View Full Version : Definitions?

Mark Stewart
24th October 2001, 16:52

I am a new member to e-budo but have trained in Nippon Budo for several years. During my searches on the internet I have come across several terms I am unfamiliar with. Most of these seem to be associated with older more classical traditions. Accurate Information on these arts seems quite uneven, confusing, or even contradictory. I was wondering if some of the more experienced members or moderators here could define some of these terms for me.

They include:


Kio Mitasu

Myoden or Myojin



Aiki. (Not as in Aikido ..(love) but martially as in older classical bugei)


Mark Stewart

Earl Hartman
24th October 2001, 18:39

Okuden: interior teachings, or the inner secrets of a style. Used to denote high-level teachings only understood by senior practitoners.

Ki o mitasu: to fill (mitasu) oneself with spirit (ki).

Myoden/jin: I need the kanji on this one, but my guess is is that "Myo" means "strange" or "wondrous", as in something that passes rational understanding. Myoden would refer to such teachings ("den", meaning tradition or teaching, from the kanji for "tell, relate"). Myojin, if the same character is used, would refer to a person of wondrous martial accomplishment, seemingly in posession of strange powers.

Shinobu: to sneak in by stealth or to bear hardship

Menjo: a certificate or license

Aiki: Harmonious or harmonized (ai) energy (ki). I don't know who told you "aiki" means love, but they're wrong. (The kanji for "love" is altogether different.) This term usually refers to techniques that utilize the concept of harmonizing (ai, from "meeting") with the movements of the enemy instead of opposing them with force. Probably the single most misunderstood term in budo.

24th October 2001, 20:32
Hello Mark,

Some of those terms you asked about are relatively easy to define while others are more problematic. I also believe that one you mentioned is spelled incorrectly. I will start with that one.

Kio Mitasu - You probably mean’t “Ki O Mitasu”? (Filling oneself with ki) This is essentially the application of “ki” as a tactical part of your martial arts practise and execution. Trying to define “Ki“ is quite difficult as individual traditions define the term quite differently. More appropriately you should probably ask how individual traditions or their practitioners define this most elusive of terms. From there a broader appreciation of the term may present itself to you. Magic, or love it is not.

Okuden - This term is a fairly simple but it is used in a myriad of ways. It is most often used in classical traditions to refer to the hidden or secret teachings of a ryu. In some traditions it also refers to a specific level of teaching license. Sometimes the “okuden” are quite mystical in nature, similar to zen koans. Other times they are purely practical or technical in nature referring to specific kata or core concepts utilized and taught only to the upper level initiates. In several ryuha some of these techniques are not demonstrated outside the ryu. (* ) The reason for this “secrecy” is often more simple and pragmatic than many pie-eyed types seem to believe. Frequently the okuden has nothing to do with anything so fascinating as secret or propreitary effectiveness. It has to do with providing subtle evidence of actual membership or initiation to a ryu. One could best compare the performance of a specific technique or kata in this case with a secret handshake only known to others of the same level within the school. In this case a secret “okuden” technique would contain nothing technically earth shattering about the ryu beyond confirmation of legitament membership.

Myojin or Myoden. - Literally mysterious teachings or mysterious practitioner. Similar to okuden it usually symbolizes either a group of specific physical techniques or a series of strategic principles. In some ryu it refers to a set of techniques we would now associate with psychic abilities. I do not believe I have ever heard of this term used to describe a specific teaching license however. Perhaps another reader with a broader experience in koryu could add to my definition here. Meik, Ellis?

Shinobu - This is a fairly common term actually. With the”ninja craze” that swept MA circles in the 80’s, this term bounced around quite a bit. It is probably best described as stealth. In the jujutsu ryu I practise this term is used in the name of several principles taught within the Okuden. Our usage of this term is fairly simplistic though.

Menkyo - This term usually refers to a teaching document. Sometimes it refers specifically to a license of higher level teaching. In this case the lower level licenses are ocassionally referred to as “kirigami”. There are great differences between the various classical traditions in how they award licenses and the terminology used to represent them. Some would have you believe there is a default or traditional set of terms for licenses in all classical Nihon Bujutsu. Recent confusion and debate about this subject has pretty much exposed the fallacy of the claim that there is one predominant set of terminology concerning teaching licenses in Nihon bujutsu ryu.

Aiki - Oh boy......talk about a nighhtmare. Although it simply means “harmonizing energy” *( edited by Earl "the pearl" Hartman ), strictly defining “aiki” in martial terms is pretty much a quagmire so my advice is to simply forget the whole darn thing. The term is very old as a description of martial strategy. “Aiki” techniques existed in various classical ryuha long before being co-opted as a descriptive term for any specific martial arts systems. ( Aikido or aikijujutsu) “Aiki ” was originally included in many sogo bujutsu ryuha specifically in reference to various kenjutsu heiho or strategies. It is now most commonly associated with its application in taijutsu although in my opinion it is less decisive in this sphere of existence. (Bladed weapon application is (IMHO) where “classical aiki” really struts its stuff.) Great gnashing of teeth has accompanied the debate over whose definition of aiki is most accurate or sophisticated. Within this discussion raged a sub-debate that has resulted in one group being perceived to claim that only within “their” school is practised the most “sophisticated” version of aiki. Some within this school add that this “ real aiki” is only demonstrated within their school on their initiates, the not so subtle implication being that those outside their school are therefore unable to comment on it or its effectiveness.......(This even though some of the highest level instructors within this broader school publicly demonstrate their “real aiki” to and on outsiders and publicly state ” for the record” that they are demonstrating their art openly at the highest levels attainable.) One high level instructor of this school confided to me in person after a training session that he would never be so disrespectful as to hold back on another instructor of my level. Hummm....

I once entered into a vigorous debate with another gentleman of this broader school where the limitations of english ( or my admittedly inadequate mastery of same) resulted in a significant miscommunication that has never been resolved. (We both just decided to agree to disagee) It concerned confusion over the difference between the level of execution of specific techniques and that of the specific techniques themselves, especially those which remain unperformed in front of the public at large. ( see the * above in Okuden). This individual simply doesn’t understand the contention that the level of execution of technique is not necessarily related to the performance of any specific okuden level waza or kata. ..........Oh well.........I suppose my crummy writing / communication skills could be partially to blame here.

Needless to say some Japanese terms are just so complicated or subtle in meaning that many of us struggle to use another written language to adequately define them. At that point my advice is to get out on the mat and feel them for yourself. Then the definition can be reinforced physically and therefore be more significant and meaningful than anything any of us can describe here in written words.


Toby Threadgill

24th October 2001, 20:43

Sorry about the redundant post. I posted my longwinded version before I realized that Earl had posted his more rerstrained response.

Toby Threadgill

Earl Hartman
24th October 2001, 20:44

Not to nitpick, but from where do you get the definition of "ki" as "mind"? In normal Japanese usage, ki usually refers to spirit or energy, and "kokoro" (shin) refers to mind. In kyudo, for example, one of the basic principles is called "shinki no hataraki", or "the working of the mind and spirit". There is a clear differentiation (in addition to an intimate connection, of course) between the two.

Is this definition specific to your style? Just curious.

PS: You guys have secret handshakes? Cool. What about decoder rings?

Mark Stewart
24th October 2001, 21:12
Mr Hartman & Threadgill,

Thank you both for the detailed responses. And Mr Threadgill, I didn’t find your response long winded at all. It was very informative and detailed some of the very questions I was pondering.

As for the term “aiki”, it has confounded me for some time. Many people talk about it in mystical terms but I suspected it must have held a more practical definition in arts more closely related to practical combat. After searching the archives of e-budo and several other similar boards I understand the difficulty concerning the term . Aiki indeed appears to be one of the most misunderstood concepts in budo.

I found the comments presented by both you gentlemen most fascinating and down to earth. In the previous debates I came away with the impression that it was your adversaries in the debates who appeared contradictory, defensive and unable to support their claims. I found both of your writings logical and well presented.

Also, congrats on the menkyo kaiden awarded last spring Mr Threadgill.

If it is not too bold, where do you teach and are there any openings in your dojo. I had read somewhere else that you lived in Colorado but your bio says Texas?


Mark Stewart

24th October 2001, 21:37

You asked:

"Not to nitpick, but from where do you get the definition of "ki" as "mind"?"

Uhhhhh. The ozone layer? I goofed up ....long day.......forgot my vitamins this morning :)

Mark, thats the nice thing about the e-budo crowd. One little goof up and you might as well write it with a laugh track.

Thank's for the correction, Earl.


P.S. Mark, I currently live in Texas but I am building a new home and dojo in Evergreen, Co. I will probably be moving up there in the late spring or early summer.

Earl Hartman
24th October 2001, 21:43

(In my best Beaver Cleaver voice):

Awww, c'mon, Tobs, tell me about the secret handshake! C'mon , I promise I won't tell! C'mon, please, huh, pretty please? Awww, gee, Tobs. Phooey.

24th October 2001, 21:53
Earl, or uh Beaver

Rumours of a secret SYR handshake are greatly exaggerated. This secret is a secret so I am bound to disavow any knowledge of it so it's existence as a secret can be secretly maintained.

Please ignore the previous comment. Pretend you never heard it.



Neil Yamamoto.....channeling a cockroach on Toby's keyboard.

P.S. Mark, If you ever write anything dumb just blame a guy named Neil Yamamoto.....we all do.

Jeff Hamacher
25th October 2001, 07:26
Originally posted by Earl Hartman

Not to nitpick, but from where do you get the definition of "ki" as "mind"? In normal Japanese usage, ki usually refers to spirit or energy, and "kokoro" (shin) refers to mind. (...) There is a clear differentiation (in addition to an intimate connection, of course) between the two.
Dear Earl,

a quick check of the Kojien reveals that, in certain cases, the term ki can be used to represent the state or condition of one's "mind" (kokoro), although it admits that such a use of the term ki varies widely according to context. it gives such examples as "ki wo shizumeru" ("to calm oneself down") and "ki ga kuruu" ("to get one's shorts in a knot"). whaddya reckon?

also, i wondered about the use of the term menjo (as opposed to menkyo). i associate the word more closely with tea, but is it also used commonly in martial arts?

thanks to both Earl and Toby for your insights. i agree, Toby, that trying to render an eloquent translation of japanese terminology can be like drinking with a fork sometimes, but it's still fun to give it a go, wouldn't you agree?

Earl Hartman
25th October 2001, 18:16

The reason for the definitions you cite is because of the intimate connection between the mind (kokoro) and the spirit (ki). When your spiritual energy is disturbed, it causes your mind to become disordered. It doesn't mean that ki and kokoro are the same, only that they are in an intimate mutual relationship and constantly affect one another.

That's how my kyudo teacher looked at it, anyway.