood at the top of a legally established four-class system. From illiterate warriors they were transformed into military bureaucrats who served both the shogunal and daimyo governments. Below them were the peasants, artisans, and merchants. Although despised, merchants became essential to urban life. A national market system developed for textiles, food products, handicrafts, books, and other goods. Osaka was the center of the national rice market, where daimyo exchanged their rice for cash to support their Edo residences and the traveling back and forth to their domains. After 1639 the Tokugawa pursued a policy of almost total seclusion from the outside world. Nagasaki, where the Chinese and the Dutch were allowed trading quarters (the Dutch on an offshore island), was the only point of contact with foreign countries.

By the 19th century considerable ferment existed in Japanese society. Peasant uprisings had become commonplace, and the samurai and even the daimyo were badly indebted to the merchant class. Thus the old socioeconomic system had virtually collapsed, while the shogunal government displayed increasing extravagance and inefficiency. In the early 1840s the national government attempted a series of reforms to improve economic conditions, but they were largely ineffectual. The shogunate, therefore, was already in a discredited position when U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry forced Japan to abandon its seclusionist policy in 1854.

With the arrival of Perry’s ships the Tokugawa shogun turned to the daimyo for advice and thereby undermined shogunal control over foreign policy. The imperial house, long excluded from politics, was drawn into the controversy, and the slogan “revere the emperor, expel the barbarians” was soon heard in the expanding political debate. In 1858 the shogun signed disadvantageous commercial treaties with the United States and several European countries. Tokugawa leadership was questioned, and numerous samurai attacks were made on the foreigners now allowed to enter Japan. By 1864 most activists realized that the foreigners’ military power prevented their exclusion, and they turned against the Tokugawa instead. Samurai from the domains of Satsuma, Choshu, Tosa, and Hizen played major roles in pushing for reforms. In 1867 they finally forced the resignation of the shogun, and imperial government was restored under the young Meiji emperor in 1868.

The Meiji Period

In less than half a century Japan was transformed from a secluded feudal society into an industrialized world power. During the Meiji period, corresponding to the reign (1868-1912) of Emperor Meiji, centralized bureaucracy replaced the balance of power between the Tokugawa and the autonomous domains. A conscript army replaced the military authority of the samurai. Restrictions on residence and employment were abolished, and people flocked to Edo, now renamed Tokyo and adopted as the imperial capital. The government imported foreign advisors and technology for industrial, commercial, and educational purposes. Official missions were sent to examine modern Western societies. Adopting the slogan “rich country, strong army,” Japan determined to gain a position of equality with the West.

Government stability was crucial to this objective. In 1873 a new tax system provided a secure revenue base and abolished the feudal land system. In 1877 the conscript army defeated a major samurai revolt led by Saigo Takamori, a leading figure in the imperial restoration. Inflation reduced the value of government revenues, and between 1881 and 1885 a rigorous deflation policy initiated by Matsukata Masayoshi stabilized the currency. Education was basic to Japan’s emergence. Beginning with 40 percent male and 15 percent female literacy, the Meiji government required primary education for all children and established (1872) a centralized school system.

In 1881 domestic political pressure forced the oligarchical government to promise a constitution by 1889 and representative government by 1890. The statesman Ito Hirobumi took charge of drafting the new constitution. A cabinet was established in 1885, a peerage was created, and in 1889 the constitution was promulgated as a gift from the emperor.

Japan thus became a constitutional monarchy, with a bicameral legislature (Diet) composed of a house of peers and an elected lower house. Suffrage was very limited, however; only 1 percent of the population was eligible to vote in the 1890 election. Moreover, the prime minister and cabinet were responsible only to the emperor, who was still regarded as a divine figure. Representative government evolved slowly, but the Diet had some control of the budget and gradually increased its authority.

Conflict between the Diet and the government leaders ceased during the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95, in which Japan displayed its military superiority over the Chinese and secured control of Korea. The victory added to Japanese prestige, and in 1902, Japan concluded an alliance with Britain as an equal power.

In 1904-05, Japan and Russia fought over Manchuria and Korea. Victorious in this Russo-Japanese War, the Japanese added southern Sakhalin to their empire of Taiwan and the Ryukyu Islands; and in 1910 they formally annexed Korea. By 1905, therefore, Japan was a major military power in East Asia and an industrialized nation. When Japan entered World War I as an ally of Britain, the strains of industrialization were apparent in Japanese society.

World War I and the Interwar Years

During World War I, Japan seized several of the German holdings in East Asia, including Chinese territory on the Shandong peninsula. When the Chinese demanded its return, the Japanese government responded with the Twenty-one Demands of January 1915, forcing Chinese acceptance of extended Japanese influence in China. In 1917, Japan extracted further concessions of rights in Manchuria and Inner Mongolia, setting the stage for its later open aggression against China.

In 1918, Hara Takashi became prime minister in the first cabinet based on a party majority in the Diet. Although the political parties were essentially controlled by business interests, they were a major step toward more democratic forms of government – a trend that was continued by the expansion of the electorate in 1925 to include all males over 25.

Although repressive toward the growing labor movement, the party governments of the 1920s and after attempted modest reforms, cutting back the army and enacting some social legislation. They also pursued a less aggressive foreign policy than that of prewar Japan. At the Washington Conference of 1921-22, Japan signed a naval arms limitation treaty that replaced the Anglo-Japanese alliance and established a balance of power in the Pacific. In 1930 further naval limitations were agreed to at the London Naval Conference.

The Japanese military felt, however, that the politicians were compromising the nation’s security and the emperor’s right to supreme command. As the World Depression of the 1930s set in, the discontented began to rally to the cry of the militarists that the civilian governments were corrupt and that military expansion and the acquisition of new markets and sources of raw materials would cure Japan’s economic ills. Right-wing terrorism increased (3 of Japan’s 11 prime ministers between 1918 and 1932 were assassinated), and in 1931 Japanese officers in Manchuria acted without government authorization in precipitating the Mukden Incident and occupying Manchuria. Unable to stop the army, the civilian government accepted the establishment of the puppet state of Manchukuo in February 1932. Three months later military and civilian bureaucrats replaced party politicians in leading the government. From then until August 1945, the succession of cabinets and the young emperor Hirohito, who had succeeded to the throne in 1926, were essentially the tools of the military extremists.

World War II

Japanese economic and political penetration of northern China proceeded against minimal Chinese resistance until 1937. In July 1937, however, the Second Sino-Japanese War began with a clash at the Marco Polo Bridge near Beijing (Peking). By 1940 the Japanese controlled eastern China and had established a puppet regime at Nanjing (Nanking). In the same year Japan allied with the Axis powers of Germany and Italy, which were already at war in Europe.

Having occupied the northern part of French Indochina in 1940, Japanese troops moved into southern Indochina in July 1941. The United States and Britain reacted to this move by imposing a total trade embargo on Japan. Faced with economic strangulation, Japan had the choice of withdrawing from Indochina, and possibly China, or continuing its expansion in order to secure oil supplies from the Dutch East Indies. The latter alternative would mean war with the United States, and Prime Minister Konoe Fumimaro negotiated to avoid that contingency. In October 1941, however, the more militant Gen. Tojo Hideki replaced Konoe. On Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese forces launched simultaneous attacks on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Malaya. The United States immediately declared war, and World War II entered its worldwide phase.

At first the Japanese forces achieved great success, conquering the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies, Malaya and Singapore, and Burma. The tide turned in June 1942, however, with the defeat of a Japanese fleet by the U.S. Navy at Midway Island in the Pacific. A war of attrition now began to force the Japanese back to their home islands. Japanese merchant shipping was disrupted, and industrial production declined as industries and cities were subjected to Allied bombing raids. Shortages of food and supplies increased along with military defeats. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, and the Soviet declaration of war on Aug. 8, 1945, were the final blows. Emperor Hirohito intervened and ordered the army to surrender unconditionally on Aug. 14, 1945.

Postwar Japan

The Allied occupation, under the command of U.S. Gen. Douglas Macarthur, lasted from 1945 to 1952 and resulted in political, social, and economic reforms. The emperor denied his divinity and was placed in a symbolic role. Government was democratized, and a new constitution with a bill of rights went into effect in 1947. Women received the vote and rights to property and divorce. The peerage was abolished, war criminals punished, and a massive purge of right-wing extremists (and later of Communists) conducted. The great zaibatsu concentrations of economic power were broken up, a major land reform was carried out, and education was liberalized. Article 9 of the constitution renounced the right to use force in foreign policy.

As millions of soldiers and civilians were repatriated from overseas, the devastated country experienced acute shortages of food, housing, clothing, and other goods and services. The government under Yoshida Shigeru worked to implement reforms and achieve economic recovery. The outbreak of the Korean War (1950-53) aided that recovery by increasing Japanese exports. It also prompted the United States to press for rapid conclusion of a Japanese peace treaty. In 1951, Japan signed not only a peace treaty but also a mutual defense treaty with the United States. It resumed full sovereignty in 1952 but continued to be very much under U.S. protection.

From 1954 until 1972 the Japanese economy expanded rapidly; the gross national product increased at a rate of over 10 percent annually. Building on its prewar industrial base, Japan imported modern technology and machinery. Factories were replaced, and economic development was the main focus of national policy. Central planning helped the government control the structure of the economy. Labor, resources, and capital were used where the growth potential was greatest, and by the early 1970s Japan was the world’s largest producer of ships and a leader in the production of cars, steel, and electronic equipment.

The 1972 return to Japan of Okinawa, which had been under U.S. occupation since 1945, signaled the end of Japanese subordination to the United States. Japan handled the U.S. rapprochement with Communist China by establishing its own diplomatic ties with that long-time enemy in 1972. Highly dependent on imported petroleum, Japan also weathered the crisis caused by Arab cutbacks in oil exports in the 1970s.

The Liberal-Democrats, the conservative party that has dominated Japanese politics since 1954, has emphasized economic growth. Scandals led to the resignations of Prime Ministers Tanaka Kakuei (in 1974) and Takeshita Noboru and Uno Sosuki (in 1989). The party lost its majority in the upper house of parliament in July 1989, although it regained control in February 1990 elections under Prime Minister Kaifu Toshiki. In October 1991, after Kaifu lost the support of Takeshita, Miyazawa Kiichi replaced him as party leader and prime minister. The death of long-reigning Hirohito in January 1989 marked the end of an era; his son Akihito succeeded him.

In the 1980’s and into the 1990s, Japan played an increasingly visible role in global affairs, becoming the world’s largest provider of development aid in 1988. It has been the leading exporter of manufactured goods since 1985. Japan has close links to the United States and Western Europe and is more dependent on Middle Eastern oil than any other country. It gave financial aid to the anti-Iraq coalition in the Persian Gulf War in 1991. In 1992, Japan agreed to send troops abroad for the first time since World War II as part of UN peacekeeping operations.

Aikido Kanji Dictionary






Strike to a vital point


A punch to the abdominal region


Downward punch


Any reverse strike


Punching with the rear hand


Upper strike


Counter thrust


One-handed strike


Strike to head

Mune tsuki

Thrust toward knot on obi


A step-punch

Shomen uchi

Overhead strike to the head.


In Aikido, usually a Chudan Oi-zuki


Inside; strike

Yokomen uchi

Diagonal strike to the side of the head.


A sideward strike



To grasp with one's hand reversed; to grasp and opponents right wrist with your left hand

Katate dori

One hand holding one hand.


hand grab (katatedori ai-hanmi)

Morote dori

Two hands holding one hand.

Kata dori

Shoulder hold

Ryokata dori

Grabbing both shoulders.

Ryote dori

Two hands holding two hands.

Mune dori

One or two hand lapel hold.

Hiji dori

Elbow grab

Sode dori

Sleeve grab

Ushiro eri-dori

Neck grab from the back (usually the collar :-)

Ushiro tekubi dori

Wrist grab from the back.

Ushiro ryote dori

As above from the back.

Ushiro ryokata dori

As above from the back.

Ushiro kubi shime

Rear choke.

Body Parts:


The abdomen, stomach


The ribs










Atemi point between the eyes


The thigh


Atemi point at the floating ribs


Pressure point behind the ear


The elbow


Lapel; collar


Atemi point just above inside of knee


The face


Pressure point below lower lip


Pressure point in fleshy area between thumb and forefinger


Back of the hand




Back of forearm




Atemi point on inside of elbow




An one-knuckle fist



Pressure point on upper lip below nose


The body


Vital points on the human body


The kidney area


Atemi point on the upper lip



The heel of the foot


Back of the wrist (for a strike)




One hand



Atemi point on back of neck


Shoulder blades




Area between thumb and forefinger






Atemi point at base of skull


Vital point on body


The thigh; the groin




Atemi at corner of jaw




Both hands


Atemi point in middle of shin




Pressure points on each side of neck behind collar bone


Pressure point on inside of ankle


Ends of stiffened fingers


Lower abdomen


Front of fist


The spine


The back of the body


The body

Shita hara

Lower abdomen




Back of the hand


Edge of hand






Tips of toes (for kicking)


Bottom of heel


Edge of foot




The arm as sword


Heel of the hand




Palm of hand


Atemi point on top of head


Hammer fist


Inside of wrist


The arm


Back of fist


Side; armpit


Atemi point in armpit


Side of the head






The entire body



Commands in the dojo:


Move back






Be careful






Turn around


Close the eyes, meditation


Sit down









Yuru yaka ni


Shinzen ni rei

Bow to shrine

Sensei ni rei

Bow to sensei

Joseki ni rei

Bow to the high section of the dojo

Kamiza ni rei

Bow to kamiza (gods)

Otagai ni rei

Bow to each other





Thank you (informal)


Thanks (informal)

Domo arigato

Thank you (formal)

Domo arigato gozaimasu

Thank you very much (very formal) (for something that is happening)

Domo arigato gozaimas'ta

Thank you very much (very formal) (for something that has just ended)


Please go ahead


You are welcome

Gomen nasai

Excuse me, I'm sorry


Please (when asking for something, usually as in Please lets practice together)


Excuse me (to attract attention)






I understand









Rearward, behind
















Right angles




Straight ahead






Straight ahead




Horizontal, to the side


Over there


Reverse, opposite, inverted


The other way around




Coming close or drawing near.


There, that position


In the opposite direction


The eight sides; in all directions


A straight line


A straight line



Naka ni

To the center


Side; armpit




Uchi deshi

A live-in student


Martial way


The way of harmony with ki


Lit. “way place”


lit. “remaining spirit”, balanced and aware state


A shout delivered for the purpose of focusing all of one's energy




purification ceremony


Ending, conclusion, union


Training, pursuit of knowledge




Receiver of the technique (attacker)


Doer of the technique (defender)


Wooden sword


Wooden sword


Short staff (~130 cm length)


Bamboo sword


Moving and turning freely




Duty; What you have to do


To be totally aware of ones surroundings


Pull; tug


A twist


Blending with motion of attack




Techniques practiced from seiza


In one breath; instantly








The axis of rotation of a technique




To tie up; to arrest


An entanglement


Light, easy practice


Continuous attack




Spirit, will, heart, intuition, mood


Mental attitude


Backward leaning


Old style




Springing in to attack


To dodge an attack


Combat engagement distance


Taking the initiative; Attacking the instant your opponent thinks about it


Wrapped around


A turn; a rotation

Moku roku

A catalog of techniques



Munen mushin

Striking without conscience

Munen muso

The goal of zazen




What you have to do


Possessive particle of speech


Stretched out




A response


Press; push; to immobolize


Free style


Etiquette; also reishiki


Hard work on basics


A standing bow


Body motion


The left direction




An opening for an attack




The initiative; also 1000




Seizing initiative just as opponents initiates attack


The person who takes the initiative


A (samurai) person


Ceremony, style, form


On one's knees


Mind and body

Shinshin shugyo

Mind and body training

Shinshin toitsu

Mind and body unified




Of the lower part


Safe spot




Beginners mind










Body contact


External power (muscle)


Body motion


Body art


Reversing the body's position


Practicing with multiple attackers


To tip over


Multiple attackers


Practicing with multiple attackers


Fighting with multiple attackers




To seize (and immobilize)


Distance where you can strike by taking a single step


The inside of the throw


The attacker




Positive principle of nature


Sideward motion


A bow (archery)




Abdominal breathing


A breathing method featuring a long exhalation, followed by a short cough to clear lungs


Internal (quiet) breathing


Breathing method featuring long exhalation with sharp gasp


Standing meditiation


External (power) breathing



Half forward stance.


Equal stance, feet parallel forward

Iai goshi

Hips lowered, stable position.

Iai hiza, Tate hiza

Kneeling on one calf.


Posture, stance.


Kneeling, but up on the toes.


Kneeling on both calves.




Middle kamae, sword in middle, seigan is a chudan gamae.


Lower level, sword pointed down.

Hasso gamae

Figure 8 stance, sword by side of head. Usually hasso hidari, sword on right, left foot forward.


Upper level, sword above head. Usually hidari jodan, left foot forward.


like waki gamae, blade horizontal.


Arms crossed over to hide technique (mountain mist).


Blade vertical in front of face.


Natural step, fundamental kamae.

Waki gamae

Sword pointed down and back, for a sutemi (sacrifice) waza. Usually sword on right side (migi waki gamae), left foot forward. Other purpose - hiding length of sword, especially in case of a broken one.



1. principle = oshi taoshi, ude osae


2. principle = kote mawashi, kotemaki


3. principle = kote hineri, shibori-kime


4. principle = tekubi osae


5. principle = kuji-osae


6. principle = hiji-kime-osae or waki-katame or ude-hishigi.


7. principle = Yonkyo applied to back of wrist


8. principle = kote-ori-kakae-kimi, kuji-dori = Nikyo in which his elbow is in your armpit and his hand is pulled forward; Pinning their hand with your foot


9. principle = Inverted nanakyo


Irimi nage

Entering throw (“20 year technique”)

Juji nage, juji garami

Arm entwining throw (“No. 10 throw”, since the arms form the Japanese sign for 10 “+”. arms crossed, elbows locked)

Kaiten nage

Rotary throw. uchi-kaiten nage and soto-kaiten nage (inside and outside)

Kokyu ho

morotetori kokyu nage or ryotemochi kokynage ude-oroshi irimi

Kokyu nage

Breath throw (There are a zillion of these in Aikido. Most of them just variations of the basic techniques)

Koshi nage

Hip throw

Kote gaeshi

Wrist turn-out

Shiho nage

Four direction throw

Tenchi nage

Heaven and earth throw

Aiki otoshi

entering more deeply and picking up uke's off-side leg

Maki otoshi

nage ends up down on one knee, having thrown uke over nage's shoulder

Sumi gaeshi

corner throw

Sumi otoshi

Corner drop

Tai-atari uchi otoshi

from yokomen-uchi, entering and blocking, uke gets thrown backwards

Ushiro udoroshi

pull down from behind

Kokyu dosa

Breath-power movement (from seiza)

Ganseki otoshi

Arm bar with elbow braced over shoulder


A variation of Kaiten nage where you lock your opponents shoulder and bring him directly to the ground in a lock

Ranks and titles:


Junior student


Senior student




A senior teacher, properly used within the school only, when outside, use sensei


Student grade, from 10 up to 1, the highest: jukyu, kukyu, hachikyu, nanakyu, rokyu , gokyu , yonkyu , sankyu , nikkyu , ikkyu


More advanced grades, from 1 to 10: shodan , nidan , sandan , yondan , godan , rokudan , nanadan , hachidan , kudan , judan


Members with dan grades


Members with kyu grades


Highest title from ZNKR, must be 55 or older and 8 dan.


Middle title from ZNKR, must be 7th dan.


Title bestowed from ZNKR in addition to Dan ranks.


Head of style (actually head of family, unifier of gods and lineage)


Head of the way (currently Moriteru Ueshiba, grandson of O Sensei)


“Owner” of school (organization) eg. Sei Do Kai


“Owner” of school (building, hall) eg. Yugen Kan


“Leader” of a dojo

O Sensei

Great Teacher (Ueshiba, Morihei)



Lit. “receiving with the body”


Sword partnership practice


Staff partnership practices

Tachi dori

Sword takeaways

Tanto dori

Knife takeaways


Techniques to strike a vital point


Techniques from escaping from holds; also known as hazushi-waza

Hanmi-handachi waza

One person standing, one person sitting techniques

Henka waza

Varied technique. Especially beginning one technique and changing to another in mid-execution

Hitori waza

“invisible partner practice”

Jiju waza

Free-style practice of techniques. Usually a set of attacks or techniques. It is different from Randori where everything is allowed.


Counter techniques


Dislocation techniques


Grappling techniques; consisting of osae waza, kensetsu waza, and shime waza


Fundamental techniques

Nagashi waza

Flowing from one technique to next

Ne waza

Grappling techniques

Oji waza

To block and then counterattack

Omote waza

Techniques that are revealed to the public

Osae waza

Pinning techniques.

Shi waza

A counter technique

Sukashi waza

Techniques performed without allowing the attacker to complete a grab or to initiate a strike.

Sutemi waza

a technique accomplished by sacrificing your body

Suwari waza

Techniques executed with both uke and nage in a seated position.

Tachi waza

Standing techniques.


Hand techniques (as opposed to weapons)


Striking techniques


Techniques from rear attacks


Blocking techniques

The uniform:


Small hand cloth to wipe face. Also worn under the helmet in kendo.

Keiko gi, do gi, gi

Practice uniform.

Embu gi

Demonstration top / uniform.


Lapel / part of monk's costume hanging from left shoulder.


Family crests on uniform


Wide sleeved top with mon on chest, sleeve and back.


Sleeve, on practice top.


Large sleeves on formal tops.

Uwa gi

Practice top.


Chest patch embroidered with own name and dojo name.


Belt (White belt , Black belt


Split skirt, wide legged pants.


Peg in back of hakama.


Split in side of hakama.


Back plate on hakama.


Japanese sock-slippers used in dojo.


Japanese sandals for use outside dojo.



The Ten Formal Kata of Iaido: The Seitei Gata Techniques

1.         Mae Nuki-Uchi (Front nuki-uchi cut): A draw directed at a forward opponent from a seated posture (the opponent is also seated).

2.         Ushiro Nuki-Uchi (Rearward nuki-uchi cut): A draw directed at an opponent seated behind the swordsman, who is also in seiza (seated).

3.         Uke Nagashi (Deflection. Literally means "to receive and wash away"): A rising block followed by a kesagiri cut.

4.         Tsuka-ate (Striking with the butt end of the sword): A strike with the butt end of the sword hilt (the kashira) to a facing opponent followed by a thrust to a rearward opponent followed by a kiri otoshi cut against the front opponent.

5.         Kesagiri (Cutting on a diagonal): named after the cut, a kata involving both a kesagiri cut and a gaku (reversed) kesagiri cut. Executed in tachi (standing).

6.         Morote-tsuki (Two-handed thrust): A forward kasume giri cut, followed by a thrust forward, after which a kiri otoshi cut is made against opponents located first to the rear and then to the front.

7.         Sampo Giri (Three-directional cutting): Involves cuts directed at opponents located to the right, left, and front of the swordsman.

8.         Gammen-ate (Face strike): A forward strike with the butt end (kashira) of the katana, followed by a rearward thrust and then a forward kiri otoshi.

9.         Soete Tsuki (Joined hands thrust): Opponent attacks from the left with an overhead cut which is avoided and responded to by a one-handed kesagiri cut and a forward thrust.

10.      Shiho Giri (Four directional cutting): A kata that deals with opponents at four angles of attack.



Dojo Etiquette

In Aikido, as well as all other forms of martial arts, there are certain forms of etiquette that are important to follow. The purpose of these “rituals” is to show respect, not only for your instructors and fellow students, but also to show your commitment to the path that you have decided to follow, the path of Aikido. Although some of these Japanese forms may be unfamiliar at first they will, over time, become comfortable expressions of courtesy and help each student to reach a higher level of understanding.

It is important to realize that there are likely to be slight variations on these forms in each dojo, but the following is an overview of the most common forms of etiquette that should be observed. If you are new to your dojo, or traveling to another part of the country or world, you will be fine as long as you pay close attention and observe what the other people around you are doing.

·          The most important form of Japanese etiquette is the bow. This is the most basic form of respect and gratitude, whether it is directed towards an individual or an object. There are a number of times in practice when you should bow in Aikido and the first is upon entering (and leaving) the dojo. At this time make a standing bow towards the picture of O-Sensei, which is located at the front of the practice mat. This shows your respect to the founder of Aikido.

·          Before moving into the dojo take off your shoes at the door and place them on the shoe rack if one is provided, if not, place them to the side of the door so that they are out of the way of those entering behind you.

·          Out of respect to your fellow students make sure that your training clothes are freshly laundered for each session. If you are attending a seminar remember to bring along several changes of dogi. Also, remove all jewelry and make sure that your fingernails and toenails are kept short and well manicured.

·          When stepping on and off the mat, always make a bow from seiza toward the picture of O-Sensei; again, this is a show of respect and confirms your commitment to your studies. In some dojo a standing bow is made.

·          Always try to arrive early so that you can be ready and waiting on the mat, about 5 minutes before the scheduled beginning of practice. This will allow you to sit and meditate and clear your mind of the distractions of the outside world and prepare for your training. It is important to be completely focused on your studies, as this is the only way to fully absorb all that you are being taught.

·          Once the class is ready to start you should be sitting with your fellow students in seiza in a straight line. Follow the custom of your dojo or host dojo with regard to possible ranked seating. It is important never to sit with your back to the shomen, or pass between the shomen and instructor.

·          The bowing-in ceremony will then take place, usually consisting of a bow, two handclaps, a second bow, and a mutual bow between the instructor and the students. This ceremony can vary from dojo to dojo so always follow the example of the instructor and other students.

·          The correct way to be seated on the mat is in seiza. A cross-legged tailor’s position is acceptable if seiza is impossible due to injury.

·          If for some unavoidable reason you are late, do not immediately join the practice session. Instead sit in seiza on the edge of the mat until acknowledged by the instructor, and then perform a seated bow toward the shomen. Wait until an appropriate time to find a partner and then join in the training. Once you have entered onto the mat, it is important to clear your mind of the outside world. Without this it can be difficult to concentrate on your studies.

·          When the instructor is demonstrating a technique you should sit in seiza and listen and watch attentively. Once the demonstration is completed, bow to the instructor and your partner, and then begin to practice. During the demonstration of a technique, no one should enter or leave the mat.

·          Talking should be kept to a minimum - learn through experience. If neither you nor your partner understands a technique, sit in seiza and watch the other students or wait until the instructor offers you assistance. Never call out for assistance.

·          Remember to follow the instructor’s directions quickly and precisely. Injuries can occur with hesitation or delay.

·          If the instructor is personally instructing students nearby, sit and watch in order to allow enough room for the technique to be demonstrated effectively and safely. If the technique is being demonstrated to you and your partner, bow to the instructor before resuming practice.

·          Mutual respect is a keystone of training. Respect those more experienced than you and learn from them. Respect those less experienced than you and learn from them. Do not press your ideas on others.

·          The most important thing to remember is to enjoy what you are learning. All of your experiences and knowledge can be used outside of the dojo to make your life, and the lives of those you touch, more rewarding and fulfilling.