Japanese terms in the Dojo


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.


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.

Bokken: Wooden practice sword.

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.

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.

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.


Kihon Waza: Fundamental techniques

Tachi Waza: Standing techniques.

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

Suvari Waza: Techniques executed with both uke and nage in a seated position.

Henka Waza: Varied technique. Especially beginning one technique and changing to another in mid-execution

Oyo Waza: applied technique

Kaichi Waza: literally means “reacting technique”

Atemi Waza: Techniques of striking.

Jiu Waza: Free-style practice of techniques. Usually a set of attacks or techniques. It is different from Randori where everything is allowed.

Ne Waza: Grappling techniques


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