What is Aikido?

Aikido is a Japanese martial art, founded by Master Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969), where training is used as a `way' (michi) for personal development, self-discipline and spiritual growth. Aikido is an attempt to actualize the `Spirit of Wa (harmony)' by refining technique, heart and ki (life force) through martial art training. Founder Morihei Ueshiba stated that the purpose of Aikido is "not to create and fight enemies, but to harmonize and become one with the ki of the universe". Overall, Aikido is a wonderful educational system to polish oneself and to bring balance to one's mind and body. Aikido practice involves a series of techniques and exercises designed to increase one's body awareness, and to help internalize the principles of movement and energy dynamics. Through persistent and sincere training, one will begin to understand both the internal and the martial aspect of the art.

The ideal in Aikido is not to think of defeating attackers, but rather to be in harmony with them while neutralizing their attacks. Because the nature of Aikido philosophy is to promote harmony and non-conflict, there is no sparring during practice. Instead, training partners help each other learn the proper execution of various forms. Aikido techniques are practiced in a very balanced manner, including: left and right; omote (front) and ura (back); tachiwaza (standing); suwariwaza (sitting); and hanmi-handachiwaza (half-sitting/half-standing). Your Aikido practice will begin with gentler and slower movements appropriate to your level of experience and fitness, and gradually will build up to faster and more challenging techniques. This style of practice loosens the muscles, flexes the joints, improves the posture, and stimulates and enlivens all parts of the body.

The calligraphy on the right is by Adm. Takeshita, a great supporter of O Sensei and Aikido. It is based on "I Ching" and in relation to Aikido can be interpreted as follows: Do not stop moving forward on your path. Keep practising Aikido, and do not take a break from it. Aikido is a lifelong learning path.

A Beginner's Guide to Aikido at VWA

Basic Martial Etiquette

Aikido is a `modern' martial art that we practice in a friendly dojo atmosphere, while still retaining strict manners and martial aspects. In Aikido training, etiquette is as important as the study of physical techniques. Proper execution of etiquette forms not only creates a good atmosphere in the dojo, but also develops your intuition and awareness. Since Aikido is a Japanese martial art, the interactions between the teacher and the students, and among the students, follow the Japanese form. You will not be expected to know all etiquette forms in the beginning, but you will be expected to learn them in a reasonable amount of time.


Aikido training takes place in a hall known as a dojo (place of the way). The dojo is considered a sacred place of learning, and must be kept clean and free of distractions. Behave no differently in a dojo than you would in a church or temple.


Training partners should always be approached with gratitude and respect. They are lending you the use of their bodies to enable you to gain the benefits of Aikido practice.

REI (bowing)

Bowing is a very important aspect of the Japanese culture. In Aikido, we bow to show respect, honour, and gratitude. There are two ways of bowing: from a kneeling position (more formal), and from a standing position.

kneeling bow is performed

  • when first stepping onto the mats, and when finally leaving the mats,
  • at the formal beginning and ending of class,
  • to your partner, when beginning and ending the practice of a technique,
  • to the instructor, after a demonstration.

standing bow is performed

  • when entering and leaving the dojo,
  • when temporarily leaving and returning to the mats,
  • after receiving personal attention from the instructor.


  • Domo arigato gozaimashita - "Thank you very much."
  • O-ne-gai shimasu - "Please show me your favour."
  • Sumi-masen - "I'm sorry" or "Please excuse me."

General Etiquette And Conduct


  • If you are unavoidably late, and the warm-ups are still in progress, quickly sit in seiza at the edge of the mats and WAIT until you are noticed and acknowledged before joining the warm-ups.
  • If the class is already in session, perform a warm-up of your own off the mats, then follow the steps above.


Always let the Sensei know if you need to leave the mats.


Careless practice is dangerous and can cause injury. Always be aware of your surroundings.


The proper way to sit during class is in seiza, the formal Japanese sitting posture. A crosslegged sitting position is acceptable if seiza becomes too uncomfortable. In any case, an attentive posture should be maintained at all times. Students should not slouch, lean against walls or sit with legs outstretched.


Unless specifically asked to do so by the Sensei. If you need help during class, discreetly ask the instructor for his/her instruction.


For reasons of safety, respect and courtesy, it is essential that the teacher's instructions be followed exactly. Many Aikido techniques can be dangerous if not practiced properly.


Be sensitive to the physical limitations and experience level of your partner and never perform any exercise which you feel is too dangerous for your current physical or technical ability, or that of your partner.


In Aikido, like in other traditional martial arts, learning with the eyes and body is emphasized. Help each other by following the technique with the appropriate body movements rather than with words. If it is necessary to speak, do so in a low voice.


Jewellery such as rings, necklaces and ear rings could accidentally catch or be ripped out by a partner during the practice and could pose a risk to you or your practice partner.


To help prevent dirt from being brought onto the training surface, please wear some kind of footwear when not on the mats.


Cleanliness is a reflection of your attitude toward Aikido, your teacher and your fellow practitioners. Please keep your fingernails and toenails clean and short. Keep your uniform clean and wash it regularly. Footwear should ALWAYS be worn when not on the mats.


If you become unable to continue practice, let your partner know. INFORM THE SENSEI before leaving the mats. If you just need a short rest, move to the edge of the mats and sit quetly watching until you are ready to resume practice.


If you have medical condition or previous injury that may affect your practice, notify the Sensei of this before class starts.


The dogi, or gi is the uniform that students should wear during practice. A Karate-gi or the more durable Judo-gi is preferred. The dogi should be white or natural (unbleached). They may be purchased at a local martial arts supply store. For new members who do not wish to invest in a uniform immediately, it is acceptable to attend the first month of classes in a t-shirt and a pair of track-pants.

Aikido Weapons

Weapons training in Aikido is important in that it helps us learn principles of timing, combative distance, sensitivity and awareness. The training weapons used in Aikido are Bokken (a wooden sword), Jo (a 50 to 54 inch wooden staff), and tanto (a wooden knife). These may be purchased at a local martial arts supply store. It is not essential for new members to buy weapons; however, they are encouraged to participate in weapons classes, even without a Bokken or Jo.

Aikido Ranks and Testing

Aikido follows the traditional kyu and dan system of ranking where only white and black belts are worn. The white belt ranks proceed from 5th kyu until 1st kyu. After passing a black belt test, a student is awarded the rank of 'shodan' (first degree black belt) and becomes eligible for examination for advanced 'dan' ranks. Because Aikido is a classical martial art, tournaments are non-existent. Instead, the well executed performance of the techniques, the seriousness and diligence of the student during practice as well as the student's understanding of Aikido principles become the criteria for promotion. In addition, consideration is given to the student's development and application of Aikido principles in the areas of character, conduct and attitude (both inside and outside the training hall).

Testing Procedure

Rank is an integral part of Aikido. As a beginner your testing helps you formalize what you have learned, provides you feedback on your progress and satisfaction of achievement. As a senior, granting of rank acknowledges your continued contribution to the promotion of the Art. Usually your instructor or senior Yudansha will suggest to you that it is time for you to test for the next rank. You are not required to test, but your seniors' suggestion implies that testing is something you should think about. If you have not been advised to test and you have achieved the minimum time required between tests, and desire to test, you may approach a Yudansha and discuss this with him/her.

The current grading requirements by the Canadian Aikido Federation can be found here or here . Before you may test, you must complete appropriate forms and make a payment (ask a senior member of the dojo for more details).


You should ask one of your peers to act as your Uke. Your Uke should be no more than one kyu rank above or below your current rank. Sensei may assign you one or more Ukes, but you should always have one pre-selected and available at your test date.

During the test

  • The test candidates and their ukes should sit in the front row of the lineup. When your name is called, you shout "HAI", bow, and shikko forward to your testing position. (Your ukes will join you after they are called up by Sensei.)
  • Your uke will sit beside you, at least one mat-length away; if you have more than one, the other ukes will form a single file behind the first. If more than one candidate is to test at once, they and their (first) ukes should form a line across the front of the dojo, and roughly centered on O'Sensei. Maintain a respectful distance from the kamiza; at the VWA dojo, this should be about one and a half to two mat lengths.
  • Sensei will say "O'Sensei ni REI". You and your uke then bow to O'Sensei. Make sure to bow AFTER you hear "REI".
  • Sensei then says "otagai ni REI". You and your uke then turn (once you hear "otagai ni") and bow to each other (on "REI").
  • Wait for Sensei to tell you to stand up. When you are told to do so, rise and stand facing your Uke while maintaining a good ma-ai (a distance of one Tatami LENGTH is a minimum for Tachi waza – standing techniques).
  • The examiner will call out the requirements to you. Do them repeatedly until he tells you to stop. He will say yame (meaning stop) or Hai (meaning 'O.K'). Unless the examiner tells you differently, demonstrate each technique on the Right and Left side, showing Omote first and then Ura movement.
  • During your test, if you are unclear as to the requirement, or you did not hear what was requested, say 'Sumimasen?' and the examiner may repeat the instruction or provide you with further clarification. DO Not turn to Sensei and say: 'huh?' 'What?' etc. If you forgot how to execute a specific technique, do your best anyway. It is better to do something rather than nothing at all.
  • After the test, candidates and ukes will line up and bow in the same fashion as before the test.

General notes

Students are not allowed to test at seminars without prior permission by the Chief Instructor of the dojo. All testing and processing fees should be paid, and the application form completed and signed. The testing application form requires your instructor's signature. You should discuss your desire to test at a seminar or summer camp with senior Yudansha and instructors at least two months prior to the testing date, for appropriate guidance, preparation, and the Chief Instructor's permission. For dan tests, you should discuss it at least six months in advance.


In Aikido we seek to create an atmosphere of respect for the art, the dojo, and each other. In the beginning, the student may feel uncomfortable with the culture and customs of a traditional Japanese martial art. It may be helpful to note that etiquette forms and protocol help to psychologically prepare us for learning and help provide safety and productivity for all members. But more important than the superficial observation of any form is the sincere and open-minded attitude toward training which gives meaning to the forms. The intention of this dojo is to create a formal but enjoyable environment where the benefits of Aikido practice can be realized. We welcome comments and suggestions as to how we might better provide such an environment.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to speak to any of the senior students.


Japanese Pronunciation

Consonants and vowels in the Japanese language are pronounced the same way each time they are encountered. Thus, if you know the pronunciation of one word, you already know how the vowels and consonants will sound in another word containing those vowels and consonants. The following guide may be of help:

  • 'a' sounds like 'a' in 'march'
  • 'e' sounds like 'e' in 'bed'
  • 'i' sounds like 'ee' in 'kneel'
  • 'o' sounds like 'oa' in 'boat'
  • 'u' sounds like the 'oo' in 'mood'
  • 'y' sounds like the 'y' in 'yet'
  • 'ai' sounds like the 'i' in 'mine'
  • 'ei' sounds like the 'a' in 'say'
  • 'g' sounds like the 'g' in 'get'

Counting in Japanese

ICHI one ROKKU six
NI two SHICHI seven
SAN three HACHI eight
SHI (YON) four KU (KYU) nine
GO five JU (JYU) ten

Japanese Terms In Aikido

AI harmony, unity, to join or become one with
AI-HANMI asymmetric stance (eg right foot to right foot)
AIKI harmonizing/blending energy
AIKIDO the way of harmonizing with the force and principle of the Universe/Nature
AWASE matching the timing of movements of uke and nage
BOKKEN wooden sword
BUDO lit. "the way of martial arts"
CHUDAN middle guard position
DAN black belt rank
DESHI student, pupil, disciple
DO the "Way", path or road
DO-GI/KEIKOGI training uniform, lit "clothes of the way"
DOJO training hall, the place where the "Way" is practiced
DOSHU honorary title of the headmaster of the Art
GEDAN lower guard position
GYAKU-HANMI symmetrical stance (eg right foot to left foot)
HAKAMA pleated pant-skirt (usually worn by black belt ranks)
HANMI relaxed triangle oblique stance used in Aikido. Lit. "Half-body"
HANMI-HANDACHI-WAZA techniques performed with nage kneeling and uke in a standing position.
HARA also called 'Center'; a point in the lower abdomen corresponding to the body's center of gravity.
HIDARI left (refers to left side or movement to the left)
HOMBU Aikido world Headquarters located in Tokyo, Japan
IRIMI a (usually direct) entering movement
JO wooder staff, approx. 50"-54" long and approx 1" diameter
JODAN upper guard position
KAMAE guard stance or ready position (refering to position of the hands or position of a weapon)
KEIKO training or practice
KI spirit, life force or vital energy
KIAI the release of power in a piercing shout or scream. Lit "a meeting of the spirits"
KOHAI junior student
KOKYU breath, refers to the power released when body movement, ki flow and breath are perfectly coordinated
KOKYU-DOSA breath power exercise
KUZUSHI the act of physically and mentally unbalancing your opponent
KYU a white belt rank/grade
MA-AI the physical and psychological distance between nage and uke
MAE-UKEMI forward roll or fall
MIGI right (refers to right side or movement to the right)
MISOGI purification (refers to cleansing of the mind, body and spirit)
MUDANSHA refers to a non-blackbelt rank (ie whitebelt rank)
NAGE to throw; the person who performs the technique
O-SENSEI great teacher/revered teacher (refers to Master Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido)
OBI belt (part of the DO-GI)
OMOTE to the front (refers to movement or direction)
REI to bow, perform a salutation. Also refers generally to the etiquette and an attitude of respect
SEIZA formally sitting position on the knees (correct way to sit on the mat)
SEMPAI a senior student
SENSEI teacher, lit. ("one who was born before")
SHIHAN master teacher (title for a master teacher of at least 6th Dan rank)
SHIKKO knee walking
SUBURI usually) refers to body/mind purification & training with the bokken
SUWARI WAZA techniques performed with both nage and uke in a kneeling position
TACHI WAZA techniques performed with both nage and uke in a standing position
TAIJUTSU empty-hand (unarmed) techniques, also called body arts
TAI-SABAKI body movement (refers to footwork and body movement)
TANDEN center (see Hara)
TANTO wooden knife
TATAMI practice mats (refers specifically to the straw bound mats which are traditionally used for Aikido training)
TEGATANA hand-blade
TENKAN turning movement
TORI to take; the person who completes the technique (similar to nage)
UKE one who receives; the person being thrown
UKEMI the way of receiving; the person being thrown
URA to the rear; or begind (refers to direction or movement)
USHIRO from behind (referring to attacks or techniques from behind)
USHIRO-UKEMI backwards fall
WAZA techniques, way of
YUDANSHA person(s) who hold blackbelt rank
ZANSHIN mind presence (finishing position of relaxed extension and attention; Continuity of attention)
ZORI sandals

Aikido Attack Names

KATATE-TORI one handed grip on one wrist
RYOTE-TORI two handed grip, one on each wrist
MOROTE-TORI two handed grip, both on one wrist
USHIRO RYOTEKUBI-TORI ryote-tori from behind nage
MUNE-TORI(MUNE-MOCHI) one handed grip on lapel
KATA-TORI one handed grip to one shoulder
RYOKATA-TORI two handed grip, one to each shoulder
USHIRO RYOKATA-TORI ryokata-tori from behind the nage
SODE-TORI one handed grip to the sleeve (at elbow)
KATATE-TORI KUBISHIME one handed grip to wrist with neck choke from behind the nage
USHIRO ERIDORI one handed collar grab from behind the nage
TSUKI straight punch
JODAN TSUKI straight punch to the high position (face or neck)
CHUDAN TSUKI straight punch to the middle position (chest or abdomen)
SHOMEN-UCHI vertical strike to the center of the head with the handblade
YOKOMEN-UCHI diagonal strike to the side of the head or neck with the handblade
KATA-TORI MEN-UCHI one handed grip on one shoulder with shomen-uchi strike to the head
KATA-TORI YOKOMEN-UCHI one handed grip on one shoulder with yokomen-uchi strike to the head

Aikido Technique Names

IKKYO = UDE OSAE arm pinning
NIKYO = KOTE MAWASHI hand turning
SANKYO = KOTE HINERI hand twisting
YONKYO = TEKUBI OSAE wrist pressuring
GOKYO variation of ikkyo (knife attack)
IRIMI-NAGE throw by entering (irimi) behind uke
SHIHO-NAGE four direction throw
SUMI-OTOSHI corner drop
KOTE-GAESHI hand turning
KAITEN-NAGE rotation throw
KOSHI-NAGE hip throw
TENCHI-NAGE heaven and earth throw
UDEKIME-NAGE arm-lock throw
KOKYU-NAGE breath throw
JUJI-GARAMI crossed arm-lock throw
AIKI-OTOSHI aiki drop

Aikido Warm-up Terms

SEIRETSU line up
MOKUSOU sit in silence (meditate)
MOKUSO YAME end mokuso
REIHAI bow (while praying)
AME NO TORIFUNE NO GYO heavenly bird ship exercise (shinto purification)
SHINKON NO GYO vibrating the soul exercise (shinto purification)
SHINKOKYU deep breathing
MAKKOHO true fron facing method
MO ICHIDO once more
ASHIKUBI TSUKANDE grab the ancle(s)
MAE front
MAE ASHI front foot/leg
USHIRO ASHI back foot/leg
NOBASHITE stretch (out)
ATAMA head
KUBI neck

Jo Movement Terms

KAMAE be on guard
TAGURI JO sliding jo inside hands
JO MAWASHI jo turning
CHOKU TSUKI straight tsuki
TSUKI JODAN GAESHI (YOKOMEN UCHI) tsuki & upper turn (yokomen uchi)
TSUKI GEDAN BARAI tsuki & low-level sweep
TSUKI GEDAN GAESHI tsuki & low flip strike
KAESHI TSUKI rotational tsuki
JODAN UKE upper block
GEDAN HARAI UKE lower sweep block
HARAI OTOSHI UKE sweep & strike down block
USHIRO TSUKI back tsuki
SAKATE TSUKI reverse grip tsuki (left hanmi)
GYAKU YOKOMEN UCHI reverse yokomen uchi
RENZOKU YOKOMEN UCHI repeated yokomen uchi
ZENGO front and back
ZENGO RENZOKUYOKOMEN UCHI front & back repeated yokomen uchi
(HIDARI KESA) MIGI USHIRO GEDAN (from left kesa) right rear low level strike
MIGI NAGARE JODAN GAESHI UKE (from right hanmi) right flowing turn upper block
HIZA TUKI USHIRO TSUKI knee down rear thrust
TOMA KATATE UCHI one hand distant blow
HIDARI NAGARE USHIRO TSUKI left flowing turn back thrust
KATATE HACHI NO JI GAESHI one hand figure eight rotation
AWASE UKE (jo) matching block
MIGI USHIRO GEDAN TSUKI (from left hanmi) right rear low-level tsuki
MIGI GEDAN BARAKI (from left hanmi) right low-level sweep
SAGARI GYAKU YOKOMEN UCHI (from right hanmi) step-back reverse yokomen uchi
MOTOI return to original resting position