Aikido principles

The basic principles of aikido given here are partially taken from N. Tamura's Aikido, modified by comments and teachings from Pierre Chassang sensei and from our own practice.

shisei
Trans: posture.
An aikidoka stands with the head held high. This opens the throat and chest allowing the breath to flow without hindrance. Additionally, with the head held high, the aikidoka retains the opportunity to be aware of any possible attacks from any direction.

N. Tamura sensei says in Aikido.

Sugata (shi) means the "form", "figure" or "stature". Ikoi (shei) signifies energy, vigour and vivacity. Shisei combines these meanings.
kokyu
Trans: breath.
Kokyu is usually associated with shisei. If you do not have a good posture you will not be able to breathe easily.
N. Tamura sensei says in Aikido.

Haku (ko) means to breathe in.
Suu (kyu) means to breathe out.

kamae
Trans: stance.
Kamae is the relationship between tori and uke. It is more than just posture. It implies that tori faces uke in a position to carry out a technique or deliver an atemi for instance.

Think of the golfing term "addressing the ball", without a ball this term makes no sense, similarly, in aikido, the term kamae requires tori and at least one uke.

Kamae is intimately related to ma-ai (below).

N. Tamura sensei says in Aikido.

The verb kameru is translated as "to build", "to construct", "to prepare", "to learn intensively" and "to be on the alert". The Chinese character of kamae is comprised of the radical "wood" followed by the element representing a mortice and tenon, signifying the indissoluble structure of carpentry. Kamae in budo is to take the most advantageous position available in relation to aite.

ma-ai
Trans: distance.
More than just distance, ma-ai implies correct distance. Too close to uke and tori is unable to deliver a technique or atemi, too far and tori cannot reach.

N. Tamura sensei says in Aikido.

The character ma is made up of "a door" and "the moon", i.e. the moon seen through the cracks of a closed door. We say that even though something may be shut behind a door, there is always a crack through which the light of the moon can filter.

The ai of ma-ai is the same as the ai of aikido, meaning to unify, to put in order and to harmonise. It can be deduced from what has been said that ma-ai is the space formed between the heart and the mind, encompassing both in a constant evolution towards the most advantageous situation.

irimi
Trans: enter.
Irimi implies to attack, to enter into the very heart of uke.

N. Tamura sensei says in Aikido.

The character iri describes the idea of passing the entrance to a house, to enter or to be invited into it. The character mi gives the idea of a child in it's mother's womb with the sense of completeness of flesh, bone and blood. Therefore mi equals the body and irimi , to put one's body in the body of the opponent. Following the method of the spear, the word irimi is used to describe the action of penetrating victoriously to the interior of the guard of an adversary armed with a weapon longer than your own when you are armed with a sword or a dagger or even unarmed.

tenkan
Trans: turn.
Tenkan implies receiving, to absorb uke's attack.

N. Tamura sensei says in Aikido.

Ten means 'to transpose', 'to transfer' or 'to evolve'. The character ten is composed of two elements, one meaning 'wheel' and the other invoking a circular turning movement. Kan means to change. Tenkan is used with the meaning of changing direction, line or the condition of the spirit.

omote-ura
Trans:front-rear.
Omote represents the front, the visible or apparent side of things and ura represents the back or hidden side of things. It can be seen from this that omote and ura are two sides of the same thing, the yin and yang. You cannot have omote without ura, nor ura without omote.

The terms omote and ura are used to classify certain techniques, omote versions being executed in front of tori and ura versions from behind. Some techniques are possible in both omote and ura versions and others only one or the other.

Tamura sensei believes that these classifications (of techniques) were only introduced to facilitate instruction and do not have a practical application for senior students.

tai-sabaki
Trans:body movement.
Tai-sabaki demands that tori move so as to disturb uke's equilibrium, at the very instant of the attack to put uke in a position from which he can no longer move.

N. Tamura sensei says in Aikido.

The character sabaki is composed of two elements: "the hand" and "to separate" (which contains the idea of dislocating a joint with a knife). By extension the verb sabaku is used in this expression to describe the various actions of "to sell", "to distribute", "to regulate" and "to sort out business". Sabaku means to put right disorder, to decide what is right and wrong, to distribute goods and to do one's duty.

Tai means body. Therefore tai-sabaki means that at the moment when the enemy attacks you, judging the position, you displace yourself, you simply move your body putting yourself in a position of advantage.

atemi
Trans. strike.
It is sometimes thought that there are no strikes in aikido. Nothing could be further from the truth.

N. Tamura sensei says in Aikido.

Etymologically, ateru expresses the idea of estimating and evaluating with precision the area and value of a field. By extension it means "to place exactly", "to fall exactly on the desired spot", to the centre of the target for example. To the notion of estimating and evaluating is added the idea of success.

Mi means body. In ancient budo, atemi consisted of a striking the adversary's vital points to cause loss of consciousness or even death. To wound superficially or to break a bone was not atemi.

kokyu-ryoku
Trans. breath power.
Every movement in aikido should be done with kokyu-ryoku. Irimi implies an out-breath and tenkan an in-breath.

A european traveller watching the relatively tiny indian porters loading and unloading heavy cases in New Delhi asked them how they managed such heavy loads - "On the breath!" was the reply.

An atemi delivered without kokyu-ryoku is an atemi delivered without power and so atemi and kokyu-ryoku are linked together.

N. Tamura sensei says in Aikido.

The execution of a technique in aikido is achieved using mental energy and physical force naturally. If you use this method it is possible to develop a strength superior to any which you believe you may have. When we say that old people, women and children can practice, this not only means they can learn but that they can actually apply this way of combat once they have fully understood it.