Japanese glossary

Commonly used Japanese terms.

During Aikido training often we make use of Japanese notions but also Japanese technique names. It is therefore important to learn a couple of Japanese words in the course of time or at least to be able to recognize their meaning. This mainly concerns very basic words such as front - back, left - right, and so on. For ease of reference, here is a list of words that are important from the beginning of your practice. Look at the pronunciation page for some sound samples to help you with the Japanese pronunciation.

Aikido glossary

boken, jo and tanto:

These are the weapons that we use in Aikido training: a 'boken' is a sword, a 'jo' is a stick and a 'tanto' is a knife. These weapons belong to the equipment of an Aikidoka. These weapons are used to improve techniques in Aikido; they are not used for sword- or stick fighting. You don't have to buy these weapons from the beginning, in the dojo we have weapons that you can use.


Aikido's 'basic position' or 'attitude' is derived from sword fighting: you are standing as if you have a sword in your hands. It is important to assume a stable position and to move from there when performing the techniques. In this position, the same arm and leg are in front - hanmi (half position) - and you stand in the so-called triangle position (sankakuho), with your front leg bent and the foot straight forward in the middle of the rear foot, which is turned out and forms the base of the triangle.


The kamiza is the central place in the dojo where there is a portrait of the founder or a calligraphy of Aikido. This place is also called shomen. In the dojo these names are both used. There is also a second meaning to kamiza: it is the best and most comfortable place and it is placed at the opposite to the shimoza, the low or uncomfortable place (often where the door is). This place is to the left of the shomen and this is the place where the most advanced are. Although it is customary in seminars to sit according to this classification, the term kamiza is not used for this purpose in the dojo*.


Keiko means training; regular keiko (training) is what Aikido is all about.


The 'keikogi' or 'gi' is the clothing or suit which is used during Aikido training. If you want to know which size you need or what kind of suit you should train in, look at clothing.


Energy; it is not an unambiguous term, in fact it is a generic term. In martial arts it is often used to indicate 'vital energy'. The training in Aikido aims to generate 'energy' and/or to learn how to distribute your energy. It has a background in the sense of the Chinese term 'chi', which indicates the invisible in contrast to all the visible. In formulations it can have many meanings, from cheerfulness (generated energy), to lethargy (little energy), to anger, and so on. Vital energy is a transformation of energy through continuous and oriented training.

kokyu (ryoku):

Breath strength: the combination of concentration, ki and breathing with movement. See also article Fujita Sensei.

nage / waza:

Nage refer to the throwing techniques, such as iriminage and shihonage. Kokyu nage refer to the 'breathing power' throws used for practicing throwing and falling. Waza is a technique. Tachiwaza, for example, refers to the execution of techniques that you do while standing and katame waza are the (joint) lock techniques. Techniques often vary between throws - nage or nage waza - and locks - katame-waza.

omote / ura:

In Aikido you can perform a technique in front of - omote - or behind - ura - the body. There are so many possibilities for executing them, and they actually depend on how the attack was performed: in the case of a hard attack, you usually use ura and in the case of a 'soft' attack, omote.

seiza / kiza:

Seiza is the resting position sitting on the heels, used especially at the beginning or at the end of the lesson and when the teacher wants to explain or show something. Kiza is the seated position with the toes on the mat. This is an active sitting position from where an attack or defense can be initiated.

tachiwaza / suwariwaza / hanmi handachiwaza:

Techniques can be practiced in both sitting and standing postitions: tachiwaza refers to the practice of techniques while standing and suwariwaza refers to the practice of techniques while sitting. For advanced practitioners there is also a third form, in which the attacker attacks from a standing position and the defender defends while sitting: hanmi handachiwaza.


Movement of the body: Taisabaki's are the basic movements in Aikido that you use to move to a safe position when you are attacked. Taisabaki's can be divided into incoming and outgoing movements (irimi and tenkan) (see text Yamaguchi Shihan). Aikido is an art of self-defence in which there is no direct confrontation at the point of attack. That is why in Aikido we move out of the line of attack.


The 'tatami' is the mat on which training is done.

uke / tori:

Tori is the one who executes (or defends from) the technique, uke is the one who experiences (or receives) the technique; tori leads and uke follows. In the beginning this can cause confusion, because uke is the one who attacks. Aikido techniques are always practiced in pairs, alternating the roles of uke and tori.


An important part of Aikido is (learning to) roll - forward, backward and sideways - and after a long time also learning to break a fall (free fall). This rolling or falling is 'necessary' to be able to experience or 'receive' the technique: hence ukemi. During the training a lot of attention is paid to learning it.

* Kamiza: from Encyclopedia of Japanese Martial Arts, David Hall, 2012.


Translated from our Dutch website by Andrea Maruccia and Sheila Clement I 2018

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