Although Aikido is obviously taught through the medium of the English
language in America, as a Japanese cultural tradition it contains many
terms for the names of techniques, postures, movements, commands, and
even objects used in practice that are either not conveniently rendered
into English, or else have taken root in their Japanese form among aikidoka
around the world as part of the language of Aikido. What follows is
by no means an exhaustive list. At the same time, no one is expected
to memorize all of the items on it. It is simply meant to serve as a
vocabulary list of terms you might hear around the dojo.
The consonants of Japanese are usually pronounced as those of English.
The vowels are pronounce as follows:
-"ah" as the a in father
-"eh" as the a in way
-"ee" as the i in marine
-"oh" as the o in oboe
-"oo" as the u in rule
Dojo Terminology and Commands
Arigato gozaimashita - Thank you
Bokken or Bokuto - A wooden sword
Dogi - A uniform made of thick woven
cotton, used in aikido, judo, and other martial arts
Dojo - Practice hall; the place
where a martial art is taught and practiced
Hajime -"Begin" or "Start"
Jo - Stick or short staff roughly
four to four and a half feet in length
Ki - A central concept in East Asian
systems of thought and medicine, as well as many other martial arts
aside from Aikido. A kind of "life force" that governs the
way living beings move and operate.
Kiai - Penetrating scream originating
in the hara.
Kohai - Junior student. Those who
begin their study of Aikido after you. You owe them your help and support.
Kon nichi wa - good day
Kumbanwa - greeting; "good
Matte -"Wait" or "Stop"
Nage (or Tori) - The partner executing
a technique in paired or multiple partner practice
Oha yo - ''good morning"
Onegai shimasu - A standard Japanese
phrase used when asking for a favor or request. In Aikido, one says
this while bowing to the sensei at the beginning of class and to one's
partner before practicing a technique.
O-sensei - Reference of respect
to Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969), the founder of Aikido, whose picture
adorns the front of the dojo
minassai - "good night"
Rei - A bow, command for bowing
Sempai - Senior student: Those who began their study of Aikido before
you. You owe them your respect for their experience.
Sensei - Teacher
Shihan -"master" in Japanese.
An official rank presented by the Aikikai to individuals who hold the
rank of 6th degree black belt and above, who generally teach aikido
professionally, either at the Hombu Dojo in Tokyo, or in one of the
Aikikai's affiliate organizations in Japan or abroad.
Shomen ni rei!
- Bow to the front! Command used to signal formal seated bow by students
at end of practice we often just use rei! or bow.
Tachi - Sword, used only in the
names of certain exercises or techniques (and not to refer to a wooden
sword per se)
Tanto - Short sword; a wooden dagger
used for practicing knife takeaways
Uke - Receiver of a Technique, that
is, the "attacker" who is then thrown or pinned
Movements, and Exercises
Agura - Sitting cross legged.
Ai-hanmi - Stance where the Nage
and Uke are both standing with either both right feet or both left feet
Atemi - Strikes to the body at vulnerable
points. Used in techniques to distract or unbalance the attacker and
thereby increase the effectiveness of a technique
Gyaku-hanmi - A mirror hanmi stance
where the Uke and Nage have different feet forward (Uke has left foot
forward and Nage has the right foot forward or visa versa)
Hanmi - A triangular stance where
one foot is in front and pointing forward and the rear foot is placed
perpendicular to the front foot.
Hanmi-handachi - The Nage is seated
in seiza and the Uke is standing.
Hidari-hanmi - Hanmi stance with
left (hidari) foot forward
techniques performed usually with one Uke and usually with a pre-decided
Jo-awase - Paired exercises in which
basic use of the jo is emphasized
Jo-nage - Throws done when the Nage
holds the jo and the uke tries to take it from him.
Jo-dori - Defenses by the Nage when
attacked by the Uke with a jo
Kaiten - Forward Step-Pivot
Ken-awase - Paired exercises in
which basic use of the sword is emphasized
Ki-musubi-no-tachi - A paired ki-blending
exercise done with swords
Kokyu-dosa - A breathing exercise
Kokyu-ho - Breathing exercise usually
done at the end of a practice session either seated or standing.
Kumi-jo - Extended paired kata with
jo, in which defenses and counter attacks with the weapon are practiced
Kumi-tachi - Extended paired kata
with sword, in which defenses and counter attacks with the weapon are
Ma-ai - Space between the Nage and
Migi-hanmi - Hanmi stance with right
(migi) foot forward
Omote - Front or in front of, used
to describe techniques executed by moving across Uke's front
Randori - Free-style exercise where
two or more Uke attack the Nage using any attack of their choice.
Seiza - Formal Japanese way of sitting
on the floor with one sitting with knees pointed forward and rear end
on one's feet and ankles. For men, the knees should be one to two fist
lengths apart with one big toe resting on top of the other. For women,
knees are one fist apart with one foot resting on top of the other.
Shikko - Walking on one's knees.
Suwari-waza (or Zagi) - Techniques
where both Nage and Uke are seated in seiza
Tachi-dori - Defenses to a sword
attack, sword takeaways
Tachi-waza - Techniques done while
Tai-no-hinko - 4 exercises that
encompass the fundamental movements
Tai-sabaki - The general term for
body movements used in Aikido to avoid an attack and unbalance the attacker
in the process
Tanto-dori - Defenses to a knife
attack, knife takeaways
Tenkai - Pivoting on the balls of
the feet in hanmi. One reverses direction and switches hanmi stances.
In other words, if one is standing in a right stance prior to tenkai,
one is standing in a left stance after tenkai.
Tenkan (or Tai-no-henko) - A turn
in which the back leg of the hanmi stance is pulled back 180 degrees
to reverse one's direction. The front foot of the stance is used as
the pivot point. Unlike tenkai, one's stance is the same as before the
move, but one is facing the opposite direction.
Ukemi - Tumbling or breakfalls.
Ura - Rear or in back of, used to
describe techniques executed by moving around behind the Uke
Ushiro-waza - Defenses to attacks
from the rear
Waza - A technique
Shomen-uchi - Strike to the front of the face with the te-gatana
Yokomen-uchi - Strike to the temple
with the te-gatana
Mune-tsuki - Punch to the abdomen
Katate-dori - Single-handed grip
to the wrist (Uke grabs Nage's right wrist with his left hand)
Gyaku katate-dori (or Kosa-dori, Ai-dori)
- Cross-handed grip to the wrist (Uke grabs Nage's right wrist with
his right hand)
Morote-dori (or Katate-ryote-dori)
- Uke uses two hands to grab one of the Nage's wrist.
Ryote-dori - Uke uses both hands
to grab both of the Nage's wrists
Sode-dori - Uke grabs Nage by sleeve
Mune-dori - Uke grabs Nage by the
lapel of dogi
Kata-dori - Uke grabs one of the
Nage's shoulder with one hand
Ryokata-dori - Uke grabs both of
the Nage's shoulders
Kata-dori shomen-uchi - Uke grabs
one of the Nage's shoulder with one hand and strikes at the Nage with
the other hand
Ushiro ryote-dori - Uke grabs both
Nage's wrists from behind.
Ushiro ryokata-dori - Uke grabs
both Nage's shoulders from behind.
Ushiro eri-dori - Uke grabs the
back of Nage's collar from behind
Ushiro kubi-jime - Uke reaches around
with one arm, grabs the Nage's lapel to strangle the Nage and holds
on to one of Nage's wrists with the other hand
Ushiro-kakae - Uke embraces Nage's
torso from behind, so that Nage's arms are trapped
Shiho-nage - Four Direction Throw
Irimi-nage - Entering Throw
Kote-gaeshi - Throw from outward
Tenchi-nage - Heaven and Earth Throw
Kaiten-nage - Rotation Throw
Kokyu-nage - Breath Throw
Koshi-nage - Hip Throw
Tenbin-nage -"Balance Scale
Throw" - throw executed from arm bar behind elbow
Juji-garami - Cross-shaped Entanglement
Sumi-otoshi - Corner Drop
Aiki-otoshi - Aiki Drop
Ikkyo (ude osae) - Arm Pin
Nikyo (kote-mawashi) - Wrist In-Turn
to arm pin
Sankyo (kote-hineri) - Wrist Twist
to arm pin
Yonkyo (tekubi-osae) - Wrist Pin
Gokyo (ude-nobashi) - Arm Stretch
Ude-hishigi (or Hiji-gatame) - Arm
Smash; an technique executed by hyperextending the elbow
whole name of a technique in Japanese is formed by the word for the
attack, then technique, then direction,
ATTACK TECHNIQUE DIRECTION
- Shomen-uchi ikkyo omote-waza
- Katate-dori shiho-nage ura-waza
( 1-12 are as follows, after that only exceptions to the pattern are
1 - ichi
3 - san
4 - shi (yon) (shi
translates to "death" so when saying things like 4th dan use
"yon" instead of "shi" to say 4th degree black belt,
not death degree black belt)
5 - go
6 - roku
7 - shichi
8 - hachi
9 - ku
11 - ju-ichi
12 - ju-ni
...and so on
20 - ni-ju
21 - ni-ju-ichi
30 - san-ju
40 - yon ju
44 - yonjushi
70 - nana ju
77 - nana ju nana