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"Aikido Wa Ichiban Budo Desu" is supposedly a quote from 植芝 盛平, Ueshiba Morihei (founder of Aikido).

Most people translate this as "Aikido is first and foremost a true Budo".

My question is: how are you supposed to write this using Japanese characters? I came up with: 合氣道が一番 武道です but on the other hand my Japanese proficiency is non-existent.

Can someone provide a proper "translation" (starting from the possibly mangled phonetic version in the title... this is all I have at the moment) and doublecheck if any japanese source shows this as a quote from Ueshiba?


A bit of clarification: "Aikido Wa Ichiban Budo Desu" has been banged around on Aikido blogs (again, so far I have seen it mentioned only in Italy) for a couple of years. Always written phonetically like this. I have been unable to trace it to something more solid, so I hoped that if I could reverse engineer it back to properly written Japanese I could look up a more creditable source. It is completely possible that this is (another) completely bogus quote or factoid (I suppose that Martial Arts are a rich source for this) or that it was misunderstood/wrongly transcribed - I am ready to accept that this is completely wrong, I am just trying to see how far I can go in proving (or disproving) it.


Update: apparently the sentence was expressed by Ueshiba Kisshomaru (son of Ueshiba Morihei) and it was written as "合氣道は、いうまでもなく本質的に武道である". Credit goes to a couple of answers I got on the Martial Arts Stackexchange.

It may be possible that Morihei expressed the same sentiment (he often spoke of Aikido as the "perfect" or "final" Budo) but there seems to be no written record of someone actually saying "Aikido Wa Ichiban Budo Desu". I suspect that this specific factoid started from western people training in Iwama (with Saito Morihiro Sensei) so maybe this was someone who tried to express the concept without having a perfect fluency in Japanese.

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A quick research on google did not return anything. What is your source ? –  oldergod Dec 2 '12 at 12:20
    
This is part of the problem: I have seen the sentence quoted around (mostly from Italian practitioners), so I wanted to try and reverse-engineer this to check if I can find some corroborating evidence. So far the best I got in English is here: suzi-340.tripod.com/id20.html –  p.marino Dec 2 '12 at 12:46
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一番 is an adverb. It doesn't modify a noun such as 武士道. –  Gradius Dec 2 '12 at 15:49
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The link which you gave in the comment does not mention Morihei Ueshiba or the sentence “Aikido wa ichiban budo desu.” And this sentence is ungrammatical as Gradius explained. I am afraid that there is no much people can do to help you with the current question. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Dec 2 '12 at 23:23
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You can say, 合気道は一番の武道です, which would be translated into "Aikido is No.1 among budos (martial arts)". But I am not sure if it is exactly what you want to say. –  Gradius Dec 3 '12 at 0:51
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3 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Your transliteration's almost spot on. I'd go for this:

合気道は一番武道です。
  • 氣 is the Chinese, outdated version of the kanji 気. Modern Japanese uses 気, so go for that one.
  • Both が and は are grammatically correct, but if you take your phonetic transcription (which says wa), you should go for は. There's a slight grammatical difference, but it is of no concern in this sentence. If Ueshiba Morihei said wa, he said は.
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Yes, I tend to prefer "氣" because it was used by Ueshiba and in general I like it more from a calligraphic point of view, but this is not relevat. Thanks for the translation! –  p.marino Dec 2 '12 at 12:40
    
Many thanks to everyone who responded. It has been fascinating indeed (and a bit depressing seeing how nuanced/complex Japanese is). I decided to accept this answer because it provides the Japanese version of the original sentence, even if we have to conclude that most probably it was not really something that O'Sensei said. –  p.marino Dec 5 '12 at 8:48
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I agree with Frishert, but instead of 一番{いちばん} I would use maybe 最良{さいりょう}, meaning "the best". 一番 is an adverb, therefore it needs to modify a verb, (一番早い, 一番高い) and 最良 is an adjective which modifies the noun (in this case 武道).

You end up with 合気道は最良の武道です.

That being said, I can't tell (as a non-native) how natural that sounds to a native speaker.

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最良な武道 is a grammatically correct expression, but I don't think that it makes sense. 最高の武道 is a much more natural expression, but the meaning is still ambiguous. –  Gradius Dec 3 '12 at 6:02
    
@Gradius - assuming that he actually was trying to say "Aikido is first and foremost a martial art" instead of "is #1 among Martial arts", what would you suggest? "wa ichiban" always (and only) means "the most important"? (I have seen examples with "dearest to me" for example, so I can totally accept this). –  p.marino Dec 3 '12 at 9:02
    
@p.marino: Ichiban is a very loosely translated word and can mean a lot of things. Literally it means 'number one' (like niban is 'number two', etc.), but that could be the number one of anything (your favorite, the slowest, the ugliest, etc.) 'First and foremost' could be translated something like 何よりも, but your transcription doesn't say that. Where did you get it from, if you don't mind me asking? –  Frishert Dec 4 '12 at 0:27
    
Of course: this was presented to me by an Italian aikido teacher who doesn't speak Japanese. I suppose he got it from someone else, because as I mentioned it was quoted a bit (always in the phonetic version) from other italian aikidoka bloggers. I am always a bit suspicious when I see phonetic versions without a proper Kanji/Hiragana/Katakana form, so I am asking here to try to assess the situation. One more thing... Ueshiba died in 1969 so his Japanese would be "pre-war" (he wrote 氣 for example, instead of 気) so maybe this could help decide if this version would fit the era? –  p.marino Dec 4 '12 at 0:54
    
If you said 最良の武道 to someone, what would it mean? Would it mean strongest, most healthy, most philosophical, or easiest to begin learning? We almost never say 最良の武道 or 良い武道, while we could say "彼には"最良の武道, "健康に"良い武道, "観客を集めるのには"良い武道. I think that the expression 最良の武道 is simply too general to work, and indeed you will find extremely few examples of it. –  Gradius Dec 4 '12 at 13:22
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合氣道が一番武道です is in fact possible, but it's a pattern you use for special meaning (e.g. スーパードライが一番ビールです). I find it unlikely that 植芝 盛平 said that (not that I know him personally or something, but this pattern is a bit copy writingy :p).

合氣道が一番の武道です sounds more likely. 合氣道は一番の武道です sounds ok as well. Both 合気道は最良の武道です and 合気道は最高の武道です sound natural but if I were you & can't find the original quote, my bet will be on 合氣道が一番の武道です.

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Just went with 一番武道 because of the phonetic transcription. Didn't know that was valid...copy writingy Japanese. Thanks for the info :) –  Frishert Dec 4 '12 at 0:29
    
What are 合気道が一番武道です and スーパードライが一番ビールです supposed to mean? –  Tsuyoshi Ito Dec 4 '12 at 1:24
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Is it common to use a noun as a na-adjective? It just sounds like an incorrect construct to me. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Dec 4 '12 at 2:28
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Really? Does スーパードライが一番ビールです sound natural to you? Is it a kind of dialect? If there were a measurement like "degree of beer", it could make sense. However, we don't have neither "degree of beer" nor "degree of budo", I believe. –  Gradius Dec 4 '12 at 13:32
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「一番武道」はヒットしますが中国語のサイトがほとんどですね。「一番武道だ」だと2件(うち一件は「一番武道だの・・・だの・・・」)で、「一番武道です」は1件でした‌​。「一番の武道」だと200万件以上なのに。。。 「一番ビール」もヒットしますが、よく読んで見ると「一番ビールっぽいのは・・・」や「一番ビールを消費している・・・」などですね。 –  Choko Dec 6 '12 at 0:21
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