What’s a Deshi?

Deshi is the Japanese word for “student.” But, like many concepts in Japanese martial arts, the notion of what it means to be an Aikido student goes a little deeper than it might appear on the surface.

Being a deshi means more than attending class regularly, although that is the first requirement. Without a commitment to one’s practice, the deeper benefits of training will be missed.

Once a deshi establishes a regular training practice, he or she often begins to notice things that need to be done in the dojo. This can be cleaning before and after class, dusting weapons racks, freshening flowers if the dojo keeps flowers on the kamiza, noticing visitors and asking if they have questions, folding Sensei’s hakama after class, helping a new student tie his or her belt, and so on.

The secret to becoming a true deshi, and not just a student, lies with seeing what needs to be done and then doing it, without being asked. Of course, there are things that should be confirmed before doing them – such as rearranging the dojo weapons or items on the kamiza – but in general, if something can be done to help the well-being of the dojo, take the initiative and do it.

In summary, a deshi assumes responsibility for the care and feeding of the dojo, and joyfully looks for ways to improve the space, the environment, and energy within the dojo. It’s about the honor of giving back from a place a gratitude for what the deshi is learning from their Sensei, their Sempai, and from Aikido as a whole, and it’s given from the heart without expectation of anything in return.

FAQ Aikido

FAQ | Aikido

Q. Do I need to be young or in good shape to practice Aikido?

A. Aikido is truly an art for all ages and people. Students have started Aikido well into the second half of their life, and its techniques can be modified as the student gets older or experiences physical restrictions. Of course, the earlier you start, the more years you’ll have to enjoy Aikido!


Q. Are there any physical limitations that would prevent me from learning Aikido?

A. Not really. The more important thing is your attitude and willingness to try along with a commitment to work toward your goals over the long term.


Q. Does Aikido have tournaments or competitions?

A. Unlike many martial arts, Aikido as a rule doesn’t have competitions. Instead, Aikido is about bettering yourself and becoming the best Aikidoka (student of Aikido) that you can become. Instead of comparing yourself with others in class, do the best that you are able to do and put your unique stamp on your Aikido.

In addition, Aikido is a cooperative martial art. We work with training partners, not opponents or adversaries. We don’t spar; we practice. The spirit behind Aikido is to bring a physical attack or conflict to the most harmonious conclusion possible. That said, Aikido is not dance or movement for movement’s sake. Aikido is a serious martial art with serious self-protection aspects that can cause injury.


Q. How long will it take before I am good at Aikido?

A. Just as with any art or skill that’s worth mastering, learning Aikido takes time. You probably wouldn’t expect to be an accomplished piano player after taking a year of lessons, and so it is with Aikido. As with any worthwhile endeavor in life, be it learning to play a musical instrument, earning recognition in a profession, or raising children to be good members of society, Aikido takes commitment, dedication, persistence, and practice. Your understanding of Aikido deepens the longer you practice. The more you know, the more you realize there is still to learn, yet that prospect is exciting, not daunting. The study of Aikido truly can last a lifetime.


Q. I see there’s a lot of throwing in Aikido. Is the person being thrown considered the loser? And shouldn’t I try to avoid being thrown?

A. This may be true in other martial arts, but not in Aikido. Aikido is about working with your training partner, and you are either being thrown or throwing 50% of the time. Being effective at both roles is part of being a good partner and enables you and your partner to learn and continue to improve. Neither is more important than the other, and the partner throwing is not the winner.


Q. Are there any secrets to learning Aikido?

A. The only “secret” is coming to class regularly, dedicating yourself to practice, and sticking with it. Like much of life, you get out of it what you put into it!


Q. What will I learn in class?

A. In a nutshell, you’ll learn a variety of techniques and movements that can be used in a variety of ways. Simply put, Aikido is nearly infinite in the possible responses to any given attack. As your skills progress, you will be brought to the next level as you are ready. For a more detailed explanation of what you’ll experience in a typical class, please see the Aikido: New Student Practice Tips

For many students, simply learning to roll with confidence is one of the biggest benefits of their introduction into Aikido training. This new skill becomes second nature and has helped students avoid injury from falls on the ice, while hiking over rough ground, or walking over uneven sidewalks and curbs in the city.


Q. How effective is Aikido for self-defense?

A. Aikido is a defensive martial art rather than a method of self-defense geared to neutralizing specific attacks such as someone grabbing you, pulling a knife, throwing a punch, and so on. If you are looking for self-defense techniques to be used in specific situations, there are many good programs available.

Many of the ideas taught in Aikido, including getting off the line of attack and not using muscle to overpower your attacker but rather movements to unbalance them, can be effective in self-defense situations when used by experienced students, but this is not the sole aim of practicing Aikido.

However, one of the most important methods of staying safe is not getting into a bad situation in the first place. Aikido helps you develop a greater awareness of your surroundings (and eventually the actions/intentions of others). This awareness enables you to avoid putting yourself into a risky situation to begin with. As someone once said, if you plan for the unexpected, it’s no longer unexpected.


Q. What else can I learn from Aikido?

A. That’s really up to you. However, many students find that the more internal aspects of Aikido and the culture of the dojo (school)— which upholds courtesy, etiquette, dedication, sincerity, and respect, among other things—become as important as the training itself. These students seek to live the rest of their “off-the-mat” life with the same values as those practiced on the mat in the dojo. The tenets of being a good Aikido student and training partner can extend to all areas of life, including work, home, relationships, and so on. If you let it, Aikido just might help you be a little better person!


Ai – Harmony. First character of Aikido.
Aihanmi – Both partners having same foot (right or left) forward
Aiki – Harmonizing of Ki
Aikido – Ai means harmony or coming together. Ki is spirit or energy. Do means a way or path
Aikidoka – Practitioners of Aikido
Aikikai – The names of organizations affiliated with Hombu Dojo
Ai-uchi – Mutual kill
Aite – One training partner. (literally, reciprocal or together. Ai means together and te means hands)
Atemi – Punches and other sorts of strikes to your partner’s unguarded areas, designed to distract and to weaken the defenses and/or balance. (Literally, ate is strike and mi is body).
Bokken – A wooden practice sword. There are many different styles of bokken. (Literally, bokku means wood and ken means sword).
Bu – Martial spirit
Budo – The path or way of martial arts. Literally, do means way and bu means neutralizing aggression. “A mind to serve for the peace of all human beings in the world is needed in Aikido, and not the mind of one who wishes to be strong and practices only to fell an opponent. There are neither opponents nor enemies for true budo. Therefore, to compete in techniques, winning and losing, it is not true budo. True budo knows no defeat. ‘Never defeated’ means never fighting.”
Bujutsu – Warrior’s arts
Bushido – Warrior’s code. The way of the warrior.
Dame – Bad, wrong or mistake

Eri dori – Collar grab from behind
Gyakute tori – Cross hand grab
Hiji dori –  Elbow grab
Kata tori –  Shoulder grab
Kata menuchi – Shoulder grab and strike
Katate tori – Single wrist grab
Menuchi – Also called shomen uchi. A straight strike to the head from the front with the hand or ken.
Morote tori – Grabbing the wrist with both hands
Mune tsuki – A straight punch or thrust to the center of the chest
Ryote tori – Grabbing both hands
Shomen tsuki – A straight punch or thrust to the center of the face
Shomen uchi – Strike to the top of the head.
Ushiro tori – Rear bear hug
Ushiro katate tori kubishime– Rear choke with one wrist held
Ushiro ryokata tori – Both shoulders grabbed from the rear
Ushiro ryote tori – Both wrists grabbed from the rear
Ushiro ryote kubi tori – Both wrists grabbed from the rear
Yokomen uchi- Strike to side of the head

Aikido Techniques
Ikkyo – Involves controlling your partner’s center through the arm, as well as pinning the arm flat on the mat. Literally, first teaching or first principle.
Nikyo –  Involves manipulating the wrist and pinning the arm vertically. Literally, second teaching or second principle.
Sankyo – Involves twisting the wrist and arm in a third way, pinning the arm vertically, and torquing the hand and wrist. Literally, third teaching or third principle.
Yonkyo – An arm pin involving leverage on the underside of the arm and elbow, while attacking the nerve points there. Literally, fourth teaching or fourth principle.
Gokyo – Similar to ikkyo but with a change in the position of the hands. Literally, fifth teaching or fifth principle.
Irimi Nage – A throw involving entering through an attack to get behind your partner and take his balance. Literally, to enter (iri) body (mi) and throw (nage).
Juji Nage – Throwing your partner by using leverage on his cross arms. Literally, cross (juji) throw (nage).
Kaiten Nage – Throwing your partner as if he were a big wheel. Literally, rotation (kaiten) throw (nage). Pressure is exerted by holding uke’s hand down and holding one arm vertically.
Kokyu Nage – Any sort of throw that relies essentially on blending and flowing with your partner’s movement and upsetting his balance, rather than any specific movement. Often used for throws that have no specific name. Literally, breath (kokyu) throw (nage).
Koshi Nage – Throwing your partner by rotating his body over the back of your hips. Literally, hip (koshi) throw (nage).
Kote Gaeshi – Involves throwing partner by folding the hand back over the wrist. Literally, small hand (kote) turn over (gaeshi).
Shiho Nage – A throw in which partner may be thrown in any direction. Literally four (shi) direction (ho) throw (nage).
Tenchi Nage – Throwing by extending your arms around and behind your partner’s body, one down toward the mat and the other up toward the ceiling. Literally heaven (ten) earth (chi) and throw (nage).
Additional Terminology
Dan – A black belt ranking such as shodan, nidan, etc. (Literally, dan means level).
Deshi – Student
Do – Way or path. Third character in Aikido.
Dojo – A training hall for traditional Japanese arts, including Aikido and other martial arts. Literally, do means way and jo means place. Formerly a term used by Buddhist priests in reference to the place of worship.
Dojo Cho – The head of the dojo
Doshu – The official curator of the art of Aikido. Literally, do means way and shu means the master or owner. The present doshu is Moriteru Ueshiba, the grandson of the Founder, Morihei Ueshiba and son of the previous doshu, Kisshomaru Ueshiba.
Gaeshi – Reverse
Gedan Gaeshi –  A circular movement with the jo aimed at the lower part of the opponent’s body
Gi – Traditional uniform, usually white, worn during the practice of Japanese or Okinawan martial arts. Also known as a dogi.
Gyaku-hanmi – Partners stand with opposite feet forward, for example, one with right foot forward and the other with left forward
Gyaku-yokomen – A slightly angled opposite strike to the side of the head
Hakama – A traditional Japanese outer garment worn over the gi pants. Black or blue in color, they are more formal, provide protection in rolling and falling and help conceal foot movement. Traditionally, they are worn by men holding the rank of shodan and women of any rank (depeneding on dojo)..
Hanmi – A way of standing in Aikido so that the feet form a T stance and the body is turned at an angle. (See separate heading).
Hanmi Hantachi – Techniques executed from a kneeling position against an attacker who is standing. Literally, hanmi means half body and handachi means half standing.
Hantai – In reverse order
Hara – An Aikidoist moves with the hara. It is not only your center of gravity, but also your source of reflex and power. (See separate heading).
Happo Giri – An exercise with the sword in which you practice turning the hips and cutting in at least eight directions. Literally, hachi means eight, po means direction and giri means cutting.
Hasso-gaeshi – A movement from the basic stance to the hasso posture, using a figure-eight motion to block a thrust and concluding with the jo held in a vertical position at the right shoulder.
Henka – Variation. Literally, hen means unusual and ka means change. For example, henka waza are variations on the way a standard technique is completed
Hidari – Left. For example, hidari hanmi is hanmi with the left foot forward.
Hiji – Elbow
Hito-e-mi – Same as ura sankaku. It literally means making the body small
Irimi – Entering. Moving into and through the line of attack with no thought of escape. A technique of entering and choosing death. The motion of entering is Yang. The motion of turning, or Tenkan, is Yin.
Jiyu – Free, unstructured. For example, jiyu keiko means unstructured training and jiyu waza means free techniques.
Jiyu Waza – Free style techniques or practice
Jo – A short staff, being about as long as the distance from the floor to just under the arm, or approximately 50 inches. It is about an inch thick and is usually made of white oak.
Jodan – High hand or weapon position
Jodan-Gaeshi– A circular movement with the jo aimed at the upper part of the opponent’s body. An up block of a thrust to the midsection or throat.
Jo Dori – Jo means staff and dori means taking.
Kaiten – To revolve or rotate – round or wheel.
Kamae – The ready position or posture, as in tsuki kamae or shomen kamai, the ready positions for the jo and bokken, respectively.
Kami – O Sensei said that Aikido was a function of kami, the divine alchemy of fire (ka) and water (mi). Fire and water are the two prime elements of outer and inner alchemy, in the East and in the West, and are associated with the polarities of heaven and earth, the sun and moon, yang and yin, logos and eros, hidden and manifest, positive and negative, heart and womb, man and woman.
Kancho – Supervisor, director of a school.
Kata – Prearranged sets of movements, either with or without weapons, designed to teach form and basic movement.
Katana – Japanese sword.
Keiko – Training in traditional Japanese arts such as Aikido, flower arranging or tea ceremony. Literally, kei means contemplation or exploration and ko means old or traditional.
Ken – A Japanese sword, usually curved. A wooden sword used in practice. (See also bokken).
Ki – The vital force of the body. Through Aikido training, the ki of a person can be drawn in increasing amounts from the universe. (See separate heading).
Kiai – A loud shout accompanying the execution of martial arts techniques. Literally, ki means energy or spirit and ai means meeting. O Sensei’s forceful shouts completely unbalanced his opponents and on occasion extinguished the lights of the dojo. Sometimes his Kiais were like a fearful banshee yell, other times like the roar of a hurricane. Used with the principle of Yamabiko, responding to an attack immediately and resoundingly like a mountain echo.
Kihon – Basic techniques, as opposed to flowing techniques or variations. (See separate heading).
Ki-musubi – The uniting of one’s own ki with that of the opponent. It assures that you are on the exact line of attack and, ironically, have established the connection that can lead to a harmonious solution.
Men – face or head
Migi – Right. For example, migi hanmi means right hanmi.
Misogi – Purification of mind, body and spirit. O Sensei said, “Misogi wa keiko desu.” Training is purification. Sweating is purification. Cleaning is misogi and fasting is misogi. Misogi is the intention of our training and the refining of our skills.
Musubi – The blending of kokyu between partners. It is the tying together of Ki. Musubi is the process of unification. (See separate heading).
Nage – The partner who executes the technique. Literally, throw or thrower.
Obi – Belt.
Omote –  The attacker’s front. Moving in front of your partner
O-Sensei – Literally, O means great and sensei means teacher. Used to refer to the Founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969).
Randori – A movement exercise used to develop calm and efficient blending with the power and movement of multiple attacks. Literally, ri means principle, ran means confused, and do means melee or fight.
Sasou – To draw out your partners. For example, to make them raise their arms or move forward. Literally, to invite, call forth, lure. The art of drawing out and leading is difficult to master, though, requiring years of solid practice. For a beginning student in any discipline, training is 90 percent technique and 10 percent intuition. For a master, the percentages are the opposite: 90 percent intuition and 10 percent technique.
Satori – Enlightenment.
Seiza – A formal kneeling position. Sitting cross-legged is called Agura and is considered more informal. Literally, sei means correct and za means sitting. Also, the command to sit in seiza.
Sempai – Senior. In Japan, how one behaves toward others is dictated largely by one’s status in terms of seniority, from martial arts dojos to schools and workplaces.
Sensei – In Japan, a title used to address or refer to a teacher. Literally, sei means born and sen means before.
Shiho – Four directions.
Shikko – Knee walking.
Shodan – First degree black belt.
Shomen –  The alcove at the front of the dojo, considered a sacred space, to which we pay respect in Aikido practice. Literally, sho means correct and men means side.
Shomen-uchi – Also called men-uchi. A straight strike to the head from the front with the hand or ken.
Soto Deshi – Students who do not live at the dojo. Soto means outside and deshi means apprentice. See also, Uchi Deshi.
Suburi – A single movement of the ken or jo done as a solo practice.
Suwari Waza – Sitting techniques. Suwari means sitting and waza means techniques.
Tachi – The Japanese sword
Tachi Dori – Techniques of taking an opponent’s sword and throwing him. Tachi means sword and dori means taking.
Tachi Waza – Sword techniques
Taijutsu – Body techniques. The techniques of Aikido done without weapons. Tai means body and jutsu means technique.
Takemusu –  The “valorous procreative force of harmony, fully integrated, life generating, totally free and capable of unlimited transformation..” The martial technique that emerges spontaneously after many years of repetitive training with thorough grounding in the basics. (See separate heading).
Tanto – Wooden knife
Tanto Dori – Knife-taking. Tanto means knife and dori means taking techniques.
Tegatana – Sword hand, edge of the hand
Tenkan – Turning to dissipate force. The motion of turning is Yin. The motion of entering, or irimi, is Yang.
Tsuki – A thrust or punch.
Uchi – くA strike
Uchi Deshi – Students who live at the dojo and train intensively. Uchi means inside and deshi means apprentice. See also, Soto Deshi.
Uke – The partner who is thrown or receives the technique. (See also, Nage).
Ukemi – The art and skill of rolling and falling as a means of protecting the body from injury during the execution of Aikido techniques. Uke means to receive and mi means through the body.
Ura – The attacker’s back. Moving around or behind your partner. Opposite of Omote.
Ushiro waza – Attacks from the rear,
Yokomen – Side of the head, strike to the side of the head
Yudansha – Persons holding rank of black belt. Yu means have, dan means rank and sha means person.
Zanshin – Maintaining concentration before, after and during a technique. Continuity, remaining aware and prepared for the next attack.
*Compiled from various Aikido websites

Common Phrases
Domou arigatou gozaimasu – thank you very much (formal)
Hajime – command to begin
One-gai Shimasu – A phrase used to ask a favor of someone, in this case, “Will you please train with me?” Literally, I humbly request. Or, “If you please.”
Yame – command to stop

Counting in Japanese
1: ichi (いち | 一)
2: ni (に | 二)
3: san (さん | 三)
4: shi (し | 四)
5: go (ご | 五)
6: roku (ろく | 六)
7: shichi (しち | 七)
8: hachi (はち | 八)
9: ku (く | 九)
10: ju (じゅう | 十)

Basic Etiquette Tips

Proper observance of etiquette is as much a part of your training as is learning techniques. In many cases observing proper etiquette requires one to set aside one’s pride or comfort. Nor should matters of etiquette be considered of importance only in the dojo. Standards of etiquette may vary somewhat from one dojo or organization to another, but the following guidelines are nearly universal. Please take matters of etiquette seriously.

  • When entering or leaving the dojo, it is proper to bow in the direction of O-sensei’s picture, the kamiza, or the front of the dojo. You should also bow when entering or leaving the mat.
  • No shoes on the mat.
  • Be on time for class. Students should be lined up and seated in line approximately 3-5 minutes before the official start of class. If you do happen to arrive late, sit quietly in seiza on the edge of the mat until the instructor grants permission to join practice.
  • If you should have to leave the mat or dojo for any reason during class, approach the instructor and ask permission.
  • Avoid sitting on the mat with your back to the picture of O-sensei. Also, do not lean against the walls or sit with your legs stretched out. (Either sit in seiza or cross-legged.)
  • Remove watches, rings, earrings, and other jewelry before practice as they may catch your partner’s hair, skin, or clothing and cause injury to oneself or one’s partner.
  • Do not bring food, gum, or beverages onto the mat. It is also considered disrespectful in traditional dojo to bring open food or beverages into the dojo.
  • Please keep your fingernails (and especially toenails) clean and cut short.
  • Please keep talking during class to a minimum. What conversation there is should be restricted to one topic – Aikido. It is particularly impolite to talk while the instructor is addressing the class.
  • If you are having trouble with a technique, do not shout across the room to the instructor for help. First, try to figure the technique out by watching others.
  • Effective observation is a skill you should strive to develop as well as any other in your training. If you still have trouble, approach the instructor at a convenient moment and ask for help.
  • Carry out the directives of the instructor promptly. Do not keep the rest of the class waiting for you.
  • Do not engage in rough-housing or needless contests of strength during class.
  • Keep your training uniform clean, in good shape, and free of offensive odors.
  • Please pay your membership dues promptly. If, for any reason, you are unable to pay your dues on time, talk with the person in charge of dues collection.
  • Change your clothes only in designated areas.
  • Remember that you are in class to learn, and not to gratify your ego. An attitude of receptivity and humility (though not obsequiousness) is therefore advised.
  • It is usually considered polite to bow upon receiving assistance or correction from the instructor.

*Base content from the Aikido Primer by Eric Sotnak. Some additional notes & information.

Kiryu Aikido Weapons (Buki) Program

Level I

  • Buki Handling
    • How to carry weapons
    • How to hold weapons
    • How to remove from wall
    • How to put down
  • Kamaes with Jo/Ken (Go Gyou No Kamae)
    • Chudan no Kamae
    • Geidan no Kamae
    • Hasso no Kamae
    • Jodan no Kamae
    • Waki Gamae
  • Ken Strikes
    • Menuchi (Static, Sliding)
    • Yokomen
    • Tsuki

Level II

  • Can do any of the Level I techniques
  • 1st 10 Basic Iwama Jo Suburi
  • Basic Katas (18 Count)
    • Kaze (wind) Kata [ken]
    • Hi (fire) Kata [jo]
  • 4 Basic Relations (Bokken or Jo)
    • Ikkyo (AwaseShinogi OmoteKukuri OtoshiSabaki)
    • Kotegaeshi (AwaseShinogi NagareKukuri MakiUchiTsukiSabaki)
    • Iriminage (AwaseShinogi NagareKukuri MenuchiSabaki)
    • Shihonage (AwaseShinogi NukidomenSabaki/HibarateTsuneBarai)

Testing Requirements

Kiryu Aikido follows the examination and testing requirements of Aikikai Hombu Dojo. Tests are generally held twice a year, in fall and spring.

PDF to follow

New Student Practice Tips

When you make the decision to begin your Aikido practice, first take a moment to congratulate yourself. Many people might think about starting Aikido, but for whatever reason, they do not follow through. You have taken a huge step by signing up for class, and you can be proud of that.

As you prepare yourself for your first class, you may be nervous. This is completely normal and understandable. Remember: courage is not the absence of fear. It is recognizing the fear and moving forward anyway.

You can channel this energy into making a commitment to yourself and to your practice. We suggest clearing your schedule for the next six weeks so that you can attend as many classes as possible. The more often you can practice, the more quickly you will become more comfortable with the new movements.

In addition, we encourage students to think longer-term about their practice. It’s difficult to gauge whether Aikido is for you after just one or two classes. We encourage you to give it an honest try for several weeks or even a year. That is why we offer the six-week beginner program—to help students develop the habit of regular practice and a longer-term view of practicing for the sake of practice.

We’ve seen that, as with anything in life, the students who get the most out of their practice and improve to best of their abilities are those who begin to fit their life around their Aikido practice rather than fit their Aikido practice into their life. As with any endeavor, whether it’s playing an instrument or painting or public speaking, consistent practice is the biggest ingredient of success.

Getting Started at Kiryu

It’s easy to get started as a new student with Kiryu Aikido.

The dojo calendar shows classes at each dojo. Just arrive a few minutes early to fill out some paperwork, and you’re ready to practice.

If you’d like to try one free class or watch a class before you decide to join the dojo, you’re welcome to come to any class.

As a traditional dojo, Kiryu Aikido operates on a monthly dojo dues system. Dues are paid on the first day of the month. For your convenience, we offer an automatic monthly payment system, but there are no binding long-term contracts.