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By "many thousands" I mean 10,000. Wikipedia says the same, though likely is using some other source for that number.

It specifically calls them "nameable techniques". I assume that there is a naming system that allows for that many combinations of sub-techniques or something of that nature. Now, I understand that an exhaustive list is out of the question for an answer to this. But is this a reasonable estimate of the number of techniques for Aikido? Is it within even an order of magnitude (that there are 4000 or 5000, but not 10,000)?

Is the answer any different for Hapkido?

It seems like this number is unrealistic in that it wouldn't be fully transmissible within a human lifetime, supposing that each technique requires mastery in isolation to the rest.

5

Large indefinite numbers (a zillion!) are a quirk of language. Ten thousand (myriad) techniques is simply a place holder for all the many techniques. There are not exactly 10,000 techniques as opposed to 10,001.

The largest Chinese number grouping used to be wan, 10,000. [20,000 is two wan, not 20 thousands]. The Japanese also used this number grouping, and the Japanese numerals Wikipedia page notes that 10,000 is "Often used to mean many".

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    Are you suspecting that the exact number "10,000" could have been introduced through translation? That means the original text said " there are 10,000 techniques " but what it actually meant to say was " there are plenty of techniques " and that was just "lost in translation"? – Fildor Oct 22 '19 at 14:52
  • @Fildor Yes, I suspect a translation issue. I would characterize the problem as the translator should have interpreted the literal "the 10,000 techniques" as the figurative "the many techniques", rather than the source text was wrong. – mattm Oct 22 '19 at 15:06
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    Kind of like the use of "40" in the Hebrew Bible to mean "a long time" as in floods, days in the desert, etc. – Macaco Branco Nov 16 '19 at 14:28
  • @MacacoBranco While this is not the thread (or even the community) for this type of correction, 40 in the Hebrew Bible is used literally, not hyperbolically (40 days of the flood/40 years in the desert are literal). Specifically, in the Hebrew Bible (speaking about the Jewish Bible in its original Hebrew, not the Christian Bible, I can't speak on that), the number 7, or sometimes 70, is used as in a hyperbolic sense--see, for example, Genesis 4:24. – Yehuda Feb 12 at 15:34
  • @Yehuda: Huh. I had heard differently. I'll be sure to couch my comment as a "some people say this" in the future. – Macaco Branco Feb 12 at 15:42
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Aikido is actually quite limited in its scope. There aren't many kinds of strikes, take-downs, and throws.

Hapkido has a lot more striking than Aikido does, and a lot more types of throws. But it, too, is limited.

When someone says there are thousands of techniques, what they're referring to are variations and combinations. But to get to that high count, you start with a small collection of basic techniques, and then you change the way they're done using one or more different concepts or principles.

In Taekwondo, for example, you have an inside-to-outside crescent kick. If you spin around and then do that kick, it's called a spinning, inside-to-outside crescent kick. If you hop forward while doing it, it's called a hopping, spinning, inside-to-outside crescent kick. If you jump while doing that, it's called a flying, spinning, inside-to-outside crescent kick.

You could take any kick and do the same thing. The kick is the basic technique, while the spinning, hopping, and jumping are concepts that change the way that kick is used or expressed.

In my answer at the following link, I calculated 1344 different kick variations in Taekwondo for just 8 basic kicks:

How does one train for a spinning reverse kick?

Similarly, in Aikido or Hapkido, there are plenty of variations for each technique. Are you standing or sitting? Are you sinking down to rising up, internally? Will your opponent grab the arm on his same side or across to the other side? Is your opponent in front of you or behind you? Do you have one opponent or more? Do you atemi (strike) first? Can you turn this hand technique into a knife, jo staff, or sword technique? Do you send your opponent down to the ground face first or back first, to the left or to the right? Do you change levels (sit down) while performing the throw, or do you stay at the same height?

You get the idea. Every basic technique can have many variations. In the end, there might be thousands of unique techniques.

What matters is that you understand the finite and small number of basic techniques, plus the small number of concepts or principles that can be applied to change the way those basic techniques are expressed. That makes it easy to learn. You don't have to be shown each one of those thousands of techniques in order to know them all.

With Taekwondo kicks, there are only 8 basic kicks and maybe 6 different concepts that you can use to apply to each. The combination gives you 1344 unique kicks. Learning those 8 kicks is easy. Learning each of the 6 concepts is easy. And once you've done that, you can fairly easily come up with each and every one of those 1344 kicks on your own, even if you weren't taught most of them.

And we haven't even gotten into combinations.

It's the same way with any martial art.

Hope that helps.

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It depends on your definition of technique.

Take oshi taoshi (or ikkajo or ikkyo or whatever it's called in your style of Aikido) as a technique. You can do it standing up with your left arm grabbed (straight and reversed) and your right arm grabbed(straight and reversed) with one hand, then with two hands. That's eight techniques right? Okay, now against a punch, a hook, and uppercut, an elbow both right and left. We are up to sixteen techniques. All those, you (as tori) can pivot left or right or go straight so that's forty eight techniques. You can do those kneeling as well, so we are up to nearly a hundred. I could go on but to easy the calculations, I shall stop here.

In Shodokan, there are seventeen basic techniques one learns. In addition, there are another dozen or so others balance breakers of various types. However, we do say that there are hundreds of applications of those.

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There are only so many ways to manipulate the joints, and there are a finite number of joints. So logically, there are only a few basic joint manipulation techniques to begin with.

Adding in different ways that the attacker can attack, and the multiple ways that the attack can be blocked and redirected into a joint lock, simply multiplies those basic techniques into dozens or hundreds of variations. But they are all still based on the same set of basic joint manipulations.

Combine two or more basic techniques in succession (e.g., moving from one wrist lock to a different wrist lock and then to a take-down), and you have again multiplied the number of possibilities. But you are still using the same small set of basic joint manipulations in all of these combinations.

In reality, you probably will not find any Hapkido/Aikido master who could show you a few hundred different 'official' techniques.

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  • The Aikido Yoshinkan test syllabus (pdf link: yoshinkan.net/05images/_pdf/sinsakamoku2019E.pdf ) has several hundred techniques (there are more than 80 lines on the Yudan syllabus, and most lines correspond to four techniques, so 250 would be a conservative estimate). IOW you would be hard-pressed to find a black belt holder who can't name several hundred techniques, even if they had never learned anything beyond the official test syllabus. – tobi_s Nov 20 '19 at 0:57

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