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Terms that have greater meaning

Ama no torihune (ah-mah no toe-ree-foo-neh) - This term is given to an exercise that resembles rowing a boat in a hanmi position. This exercise is of Shinto origin, to cleanse the mind and spirit. It literally means, "bird boat of heaven". In other words, when you perform this exercise, you row your boat through the spiritual levels of heaven towards purification, as in misogi.

Ama no furitama (ah-mah no foo-ree-tah-mah) - This term is given to an exercise generally done in combination with the above, Ama no torihune. The hands come together in front of your body, while standing squarely, not in a hanmi. The left hand resting on the upturned palm of the right hand. Arms are extended downward, so that both hands are in front of your hara and then both hands are gently shaken so to relieve all tension in your body. This exercise will immediately follow Ama no torihune each time it is performed.

Agatsu - "Self victory." According to the founder, true victory (MASAKATSU) is the victory one achieves over oneself (AGATSU). Thus one of the founder's "slogans" was MASAKATSU AGATSU -- "The true victory of self-mastery."

Ai Uchi - "Mutual kill." An outcome of a duel where each participant kills the other. In classical Japanese swordmanship, practitioners were often encouraged to enter a duel with the goal of achieving at least an AI UCHI. The resolution to win the duel even at the cost of one's own life was thought to aid in cultivating an attitude of single-minded focus on the task of cutting down one's opponent. This single-minded focus is exemplified in aikido in the technique, IKKYO, where one enters into an attacker's range in order to effect the technique

Fudo Shin - "Immovable mind." A state of mental equanimity or imperturbability. The mind, in this state, is calm and undistracted (metaphorically, therefore, "immovable"). FUDO MYO is a Buddhist guardian deity who carries a sword in one hand (to destroy enemies of the Buddhist doctrine), and a rope in the other (to rescue sentient beings from the pit of delusion, or from Buddhist hell-states). He therefore embodies the two-fold Buddhist ideal of wisdom (the sword) and compassion (the rope). To cultivate FUDO SHIN is thus to cultivate a mind which can accomodate itself to changing circumstances without compromise of ethical principles.

Hanmi and Ma-Ai (hawn-mee and mah-eye) - Hanme and Ma-ai are grouped together because they are both about relationships and both begin to bring your individual movement together with that of your partner. Hanmi is the stance you use for ease of movement, readiness, flexibility and balance. Ma-ai is the positioning you take to properly practise a technique in order to move through it correctly and finish in exact distance. When hanmi is mutual, such as both people standing with right feet forward, it is called "Ai hanmi". When the stance is mutually opposite, one with left foot forward, and the other with right foot forward, the hanmi is called "Gyaku hanmi". It is necessary in training that both the nage and the uke keep proper hanmi when beginning and finishing a technique. Ma-ai is essential to understanding Aikido techniques. You begin to develop a keen sense of the area around your body that allows you safety or when you are open to attack. Usually the ma-ai is controlled by the nage, but both persons are responsible for a sensitivity to distance. An uke must understand positioning in order to continue to make a glowing practice. Ma-ai is something that requires your sixth sense in order to participate subtly with your body movement. Try always to remember to practise Ma-ai and Hanmi.

Hara (hah-rah) - Your hara is specifically the area of the lower abdomen. It is referred to in Japanese martial arts as the motivation for all movement. Without hara-movement, you will be off-balance and without any power. To develop hara is also to develop "guts". It is the meeting place for the power of the earth and the power of the heavens. It is the centre of the body. We begin to learn about extension by beginning with the Hara. Hara is the base from which your energy extends outward. Your Ki is generated from the hara. The hara is only the beginning of understanding power, balance and extension of Ki. When you begin to train in Aikido, your hara will feel like a bouncing ball, moving from your navel up to your shoulder, back down to your waist, up to your neck and so on. It is as difficult to embody as it is to explain. That is why you have your obi (belt) tied where it is. It is to constantly remind you to drop your weight and concentrate your movement from the hips and legs and not from those grabbing, strong arms. When you do feel that your hara is relaxed and steady, around the lower abdomen, then you begin to expand it to become your whole body. So hara is not just a spot that sits behind your belt knot. It is a concept of channelling your Ki and motivation of movement.

Irimi and Tenkan (ee-ree-mee and ten-kawn) - In Aikido, we have within the movements of all techniques the ancient concept of yin and yang. Tenkan is the motion of turning, or yin, and irimi is the motion of entering, or yang. If you look carefully, you will see the nage doing either one or the other or a combination. These are the only two motions we do as nage. The level of your understanding of these motions is your level of understanding of Aikido. All tenkans contain irimi and all irimis contain tenkan. You can practise these movements alone. They can help to develop hara, balance and groundedness.

KAMI - A divinity, living force, or spirit. According to SHINTO, the natural world is full of KAMI, which are often sensitive or responsive to the actions of human beings.

Keiko (kay-koe) - Keiko is the Japanese word used for training in a martial or cultural art. It expresses the idea that we can train our spirit as well as our body. We keep the use of this work for our practice to remind us that Aikido is not a sport; it is a study to refine and reflect on the nature of reality and our understanding of it.

Ki (key) - Ki is the life force that is in us and all around us. It is the consciousness of nature. It is here for us to explore in all aspects of our lives and it is central to understanding Aikido. Ki can mean spirit and energy. It is the life breath. It is the power we will cultivate and define. When we talk about extension, groundedness, hara (centre), kokyu (breath) and other terms, it is all about the way in which we use our Ki. There are no words to explain what Ki is or does. We can tell you how important it is and even ask you to use it. Ki development begins by your trying to find out what it is. You will need to use your imagination and your sensitivity. Then watch and listen to your instructors. Each one will offer you different ideas and approaches to discovering Ki. One thing is certain, however, Ki is the result of your mind, body and spirit being congruent. It is not physical strength. It is not simply mental desire. It is not just your intuition. It is your skill in combining all of yourself into a common action, into a unified being. Ki is universal energy, capable of infinite expansion and contraction, which can be directed, but not contained by the mind.
The basic principles of Ki are a way of bringing to light one's natural strength and hidden abilities. If you can learn the concept of Ki in daily life, you will in time develop practical and creative new applications of these principles in the areas of your own expertise.
Relaxation exercises, breathing methods, meditation, bokken (wooden sword) and jo (wooden staff) are studied to master ki principles.
The development and understanding of Ki is an integral component of Aikido.
The University of Tasmania Aikido Club Handbook states:
A discussion of "ki" , is as once, both straightforward and complex.
It is best understood, at least in the early stages of an Aikido career, as simply equating to " maximum efficiency", through to being the "total essence" of the situation, (or spirit).
The student will automatically encounter "ki" in his [or her] Aikido studies and will receive tuition in its identification and development. Notwithstanding, some simplistic examples should be appreciated from an early date, and are now discussed.
If, during the execution of a technique, balance was (momentarily) lost, a "clash" occurred or excessive strength was used etc., then it can be said that the technique was "not done with ki", i.e. "maximum efficiency". Similarly, if three steps were taken when two would have sufficed, then the movement was not done efficiently, i.e. it lacked ki.
This "maximum efficiency" aspect of ki is an important one and should never be lost sight of.
When an opponent commits themselves to an action, be it a simple grasp or a severe strike, then their "ki" becomes centred around that commitment, such that if a wrist is reached for, or grasped, by an opponent, it may be said that their "ki" is "concentrated" on your wrist, and by specific moving, without "breaking" the opponent's concentration, their ki can be "led" and, with training, may be turned back against them. Aikido teaches how to take control of another's ki and thereby, the situation.
Ki may be static or dynamic. For example, an exponent in a seated, contemplative posture, deep in meditation, can have in his "relaxed alertness" , great ki of explosive potential; yet it is quite "static". This form of ki plays only a minor part in Aikido study. On the other hand, and most often the case, ki is dynamic. A moving opponent, particularly one making an attack, has a 'moving' ki. likewise, the responsive and alert exponent moving and turning, has a dynamic ki that will become one with that of the opponent, in the same manner as the moving waters of the tide blend and conform to the irregularities of the shore.
The philosophical study of ki, is also that of Aikido as a whole. They cannot be separated. To understand the concept of ki, even in the simplistic forms mentioned above, is to simultaneously understand that it can (and ought to), pervade our every thought and action.
To recognise the application of ki concept in one's daily life, is largely the responsibility of each student. Suffice it to say, that if a "way" exists that can lead to self-improvement, and that "way" is identified, then there is an obligation to pursuit.
Aikido study involves an acquaintance with the concept of ki, right at the outset of one's career. The student is expected to search for, and recognise, ki in all aspects of life and in particular, of course, their own technical study and execution of the art.
This does, however introduce a dichotomy, which can be summarised as follows::
" if all the time you search and search, ki will elude you - yet, if you never search, its elusiveness is certain".

Kokyu and Musubi (coe-kyoo and moo-soo-bee) - Both kokyu and musubi express the symbology of Aikido's spiralling motions. Kokyu literally means breathing, the power of breath and life force, renewal. The motion in Aikido that symbolises kokyu is the in and out pulse of the breath. It is the opening of the heart and the extension outward of the life force (ki). It is at the root of all Aikido techniques and its incorporation into your movement is the beginning of understanding O Sensei's great teaching. It is the symbol of Aikido that teaches us we are all from the same source. Musubi is the blending of kokyu between partners. It is the tying together of Ki. Musubi is the process of unification. Opposites come together and make a whole, a new. Up and down, left and right join together to make a spiral. It is when both people's movements become one. It is the dissolution of conflict. It is the harmony nage teaches to uke. These two concepts are the secrets of Aikido. They are the poetry in the motion and the wisdom of the sage who brought them to us. They teach gentleness and love. We cultivate them graciously.

Kiai - A shout delivered for the purpose of focussing all of one's energy into a single movement. Even when audible KIAI are absent, one should try to preserve the feeling of KIAI at certain crucial points within aikido techniques.

Kotodama - A practice of intoning various sounds (phonetic components of the Japanese language) for the purpose of producing mystical states. The founder of aikido was greatly interested in Shinto and Neo-shinto mystical practices, and he incorporated a number of them into his personal aikido practice.

Ku - Emptiness. According to Buddhism, the fundamental character of things is absence (or emptiness) of individual unchanging essences. The realization of the essencelessness of things is what permits the cultivation of psychological non-attachment, and thus cognitive equanimity. The direct realization of (or experience of insight into) emptiness is enlightenment. This shows up in aikido in the ideal of developing a state of cognitive openness, permiting one to respond immediately and intuitively to changing circumstances (see MOKUSO).

Kuzushi - The principle of destroying one's partner's balance. In aikido, a technique cannot be properly applied unless one first unbalances one's partner. To achieve proper KUZUSHI, in aikido, one should rely primarily on position and timing, rather than merely on physical force.

Misogi (mee-sew-ghee) - Misogi means purification of mind, body and spirit. O Sensei said, :Misogi wa keiko desu." - training is purification. Sweating is purification. Cleaning is misogi and fasting is misogi. Misogi is the intention of our training and the refining of our skills.

Mushin - Literally "no mind". A state of cognitive awareness characterized by the absence of discursive thought. A state of mind in which the mind acts/reacts without hypostatization of concepts. MUSHIN is often erroneously taken to be a state of mere spontaneity. Although spontaneity is a feature of MUSHIN, it is not straightforwardly identical with it. It might be said that when in a state of MUSHIN, one is free to use concepts and distinctions without being used by them.

Nagare - Flowing. One goal of aikido practice is to learn not to oppose physical force with physical force. Rather, one strives to flow along with physical force, redirecting it to one's advantage.

Satori - Enlightenment. In Buddhism, enlightenment is characterized by a direct realization or apprehension of the absence of unchanging essences behind phenomena. Rather, phenomena are seen to be empty of such essences -- phenomena exist in thoroughgoing interdependence (ENGI). As characterized by the founder of aikido, enlightenment consists in realizing a fundamental unity between oneself and the (principles governing) the universe. The most important ethical principle the aikidoist should gain insight into is that one should cultivate a spirit of loving protection for all things. (see KU and SHINNYO)

Setsu Nin To - "The sword that kills." Although this would seem to indicate a purely negative concept, there is, in fact, a positive connotation to this term. Apart from the common assumption that killing may sometimes be a "necessary evil" which may serve to prevent an even greater evil, the concept of killing has a wide variety of metaphorical applications. One may, for example, strive to "kill" such harmful character traits as ignorance, selfishness, or (excessive) competitiveness. Some MISOGI sword exercises in aikido, for example, involve imagining that each cut of the sword destroys some negative aspect of one's personality. In this way, SETSU NIN TO and KATSU JIN KEN coalesce.

Shikaku - Literally "dead angle." A position relative to one's partner where it is difficult for him/her to (continue to) attack, and from which it is relatively easy to control one's partner's balance and movement. The first phase of an aikido technique is often to establish SHIKAKU.

Shinkenshobu - Lit. "Duel with live swords." This expresses the attitude one should have about aikido training, i.e., one should treat the practice session as though it were, in some respects, a life-or-death duel with live swords. In particular, one's attention during aikido training should be single-mindedly focussed on aikido, just as, during a life-or-death duel, one's attention is entirely focussed on the duel.

Sukashiwaza - Techniques performed without allowing the attacker to complete a grab or to initiate a strike

Sutemi - Literally "to throw-away the body." The attitude of abandoning oneself to the execution of a technique. (See AI UCHI).

Takemusu Aiki - A "slogan" of the founder's meaning "infinitely generative martial art of aiki." Thus, a synonym for aikido. The scope of aikido is not limited only to the standard, named techniques one studies regularly in practice. Rather, these standard techniques serve as repositories of more fundamental principles (KIHON). Once one has internalized the KIHON, it is possible to generate a virtually infinite variety of new aikido techniques in accordance with novel conditions.

Uke and Nage (o0-kay and nah-gay) - The relationship between uke (person taking fall) and nage (person throwing) is one of partnership. There is no competition in Aikido and we change roles easily because we need to be fluent in both halves of each technique. Both are difficult, but the job of the uke seems to be the more complex.
Uke has the task of giving an "honest, sincere and direct" attack. This means that the extension from your hara is directed through your body to the hara or heart-line of your nage. It means that you must give an intelligent attack where your mai-ai, hanmi and safety are clearly understood. But that's not all. Once the attack is given, you learn to continue your attack until you find you must fall. Eventually your fall is a result of the attack and not a motion you must conclude. Then your skills in ukemi get a turn at the polishing stone. The level of resistance to fall, the over-kill in attack, the holding back in attack, the feat of attack, and fall, all mix themselves into the movements. In time, the fine line between continuous attack and artful surrender becomes apparent, yet not all the time. It is the ultimate sensitivity to practise good ukemi. We all are challenged by this role no matter what the level we have attained. It is an open door to a nature and reality that helps Aikidoists transcend their present level. Many people cherish their role as uke as the synthesis of their understanding of the art. Watch carefully the demonstration of both uke and nage. Aikido requires both to work successfully to teach us the harmony of energy.
Nage is responsible for many things as well. When you are a nage it is the time to study the right placement of your movements, to use your kinesthetic sense, and to incorporate the principles and philosophy of Aikido. This is also a challenging job. A key to follow is to try to do the best that you can of what you saw demonstrated, and move in accord with your awareness of the person with whom you are practising. You should always try to measure your power by the level of the attack from the uke. A good uke is responsive, responsible and sensitive. A good nage is accurate and skilful.

Zanshin - Lit. "remaining mind/heart." (zahn-sheen) - Zanshin means calm awareness. It means concern for your partner after the technique is completed and to keep a good martial attitude of alertness. This means watching your partner instead of adjusting your clothes or hair. Be aware of your little habits that separate you from the connection you just developed with your partner. Eye contact, Ki extension, centredness, all combine to help you develop Zanshin. Without Zanshin, your aikido becomes sloppy and careless and you could even get hurt. One of the best opportunities to practise Zanshin is on a crowded mat. We never know when a class will be overcrowded or just the right size. People have different schedules and consequently class sizes vary. If you come to class and you notice it is going to be a big one, don't let it discourage you. Adapt your training style. Keep a flexible mind and you will learn to utilise your environment effectively, and you get to truly practise Zanshin. Everything is a reason to train more effectively and to witness the mirror Aikido holds up to you in which you see yourself.