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Home > Columns > Michael J. Hacker > December, 2005 - Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes (Part Deux)

Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes (Part Deux) by Michael J. Hacker


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This month's article continues last month's discussion on body parts. This time around, I'll cover the 胴 [], or torso/trunk, and 下半身 [kahanshin], or lower body (lit: "down-half-body"). By request, I'm going to start including the actual kanji I'm talking about. Note that they are not graphics, and you will need to configure your system to properly view Japanese encoding.

胸 [mune] (chest/breast) is often grabbed, as in 胸取 [munetori/munadori]. Some folks say munetori, some say munadori. PoTAYto, poTAHto.

脇 [waki], or side/flank, is heard in the name 脇固め [wakigatame] (lit: "flank-lock"), a technique found in Tomiki-based systems which is sometimes called an "arm-bar." From what I've heard from friends in other styles, some folks call this 六教 [rokkyō] (lit: six-lesson). Waki also finds its way into the name of the short sword carried by samurai: 脇差 [wakizashi] (lit: "flank-wear"), or "worn on the side." Kinda sounds similar to the English word "sidearm," eh?

The "center" of the body is very important in Aikidō, and is referred to in several ways. Two common ways of talking about this area are 腹 [hara] and 臍下丹田 [seika tanden].

Hara means "stomach" or "belly." It refers to the general area thought as not only the physical, but also a mental, spiritual, and emotional center of the body. You'll hear this word in plenty of places outside the dojo as well:

  • 腹が減った [hara ga hetta] -- "I'm hungry" (lit: "stomach has diminished")
  • 腹が立つ [hara ga tatsu] -- "I'm angry" (lit: "stomach is standing")
  • 腹が据わる [hara ga suwaru] -- "to have guts" (lit: "the stomach sits")
臍下丹田 [seika tanden] is a little more specific. Let's break it down:
  • 臍 [sei] -- bellybutton (also pronounced heso)
  • 下 [ka] -- below
  • 丹 [tan] -- red
  • 田 [den / ta] -- rice paddy
So 臍下丹田 [seika tanden] literally means something like "the red rice paddy below your navel." But it's more colloquially translated as "center of the abdomen."

足 [ashi] is the leg. If you look at the character, you can almost see the pelvis, patella, tibia, ankle, and foot bones. Jūdō and some styles of Aikidō use 足技 [ashiwaza], or "leg techniques." Among these are such techniques as 出足払い [deashibarai] ( "outgoing-foot-sweep"), 膝車 [hizaguruma] ("knee-wheel" [see the section on "knee" below]), and 大外刈 [ōsotogari] (major-outside-reap).

腰 [koshi] is commonly translated as "hips," but really refers to the entire pelvic region, including the hips, loins, and small of the back. The word koshi is often used when describing throwing techniques that specifically utilize the hip area: 腰技 [koshiwaza] (lit: "hip-skill/technique") or 腰投 [koshinage] (lit: "hip-throw"). Koshi is also used in the following ways (some less frequently than others). From the examples below, it would seem that Japanese closely ties stability and courage with the koshi:

  • 腰抜け [koshinuke] -- a coward (lit: "hip-omitted/missing")
  • 腰付き [koshitsuki] carriage, posture (lit: "hip-attach/be connected")
  • 無腰 [mugoshi] -- unarmed (lit: "no-hips")
  • 浮腰 [ukigoshi] -- unsteady (lit: "float-hips")
膝 [hiza], or knee. While the hiza pronunciation may not be all-that-commonly heard in Aikidō dōjō [see the "ashi" section above]), its other pronunciation, shitsu, is often used in the form of 膝行 [shikkō]. Shikkō is often translated as "knee-walk," but literally means "knee-go."

There are obviously many more body parts than those I've attempted to cover between these two articles. If there are any parts missing that you're interested in, please feel free to contact me, and I or one of the other knowledgeable folks who frequent AikiWeb will be happy to help you out. (If you really need to know the word for "duodenum"**, you may need a more exhaustive anatomical reference.)

Discussion in the comments area has become more common and more interesting lately. Thanks to all who have been participating. The changes I've implemented in the process of writing this article are a direct result of your input. Please keep it coming!

** 十二指腸 [jūnishichō] (lit: "12-finger-intestines")


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