Aikido Terms

Aikido Terms and Definitions

Definition / Shindai:

Shindai Dojo was named by Mitsugi Saotome Shihan. The name derives from the Kojiki,  the. ‘Record of Ancient Things’)  the oldest book of Japanese history and the oldest text of any kind from Japan. It was compiled in 712 CE by the court scholar Ono Yasumaro . It is a Shinto chronicle of Japanese  myths, legends and, Japanese mythology, surrounding the birth of Japan.

From a time in which the gods and men walked together, when everyone appeared the same,  one was moved to treat everyone with the respect and consideration of a god. This is the character and spirit of Shindai.

“Shindai is a state in which one chooses to conduct oneself in awareness of the divine nature of those around us. To act in the appreciation of the precious aspects of all life. To live and train with consideration and empathy, respect, honor, a nurturing nature, ethics, an attitude of chivalry, and a strong honest spirit. Shindai encompasses all of these. This is Shindai.”  SF

Aikido – The way of Harmony of the Spirit.

Ai –Harmony / Ki – Spirit / Do – Way

The pronunciation of Japanese words tends to be somewhat subject to interpretation. Do not be confused by minor differences.

A little effort in learning this vocabulary can add much to one’s ability to learn and understand Aikido.  Japanese terminology is always used in teaching Aikido  everywhere for two reasons;  First, it helps to preserve the traditional heritage of Japanese martial arts; and second, it provides/establishes a common language understandable to all Aikidoka around the world, regardless of their primary language or culture.

The consonants of Japanese are usually pronounced like those in the English language. Vowels are pronounced as follows:

      • A – “ah” as the a in father.
      • E – “eh” as the e in met.
      • I – “ee” as the i in marine. (Irimi – ee/ree/mee)
      • O – “oh” as the o in oboe.
      • U – “oo” as the u in rule. (Uke – oo/keh)

Words and Terms

Ai – Harmony, coming together, unification.

Atemi Waza – Techniques of striking.

Ai Hanmi – Mutual stance with partners facing each other with the same foot forward. A mirrored stance. eg. Both parties right foot forward.

Aiki – Universal life energy, the creative principle of life. Literally, Blending of energies (ki).

Aikido – The way of blending with universal energy; the art founded by Morihei Ueshiba.

Ai-Uchi: –Simultaneous striking, mutual kill.

Ame–no–Ukihashi – “Floating bridge of heaven, symbolizing the connection between earthy and heavenly realms of existence.

Arigato Gozaimashita – Thank you.

Atemi – Strikes, a blow directed toward an anatomical weak point, used defensively in Aikido.

Ato Geiko – Literally, “After-training training”, where higher belts throw lower belts to give more ukemi practice after regular class.

Bo – Long staff.

Bokken – Wooden sword.

Bujutsu – Fighting Techniques.

Bokken – Wooden practice sword.

Bu – Often translated as “martial”, this character has deep meaning in Aikido. It can mean “harmony,” “mutual understanding,” and “peace” as well as “martial”. The character is made up of two parts, one for “stop,” and one for “thrusting spear.”)

Budo – Literally to stop the contending spears. “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.”

Bushin – Highest level of spiritual communion

Bushido – The way of chivalry.

Bushido – Warrior’s code; The way of the warrior.

Chinkon Kishin – “Calm the spirit and return to the source” a mediation technique rooted in Shinto spiritual practice.

Dan – Black belt rank in Aikido.

Deai – The moment of truth. The moment of the meeting of two forces. (The proper moment) …

Deshi – Full time dedicated student/A way of life direction; a path of physical and spiritual refinement.

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

Dori/Tori – Grab.

Funakogi Undo – Rowing movement exercise for body awareness and unification.

Furi–Tama – “Shaking down the spirit”, cleanse and polish the soul itself.

Gi – Training uniform. Also called “keiko-gi”.

Gyaku Hanmi – Reverse stance in which partners have the opposite foot forward.

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

(At Shindai Dojo the Hakama is an initial public indication of commitment. We recommend our students wear the hakama as soon as they can afford one.)

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 hanmi.

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.

Henko Waza – Changing technique. One technique evolves into another based on the continuing flow of energy from Uke.

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

Jo – Short staff.

Jo Dori – Techniques of staff taking.

Jiyu Waza – Free technique. In testing this is usually against one opponent

Kaeshiwaza – Reversal techniques

Kaiten – “Open and turn,” one of the fundamental pillars of Aikido practice.

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.

Kami – Fire and water; deity; natural gods and goddesses; spirit of the Universe;Spirits; the divine.

Kata Dori – Shoulder grab.

Kata – “Fixed form”; a set of prearranged series of movements.

Katate – One hand (left or right).

Katate Dori – Wrist grab.

Katate Dori Ryote Mochi – Grabbing your partner’s wrist with both hands.

Katsuhayabi – “Victory right here, right now”; “speed which transcends time and space”; spiritual tenet of Aikido.

Katsu Jin Ken – The saving of your enemy’s life. c.f. Satsu jin ken.

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.

Ki – Spirit; vital force or energy; universal energy. Pronounced “chi” in Chinese.

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

Kibaki – This is a term that loosely translates to the expansive Ki or expanding Ki. According to Saotome Sensei, this expansion of Ki creates connection and is the essence of Irimi.

Kihon – Basic form of a technique.

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.

Kumano – Ancient district in Wakamaya Prefecture; O Sensei’s birthplace.

Kumi Tachi – Paired sword practice.

Kyu – White belt grade.

Mae – In front. Opposite of Ushiro.

Masakatsu Agatsu – “True victory is self victory”, one of the principal tenets of Aikido.

Men–Uchi – Strike to the head.

Michi – Way.

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

Mokuso – Meditation and contemplation period/ with eyes almost closed.

Mu – Void, nothingness.

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 (kokyu Nage/ breath throw). One who throws.

Omote – To the front. (It can also denote “inside” as opposed to “outside” (Ura), as it relates to irimi and intent.)

Onegai Shimasu – “Please [train with me].” Japanese phrase used between students to initiate training.

O Sensei – Great teacher – The title used for Morihei Ueshiba, the Founder of Aikido.

Randori – Free technique against multiple attack.

Rei – To bow. (It also denotes an encompassing and focused attitude of respect. A self-awareness of responsibility and consideration is imperative, as is an empathetic nature.)

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.

Satsu Jin Ken – The destruction of killing of one’s enemy. c.f. Katsu jin ken

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. “One who has come before.”

Senshin – A purified heart and spirit; enlightened attitude.

Shiho – Four directions.

Shin Ken – Live blade. Unified attention.

Shin Kokyu – Divine or spirit breath. lit. Deep breathing exercise.

Shinto – Way of the Gods; indigenous animistic religion of Japan.

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. Literally “Taking out the slack.”

Soto – Outside, or too the side. Opposite of uchi.

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

Suki – Opening gap; vulnerability; moment of inattention.

Suburi – Repetitions of a motion done for the purpose of perfecting performance.

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..

Tachi Waza – Techniques from standing. c.f. Suwari waza

Tai no Henko – The basic blending practice. Tenkan exercise.

Taijutsu – Empty handed techniques.

Takemusu Aiki – Enlightened Aikido. “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.”

Takemusu Aiki means “spontaneous creation of divine techniques.” A more down-to-earth translation is “spontaneously aikido occurring naturally, without thought or force because it is inherently part of the universe.

Tanden – The hara or “center”.

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

Tanto – Knife, generally with a specifically shaped blade.

Tanto Dori – Techniques of knife taking.

Te – Hand.

Tegatana – Hand blade; Sword edge of the hand. Also pronounced “shuto.”

Ten–Chi – Heaven and earth; the complete universe

Tenkan – Turning to dissipate force.

Tsuki – Thrust; punch to a body part.

Uchi – Strike.

Uchi – Inside. Opposite of soto.

Ueshiba Morihei – (O Sensei) The founder of Aikido.

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. (Can also denote the opposite of Omote)

Ushiro – From behind; back; rear. Opposite of mae.

Waza – Techniques.

Yudansha – One who has achieved the rank of black belt in an art.

Zanshin – Continuity; complete awareness of one’s surroundings; unbroken concentration.


Agatsu – Victory over self (second principle of Aikido).

Bu Relating to a warrior, e.g. budo means “way of the warrior”.

Budoka   One who studies the way of the warrior, with a balanced emphasis on the ethics, integrity, responsibility… etc., of the warrior spirit.

Bushi – Warrior.

Do – The way, or a way of viewing the subject.  In some cases it elevates the study to an art form. Eg.  Jujitsu, becomes Judo.  Kenjistu, becomes Kendo.

Dojo Practice hall, i.e. the place where you practice Aikido.

Ka – (suffix) Practitioner, e.g. an aikidoka is an Aikido practitioner.

Kai – School, e.g. aikikai =  Aikido school.

Katsuhayahi – Victory at the speed of light, or victory before an opponent can begin an attack (third principle of Aikido).

Shihan – Master instructor sensei – title of respect when referring to an instructor; never used for oneself.

Kyu – Rank below black belt.

Masakatsu – Victory of correctness, precision, righteousness (first principle of Aikido).

O – (prefix) Honorable, e.g. O-Sensei means Honorable Teacher, used to refer to the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba.

Seiza –  Formal sitting position.

Sensei – Teacher.


Onegashimas – “Let’s practice”.  It is a mutual recognition of the dynamics of the practice at that moment in time.  It is a greeting of introduction and mutual consideration.

Domo Arigato –  Thank you.

Domo Arigato Gozaimashita –  A more formal version of “thank you”. It is often used at the end of class.


Simple Counting (as in counting repetitions of warm-up exercises)

Ichi – One                   Roku – Six

Ni – Two                     Shichi – Seven

San – Three                Hachi – Eight

Shi – Four                   Ku – Nine

Go – Five                    Ju – Ten


Rokkyu < Gokkyu < Yonkyu < Sankyu < Nikkyu < Ikkyu

Yudansha (Dan Ranks) – Black Belts

Shodan          – First degree  
Nidan              – Second degree
Sandan          – Third degree
Yodan              – Fourth degree
Godan             – Fifth degree
Rokudan        – Sixth degree
Nanadan        – Seventh degree
Note:  The numbering of ranks is done in different directions. A student progresses upward from Rokkyu to Ikkyu and once having achieved black belt rank progresses form Shodan upward to higher numbered ranks.

Stance & Movement

Hanmi – Stance.

Migi – Right, e.g. migi hanmi = right stance.

Hidari – Left, e.g. hidari hanmi =  left stance.

Irimi – Entering movement.

Tenkan – Turning movement.

Maai (ma-ai) The distance between combatants; formally, the “engagement distance”.


Atemi – Striking principles.  Used to break the opponent’s concentration and balance, or otherwise change the nature of the attack and intended outcome.

Mune – Chest/solar plexus, e.g. mune tsuki =  chest area thrust or strike.

Shomen – Head level cutting strike from the front ending in an out thrusting motion. e.g. shomen uchi =  front head strike.

Tsuki – Spearlike thrust or percussive blow (punch).

Uchi – Sword like cutting strike.

Yokomen – Side (of the head or neck). Starting with the same motion as Shomen uchi, the cut turns as the target moves to strike the side of the temple or neck region. e.g. yokomen uchi = side strike.

Grasping Attacks

Hiji – Elbow.

Kata – Shoulder.

Katate –  One hand.

Ryote –Two hands.

Tori – Hold or grab, e.g. katate tori = hold on one hand; kata tori =  shoulder grab.

Mochi – grip, e.g. katate tori ryote mochi =  two hand grip on one hand.

Ushiro – Rear, e.g. ushiro hiji tori = elbow hold from behind.


Omote – In front / inside.

Ura – In back / outside.

Soto – Side / lateral.

Throws & Locks

Nage – A throw or one who performs the throw by directing the energy.

Uke – One who most often provides the attack energy and who receives the throw.

Ukemi – A three part description of Uke’s movement 1. A solid attack with intent and control. 2. Continuation of movement and intent as the interaction progresses. 3. A resolution by Uke to protect him/her from harm, generally seen as a series of controlled rolls, flips or back falls.  In the beginning the word Ukemi is most often used to describe the series of falls and rolls.

Ten Chi – Heaven-earth, e.g. tenchi nage = heaven and earth throw.

Shiho – Four directions, e.g. shiho nage = four directions throw.

Irimi – Entering, e.g. irimi nage = entering throw.

Kokyu – Breath, e.g. kokyu nage = breath throw.

Kaiten – Rotary, e.g. kaiten nage = rotary throw.

Koshi – Hip, e.g. koshi nage = hip throw.

Otoshi – Drop, e.g. aiki otoshi = aiki-style drop.

Kote – Wrist.

Gaeshi – Turn outward, e.g. kote gaeshi = wrist turn out.

Mawashi – Turn inward, e.g. kote mawashi = wrist turn in (usually referred as nikyo).

Jime – locking a joint against the natural direction of movement, e.g. hiji jime = elbow lock.

Control Techniques

These techniques are numbered from one up.  Compare this with the section on counting.

Ikkyo – First Principle.

Nikyo – Second  Principle.

Sankyo – Third  Principle.

Yonkyo – Fourth Principle.

Osae – Control technique ikkyo nikyo, sankyo and yonkyo are all “osae” and formal terminology may include this term e.g. ikkyo osae.

Weapons (Buki)

Jo – Wooden staff.

Bo – Long wooden staff.

Ken – Sword.

Bokken (bo-ken) – Wooden sword.

Shinai – Bamboo sword for full contact fencing.

Tachi – Short sword.

Tanto – Knife.

Jutsu – System of techniques, e.g. bujutsu = martial arts; aikijutsu = the forerunner of Aikido.

Tai – Body, e.g. tai jutsu = body (unarmed) techniques.

Dori – Weapon taking techniques, e.g. tanto dori = knife taking techniques; tachi dori = sword taking techniques.

Note that while Aikido is based in large part by the movements and perspectives of sword work, the sword is a whole separate line of study.  Sword has a distinct vocabulary and terminology for its study.

Aikido Practice

Keiko – Aikido practice.

Hanmi-Handachi – Performed with one partner standing and one kneeling.

Suwari – Performed from the kneeling position, e.g. suwari waza = techniques performed while kneeling.

Tachi Performed from the standing position.

Kata – Fixed form practice or series of movements that can be studied in a safe and controlled fashion, e.g. jo kata = fixed form jo practice.

Waza – Technique.

Jiyu Waza – Free form technique.

Kuzushi – Unbalancing Uke.

Awase – Blending or harmony with Uke’s movement.

Kime – Stance or position in relation to Uke.

Shisei – Posture in Nage static or in motion.

Shizentai – Natural balanced posture/stance.

Gedan Low sword/hand position.

Chudan – Mid sword/hand position.

Jodan – High sword/hand position.

Zanshin – Connection of Nage to Uke in terms of position, intent, spirit.

Kokoro – Has no literal translation in our language.  It is the balanced combinations of Mind/Spirit/Heart. It is intellect, emotion, sensitivity, expression, Intergrity and love in contact with the universe outside oneself  It is conscious, humane interaction with life.

Thanks to Geoff Goodman

Aikido is more than the study of technique.  First it is the investigation of essential principles is only in part articulated through the study of technique.  The physical part is one part of three;  physical, intellectual and spirit.  In terms of intellectual our study requires that we do research on history, culture and the language of our art.  You should look for additional sources of vocabulary.  As we are an ASU dojo, the first source is the ASU handbook and the books of our Shihan, Mitsugi Saotome.