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  Category: Articles » Sports & Recreation » Martial Arts » Article

British Aikido - Japanese Terminology 1950 / 60's

By Henry Ellis

British Aikido - Japanese Terminology 1950 / 60's

By: Henry Ellis Co-author of Positive Aikido

In modern Aikido circles and probably more so on the various forums there is a kind of competition going on of who knows the most Japanese terminology. I am sure that most of their Japanese would not be understood or recognised by many Japanese . I do however accept that the modern Japanese teachers do speak very good English and can therefore instruct the students in both English and Japanese. Where as in the early days when the Japanese teachers spoke very poor English a great deal of instruction was by indication or the use of a shinai rather than verbal. Non the less we did use a great deal of Japanese terminology.

At the Kenshiro Abbe 50th Celebrations at the Crystal Palace Sports Centre, London, on May 14th 2005. Where there were students from every part of Great Britain, Wales – Scotland, Ireland – Birmingham – The North East of England and Europe to name just a few. As I walked around the mat area and along the concourse, it was interesting to listen to the wide range of dialects. It was all the more interesting to listen to the various Aikido technique terminology and the pronunciation of Japanese names in these accents. I am English, yet I found it difficult to understand some of the Japanese terms being used.

Many students do seem to have an obsession for learning a great deal of Japanese terminology. During my research on the internet, I often find myself directed to some of the Martial Arts Forums where perhaps my search term has been used. I am often surprised how many students use a large and variable amount of Japanese terminology, much of it beyond my limited 50 years of knowledge. I recall many years ago at a large seminar with a prominent Japanese teacher who stated “ Mr Ellis, all student try to speak in Japanese, all very different, I don't understand any of them “ he then smiled and walked away.

I am informed that my first teacher Ken Williams Sensei who was the first student in GB under Kenshiro Abbe Sensei for Aikido in 1955. Now teaches Aikido with no Japanese terminology, with all his techniques being named in English. I personally don't have a problem with that so long as the etiquette remains the Japanese way. It has no detrimental effect on our application of technique. Perhaps when Abbe Sensei first came to Britain and if his English had been better, maybe he would have used a mixture of Japanese and English terms, who knows ?

The Original Forms System

In the 1950's at the now famous Hut Dojo where British Aikido was born, from the very beginning we did use Japanese terminology during our studies. In the early 1960's with the arrival of Masamichi Noro Sensei who had developed a great method of teaching, the use of the “ Forms System “ each form was from left and right catching or any other method of attack there would be a form number.

First form: Gyaku Hanmi Katate Tori ----- Right to left or left to right wrist grasp….
Second form: Ai Hanmi Katate Tori ----- Right to right or left to left wrist grasp….

This system of numbered forms would cover the whole range of techniques.

Sensei would instruct a student “ First, second and third form Shihonage “ We adapted to the form system easily and quickly. We were also aware of the Japanese names for all the techniques. In the early days all students were taught this method, I believe that the E.S.T.A. Is the only school that still maintains this way of teaching and sees no reason to change such a well proven method.

My personal opinion is that we are not Japanese, we are Westerners involved in a Japanese Martial Art. Why pretend to be Japanese. Although Derek Eastman and I are considered pioneers of British Aikido we teach as much as we feel is necessary of Japanese and a mixture of English. One only has to listen to the students in their own dojo to hear a Japanese term pronounced slightly different from student to student. It is hard enough learning Aikido without pressurizing the new student with learning to speak Japanese.

Whilst writing this short article, I remembered when I first saw a computer in the very early days of the internet. One of my American students had started a message forum of some kind, It's a little vague now. The forum did receive quite a few visitors, I clearly remember one guy would come on the forum after every practice and without introduction enter every technique – move – I mean every thing was in Japanese terminology. There was no starter of “Hi, I had a good practice tonight, here is what we did .not one single English word. I asked my friend to place a message asking if we could help the guy with his English so that he could communicate with the rest of the members. This resulted in a very nasty response from this American student and his teacher, they never visited again. most bizarre.

Henry Ellis
Co-Author of Positive Aiki
About the Author
Henry Ellis co-author of Positive Aikido was a direct student of the legendary Budo master Kenshiro Abbe Sensei 1915 - 1985.

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  Some other articles by Henry Ellis
The Friends of Kenshiro Abbe Sensei ?
The Kenshiro Abbe web site and its contributors are either direct or indirect students of Kenshiro Abbe Sensei. Students, who would never refer to themselves as 'friends' of Abbe Sensei, simply privileged students. The visitor will ...

The Long and Winding Road - A True Aikido Story
Interview with Henry Ellis and Derek Eastman by Keith Morgan Published Online Reprinted with the approval of the magazine from the April 2006 issue of Martial Arts Illustrated and the magazine's Aikido correspondent ...

British Aikido Board & The Aikido Controversy
The Aikido Controversy The Aikido Controversy is now a part of British Aikido History. It was a long and difficult fight to protect the true history of British Aikido from the ...

The Aikido Biography of Sensei Henry Ellis
The Biography of Sensei Henry Ellis 5th dan Henry Ellis and Derek Eastman - 2000 Henry Ellis was born May 3rd 1936 in a tough coal mining ...

Early Days of British Aikido - Part Two..
Recollections of the Early Days of Aikido in Great Britain Part Two: By Henry Ellis - Ellis Aikido School Some ...

British Aikido Board National Nepotism Seminar
The British Aikido Board Disastrous National Nepotism Seminar 2004 – 99 Students By Henry Ellis For many years ...

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