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Studying Aikido Terminology

Aikido is a challenging sport. Many times, when practicing Aikido, I find myself confused as I am learning. There are many ways to augment the practice of learning Aikido and to minimize confusion. Studying the Japanese vocabulary of Aikido is very helpful. Studying the vocabulary means writing the terminology on notecards and saying the words out loud at least a few times a week. Frequent review for short periods of time is better than long sessions of infrequent studies.

Specifically, one can organize the terminology in terms of attacks and responses to the attacks. There are about eight attacks and eight counter moves that we practice on a regular basis. Each attack can be countered at least eight different ways, increasing as a person advances. In terms of attacks, there are wrist grabs, called katate-tori, ryote-tori, morote-tori, and kosa-tori. A front hit is called shomenuchi, and a side hit is called yokomenuchi. A kata-tori is a grab at the collar, and an attack from behind is called ushiro.

There are many ways to respond to these attacks. These techniques can protect yourself by blocking and also redirecting the flow of movement which results in maneuvering the attacker off-balance and allowing the attackee, or nage, to get in control of the situation. Techniques include, but are not limited to, ikkyo, irimi-nage, kaitenage, kokyho, kote-gaeshi, shionage, sumi-otoshi, and udekiminage.

So, for instance, if an attacker, called an uke, grabs my right wrist with his left hand, the attack is called katate-tori. To respond to the attacker, I could use any one of the techniques listed above. If I, the defender, or nage, wanted to do nikkyo as a counter-move, I would step back, keeping my arm extended and low, allowing the uke to naturally fall forward toward me. As the uke loses his or her balance, the nage can grab the hand that has grabbed my wrist, thumb on top of thumb. Then the nage can rotate the arm up and over, turning the attacker’s body away from myself. As the defender, I can then use my other hand to grab above the elbow, keeping the uke’s shoulder low. So the grabber becomes the grabbed and as the defender steps forward and at an angle, he can lever the arm in the opposing direction and guide the attacker to the ground, finishing with a pin.

These attacks and techniques can be written down and practiced verbally, at home. It helps, in class, to know the meaning of the words so that one can concentrate on observing and learning, rather than trying to figure out what the teacher is saying.

The teachers at this dojo, or sensei, are very good at what they do and are patient and encouraging. They emphasize safety and the students are very helpful and fun to learn with. There are a myriad of movements and combinations of techniques and attacks. Putting it all together is a challenge that is rewarding. Practicing Aikido teaches patience and respect for self and others.

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