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Home > Language > "Ai" Phrases
by J. Akiyama <Send E-mail to Author>

So, what does "ai" mean in "aikido," anyway? There's been a lot of discussion and even some heated arguments over this Japanese term.

In essence, the character ai means:

  • to fit or to suit.
  • to join together
  • to agree with, match, be correct
  • to be opposite (to face)
  • to unite, combine, connect
  • to add up
  • to mix
  • to match
  • to compare, check with
  • to get together
  • to pay, be profitable
However, I think that there is some good in taking a look at how we, the Japanese people, use the term in everyday life. I think that a lot of people attribute a whole lot of esoteric meaning behind words that aren't all that esoteric; this is the reason why I chose very common Japanese words to illustrate how we use this term in our everyday life. After all, isn't that what we hope to do in the first place in aikido -- use "ai" and "ki" in our everyday lives?

Here are some contexts in which the word "ai" and some of its derivations are used in everyday Japanese.

Japanese Phrase Kanji Literal Translation Definition
Ai ai gasa "together with umbrella" to share an umbrella
Ai in "match seal" verification seal
Ai kotoba "matching word" secret password
Aizu "matching diagram" sign, signal
ai kagi "matching key" duplicate key
ai ma "matching space" interval, space between
ai noko "a child of a meeting" crossbreed, hybrid
ai note "A hand that matches" accompaniment, interlude
awaseru "to cause to come together" to put together
daki au "to embrace each other" to embrace each other
dashi ai "to send out together" to contribute jointly
de ai "to go out and meet" rendezvous
deki au "to go and arrive together" to be ready-made, to become intimate with
deki guai "condition after having come and gone" result, effect
fure au "to touch each other" to touch each other
furi ai "matching manners" consideration
guai "vessel suiting or agreeing" health, condition
hagemi au "to inspire each other" to vie with another
hanashi au "to talk with each other" to discuss
hari au "to strain each other" to rival, to compete with
hatashi ai "to meet to die" duel
hiki ai "to pull and meet" comparison, deal
iiai "to say opposite" quarrel, argument
imi ai "meaning to match" implication, nuance
iro ai "color to match" hue, tinge, tint
kakari ai "relation opposite" unfortunate relationship
kake au "to levy each other" to negotiate with
kane ai "simultaneously matching" equilibrium, poise
karami au "to intertwine with each other" to become intertwined
katari au "to talk with each other" to talk together
kawari au "to switch places with each other" to relieve each other
kiai "intent to match" scream, yell, fighting spirit
kiga au "energies/intents match" to get along with
kiri ai "cut to match" crossing swords
koro ai "time to match" suitable time, propriety
kumi ai "paired meeting" association
kumo ai "cloud to match" look of the sky
maai "space between" interval, space between
machi ai "to wait and match" assignation
mani au "to match an interval" to be in time for
meguri ai "to tour and to match" chance meeting
miai "to see opposite each other" formal marriage interview
niai "to seem alike and match" well matched, becoming
oshi ai "to push each other" jostling, crowding
sasoi au "to invite each other" to invite each other
shi ai "testing by meeting" contest
shiri ai "to know each other" acquaintance
suji ai "fiber that matches" reason, right
tasuke au "to help each other" to help each other
tsuki au "to attach to each other" to associate with, to get on with
tsuri ai "to ensnare each other" balance, equilibrium
uchi au "to shoot each other" to fight, to exchange blows
umano au "horses that match" to get along well with
wake au "to divide for each other" to share
wari ai "fraction of each other" ratio
yori ai "to stop by and meet" a meeting
yuzuri au "to give to each other" to compromise

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