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Old 07-18-2011, 07:51 PM   #18
Peter Goldsbury
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Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
Join Date: Jul 2001
Posts: 2,237
Re: The Word "Aikido"

Hello Francis,

What a can of worms you have opened!

I have the same problem as Graham. As you state, it is merely a word, and, like all other words, admits of being defined, with the definition appearing in a dictionary.

The only issue for me would be whether as a noun it is a general name that denotes a class of things, or a proper name that comes with a definite description, such as 'the last heir of the Hapsburg Empire', who died recently.

The problem is the vast mythology that has arisen because it is a compound Japanese word, left untranslated in western languages, that is usually written with Chinese characters. So there are interminable arguments about its constituents and etymology, all of which is of no relevance whatever to its status and use as a word.

To see what I mean, consider three other words, all of which use one of the characters used to write the word 合気道 in Japanese, but in the appropriate order:

合唱団: gasshoudan (together - utter sound - group). This word means chorus or choir. The first two characters carry the main meaning, with the third being one of several possibilities (曲, 隊). But the meaning is clear and does not need any further penetration or speculation. Of course, choirs can sing in different ways, but they are still choirs: they do not need to do the gasshou in a certain way.

Similarly with 軽気球: keikikyuu (light - air - ball). This word means hot-air (helium) balloon. I have occasionally seen these on fresh autumn mornings on my way to work at university.

地下道: chikadou (ground - below - way). This is an underground passage. Again, the first two characters bear the main weight and there are many more possibilities for the third character than with gasshou.

However, I believe that this focus on the first two characters relates to the fact that they are read in the ON or Chinese way and does not affect their use as words in the Japanese language. In other words, a Japanese native speaker can use the words in daily life when going about the normal business of communication without knowing anything the structure or etymology of the words. The native speaker does not need to know what the aiki in aikido actually means, for example, in order to use the world aikido correctly.

So, I do not need to make aikido a word that has a special meaning to me. There is not really any point in doing so, especially here in Japan.

Best wishes,


P A Goldsbury
Kokusai Dojo,
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