Ashirau 足らう

There are five basic flavors: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. What is umami one can wonder? It is the taste found in cooked meat and mushrooms. There is no word for umami in Swedish (or English for that matter – Luke), so therefore the Japanese term for this is used.

Our taijutsu suffers from the same problem, that of poverty in correct Swedish (or English) terms that describe the concepts that we use.

The trick for us is that some of our terms are common to other Japanese martial arts and sports, but here the concepts content is different. I have written about Kihon earlier, but the same applies to other things, such as kamae, ken, gyaku, etc. Hatsumi Sensei is also an expert in the use of the Japanese language, which is confusing for us foreigners, but that is also confusing for the Japanese people. He writes, for example, if ganseki nage 岩石投 when he caters to beginners and ganseki nage 巌石投 when talking to more experienced practitioners. The contents of these two techniques are completely different, but the area and shape can not separate them.


Ashirau is another example. Normally printed ashirau あしらう only hiragana characters, but Hatsumi Sensei has replaced the “ashi”, so that his term ashirau 足らう equates to the kanji character for foot 足. In the book “Japan’s Cultural Code Words” defined ashirau あしらうas “the diplomatic brush-off”, ie a form of polite dismissal. It also refers to the word “ashi arau” – wash your feet – then includes the experience you have when someone else wash your feet, that it is difficult to be aggressive against them.

All this is also part of Hatsumi Sensei concepts ashirau 足らう, but adding that the opponent is the “foot”, as opposed to that “handler”. All movements designed to “take care of” the opponent, must be interpreted for us to “takes on the foot” of the opponent, and to do it in a low-affect way.

Consider that in a series of video films Hatsumi Sensei called our taijutsu “The Art of distance”, and then ask yourself how long is that distance? The response from Hatsumi Sensei is then “zero”, because when we “take the foot of the opponent,” we are deep in enemy territory and act as close to him that he/she can not defend himself at all. We do not measure the distance with the length units, but only in time units.

Final gist of this argument is that ashirau, together with other “kihon”, forms the basis of absolute taijutsu. You can not learn Budo taijutsu / Ninpo Taijutsu / Ninjutsu if you do not have physical understanding of what these terms mean in everyday life and combat.


Translated by Luke Crocker from HERE.


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