The Meaning of Onegai Shimasu

At the beginning of class there is an exchange between Sensei and the class of the words “Onegai shimasu”. If you’ve ever wondered what it means, here is an excellent explanation and interpretation from Senpai Luis Patricio, who prepared it as an exercise during his preparation for Shodan. He graciously agreed to share it here:

“Onegai shimasu” doesn’t have a straightforward one-to-one translation to English. “Onegai” comes from “negau” which literally means pray/wish for something. The “O” at the beginning is the honorific that makes the expression respectful. Of course, we would never say it without it, but that is what it represents. (Do not mistake the honorific “O” with the “O” in O-sensei that means grand and has an extended sound “Oo”). The second part, “shimasu”, is basically the verb “suru“, which means “to do” in the present tense.

Onegai shimasu is used in many different situations in the Japanese culture. The basic idea is the feeling of goodwill towards future encounters between the two parties. You can think of it as something like:

I hope our relationship will be fruitful in the near future.

You can use it, for example, during a New Year’s celebration like this: “kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegai shimasu” which can be translated as:

I hope that our ties become stronger in the next year.


I wish a long and lasting relationship for us this coming year.

The expression can also assume the form of a polite request, like our habitual use during the Aikido practice: “May I please train with you.” It is frequently used to solicit someone’s teachings and show you are ready to receive it.

A lot of positive qualities can be built at an Aiki Dojo and I would like to highlight five key aspects. It is a place that fosters generosity as you offer your own body so other people can practice; gratitude as your partner does the same to you; resilience as you strive to improve your technique and get back up every time you fall; an open mind to accept a new way of interacting with others; and above all cooperation because although you are always trying to get better, you are not comparing yourself to anyone else (masakatsu agatsu katsuhayabi).

We can start as an aikidoka to be able to defend ourselves, for the discipline inherent to a martial art, or simply for the workout; however, we are constantly learning those five aspects, not because we’ve been told but because we see it reflected in the actions and gestures among the members in our group. And as we learn with our whole body, mind and soul, that practice will inevitably spill over to others aspects of our lives (professional and personal).

When I say onegai shimasu, more than making a polite request, I am keeping in mind generosity, gratitude, resilience, an open mind, and cooperation – all that I’m looking forward to during my practice with my fellow aikidokas.

Onegai shimasu !!!

Aha moment in Aikido!

Aha moment in Aikido!

Written by Michelle Lynne Goodfellow

When I first started aikido two years ago, Sensei Jaimie told me that I could use the principles of aikido in the rest of my life off the mat, whenever I faced difficult circumstances. It’s taken me a long time to figure out how to do that, but a few weeks ago I had a huge aha! moment.

I was sitting watching an evening class, and a new student who had only been to a couple of classes approached me and asked me if aikido helped teach how to be calm.

Without missing a beat I looked him in the eye and said, “Yes!”

The trouble was, I didn’t quite know how to explain it to him so that he would understand, because English wasn’t his first language. In a flash, it came to me.

I pointed to my bald head, and told him I’d had cancer, and many other problems.

Then I pointed to the mat. Sensei Therese was teaching second control – nikajo – at that moment, and I pointed out the students who were applying the second control to the wrists of their attackers. (A video describing the entire technique is below.)

I took the young man’s hand in mine just like the people on the mat, and explained that when we first learn second control, we usually grip our training partner’s hand very tightly, thinking that it takes a lot of muscle to make them kneel. I made a grimace, and screwed up my face as if I were trying to do something very difficult, and gripped his hand as if my life depended on it.

Then I explained that the technique actually works better if our hands are relaxed. When we tense up, the attacker can feel it through our touch, and they tense up too, making it harder to move them. If our own hands are relaxed when we touch them, they don’t realize there’s a threat, and then when we can feel that their shoulder is locked, we can apply the pin with little effort, and control them.

I changed my grip on his hand.

“Gentle,” I said, and moved his hand. I repeated the illustration one more time. Screwed my face and body up, and held his hand in a death grip. Then loosened up, “gentle,” and moved him.

And that’s when I had my aha! moment. It was the answer that I’d been looking for for months.

Relax your “grip” when you’re under attack – from someone else, or a situation, or even your own thoughts. Relax, and act from the relaxed place.

Sounds so simple.

Our aikido training teaches us, through repetition, to respond a certain way to being attacked. And we repeat it over and over again until it becomes reflex, so that if we’re ever in a situation where we really need to defend ourselves, we act automatically.

When life is throwing all sorts of crap at you, ease up your mental grip. Go to your centre. Then act from that calmer place. Practice it even when life isn’t throwing crap at you, and it will become automatic.


A version of this article was first published on Fit is a Feminist Issue on May 24, 2016. Michelle Lynne Goodfellow is a writer and visual artist who works by day in nonprofit management. She started studying aikido in March 2014. You can find more of her work at


Written by Andrew Darnell

All Yoshinkan aikidoka are familiar with “osu”. We say osu when we enter the dojo, to start class, when sensei shows us a technique, to thank our partner for training with us, when Hennessy sensei and Sheppard sensei correct us, and when we pour root beer for each other at parties. I have even used it when I get change at the local convenience store, which usually results in strange looks from the respective cashiers. I’ve also caught myself bowing and saying osu to my boss at work! But why do we say “osu” and what does it really mean?

In Japanese culture, osu is usually used by sports teams of high schools and universities and most Karate styles. At work, osu may be used as a lazy way of saying “ohayo gozaimasu” (good morning). Yoshinkan style Aikido is the only style of Aikido that is known to use osu.

From the original Chinese, “osu” is divided into two mam characters meaning “push” and “endure, persevere, put up with”. The two characters put together can be defined as meaning “to push ourselves to endure any hardship in training or in our daily lives.”

In ‘budo’ – it is used as a simple greeting or reply as an indication of your willingness to follow a particular sensei or style of training. So when sensei calls your name or helps you, respond with “osu” to let them know you understand that they are talking to you and helping you improve! We must always remember, that although we say “osu” a lot, the word should not lose feeling and remind us to always train as hard as possible. Osu must come from our hearts. Those who do not acknowledge sensei or your training partner with respect, may leave them with a feeling that perhaps you are not serious about your training.

Osu need not be said screaming at the top of our lungs, but let’s try to find in ourselves the spirit of Aikido and always do our best in our training and also in our daily lives. Kancho sensei always said “aiki soku seikatsu” or “Aikido is life”. So next time you walk into the dojo, out of respect’ for O-sensei, Hennessy sensei and Sheppard sensei, and all those who help improve us to be better people whether that be your training partner, a brother, sister, mother, father, uncle… say OSU! Aikido training does not end in the dojo. Extend your ai (love, harmony, balance) and ki (energy, life force) into your lives and share the spirit.

Good luck with your training!
Published in Aiki Budo Newsletter: January 1998


Written by Greg Gruninger

Cartoon by Peter Marshall

PCMarshall cartoon 2

Breakfalls, you can’t avoid them. In order to progress in and continue with your Aikido training you must become proficient in preventing injury to yourself. Breakfalls are an aspect of Aikido that we should not ignore.

How do we master breakfalls when even the name itself suggests bone crushing agony? In preparing for this article, I found myself remembering when I had executed a textbook breakfall and when I had knocked the wind out of myself. So what was the difference? I was relaxed and flowed with Shite when I had performed a good breakfall. I found that the bad breakfalls resulted from my being tense and not aware of what Shite was doing. I believe that I anticipated the throw and began my breakfall prior to the actual execution of the throw. This resulted in a WWF -like slam to the mat. On the other hand if I relaxed and kept my mind on what Shite was doing and give myself to the technique the breakfall seemed to flow naturally. I did not have to think about what was happening. I just reacted.

Training plays a big part in teaching your body the right form to use when being thrown, however, the right frame of mind, when being thrown is equally important. Move with Shite and as you flow with the technique. The breakfall will flow naturally out of you.

Published in Aiki Budo Newsletter: January 1998

Why Kiai?

Written By Christine Earl

I learned to kiai after about a year of doing Aikido. It wasn’t easy. There’s something that seems inherently rude about yelling in someone’s face as you try to hit them. Not that hitting them isn’t rude also, but this is Aikido, a martial art, so that’s what we’re here for. Once I’d gotten over my inhibitions about the kiai, I decided to keep it up, even if my partner doesn’t. I have four reasons for doing this.

First, when you kiai, you breath out. At least I haven’t been successful at producing a decent yell while breathing in. Breathing is important in Aikido. A strike is a flow of energy out, toward your partner. If energy is flowing out, you should be breathing out. By remembering to kiai, you improve your breathing without really having to think about it.

Second, it adds energy. I move faster and strike harder when I kiai. I also move faster when my partner kiai’s with a strike towards me. This helps the technique. Aikido relies on the energy your partner gives you. It doesn’t work without it. So when your partner asks for a strike, give it all you’ve got. Kiai will add to the energy.

Third, it’s a distraction. Just like many of our atemi’s or strikes in Aikido, the intent is to distract. A strong kiai accompanying an atemi is yet another distraction, causing the person attacking to be less focused on their attack for a fraction of a second. This fraction of a second is what you need to get them off balance.

Fourth, and this is the most important reason of all, it feels good. Try it, you might like it!

Published in Aiki Budo Centre Newsletter April 1997.