Aikido Terminology

This page is intended for a beginning student of Aikido-Yoga who wants to gain a quick overview of some of the more important Aikido concepts and terms.

There is no need to unduly concern yourself with memorising every Japanese word in the dictionary – you will learn all the Japanese words you need naturally as a result of regular class attendance. True understanding, however, can only be attained by training under someone who can effectively facilitate an awakening of the fundamental principles of Aikido in you without the use of words.

Selected terminology related to fundamental Aikido concepts:

Agatsu: Self-mastery. Inner-Victory.

Masakatsu: This Inner-Victory over self is a meaningful or proper victory, as opposed to a temporary external victory over others.

Masakatsu Agatsu: Inner-Victory over delusion and ignorance. A mind that is free from desires that cause chronic anxiety, hatred, envy etc.

Ai: Esoteric term denoting the principle of harmony, integration or union. Equilibrium established by merging forces. Balance or force that governs the universe and keeps it in harmony.

Ki: Originally named ‘prana’ in India, ‘ki’ is a concept that suggests that a universal ‘life-force’ or energy exists within every human being, as well as every living thing in nature. The word ‘prana’ comes from two Sanskrit words, ‘Pra’, meaning constant and ‘Na’, meaning movement. Based on the yogic principles, correct breathing methods and dietary discipline that underpin Aikido-Yoga, you gradually free your mind and body from tension, create balance, and allow constant movement of prana (or ki) to flow uninhibited throughout your body. Acupuncture is also based on the fact that your health is dependent on the free flow of prana throughout your body, and that blockages in the flow of prana may even cause illness. In Japan, ‘Ki’ is translated to mean several things, including power (I-ki), vigor (gen-ki), bravery (yu-ki), and breath control (ki-soku). The concept of ‘prana’, ‘chi’ or ‘ki’ therefore has a physical facet, as in breath, optimum health and energy levels. It also has an emotional facet, as in state-of-mind. However, the single thread of spiritual understanding passed down from India to China and then to Japan, was that this metaphysical concept of prana (subsequently renamed and re-interpreted by China as chi and Japan as ki) closely relates the life-force within each person to a universal life-force present in all of nature.

Do: The Japanese word Budo is derived from the words “Bu” meaning “martial” or “combat”, and “Do” meaning “Way” or “path”. The word Do originally comes from the Chinese word Tao. The method of the Tao is to become fully aware by discarding any personal prejudices or bias that limit perception. To do this, one must pay full attention with an open mind. Budo, the martial Way, is therefore a Japanese term for practicing martial arts with this mind-set as a means of perfecting the self. The objectives of Aikido-Yoga, ‘Do’ and Zen are complementary. Zen seeks self-perfection through passive means, such as meditation. Do seeks self-perfection and personal transformation through active means, such as the practice of Aikido-Yoga. At the highest levels, Aikido-Yoga becomes a kind of moving meditation (do-zen), in contrast to the sitting meditation of Zen (za-zen).

Aikido: The word ‘Ai-ki-do’ combines three Japanese terms: ‘Ai’, ‘Ki’ and ‘Do’.‘Ai’ is the principle of harmony and integration. In Aikido, we therefore blend with, and re-direct the opponent’s energy, as opposed to clashing with the force of the attack. The concept of ‘Ki in Japanese philosophy attempts to describe the ‘vital energy of life’ or ‘universal life-force’. It is similar to the concept of ‘Prana’ in India, or the concept of ‘Chi’ in China. A tangible understanding of this fundamental creative principle is gained through our Aikido training. ‘Do’ in Japan, ‘Marg’ in India and ‘Tao’ in China all imply a ‘method, a path or way’ of self-development and self-realisation. Placed at the end of a word, it implies that the pursuit of an activity is directed towards our personal development and enlightenment. The word Aikido can therefore be interpreted to mean a method or way [do] to integrate or merge[ai]our vital life-force [ki] with the universal life-force of the universe [Ki].

Aiki: Esoteric term denoting a powerful, dynamic state-of-being with the ability to integrate or harmonise ones individual “ki” with that of Universal “Ki” – as well as the ability to integrate, harmonise or merge ones individual “ki” with that of an opponents “ki”.

Kiai: The spontaneous power derived from mind-body co-ordination – where the unification of mind, body and breath focus ones vital life-force (ki) in a continuous unbroken stream of intention. This may or may not involve a sudden release of breath (deep and resonating sound emulating from your lower abdomen – often confused with a vocal shout). As an example – try to visualize the ‘resonating spirit’ of a master Japanese archer just as the arrow tears itself from the archer’s clenched fingers, his resonating spirit metaphorically propelling the arrow much further than strength alone could possibly accomplish. Try to picture the arrow being compelled forward in front of these invisible “waves” emulating from the archer.

Takemusu Aiki: Technique-based martial-art systems generally tend to produce rigid, robotic, choreographed partner practice that has little relevance or effectiveness in real-life situations. Real-life situations always involve an infinite number of possibilities that rarely occur the same way twice. The best strategy to adopt in response to any real-life situation is therefore the ability to act instinctively from an unlimited variety of techniques and movements. These unlimited techniques and movements will be totally spontaneous and appropriate to the situation at hand because they are in accord with the natural, universal principles of nature. Aikido-Yoga therefore does not teach set, rigid techniques as such – but a unique set of forms and a mindset that emphasizes the principles from which free movement and astoundingly effective martial application are born.

Katsu Hayabi: How can you fight with sunlight? It has already won before you start. If you align yourself with the fundamental principles that govern the universe, then your actions will leave room for universal principles to naturally come into play. Force or undue effort will only be detrimental to the natural processes that dictate the relationship of all things that co-existence.   Aggression and desire are contrary to the fundamental principles of balance and harmony of the universe. Using the analogy of a lighthouse – principles are used to guide your actions and emancipate you – or else you smash against the rocks if you choose to ignore them. It is a doomed strategy from the start to attempt to compete or defeat while going against universal, fundamental principles; it is simply pointless. The human manifestation of correct observance of these universal fundamental principles is a state-of-being sometimes referred to by the word love. Because this state-of-being does not distinguish between friend and enemy, there are no enemies to contend with. With no enemies to contend with, there is no need to adopt an aggressive, fighting mentality (or stance). The ability to sustain this harmonious, centered state-of-being before, during and after any encounter with another person not only puts you in the best possible mind set to have these natural principles work in your favour, but also implies that regardless of the result of the encounter – win, lose or draw – this state-of-being cannot be interrupted..

Kyoku: In Aikido-Yoga, ‘ki’ is initially understood by a practical understanding of how your body maintains optimum health and energy levels. The vital life-force of creation manifests in the human psyche as the ability to sustain ones intention. The ability to not interrupt ones intent – together with the ability to direct that intent towards a goal that is aligned with ones life-purpose is using this vital-energy for the purpose for which it was intended. The physical manifestation of KI, apart from health and vitality, is the tremendous power generated by action that combines your physical, mental and spiritual energy. The spiritual facet of ki is obtained by your experiential insight into your connection with something greater than your limited understanding of yourself as a separate, isolated entity. The conceptualization of this understanding outside of personal experiential realization is futile; however, in the context of Aikido-Yoga, breath is the expression of ki, the expression of life, and the force behind it. Learning to coordinate breath with movement is what the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, called ‘kokyu-ryoku’ (literally meaning “breath power”). He demonstrated the physical power of ‘ki’ through his dynamic circular martial arts techniques, charged with a dynamic unification of mind, body and breath. Therefore, simplistically put, Kokyu is the tangible and intrinsic power resulting from the correct use of breath. Technically, however, kokyu refers to proper timing and a steady, unimpeded flow of power (continuous – sustained – intention: Ki)

Kokyu Ryoku: The unified power resulting from coordinating correct breath with movement.

Kokyu Ho: Body movement exercises and techniques that utilise kokyu.

Hara: Located approximately two inches below the navel – the hara is considered the spiritual centre of the body. It is also the center of gravity of the human body. Modern science has discovered ‘neuron-like’ cells around the abdomen area which gives a new credence to the concept of trusting the intelligence of your body – unimpeded by the intellectualization and less intuitive thought process that result in deliberate, premeditated action. The original concept of the hara, also known as the “Tanden” in Japanese and “Dantain” and “Tan Tien” in Chinese, may be traced back to the concept of chakras in India. (Refer to Yoga terminology) page.

Misogi: Any physical or mental activity or exercise that’s objective is to facilitate spiritual growth. There are a large number of exercises, including breathing exercises, cold water dousing, physical exercises, esoteric training (especially in nature), meditation and mental practices that are designed to strengthen mind and body in order to facilitate ones spiritual progress. Although the different activities or exercises are designed to achieve a wide variety of specific benefits, the term Misogi relates more to the attitude and approach one adopts to the activity rather than the actual activity itself.

Mushin: Awareness uninhibited by thought – free to respond with action or no-action as dictated by the particular circumstance without inference or self doubt. This state-of-being is required for spontaneity and creativity. “Keep the mind as bright & clear as a vast sky – a great ocean and the highest mountain – empty of thoughts.”

Zanshin: The ‘afterglow’ of sustained intention, awareness and capacity for creative spontaneous action that resulted while in the state of mushin.

Go no sen: Refers to the timing used in an engagement between two individuals, where the defender responds to an attack after the attack has been launched.

Sen no sen: Refers to the timing used in an engagement between two individuals, where the defender ceases the initiative away from an attacker who is just beginning to launch an attack..

Sensen no sen: Refers to the timing used in an engagement between two individuals, where the defender initiates the engagement based on a subtle awareness of the opponent’s intent to engage prior to the actual attack. This initiating move on behalf of the defender prematurely draws out the opponent’s intent the attacker’s resulting attack is swept up in the intuitive initiative of the defender. This is not to be confused with the term “Ki Musubi” which refers to the defender’s ability to match the attacker’s movement//intention at its inception, and maintain an unbroken connection to the opponent throughout the entire encounter.

Shoshin: State-of-being required for continuous growth and learning; Open-minded, enthusiastic, aware, passionate, curious, imaginative and creative. An unfettered spirit with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Possessing a natural sense of wonder, awe and joy in the discovery of new things. Having a stable, solid inner-core which welcomes change and the evolution it brings. Refer to article: “Aikido-Yoga & Beginner’s Mind”.

Yamabiko no michi: Literally means “the path of the mountain echo.” Deep contemplation of the nature of an echo, and of how an echo reverberates off the mountains, will give you tremendous insight into proper engagement strategy, timing, movement, flow and the detachment. “When you bow deeply to the universe, it bows back; when you call out the name of God, it echoes inside you.” [Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969)]

Selected terminology related to Aikido training:

Tai Jutsu: Practice of unarmed combat.

Tai Sabaki: Practice of specific body movements that focus on the Aikido pgysical and mental principles required in order to develop mind-body unity.

Suki: A weakness, gap or opening that makes one vulnerable to attack or counter-attack.

Nage / Tori: Person who receives the attacker(s) and practices executing techniques in the training atmosphere of a dojo.

Uke: Person who offers the attack and experiences the execution of nage’s defence in the training atmosphere of a dojo. However do not accept a simplistic definition of this term, because the topic of ukeship in Aikido-Yoga training is both wide and deep, requiring in-depth study. Understanding can only be attained thru correct training under the guidance of an enlightened teacher.

Ukemi: The art of taking a fall safely while remaining centered and aware.

Maai: Simplistically, ma-ai implies correct tactical distance between nage and his/her uke(s). This involves an intuitive sense of the uke’s size and athletic capabilities, the surrounding environment, whether or not weapons are involved, and which type of weapons etc. Maai constantly changes, so what is important is being able to maintain a spiritual connection and awareness of all variables in order to accommodate the ever-changing and dynamic nature of this complex and highly esoteric concept called ma-ai. In the context of the martial arts, maintaining ma-ai comes with the ability to instinctively gauge – both physically and spiritually – the distance between yourself and others while remaining aware and centered.

Irimi: Principle of direct entry – both physically and mentally. This is a vast and broad topic, however can be simplistically described as a sliding movement by nage that is diagonally forward and off the line-of-attack – placing nage in an advantageous position alongside or behind the oncoming uke. “Bujutsu must be applied just like light flooding a room as soon as the door opens a crack.”

Omote: Term used to indicate the movement of nage in relation to uke during the initial engagement phase of a technique. Nage moves forward across the front of the uke, off the line-of-attack.

Ura: Term used to indicate the movement of nage in relation to uke during the initial engagement phase of a technique. Nage moves behind the uke in a circular fashion once off the line-of-attack.

Tenkan: Turning or pivoting movement of the body (ie. 180 degrees).

Tenshin: Term used to indicate the movement of nage in relation to uke during the initial engagement phase of a technique. Nage retreats in a linear fashion at a 45 degree angle away from the uke, and off the line-of-attack.

Soto: Term used to indicate that a technique is executed ‘outside’ or around the opponent’s arm as opposed to moving your body inside or under the opponent’s arm prior to turning/executing a technique.

Uchi: Term used to indicate that a technique is executed ‘inside’ or under the opponent’s arm as opposed to moving your body outside or around the opponent’s arm prior to turning/executing a technique.

Hanmi: Stance / posture based on Japanese swordmanship where the feet are positioned with one foot in front of the other and the body is positioned at a 45 degree angle to the opponent.

Ai-Hanmi: Is where both the defender and the attacker begin with the same foot forward (ie both with the left or right foot forward.)

Gyaku-Hanmi: Is where the defender and the attacker begin with the opposite foot forward (ie if the attacker has the left foot forward and the defender has the right foot forward, or visa versa.)

Tegatana: Aikido’s footwork, engagement strategy and movements are largely derived from Japanese swordsmanship. As a natural consequence of this, when performing empty-handed Aikido techniques, the movement and application of the portion of the arms from the knife-edge of the hands all the way up the edge-side of the forearms parallels that of the sword.

Atemi: The art of applying effective strikes to vital parts of the body. However do not accept a simplistic definition of this term, because the topic of atemi in Aikido-Yoga training is both wide and deep, requiring in-depth study. Understanding can only be attained thru correct training under the guidance of an enlightened teacher.

Seiza: Japanese style of sitting on the floor in a posture that is both stable and facilitates agile movement in any direction. It is also one of the seated positions from which a variety of breathing and meditation exercises are performed.

Tachi: Can mean either a sword (as in tachi-dori) or techniques performed from a standing position (as in Tachi-Waza).

Tachi-Waza: Both uke and nage begin execution of a technique from a standing position.

Suwari Waza: Both uke and nage begin execution of a technique from kneeling position.

Hanmi Handachi: attacker standing and defender kneeling.

Selected terminology related to Aikido weapons training:

Bokken: Wooden Japanese sword.

Jo: Wooden staff.

Tanto: Dagger.

Suburi: Solo practise of specific weapons (ie. bokken & Jo) forms.

Kumitachi: Paired partner practice of set sword forms.

Kumijo: Paired partner practice of set jo forms.

Tachi Dori: Empty-hand defence against sword. Resulting in taking the sword away from the attacker.

Jo Dori: Empty-hand defence against wooden staff. Resulting in taking the staff away from the attacker.

Tanto Dori: Empty-hand defence against dagger. Resulting in taking the knife away from the attacker.



1.0 Correct Japanese Pronunciation

2.0 Counting in Japanese

3.0 Japanese Phrases

4.0 Basic Aikido Movements

5.0 Basic Aikido Techniques

6.0 Basic Aikido Attacks


The following will help you get a feel for the proper pronunciation of some Japanese words used in Aikido. Japanese vowels are pronounced as follows:

[ as the A in after ]
[ as the E in met ]
[ as the I in marine ]
[ as the O in oh! ]
[ as the U in rude ]
1. ichi
2. ni
3. san
4. shi
5. go
(shee) or (yoh)
[ one ]
[ two ]
[ three ]
[ four ]
[ five ]
6. roku
7. shichi
8. hachi
9. ku
10. ju
(shee-chee) or (nana)
[ six ]
[ seven ]
[ eight ]
[ nine ]
[ ten ]
arigato gozaimasu (Ah-lee-gah-toh Goh-zah-ee-mahss) Thank you
arigato gozaimashita (Ah-Lee-Gah-Tow  Goh-zah-ee-mah-shee-tah) Thank you very much for what you have done.
onegai shimasu (Oh-nay-guy-ee  Shee-mahss) I request your favor.  Spoken when one wishes to practice with another student. for example: Would you please practice with me?
abunai (Ah-boo-nah-ee) Be careful
hajime (Hah-jee-may) Start
yame (Yah-may) Stop
Rei (R-a-y) Bow. Gesture of respect / gratitude.

Although there are, in fact, an unlimited number of ways / variations in which one can move, the following represent the fundamental, basic movements for training purposes:

irimi (Ee-lee-mee) entering movement (used in Omote Waza)
tenkan (Ten-kahn) Turning movement (used in Ura Waza)
omote waza (Oh-moh-tay Wah-zah) a technique that goes in front of uke.
ura waza (Oo-rah  Wah-zah) a technique that goes behind uke.

Although there are, in fact, an unlimited number of ways / variations in which one can defend oneself, the following represent some of the more frequently used techniques for basic training purposes:

gokyo (Goh-kyoh) “5th foundation technique”
[ Ude Nobashi – Arm Stretch ]
ikkyo (Eek-kyoh) “1st foundation technique”
[ Ude Osae – Arm Pin ]
irimi nage (Ee-lee-mee  Nah-gay) Entering throw.
juji-gatami nage (Joo-jee  Gah-lah-mee) Throw by tying opponents arms in knot.
kaiten nage (Kah-ee-ten  Nah-gay) “Windmill” throw.
kokyu dosa (Koh-kyou  Doh-sah) Kneeling practice used to develop proper energy and coordination.
kokyu nage (Koh-kyou Nah-gay) “Breath” throw (using minimum muscle power.)
koshi nage (Koh-she Nah-gay) Hip throw
kotegaeshi (Koh-tay-Gah-ee-shee) Wrist throw
nikyo (Nee-kyoh) “2nd foundation technique”
[ Kote Mawashi – Wrist Turn ]
sankyo (Sahn-kyoh) “3rd foundation technique”
[ Kote Hineri – Wrist Twist ]
shiho-nage (Shee-hoh Nah-gay) “Four direction” throw.
tai no henko (Tie Noh Hen-koh) Basic body novement / turning / blending exercise. Very easy to learn – very hard to master!
tenchi nage (Ten-chee Nah-gay) “Heaven and Earth” throw.
yonkyo (Yoh-n-kyoh) “4th foundation technique”
[ Kote Osae – Wrist Pin ]

Although there are, in fact, an unlimited number of ways / variations in which one can attack or grapple, the following represent some of the more frequently used attacks for basic training purposes:



(Ah-ee Hahn-mee)

(Guk-yu Hahn-mee)

Matching stance (ie. mirror image)

Opposite feet stance (ie. both start with left or right foot forward)

daki-jime (Dah-key Jee-may) Bear hug (front or back)
ganmen tsuki (Gahn-men Skee) Straight punch to face (men tsuki)
hiji tori (Hee-jee  Tow-lee) Elbow grip
kata tori (Kah-tah Tow-lee) Shoulder grip
katate tori (Kah-tah-tay Tow-lee) Single wrist grip
kosa tori (Koh-sah Tow-lee) Opposing hand wrist grip (ie. right hand grasping left wrist or visa versa)
men tsuki (Men Skee) Straight punch or thrust to the head
men uchi (Men Oo-Chee) Any strike to the head
morote tori (Moh-low-tay Tow-lee) Wrists gripped with both hands
mune tsuki (Moo-neh Tsue-key) Straight punch or thrust to abdomen. (also simply refered to as “tsuki”)
muna dori (Moon-ah  Doh-lee) Lapel grip
ryohiji tori (Lee-yoh-hee-jee Tow-lee) Both elbows gripped
ryote tori (Lee-yoh-tay Tow-lee) Both hands gripped
shomen uchi (Sho-men Oo-chee) Strike to top of the head
ushiro-eri dori (Oo-shee-low Eh-leeDoh-lee) Collar grip from the rear
ushiro hiji tori (Oo-shee-low Hee-jee Tow-lee) Elbow grip from the rear
ushiro kubi-shime (Oo-shee-low Koo-bee She-may) Rear choke hold
ushiro ryokata tori (Oo-shee-lowLee-yoh-kah-tahTow-lee) Both shoulders gripped from the rear
ushiro ryote tori (Oo-shee-lowLee-yoh-tay Tow-lee) Both wrists gripped from the rear
ushiro tori (Oo-shee-low  Tow-Lee) gripping from the rear
yokomen-uchi (Yoh-koh-men Oo-Chee) Oblique strike to the side of the head


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