Tuesday, March 1, 2022


Are you a lifelong martial artist?

If so, you’ve probably heard of ai-uchi. Did you know ai-uchi can have multiple meanings?

Ai-uchi, to most practitioners, simply means the two sides of a bamboo stave strike each other at the same time, so their points cancel out each other in a contest.

Sasama Yoshihiko, in Zusetsu Nihon Budo Jiten, offers a more in-depth definition. One old meaning of the term is actually a kind of gang-tackling an enemy. When two or more people attack a single enemy at once, it is called ai-uchi, the ai (meaning “mutuality”) now meaning “group” attack. Like a kind of “swarming” used by police to subdue an unruly prisoner. Old records document instances of sannin-ai-uchi (three against one) and two against one attacks on the battlefield, in which groups of two or three footmen gang up and take down one samurai.

But the meaning of most importance to martial artists is the concept of ai-uchi as “mutual strikes.” Your strike hits the opponent the same time as he strikes you. So theoretically, both of you die. 

There is another concept concerning ai-uchi, though, which should be considered. That is, if you and the opponent strike each other at the same time, then the best possible outcome of this unfortunate instance would be that you come out a little better than the other guy. “If he cuts your skin, cut his muscle; if he cuts your muscle, cut through to the bone . . .” goes the saying.

In real life terms, perhaps it means that no matter what, you win some, and you lose some. And sometimes you get just as much as you give. Or more.

Read more about ai-uchi.

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