Aikido Words and Glossary

Aikido words are Japanese words and terms unique to the dojo (school and place to train). Although you can use them in the dojo, these terms may or may not be used in everyday Japanese conversation.

For example, we use the term ‘Keiko (稽古) to describe a class. In everyday Japanese conversation, Keiko is specifically used to describe ‘martial art training or practice’. So one cannot really say “I am going to Art Keiko” when what you meant was “I am going to Art Class”.

Having said this, these Aikido Words are part of everyday Aikido training. We believe that Language, in general, is the gateway to culture, hence if one knows these Japanese Aikido Words, one will enter and experience the Japanese culture too, even if you are in Australia.

Oh by the way. If you are reading this post on a mobile, it is best to read the glossary on a landscape position.

Aikido Words, Terms, and Glossary

Aiki 合氣 The character 合 ai means “join” or “to come into conformity with.” 氣 Ki is energy, especially the universal, primordial energy that moves all of nature and is the basis of human vitality. Ki is the life force energy that flows through every living thing. Ki is also known in cultures as Chi, Prana, Mana, and Judeo Christian terms we call Ki the Holy Spirit.

The term Aiki has a long history and is used in different arts and by different teachers to mean different things, but the Morihei Ueshiba (Osensei)’s use implies not just a way of practice but a way of living that is in alignment and conformity with universal principles. Osensei said, “Aiki is the primordial movement echoing from the universal fabric of creation and taught by the gods.

To enact Aiki is to invoke that universal echo and its infinite power. The universe is our teacher; everything there is to learn, we learn from it, and we must ever return to it and act in unity with it. And we must evolve as the universe evolves. By living in this way, we cultivate the growth and development of the universal fabric of creation within our own bodies”.

Arigatō-gozaimasu 有難う御座います Thank you very much. In its literal or etymological meaning, arigatō means “too good to be true.” So, when you thank someone, you are telling them that their kindness, too good to be true, is like a miracle.

We say these words a lot in Keiko. You can also say these words when you are in a Japanese restaurant when buying sushi, or maybe when you go to Japan.

Ashi Foot or leg. Often used to indicate the leg as a target for a sword cut.
Ashikubi 足首 Ankle.
Atama Head.
Atemi 当身 Preemptive strike, usually delivered by Nage to control uke or cause him to react. The Aikido Atemi is unique, that is delivered to a spot where it is more effective. This is what separates Atemi from an ordinary punch or kick.
Long staff.
Bokken 木剣 Wooden practice sword (also called bokutō).
Bokutō 木刀 Wooden practice sword (also called Bokken).
Bu Also read as ‘take’, as in ‘take-musu’ (see below). Seldom used alone, the character means military or martial. Etymologically, it derives from the combination of two characters, one meaning spear and the other meaning to walk; thus, “advancing with the spear.” However, in the way that it is written, “to walk” has morphed into “to stop,” thus implying that the true purpose of martial or military discipline is to stop aggression or to keep the peace.
Budō 武道 Literally, the martial way. Budō is the study of martial arts as a way of life, implying moral and spiritual aspects as well as physical aspects of martial discipline.

Osensei said “Displaying physical strength or brandishing dangerous weapons to bring down other human beings is not representative of budō, any more than is the advocacy of weapons of mass destruction that can only lead the world toward ruin. True budō is the way of bringing forth order, preserving world peace, and protecting and cultivating growth and development in the natural world.”.

Bukiwaza 武器技 “Weapons technique.” Generic term for weapons practice.
Bushi 武士 Warrior (often used synonymously with samurai).
Bushidō 武士道 The way of the warrior, or chivalry (see budō).
Chūdan-no-kamae (chūdan-gamae) 中段の構え A sword stance. Chūdan means mid-level. In chūdan-gamae, the tip of the sword is pointed toward the base of the opponent’s throat.
Dan A black belt rank or degree. Literally means ‘Level’.
Deai 出会い The moment of meeting (of people or forces). Used in training to signify the first moment of contact (intentional contact before physical), the moment of truth.
Deshi 弟子 Student
Trunk or torso. Often used to indicate the torso as a target for a sword cut.
Path or way (also read Michi). Dō is a variation of the word ‘Tao”.
Dōgi 道着 Training uniform (also called keikogi). In class, we just call them “Gi”.
Dōjō 道場 A place of practice where the way is revealed. A place for the strengthening and refinement of spirit, mind and body.
Dōjō-chō 道場長 Head of the dojo.
Funakogi-undō 舟漕ぎ運動 A misogi or purification exercise that imitates rowing or the drawing of oars. See also torifune-no-gyō.
Furitama 振り玉 A misogi or purification exercise often practised right after funakogi-undō.
Gedan-hassō-no-kamae 下段八双の構え A sword stance. Gedan means lower-level. Same as waki-gamae [hyperlink].
Gedan-no-kamae (gedan-gamae) 下段の構え A sword stance. Gedan means lower level. The tip of the sword is lowered so that it points toward the ground.
Go Five.
Gō-no-sen 後の先 To respond to an attack after it is initiated. (See sen-no-sen and sen-sen-no-sen).
Godan 五段 5th-degree black belt.
Gokyō 五教 “Fifth teaching.” The fifth technique in the osaewaza curriculum.
Gokyū 五級 5th Grade.
Hachi Eight.
Hachidan 八段 8th-degree black belt.
Hakama Wide, pleated pants worn over the dōgi (usually black or dark blue).
Hanmi 半身 “Half-body” stance. The basic triangular stance of Aikido where one foot is forward and the other, back but pointed diagonally.
Hanmi-handachi 半身半立ち “Half-body, half-standing.” A training configuration where Nage is seated and executes techniques against a standing uke.
Hara Lower abdomen, the centre of body mass, source of physical power and breath. More formally called Seika-tanden.
Henkawaza 変化技 A non-standard technique.
Hiji Elbow.
Hijinage 肘投げ “Elbow throw.” Part of the nagewaza curriculum.
Hijiosae 肘抑え “Elbow pin.” Part of the osaewaza curriculum; sometimes called rokkyō.
Hiza Knee.
Hombudōjō 本部道場 The Aikikai Foundation dōjō in Tokyo (Hombu means headquarters).
Hyaku Hundred.
Ichi One.
Ichi-go Ichi-e 一期一会 “Each moment, always the first.” Expression of the reality that each moment comes only once; there are no second chances.
Ikkyō 一教 “First teaching.” The first technique in the osaewaza curriculum.
Ikkyū 一級 1st Grade, Brown belt (kyu ranks begin at six and work up to one).
Irimi 入り身 The aikido principle of entering inside of and moving through an attack.
Iriminage 入身投げ A throw executed from irimi. Enter and Throw. Part of the nagewaza curriculum.
Jiyūwaza 自由技 A practice where Nage responds freely, with any technique and without prior agreement, to uke’s attacks. In jiyūwaza, the attack is usually prescribed (for example, shōmen-uchi or yokomen-uchi), as opposed to randori, where attacks are random.
Wooden staff (typically 50” to 56” long).
Jōdan-gamae 上段構え A sword stance. Jōdan is upper-level. In jōdan-gamae, the sword is raised so that the hilt is held in front of the forehead and the tip points obliquely behind toward the sky.
Jōdan-hassō-no-kamae 上段八双の構え A sword stance. Jōdan is upper-level. Hassō is eight aspects, meaning the sword is ready to cut in any of the eight directions. In jōdan-hassō, the hilt of the sword is held in front of the right shoulder with the tip of the sword pointing directly overhead.
Jōdantsuki 上段突き Upper-level thrust or strike. Can refer to a thrust with sword or jō toward the head or neck or to a fist strike to the face.
Jōdori 杖取り Jō takeaway techniques.
Jōnage 杖投げ Throwing techniques executed with the jō.
Jūjinage 十字投げ Jūji means the character for ten, written as a cross. In jūjinage, uke’s arms are crossed, like the character for ten. Part of the basic nagewaza curriculum.
Kaitennage 回転投げ Kaiten means to turn or spin. A throwing technique that is part of the nagewaza curriculum.
Kamae 構え Stance, state of readiness.
Kami A god; a spiritual being or essence.
Kamidana 神棚 A shelf or small platform carrying a small Shinto shrine. Inside the dojo, this refers to the shōmen.
Kamiza 上座 The seat of honour. If seated inside the dojo, the kamiza would be directly in front of the shomen.
Kannagara-no-michi 随神の道 “The way of the gods.” An archaic name for Shintō.
Kasumi-no-ken かすみの剣 Method of camouflaging or concealing the movement of the sword so that the trajectory of the strike is different from what it appears to be. (Kasumi means mist or haze).
Kata Shoulder.
Kata A form; the formal aspect of a waza.
Katadori 肩取り Shoulder grab or hold.
Katageiko 型稽古 The practice of kata. Practice involving adherence to form.
Katatedori 片手取り One hand grab or hold.
Katatedori ryōtemochi 片手取り両手持ち Grab or hold Nage’s hand (wrist or forearm) with both hands.
Katsu-hayabi 勝速日 Quick win. Instant Victory.
Keiko 稽古 Practice or training.
Keikogi 稽古着 Training uniform (see dōgi).
Ken Sword.
Kiai 気合い A martial shout (used to affect an opponent’s mind and to gain an advantage). Also, to be animated and energetic (literally, “to meet with ki”). Note: Kiai is generic; there are different kinds of Kiai and different applications depending upon the circumstances and desired effect.
Kihonwaza 基本技 “Foundational techniques.” The basic technical curriculum of aikido.
Kōhai 後輩 Training junior (someone who started his or her training after you did yours).
Kokyū 呼吸 Breathing; the breath.
Kokyū tandenhō 呼吸丹田法 “Way of developing the tanden or hara through the breath.” A practice (as opposed to a technique) usually performed seated and at the end of class.
Kokyūnage 呼吸投げ “Breath throw.” Part of the nagewaza curriculum. Kokyūnage is practised both forward (uke is thrown forward, taking a forward roll) and backward (uke falls backward, taking a backward roll), each with an om0te and an ura aspect.
Kōsadori 交差取り Cross-hand grab or hold (for example, uke grabs Nage’s right wrist with his right hand).
Koshi Hip; hips.
Koshinage 腰投げ “Hip throw.” Koshinage is not one but a set of techniques where uke is thrown over nage’s hip. Part of the nagewaza curriculum.
Kote 小手 Forearm.
Kotegaeshi 小手返し Kote Gaeshi “Turning of the forearm” throw.
Kotodama 言霊 “Soul or spirit of the word.” Kotodama is the traditional teaching of Shintō, wherein it is maintained that the word sounds of the Japanese language are expressions of the primordial, spiritual essence of creation.
Kubi Neck.
Kubijime 首締め Choke hold.
Kumijō 組杖 Paired stick (Jo) practice of pre-established kata forms.
Kumitachi 組太刀 Paired sword practice of pre-established kata or forms.
Kuzushi 崩し The act of destabilising an opponent by disrupting his structure.
Kyū Nine.
Kyū A preliminary rank or degree (pre-black belt).
Kyūdan 九段 9th-degree black belt.
Ma-ai 間合 The spacing and timing of an encounter. “Ma” means space or interval; “ai” means meeting.
Mae-ukemi 前受け身 Forward fall or roll.
Makoto The quality of integrity, truthfulness, and sincerity of character.
Man Ten thousand.
Mannen Shohō 万年初歩 “Ten thousand years, first step;” always train as if you are taking your first step (similar to the concept of beginner’s mind).
Marubashi 丸橋 “Log bridge” (from 丸木 maruki, “log,” and 橋 hashi “bridge”). Used by Saotome Sensei as a metaphor for a situational encounter with an opponent where there is no escape and where the only way out is directly into and through the opponent’s attack.
Masagatsu agatsu, katsuhayabi 正勝吾勝、勝速日 “True victory is victory over self, victory in the moment.” The phrase appears in the Kojiki, Japan’s most ancient chronicle of the age of the gods, as the name of a deity.
Men Face.
Mentsuki 面突き Fist strike or thrust (with a weapon) to the face.
Metsuke 目付け Gaze, expression of the eyes. During practice, the eyes should be alert and perceptive. Likewise, the readiness and alertness of an opponent can be gauged by the expression of his/her eyes.
Misogi Rite of purification, as practised in Shintō.
Mudansha 無段者 Practitioner without black belt rank.
Mune Chest.
Munedori 胸取り Chest grab or hold (uke grabs the chest of Nage’s dōgi).
Munetsuki 胸突き Fist strike or thrust (with a weapon) to the midsection or solar plexus.
Mushin 無心 “No mind.” The state where the mind is alert but empty of thoughts.
Musubi 結び Connection. The physical, mental, and spiritual connection between Nage and uke.
Nage 投げ “Thrower;” in partner practice, the role of the person executing the technique. This word is interchangeable with the word ‘Tori’ in Keiko, to simply differentiate from the word ‘nage’ which means ‘throw’.
Nagewaza 投げ技 “Throwing technique.” The generic term for any technique where uke is thrown, as distinguished from osaewaza, where uke is pinned.
Nanadan (also Shichidan) 七段 7th-degree black belt.
Ni Two.
Nidan 二段 2nd-degree black belt.
Nikyō 二教 “Second teaching.” The second technique in the osaewaza curriculum.
Nikyū 二級 2nd Grade.
O-Sensei 大先生 “Great Teacher.” An honorific title reserved for Ueshiba Morihei, the founder of aikido.
Obi Belt or sash tied over dōgi.
Oku Hundred million.
Omote Front. Omote-waza is a technique executed by entering the opponent’s front side.
Omotewaza 表技 The frontal aspect of a technique (opposite of urawaza), generally involves an entry to Uke’s front side. Where urawaza tends to be circular, omotewaza tends to be linear.
Onegaishimasu お願いします Please. Uttered at the beginning of the class, it means “please teach me;” uttered to a training partner, it means “please train with me”. This word is probably the most used word in Japanese. It can even replace the word Arigato (Thank You) or it can even simply mean ‘Please’.
Osaewaza 抑え技 Osae Waza “Pinning technique.” The generic term for any technique where uke is rendered immobile with a pin, as distinguished from nagewaza, where uke is thrown.
Ōyōwaza 応用技 “Applied technique(s).” The application (including modification) of technique to particular circumstances and a particular attack.
Randori 乱取り “Ran” means riotous or disorderly; “tori” means attack. In randori practice, uke may use any attack (as distinguished from jiyūwaza, where the attack is prescribed) and nage responds accordingly. Also, randori is usually practised against multiple opponents.
Rei Bow.
Rokkyō 六教 “Sixth teaching.” Part of the osaewaza curriculum also called hijiosae.
Rokkyū 六級 6th Grade.
Roku Six.
Rokudan 六段 6th-degree black belt.
Ryōkatadori 両肩取り Hold, both shoulders.
Ryōtedori 両手取り Hold, both hands.
San Three.
Sandan 三段 3rd-degree black belt.
Sankyō 三教 “Third teaching.” The third technique in the osaewaza curriculum.
Sankyū 三級 3rd Grade.
Seigan-no-kamae 正眼の構え A sword stance. Seigan means in front of the eyes; in seigan-no-kamae, the tip of the sword points slightly upwards towards the opponent’s eyes in such a way that, ideally, the opponent is unable to accurately judge how long the sword is or how far away its tip.
Seika-tanden 臍下丹田 Lower abdomen, the centre of body mass, and source of physical power and breath (see hara).
Seiza 正座 Sitting position, legs folded and butt resting on the heels. Normally in seiza, the left big toe rests on top of the right.
Sempai 先輩 Training senior (someone who started his or her training before you did yours).
Sen Thousand.
Sen-no-sen 先の先 To anticipate an attack and to take the initiative. (See go-no-sen and sen-sen-no-sen).
Sen-sen-no-sen 先先の先 To anticipate and take the initiative against sen-no-sen. (See sen-no-sen and go-no-sen).
Sensei 先生 Teacher.
Senshin 洗心 Cleansing or purification of the mind.
Sente 先手 First move; (to take the) initiative.
Shi Four.
Shichi Seven.
Shihan 師範 Master instructor; usually the head of a lineage or school of affiliated dojos.
Shihōnage 四方投げ “Four directions throw.” Part of the nagewaza curriculum.
Shikkō 膝行 Movement on the knees from kneeling position.
Shinai 竹刀 Practice sword made from split bamboo.
Shisei 姿勢 Posture.
Shizentai 自然体 Natural stance (as opposed to an assumed stance, such as hanmi).
Shodan 初段 1st-degree black belt.
Shōmen 正面 Frontal alcove or panel, typically carrying a picture of O-Sensei; also called kamidana.
Shōmen-uchi 正面打ち Open-handed, vertical strike to the forehead.
Shoshin 初心 Beginner’s mind.
Shugyō 修行 Sincere, concentrated, deep focus, and an intense level of study of training.
Sode Sleeve.
Sodedori 袖取り Sleeve grab.
Sotodeshi 外弟子 A committed and dedicated student who commutes to the dojo for training (as opposed to “uchideshi,” live-in student).
Sotomawari 外回り Outside turn (a turn to the outside, away from an opponent’s attack).
Sumiotoshi 隅落とし “Corner throw.” Part of the nagewaza curriculum.
Suwariwaza 座り技 “Seated technique.” The generic term for waza executed from a seated position against an also seated attacker (as opposed to hanmi-handachi, where Nage is seated but uke is standing).
Tachi 太刀 A curved sword. A Tachi is a slasher sword. It has a deeper arc than the Katana. The Tachi also predated the Katana. Our Bokken or Bokuto are shaped like a Katana, but we describe a slashing technique as ‘tachi’ when we do Aikiken.
Tachidori 太刀取り Sword take-away technique (generic).
Tachiware 太刀割れ The act of “splitting the sword.” Describes a sword strike that displaces an opponent’s sword to take the centre line.
Tai-no-henkō 体の変更 This is the first exercise we do in each taijutsu, Keiko. It is a basic entering and turning exercise conducted against a one-hand wrist grab.
Taijutsu 体術 “Physical arts;” empty-handed training (as opposed to bukiwaza).
Takemusu-Aiki 武産合気 Literally “Martial competence born of Aiki“.

Osensei’s described Takemusu is the ideal state of the martial arts, wherein one responds spontaneously, without thought, and in complete harmony with the natural order to any situation or any set of circumstances. In western terms, this is when an Aikidoka gets into the ‘Zone’, as a Jazz Musician gets into the ‘Pocket’.

Aiki has a form and does not have a form. Aiki is a life that has a form and still flows with the change; it expresses itself by changing itself. A form without a form is a word in a poem which expresses the universe limitlessly.”.

Tanden 丹田 Same as seika-tanden or hara.
Tantō 短刀 Dagger or knife (practice tantō is made from wood).
Tantōdori 短刀取り Knife take-way technique (generic).
Te Hand.
Tegatana 手刀 Hand blade (hand open, fingers extended, as in shōmen-uchi or yokomen-uchi strikes).
Tekubi 手首 Wrist.
Tenchinage 天地投げ “Heaven and earth throw.” Part of the nagewaza curriculum.
Tenkan 転換 A pivot or turn. In aikido training, tenkan also refers to an entering turn against a one-hand wrist grab (see also tai-no-henkō).
Torifune-no-gyō 鳥舟の行 See funakogi-undō. Originally an ascetic, Shinto-based, purification practice, torifune-no-gyō was adopted into aikido training by the founder.
Tsuki 突き Thrust or fist strike.
Uchideshi 内弟子 Live-in student; a disciple living in the dojo or with the master and dedicating him or herself full-time to the study of the art.
Uchimawari 内回り Inside turn (a turn into or toward an opponent, usually with atemi). An uchimawari entry usually takes you inside and under your opponent’s attacking arm.
Ude Arm.
Uke 受け “Receiver;” in partner practice, the role of the person executing the attack and receiving the technique.
Ukemi 受け身 Fall, roll, or submission. Ukemi is, literally, the receptive or receiving body. (Outside of the martial arts, ukemi can also mean passive or passivity).
Ura Back (opposite of front). Ura-waza are techniques executed by entering to the opponent’s blindside or rear.
Urawaza 裏技 The rear aspect of a technique (opposite of omotewaza), generally involving an entry to Uke’s rear or blindside.
Ushiro 後ろ Backside, behind.
Ushiro-ukemi 後受け身 Backward fall, roll, or submission.
Ushirodori 後ろ取り Generic name for holds from behind.
Waki Flank or side.
Wakigamae 脇構え A sword stance. In wakigamae, the left leg is forward, the right leg is back, and the sword is held to the side pointing toward the rear so that the sword blade is partially or fully concealed by the right leg.
Waza “Technique.” Any of the formal methods of throwing or pinning uke performed in aikido.
Yokomen-uchi 横面打ち Open-handed, diagonal strike to the temple, side of the face, or side of the neck.
Yondan 四段 4th-degree black belt.
Yonkyō 四教 “Fourth teaching.” The fourth technique in the osaewaza curriculum.
Yonkyū 四級 4th degree.
Yubi Finger.
Yūdansha 有段者 Practitioner possessing black belt rank.
Zanshin 残心 “Remaining mind or attention;” exercise of mental alertness or readiness, especially following the completion of a technique.

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