What's in a Name? by Michael J. Hacker
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"What's in a name?"
Do you remember what it was like the first time you ventured outside
your home dôjô, whether it was on the internet or into the
school of another style? Did you find yourself befuddled by the
different terminology you may have heard? Still confused?
Things can get a bit linguistically scary out there if you're not
careful. Not unlike traveling to another country, the local lingo is
often a little different than we're accustomed to hearing. But this
doesn't need to get in the way of a good training session! My intent
with this month's article is to give you a basic Berlitz guide to some
of the different ways we all talk about (more-or-less) the same
things. I'll start off with a few technique names.
Some schools are known for naming some of their techniques with
numbers followed by a suffix (-kyô) which means "lesson"
or "teaching." Ikkyô, it would follow, means "first
lesson," and nikyô "second lesson." (You can fill in the
rest.) Yôshinkan also numbers some of their techniques, but they
use a different suffix (-kajô) which basically means
"section" (i.e. section 1). There are, of course, other ways to
translate these suffixes, but this should give you a pretty good idea
of what's going on.
Tomiki-based systems, on the other hand, tend to use descriptive terms
(which are really only descriptive if you understand Japanese) instead
of numbering. In place of ikkyo, for instance, you may hear oshi
taoshi, which, somewhat loosely translated, means "push and knock
'em down." Instead of nikyô, you are likely to hear
"kote mawashi" (forearm turn).
Although Ki Society tends to use Aikikai-type naming conventions in
many cases, you may be surprised to hear "kote oroshi" (forearm
drop) instead of kote gaeshi (forearm return).
An interesting point is that in Ueshiba Kisshômaru sensei's book
"Aikidô" (1985), he uses both the numerical and descriptive
system in many instances, i.e. "sankyô (kote hineri)." I
personally feel that there is a huge advantage (as a speaker and
understander of Japanese) in using the more descriptive terms. "Do
technique #4 against attack #17-B" doesn't quite make sense to my
monkeybrain, but it works for some.
As always, watch out for homonyms! Just because a technique bears the
same (or similar-sounding) name, doesn't mean it is the same thing.
Case-in-point is the elusive kokyû nage (breath throw).
Since the specifics vary so much from place to place (and person to
person), I generally translate kokyû nage as "I don't
quite know what to call this technique." Many styles also use sumi
otoshi to describe a technique that is different from the sumi
otoshi that others do. Caveat emptor: when in doubt, pay
attention to how the locals do things.
The differences aren't limited to technique. Some styles call the
person doing a technique nage (thrower) and the person
receiving it uke (receiver). Some use tori (taker)
instead of nage. Still others use shite (protagonist)
in place of nage. Uke, it seems, is pretty common usage
across the board.
In closing, I'll leave you with a cross-reference chart here on
AikiWeb which will give you some of the jargon used by some of the
major systems of aikido:
Again, I open the forum to you. If there's a particular topic, no
matter how far-fetched or odd you may think it is, I'd love to hear
it. Contact me via the website or through e-mail here!
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