Adventures in Aiki: 200 years ago, Aiki meant “stalemate”.

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(※)Aiki meant “stalemate”

In Japan, there is a word “Aiki”. Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu or Aikido, a style of jujutsu, has the word “aiki” in its name.


So what does “aiki” mean? In fact, the story is complicated by the fact that there are so many aikis in Japan.


I am also doing aikido and would like to try to organize this.


The Japanese book “The Formation of Modern Martial Arts and Aikido: The Technology and Thought of Aiki” by Ryuta Kudo, published by Waseda University as an academic book, provides a lot of information and I will explain it based on this.


I am going to give a material-based interpretation of what “aiki” in Aikido really is.


History of Aiki

Aiki tradition

Why shouldn’t there be a stalemate?

History of Aiki

What is “Aiki” in the first place?


Today’s “Aiki” is a word that originally existed, and as a result of adding many meanings to it, I feel that it has become a jumble and confusing thing.



I think this mystery was cleared up by Ryuta Kudo’s book “Formation of Modern Budo and Aikido: The Technology and Thought of Aiki”.


This book is a compilation of biographies of various styles of martial arts to find out when the word “aiki” first appeared in the history of Japanese martial arts.


This indicates that the two words “aiki” are used in the same way in the scriptures from 2 to 300 years ago.


合気 and 相気 these two kanji both readable as Aiki.


In terms of meaning, it’s a clash of attacks on each other.


It’s a situation where both sides of the so-called fight will die.


(※)both die.

From the biographies of each bujutsu style, it can be seen that “aiki” in this sense has been passed down for about 150 years without change.


So, let’s take a look at what aiki is all about in each style of bujutsu .

Aiki tradition

Summary of the meaning of Aiki in each style.

1687. Imaeda Ryotai “Riho-doshi-kyo” Imaerihoryu-Kenjutsu.

・As a Richi-Aiki, It means that it is important to understand knowledge, not just to know it. Aiki in the sense of bringing both into one..

1698. Tamiya Jirouemon “Tamiyaryu-gokuisyo” Tamiyaryu-Iaijutsu.

・It says it’s bad to get caught up in the enemy’s momentum about timing; Aiki is bad.

1764. Terada Ichiuemon “Touka-mondou” Kitoryu-jujitsu

・It’s got Aiki in a state where you trapped in a force-stricken part of your consciousness.

1792. Unknown “Kumodairaryunakadorikotowazakai”

・Anyway, once you get to Aiki, you’re taken in by the opponent technique and it’s hard to get out of it.

1800. Senen “Kenjitsu-Heden-Dokusyugyo” A guide to training in the art of swordsmanship on your own

・The section called Aiki no saki explains how to take the first move in a stalemate.

1806. Matsudaira tadahira “Sinjinryu-Gokui” A style that follows the  Yagyu-ryu.

・Avoiding the state of Aiki as “Aiki no Ri”

1806? Matsuura Kiyoshi “Kendan” Shingyotoryu-kosyuha-swordmanship

・There are words such as Aiki no siai, Aiki no kokoro, Aiki, etc., explaining the avoidance of aiki through practice

1822. Nakanishi Koresuke “Ittoryu-heihou-annhou-kigen” Ittoryu-nakanishi-style-swordmanship

・Aiki refers to the stalemate in which both sides try to win in a shinai practice. Conditions to be avoided.

1833. Ishikawa Yubei “Jujitsu-Kyusinryu-Hisyo” Kyusinryu-jujitsu

・Deny opponents the ability to counter their power with force as Leaving Aiki.

1849. Tiba Syusaku? “Hokusin-Ittoryu-Heihou-Hatsumokuroku-Bunsho” Hokusin-Ittoryu

・Admonish Aiki as Matsukazenokoto. Do not oppose force to force.

1852. Terasaki “Tenjin-sinyoryu-jujitsu-taiiroku” Tenjin-sinyoryu-jujitsu

・Aoki refers to attacking at the same time as the opponent, and the content is negative.

1857. Imaeda Ryouon “Syozitsu-Riho-heihou-wazaroku” Riho-ichi-styke-swordmanship

・The technique of breaking out of an agglutination is explained as a way of breaking away from aiki.

1858年 Niizuma Tanetsugu “Yari-Ken-zirimondou”

・It is said that a master can win even if he does aiki.

A cursory excerpt from Ryuta Kudo, “The Formation of Modern Budo and Aikido: Techniques and Ideas of Aiki” (2015)


As you can see above, most aiki should be avoided except in the beginning.


In the martial arts where weapons are used, the timing of each party’s attack is the “timing of the back-and-forth”, and It’s thought it was considered to be the worst.


In addition, if you try to counter the grabbing by jiu-jitsu or other means, you will end up in a stalemate, and this is also a state that should be avoided.

(※)Oh no

However, there were a small number of styles that used this state of aiki in reverse.


From this interpretation, it is thought that aiki is a state of antagonism.


In a bad case, it can be said to be a stalemate; in a good case, it is an antagonistic state.


Why shouldn’t there be a stalemate?

Well, most of the time it says that the state of aiki should be avoided anyway, but what is so bad about it?


It’s hard to understand when you think of it as a one-on-one battle, but I think it’s easier to understand when you think of it as a strategy in a mass battle.


For example, when the same number of soldiers collide with each other on the same terrain, I think you can see that a head-on collision is not a very good strategy.


As long as there is no difference in equipment, training and motivation of the soldiers, there is no doubt that the battle will be fought evenly.


If they clash with each other when they are in the right posture, it will not be an easy decision to win. This is the stalemate and the state of aiki.


In mass combat, an attack from two or more directions, such as a pincer or siege, is considered ideal.


If it’s a collective battle, it’s easy to understand how to send out a separate team to attack from the side or behind.


Naturally, if the existence of a separate team is known, they will be stopped and it will be over. In order to hide the existence of a separate team, it is necessary to have a frontal antagonist on the surface.


By clashing firmly in the center of a prominent battlefield, the opponent’s awareness is directed solely to that location. In other words, it means to make Aiki.


When it becomes more advanced, it makes a part of the enemy retreat and creates a gap in the enemy’s position, as Philip II did in the Battle of Chaeronea.

参考:Battle of Chaeronea

In other words, by deliberately drawing on the opponent’s side, you’ve created an opening for the opponent.


(※)Battle of Chaeronea in three frames
(1) Collision (2) Withdrawal (3) Divided envelope


This is what it means to miss the aiki.


In this way, it is said that it is wrong to aiki each other, to let the other person aiki you, or to aiki yourself.


The same is true for one-on-one. If the two sides clash with each other with their weapons, the outcome will be lost.


Therefore, it is necessary to pretend to attack from the front and prepare a real attack, or to stop the opponent’s sword and stab him with a small sword.


It is thought that the “aiki” that became famous in Daito-ryu is based on the premise of such individual-level antagonism and how to deal with it.


We’ll talk about that next time, In what was Daito-ryu’s aiki? I would like to explain it in Stay tuned!


For the time being, about 200 years ago, the idea was that it was impossible to do aikis from the front without any measures.


My interpretation is that aiki meant “antagonism” or “stalemate”.

Next Article.

Adventures in Aiki: What was Daito-ryu’s Aiki?

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