Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ri - 理 principle

Ri - principle, reason

In my continuing quest to understand the principles of Aikido, I look to the Japanese language. Generally in budo it seems the kanji ri, 理 is the most common used to describe the idea of principle. In judo, for instance, this word in used in the name of the ju no ri, or the principle of softness.

I found another word which brings up an interesting idea, that of immutable principle or iron law. 鉄則(てっそく) Tessoku / an invariable principle, an iron law. I have chosen to follow ri 理, because I believe in the power of words. I do not believe in rigid thinking in our pursuit of the martial path. Principle flavored with reason and justice as the definition of ri 理, rather than rigid 鉄則tessoku law. I feel the ri 理 definition follows the true underlying philosophy of Aikido closer.

Lets look at the kanji, both in it's modern form (kaisho) and it's ancient form (tensho).

Ri - 理

a principle

I think looking at the parts of a Japanese symbol is telling of the logic of it's meaning. The word 'principle' is made from the parts - 'king and village'. You can use your imagination and see that a principle could be an proclamation to his people in the village. Indeed this character says to me, law of the land!

Here are the composite parts.

It is made of two parts or radicals 王,里

a king
a sovereign
a monarch
a ruler
a magnate
a champion

a village
the country
one's parents' home


  1. I greatly appreciate your attention to kanji. As I was studying Japanese in college, we opened the debate to whether the Japanese language should maintain kanji, or just use hiragana or katakana to make things "easier." Of course there were many people (Americans trying to learn kanji) who thought that there is no use to kanji if you can speak and read hiragana or katakana, but the conclusion of the class was that kanji was important and legitimate for various reasons. When I write things only in hiragana for my teachers to help me translate, it is very difficult for them because they rely on the kanji for meaning. Just hiragana and katakana looks like an intelligible mess to them, AND most importantly to our discussion, leaves out meanings that are deeper than simple translation. Because of this concept, I find the I-Ching to be ... quite substantial.

  2. Thank you,

    Sometimes I feel that my kanji studies are larger boring and annoying. I am overjoyed they have found an audience.

    Yes kanji are a mega pain to learn. My functional knowledge is very limited. What I did learn in my time in Japan is how to research it. For me it is more esoteric study rather than function. I suppose they carry more power for me that way.

    Study Shodo to supplement your studies Zacky Chan. You can leanr aikido anywhere!

  3. you can find more on "ri" in the book "from taoism to einstein- ki and ri in chinese and japanese thought by Olof G. Lidin by Global Oriental ISBN 1-901903-78-8 if you are interested. It is somewhat dry but very informative.
    I hope you can deepen your knowledge of your art and your life.
    kind regards and Peace, Tim Luijpen