The word “aikido” is formed of three kanji:

* 合 – ai – joining, unifying, combining, fit
* 気 – ki – spirit, energy, mood, morale
* 道 – dō – way, path

The term ‘aiki’ does not readily appear in the Japanese language outside the scope of Budo. This has led to many possible interpretations of the word. 合 is mainly used in compounds to mean ‘combine, unite, join together, meet’ examples being 合同(combined/united) 合成(composition) 結合(unite/combine/join together) 連合(union/alliance/association) 統合(combine/unify) 合意(mutual agreement). As well as an idea of reciprocity, 知り合う(to get to know one another) 話し合い(talk/discussion/negotiation) 待ち合わせる(meet by appointment).

気 is often used as a feeling as in 気がする(‘I feel’, as in terms of thinking but with less cognitive reasoning) 気持ち(feeling/sensation) 気分(mood/morale). Also Energy or force. 電気(electricity) 磁気 (magnetism).

The term dō connects the practice of aikido with the philosophical concept of Tao, which can be found in martial arts such as judo and kendo[citation needed], and in the more peaceful arts such as Japanese calligraphy (shodō), flower arranging (kadō) and tea ceremony (chadō or sadō).

Therefore from a purely linguistic point of view, we could say Aikido is ‘Way of combining forces’. The term aiki refers to the martial arts principle or tactic of blending with an attacker’s movements for the purpose of controlling their actions with minimal effort. One applies aiki by understanding the rhythm and intent of the attacker to find the optimal position and timing to apply a counter-technique. This then is very similar to the principles expressed by Jigoro Kano, founder of Judo.


Ueshiba Morihei

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