Like many martial arts, aikido has a rich history and tradition, well worth study by any who seek to practice it. Simply knowing the forms will never grant complete technical mastery; the deeper element is essential. For further reference, please consult the official ASU (Aikido Schools of Ueshiba)website.

Understanding Aikido

Aikido kanji

Ai: Harmony, unity; to be in accord with or to join.

Ki: Spirit; life force or universal creative energy.

Do: A way or path; a discipline.

The movement of aikido is the dynamic movement of the universal energy force. The power of aikido is the power of a strong and unified spirit, mind and body moving in harmony with everything around it. Its origin is budo (Japanese martial way). Its development is the result of two thousand years of a cultural process of change and refinement, a continuing martial contest of natural selection. It is an evolution etched in blood.

The study of budo and the development of aikido was the life work of Morihei Ueshiba, a figure of great renown who traveled the length and breadth of Japan studying under the greatest masters of many arts. Hard work, severe discipline and all the money he could earn were poured into his mastery of the sword, the spear and the arts of self defense. Deeply interested in the study of spiritual thought, he had also practiced many different spiritual disciplines. Yet he was unable to unite his spiritual beliefs with his physical accomplishments.

A short time after returning from military action in the Russo-Japanese War, he retired to a small house located on a mountain outside his village. There he lived and studied silently; his days spent training his body and his nights spent deep in prayer. It was at the end of this time of severe training that he had the realization he had been seeking all his life. At that moment nature's process became clear and he knew that the source of budo is the spirit of protection of all things.

"Budo is not felling the opponent by force; nor is it a tool to lead the world into destruction by arms. True budo is to accept the spirit of the universe, keep the peace of the world, correctly produce, protect and cultivate all beings in nature."

Morihei Ueshiba intimately recognized and understood the harmony and power of the creative process from which all things evolve. His art was the sword, his creative way was Budo. His understanding and enlightenment is creatively expressed by the protection of all life through a powerful and graphic application of universal truth. Aikido is creation, not destruction. It is a positive energy which creates harmony and justice out of violence.

To talk of harmony and justice is simple. But to apply those principles to the conflicts which we face everyday requires a deep understanding and sincere trust. Logic may tell us that truth lies within the process of harmony, but the moment something of value rests on the outcome of a situation we no longer trust that logic. The beautiful ideas and eloquent phrases are forgotten under the pressures of reality. In philosophy a theory of truth is expressed in words, but the truth of Aikido is expressed in action, the theory proven in practice. By the physical application of its principles we develop a deeper understanding in the heart instead of the mind. Through practice and experience we learn to trust its power.

Aikido training is to challenge yourself, not the other. You will develop confidence by facing your fears, and negative fighting spirit will become creative fighting spirit. The stress and pressure of serious aikido training brings this spirit to the surface, exposing it so that it can be examined and refined in a controlled atmosphere of respect and mutual study.

Japanese terms

This is a list of Japanese terms which you will hear used in the dojo. By studying these definitions you will discover many facets of aikido philosophy. It is important to your practice that you have a basic understanding of them. Quotation marks indicate the words of the Founder.

Atemi Waza: Techniques of striking.

Bokken: Wooden practice sword.

Budo: Literally to stop the thrusting spear. "A mind to serve for the peace of all humanity is needed in aikido, not the mind of one who wished to be strong and only practices to defeat an opponent. There are neither opponents nor enemies for true Budo. Therefore to compete in techniques, winning or losing, is not true Budo. True Budo knows no defeat. Never defeated means never fighting."

Bushido: The way of chivalry.

Deai: The moment of truth. The moment of the meeting of two forces.

Deshi: Student.

Dojo: The place where the way is revealed. A place for the strengthening and refinement of spirit, mind and body.

Hakama: Wide skirted pants worn over the gi. You will be encouraged to wear hakama (dark blue or black) after receiving the 6th kyu grade.

Hanmi: The relaxed triangular stance of aikido. It is stable yet flexible enough to move quickly in any direction. All technique begins, moves through and ends in hamni.

Hanmi Handachi: Techniques practiced with nage sitting and uke standing.

Hara: The lower abdomen. The center of life energy, physical and spiritual. All movement must originate from this point.

Irimi: Entering, moving into and through the line of attack with no thought of escape.

Jiyu Waza: Free technique. In testing usually against one opponent.

Jo: Short staff.

Jo dori: Techniques of staff taking.

Kamae: A posture or stance of readiness. In each kamae there are different positions for the hands or weapon. Jodan - high position; Chudan - middle position; Gedan - lower position.

Kata dori: Shoulder grab.

Katate dori: Wrist grab.

Katate dori ryote mochi: Grabbing your partner's wrist with both hands.

Keiko: Study or practice. The deeper meaning is to return to the origin. Through the study of the past and appreciation for its experience we can understand the present and refine our spirit.

Kiai: The release of spiritual and physical power in the form of a piercing scream originating in the hara.

Kohai: Junior student. Those who begin their study of aikido after you. You owe them your help and support.

Kokyu: The power of breath, renewal of life force.

Kosa dori: Cross hand grab.

Kotodama: The spiritual function of sound. Every one syllable sound has its own spiritual vibration.

Kubi shime: A choke hold.

Kumi Jo: Paired jo practice.

Kumi Tachi: Paired sword practice.

Kyu: White belt grade.

Maai: The distance of time and space between two forces. The movement of the mind, the stream of spirit and their direction, as well as physical distance, determines the balanced and proper use of space.

Misogi: Purification of mind, body, and spirit. Sweating is misogi; cleaning is misogi; fasting is misogi; keiko is misogi.

Munetsuki: A straight punch to the chest or solar plexus.

Mushin: No mind, a mind without ego. A mind like a mirror which reflects and does not judge.

Musubi: Opposites are but different images of the same reality. Musubi is the process of their unification. It is the movement of the spiral.

Nage: A throw. One who throws.

Omote: To the front.

O Sensei: Great teacher - the title used for the Founder of aikido.

Randori: Free technique against multiple attack.

Rei: To bow.

Reigi: Rei can also be translated as holy spirit; gi as manifestation. When used together the words mean proper etiquette, respecting the creative force and spirit which is the same in all of us.

Ryote dori: Grabbing both wrists.

Ryokata dori: Grabbing both shoulders.

Samurai: Originally comes from the verb meaning to serve. One who has the duty and responsibility to protect society.

Sempai: Senior student: Those who began their study of aikido before you. You owe them your respect for their experience.

Seiza: Formal sitting position.

Sensei: Teacher, one who gives guidance along the way. Literally - born before.

Senshin: A purified heart and spirit; enlightened attitude.

Shikko: Knee walking.

Shomen: The upper seat, the shrine which houses the picture of the Founder and the spirit of aikido.

Shomenuchi: Strike or cut to the top of the head.

Shomentsuki: Thrust between the eyes.

Shinai: Split bamboo practice sword.

Shugyo: The daily work to refine and purify the quality of life.

Suburi: Practice with sword or bokken in which the same cut is repeated again and again. An excellent purification/meditation exercise.

Suwariwaza: Techniques which begin with both opponents in seiza and are executed from the knees.

Tachi: Japanese long sword.

Tachi dori: Techniques of sword taking.

Taijutsu: Empty handed techniques.

Takemusu Aiki: Enlightened aikido; the generation of peace in a martial situation. "Aiki has a form and does not have a form. Aiki is a life which has a form and still flows with change; it expresses itself by changing itself. A form without a form is a word in a poem which expresses the universe limitlessly."

Tanden: The hara.

Tanren: Training. Suburi is training; kumi tachi is study (keiko).

Tanto: Knife.

Tanto dori: Techniques of knife taking.

Tenkan: Turning to dissipate force.

Uke: One who receives. The person being thrown.

Ukemi: Techniques of falling. The art of protecting oneself from injury. The first and most important step to developing strong aikido technique is developing good ukemi.

Ura: To the rear.

Ushiro: From behind.

Waza: Technique.

Yokomenuchi: Strike or cut to the side of the head or neck.

Yudansha: Black belt rank holders.

Zanshin: Continuity; remaining aware and prepared for the next action.