Aiki, Bu and Misogi

Aiki, a Japanese budō term, at its most basic is a principle that allows a conditioned practitioner to negate or redirect an opponent’s power. When applied, the aiki practitioner controls the actions of the attacker with minimal effort and with a distinct absence of muscular tension usually associated with physical effort.

In Japanese Aiki is formed from two kanji:

    合 – ai – joining

    氣 – ki – spirit

The kanji for ai is made of three radicals, “join”, “one” and “mouth”. Hence, ai symbolizes things coming together, merging. Aiki should not be confused with wa which refers to harmony. The kanji for ki represents a pot filled with steaming rice and a lid on it. Hence, ki symbolizes energy (in the body).

Thus aiki’s meaning is to fit, join, or combine energy. However, care must be taken about the absolute meanings of words when discussing concepts derived from other cultures and expressed in different languages. This is particularly true when the words we use today have been derived from symbols, in this case, Japanese kanji, which represent ideas rather than literal translations of the components. Historical use of a term can influence meanings and be passed down by those wishing to illustrate ideas with the best word or phrase available to them. In this way, there may be a divergence of the meaning between arts or schools within the same art. The characters ai and ki have translations to many different English words.

Historically, the principle of aiki would be primarily transmitted orally, as such teachings were often a closely guarded secret. In modern times, the description of the concept varies from the physical to vague and open-ended, or more concerned with spiritual aspects.

Misogi (禊) is a Japanese Shinto practice of ritual purification by washing the entire body. Misogi is related to another Shinto purification ritual called Harae – thus both being collectively referred to as misogiharae (禊祓)

Budō (武道) is a Japanese term describing modern Japanese martial arts.Literally translated it means the “Martial Way”, and may be thought of as the “Way of War” or the “Way of Martial Arts”.

Budō is a compound of the root bu (武:ぶ), meaning “war” or “martial”; and (道:どう; dào in Chinese), meaning “path” or “way” (including the ancient Indic Dharmic and Buddhist conception of “path”, or mārga in Sanskrit). Budō is the idea of formulating propositions, subjecting them to philosophical critique and then following a “path” to realize them. signifies a “way of life”. in the Japanese context is an experiential term in the sense that practice (the way of life) is the norm to verify the validity of the discipline cultivated through a given art form. Modern budō has no external enemy, only the internal one: my ego that must be fought.

Similarly to budō, bujutsu is a compound of the roots bu (武), and jutsu (術:じゅつ), meaning technique.Thus, budō is translated as “martial way”,or “the way of war” while bujutsu is translated as “science of war” or “martial craft.” However, both budō and bujutsu are used interchangeably in English with the term “martial arts”. Budo and bujutsu have quite a delicate difference; whereas bujutsu only gives attention to the physical part of fighting (how to best defeat an enemy), budo also gives attention to the mind and how one should develop oneself.

The first significant occurrences of the word Budō date back to the Kōyō Gunkan (16th century) and were used to describe the samurai lifestyle rather than the practice of martial techniques. The word was later re-theorized and redefined to the definition we know today. First by Nishikubo Hiromichi and the Dai Nippon Butokukai when the name of their vocational school for martial arts was changed from bujutsu senmon gakkō to budō senmon gakkō. And later by Jigoro Kano, judo’s founder, when he chose to name his art judo instead of jujutsu.

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