Aiki (martial arts principle)

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Japanese name
Hiragana あいき
Kyūjitai 合氣
Shinjitai 合気

Aiki is an ancient principle of blending and harmonizing of opposing forces within oneself, the balance of yin and yang of the universe within yourself. It is the joining of heaven and earth, with man in between. When heaven is above and earth below, man can stand on the floating bridge of heaven, and release the mountain echo.

Aiki from a Japanese term, is a principle that allows a practitioner to negate an opponents power on contact through application of internal dynamics or Ki energy to affect techniques. When applied, the Aiki practitioner controls the actions of the attacker with minimal effort. One creates aiki by understanding the intent of the practitioner's own body, mind and spirit firstly. External factors are considered secondary concerns as the practitioner must first find balance and harmony in himself through the merging of opposing forces within his body. In Japanese Aiki is formed from two kanji:

  • - ai - joining
  • - ki - spirit


The kanji for "ai" is made of three radicals, "join", "one" and "mouth". Hence, "ai" symbolizes things coming together, merging. Aiki should not be confused with "wa" which refers to harmony. The kanji for "ki" represents a pot filled with steaming rice and a lid on it. Hence, "ki" symbolizes energy (in the body). (See the qi main article for further information).

Thus aiki's meaning is to fit, join, or combine energy. However, care must be taken about the absolute meanings of words when discussing concepts derived from other cultures and expressed in different languages. This is particularly true when the words we use today have been derived from symbols, in this case Chinese and Japanese kanji, which represent ideas rather than literal translations of the components. Historical use of a term can influence meanings and be passed down by those wishing to illustrate ideas with the best word or phrase available to them. In this way, there may be a divergence of the meaning between arts or schools within the same art. The characters "ai" and "ki" have translations to many different English words.

The use of the term would be passed on orally, as such teachings were often a closely guarded secret. In some schools, concepts like aiki are described in logical, tangible, terms based on physics,[1] while in other definitions of aiki tend to be vague and open-ended, or more concerned with spiritual aspects. The use of the term aiki can often be ambiguous.

Aiki martial arts[edit]

An aikido kokyu nage throw

Aiki lends its name to various Japanese martial arts most notably Aikido and its parent art, Daito-ryu aiki-jujutsu. These arts tend to use the principle of aiki as a core element underpining the bulk of their techniques. Aiki is an important principle in several other arts such as Kito-ryu and various forms of kenjutsu and is found as a concept in other arts such as karate and judo as well as many Chinese internal arts like qigong, tai-chi, bagua among others, although a different terminology of aiki is commonly used in different cultures[2] Aiki arts are generally classed as soft internal martial arts. The aiki arts place great emphasis on the use of qi energy. Techniques accomplished with aiki are subtle and require little mechanical force. However, in modern times, many practitioners of these 'internal' arts have placed heavier emphasis on the outer shell i.e. the particular form or 'shape' of the technique with little emphasis on the inner principles of aiki. Adding to the confusion is that to the untrained eye, such techniques done with muscular strength and momentum often look similar to those done with aiki.

The concept of Aiki[edit]

Aiki is an internal concept, not an external one as generally known even among martial artist. The general misconception is that it involves blending and harmonizing with an opponent when in reality, it is the joining of opposing forces (the 'energies' of Heaven and Earth) within yourself that will create aiki. This balance of opposing internal forces allows a practitioner to totally receive the force of the opponents attack, irrespective of the physical strength of the opponent.

Central to this is the use of internal strength - Ki energy

Kiai and aiki use the same kanji (transposed) and can be thought of as the inner and the outer aspect of the same principle. Kiai relates to the manifestation, emission or projection of one's own energy (internal strength), while Aiki relates to the merging of one's energy with the Universe. This use of ki will involve the use of kokyu power, i.e. breathing is coordinated with movement.[3] Kokyu Ryoku is the natural power that can be produced when body and consciousness (mind) are unified. The term "kokyu" can also be used to describe a situation in which two opponent's are moving with appropriate timing.

Thoughts on aiki[edit]

Aiki is considered to be an ancient practice, and it's practice often kept within a particular individual or two from a family/school lineage. Culturally, and due to certain necessities of the time period, the aiki knowledge was usually a very well guarded secret and rarely disclosed.

The oldest book to have historically discuss aiki was the 1899 Budo Hiketsu-Aiki no Jutsu. On the subject of aiki it was written:

The Textbook of Jujutsu (Jujutsu Kyoju-sho Ryu no Maki) from 1913 wrote:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Aikiphysics". Retrieved 2016-01-31. 
  2. ^ Archived from the original on August 31, 2005. Retrieved December 12, 2006.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ "Kokyu Power" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-01-31. 
  4. ^ Draeger, Donn F. Modern Bujutsu & Budo: Martial arts And Ways Of Japan, Vol III. Weatherhill, Tokyo 1974, 1996.
  5. ^ Pranin, Stanley. Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu; Conversations with Daito-ryu Masters. Interview with Tokimune Takeda from 1985 to 1987. Aiki News Tokyo 1996.