Location: Renton, WA
Join Date: Oct 2005
Re: Parsing ai ki do
Although I feel that Erick's early assertion about reading the compound "ai-ki-do" as a Chinese compound, with the appropriate Chinese grammar, was problemmatic due to the fact that "ai" is a native Japanese pronounciation, considering the exact opposite of his idea has sparked an idea about the word that might be interesting to discuss. So, as a way of atoning for the bursts of exasperated sarcasm that peppered my responses, I offer something positive to the discussion.
The idea was particularly sparked by Prof. Goldsbury's idea that reading the Man'yoshu would give us insight into Ueshiba's doka. This is an idea that really struck a chord with me, because the idea had never occurred to me when I was both writing papers on translation problems in the Man'yoshu and teaching aikido. For whatever reason, I never made the connection.
Erick made the point (which I will paraphrase) that Chinese is an S-V-O language - like English, basic sentence structure is subject -- object -- verb ( "I ate chicken"). If "aikido" is a Chinese-style compound, then it should be read as such, meaning that "ai" is a verb that acts on an object, "ki". That is, "aikido" means "the way to ‘ai' ‘ki'". This morning while driving on the way to work, the idea occurred to me, "Well, if it's not a Chinese phrase, and if it uses Japanese grammar, what would it mean if it was read strictly as a Japanese noun phrase? Would it mean anything different from what it normally is taken to mean?"
To make my point clear, I'll repeat myself by starting with the example I gave above, "tabemono". "Mono" means "thing", "tabe" is from the verb that means "to eat". If it was a Chinese compound, it would usually (but not always) mean "to eat a thing." But since it is a Japanese phrase, the verb acts as a modifier, giving the meaning "something that is eaten", i.e. "food". The meaning of the phrase rests in the final noun.
This entails taking "ki" as the primary meaning of the phrase, being modified by "ai". Thus "aiki", when read with Japanese grammar, means "ki that has ai'd", or "ki that ai's".
In other words, if we can cue up the Jeopardy theme music, with a standard Chinese grammatical reading, the word "aiki" is an answer to the question, "what do you do with ki?" Answer: you harmonize ki.
The Japanese word "aiki", if read in the way I'm suggesting, is an answer to the question "what kind of ki?" Answer: the harmonized, or harmonizing, kind of ki. The Chinese way of looking at the word could also be read this way, incidentally, and there are similar phrases in Chinese medicine that could be used as examples, but that is beside the point.
Translating it this way, with the emphasis on "ki" instead of "ai", also makes more sense when we here or read of people saying "use aiki". It is a way of saying "use a particular kind of ki".
That begs the question -- what kind of ki? There are probably many ways of looking at it, but grammatically, they would all boil down to two different types, based on whether you take "ai" as passive or active:
Passive: "ki that has been harmonized" or "ki that has been unified"-- I would take this to refer to what people like Dan Harden, Mike Sigman and Rob John refer to in terms of unifying and resolving contradictory forces inside the body, which then produce a specific type of power that can be applied to techniques. Aiki here could also mean something like "Ki that is produced by meeting". I see many references in the doka that could be references to this idea, and the bits and pieces of information available about Daito-ryu seem to point to something along these lines. If anyone knows more to support or refute this idea, please feel free to chime in.
Active: "unifying ki" or "harmonizing ki" or "meeting ki" -- this could be a more commonly used translation of the term, though again it would be a type of ki that you would use. In this case, a type of ki that you use to match or fit in with your opponent. It could also probably be used the same was as the passive construction.
Again -- this is nothing more than speculation, based on hearsay and grammatical play. But I hope it provides some food for thought for the discussion.