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When I tested for 2nd kyu, almost a year ago now I was required to demonstrate the 31 jo kata. The 31 jo kata is a flowing series of 31 techniques with the jo, a wooden weapon that looks essentially like a rake handle. There are strikes, thrusts, blocks, and parries. The kata is sort of a pantomime of one side of a hypothetical fight against someone else similarly equipped with a jo. It's a fairly long and complex weapons exercise. The idea of the exercise, which was created by Morihiro Saito Sensei, is to demonstrate proper form and energy throughout (that is, crisp technique, good posture, and relaxed-but-focused movement and breathing). To be successful we have to understand how to do each movement well, and also memorize the order of the whole thing.
As part of training for that I had to learn to count to 31 in Japanese. We count the numbers of the techniques out loud, in front of everyone, as we do each movement of the kata. For others who will be testing for 2nd kyu, I will share here how I learned to do the counting.
It's easy to find information on numbers in Japanese. The sounds of the words are easy to make, and the rules for combining the numbers above 10 are very straightforward. It's not even a little bit confusing to understand it. Anyone can look up "how to count in Japanese," and have that information in seconds.
But you may have noticed that I didn't call this "How to Count to 31 in Japanese." Instead, I called it "How to Learn to Count Out Loud to
[Note - This is the latest in a series of posts about Aikido Words. Each of them is tagged "words" here. You can also find a page listing all of them on the other version of this blog: www.grabmywrist.com/words. There are also some links to video examples there.]
Weapons work shares many words with open-hand training, but weapons also have a lot of words of their own. There are a bunch of numbered things, too, and those can be really confusing until you have a sort of framework for understanding them.
So here are some words about weapons stuff, starting with the basics. There will be another couple of posts going into jo words and bokken words. Often you'll hear technique names with the numbers in Japanese. That will be another post, too.
I'm just going to cover the wooden weapons we use in regular training here. Maybe we'll look at katana, shinai, iato, shinken, and other weapons words later.
Jo - The longer straight one that looks like a rake handle.
Bokken - The somewhat shorter one with a little curve to it, like a sword. Also sometimes referred to as just ken. You'll also hear tachi in the names of bokken or sword exercises.
Tanto - The little one, about the size of a hunting knife.
The Kinds of Things We Do with Sticks
One of the most confusing things for me, when I was first trying to figure this stuff out, was sorting out the kinds of things we were doing. Not the specific instances, but the groupings. One exercise would be a suburi, another would be a kata, sometimes we practiced awase... I couldn't figure out what was what. It's hard even to describe. Let's just get right to it.
Everyone's first few days (weeks? months?) of training can be disorienting and overwhelming. You need to learn how to dress yourself, how to sit, how to stand… Acck! You also hear a lot of new words - Japanese terms and phrases. When I was hearing them for the first few times I couldn't even make sense of them enough to remember them so I could look them up later.
Here's a huge tip: Almost every dojo, including ours, has a list of common terms in the dojo handbook! Be sure to look there - it's very handy.
For my first Words post, here are some you will hear in every class. They are mostly the same from dojo to dojo. You'll be saying them often, too. Here goes:
[OWN-ah-GAH-ee-shee-mahs Note that the "u" at the end is silent. A good way to remember it is that it sounds a little like "Oh my gosh, a mouse!" To help with spelling, remember that it starts with "one".]
You will hear and say this at the beginning of class, when Sensei and the class all bow to each other, and when you approach another student to ask them to train with you (you both say it). I've heard several interpretations of it. Whatever the exact translation, in practice it is a polite request which functions as "would you please train with me?"
Domo arigato gozaimashita
[DOE-moe ahr-ee-GAH-toh GO-zah-ee-MASH-ta When I have heard native speakers say it, it sounds like there is a comma after domo, like this: "Domo, arigato gozaimashita."]
Everyone says this when Sensei and the class bow to each other at the end of class. It means "thank you very much for what you just did."
Arigato means thank you.
Domo is an polite, formal intensifier, like adding "very much" in English, except it comes first (like muchos grácias in Spanish).
Several people have asked me recently about some of the words we use at the dojo. I've sent them some info privately, but what the heck, I might as well share with everyone.
It drives me nuts to not understand what's being said. Even worse, to use words I don't understand, repeating them by rote. So I've tried my best to make sense of the terminology around Aikido. In most cases the explanations I give will simply be my own understanding of the meanings, tricks I use for remembering them, etc.
Some of the things I intend to cover include
Numbers and counting-related words
Attack and technique-related words
Names of things
Weapons technique names
Commonly-heard Japanese greetings and phrases
These posts will be as accurate as I can make them, but will all be informally based on my own very limited understanding. I will try to give some indication of how sure I am of what I'm saying, and if I'm just plain wrong please tell me so (and if appropriate I'll go back and correct things). Any pronunciation tips I give will only be for how I've heard them spoken in the context of training, not The Correct Japanese Pronunciation. In no case should anything in these posts be considered authoritative. I do hope it will be helpful, though!
When I know of solid sources of information I will point those out. There are a few very good books, websites, and podcasts, both for learning Aikido-specific terminology, and for learning to speak Japanese.