View Full Version : How to explain KI ?

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07-31-2000, 06:45 AM
Hi everybody!

I'm in a bit of a pickle here and I hope someone in this forum can help me. My wife is quite supportive when it comes to my interest i Aikido - but she has a very hard time understanding the concept of KI. Some time ago she she saw a demonstration on the TV by some MA-master who was able to spread his arms out to the sides and keep them there while a couple of large guys tried their very best to bend them, and she would like me to explain how that can be done - assuming it is not a trick.

To be quite honest, I don't understand KI myself. I have had a few experiences during the years with senseis in different MA's so I have come to accept that my understanding of KI will probably develop over the years and that I should just rely on what little I know, but it kind of bugs me that I cant show her or explain her what it is like. I have read passages of O-senseis 'Budo' but that seemed to puzzle her even more - (and I can't say that I blaim her).

I know this is a lot more complicated than say explaining algebra but I could really use som help here. So if anybody knows a good way to demonstrate or explain KI, I would be very grateful. I might add, that it will probably not be possible to get her to take up Aikido - even though that would probably be the best approach. :o)

BTW: english is not my first language, so bare with me...

07-31-2000, 01:58 PM
A good definition is spiritual adrenaline. I like it , it kinda rings true.


08-01-2000, 01:40 AM
For me, my definition of Ki is the energy that is in us and around us. From what I understand, everything has Ki: the wind, rain, chairs, etc. I also read in "Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere" that there are two types: Hard Ki and Soft Ki, the former is used to break objects as seen in Karate, etc., while the latter is used to redirect as evident in Aikido.

Hope this helps.


08-01-2000, 02:23 AM
Hi Adrian and Sid!

Great replies - thank's. They actually help me come a little closer to understanding the concept, but boy is there a long way yet to go :o)

Right after posting my question I took printouts of a couple of the articles in the 'Spiritual' section of Aikiweb. They are actually quite good, and my wife enjoyed reading them, but still it's rather difficult to explain these things to somone who has had absolutely NO experience with Martial arts. I'm beginning to think, that maybe all those allegories and explanations only make sense if you have actually experienced it.

I guess I'll have to take her to my Sensei one of these days and ask him to demonstrate 'unbendable arm' or something like that. Maybe the experience will make her more open towards the subject (discard the possibility of it all being a hoax) and then she perhaps can begin to relate what she reads to her own experience of the concept.

Thank's again

08-01-2000, 05:01 AM
Try also looking for some information and study 'bout ki there:
Hope it will also improve your knowledge of Japanese language !

08-01-2000, 09:14 AM

I've found that it helps me to think of ki as intent. Here's an example: if you've ever played tennis (or seen it on TV), you know that it's important to follow through your swing. That is, you don't stop your swing as soon as you hit the ball.

Why? After all, from a purely physical/physics point of view, what the racket does after it hits the ball has no effect -- at all -- on the ball's flight. The reason you don't stop when you hit the ball is that to do so, the racket has to slow *before* it hits the ball.

Follow-through is extending intent. Your intent is to hit through the ball, that way, the racket is still going fast when it hits the ball and only slows down when the ball can no longer be influenced by it. That is extension of ki.

The same is true in Aikido and other martial arts. If you focus on the attaker's grab or strike, your ki (intent) will stop there and the technique you're trying to do will fail. But, if you extend ki *through* the attack into the attacker's center (or even beyond that), the technique will work.

I hope this helps. It's only a beginning of an understanding of ki, but it seems to help me in my training. With practice, I hope to be able to maintain good ki extension in my techniques, but I'm not there yet. :-)

-Drew A.

04-27-2004, 06:04 PM
To jjf,been out of Aikido over 30 years. Had crisis of belief in new outfit in my town...too many black belts and what I believed to very faulty techniques. My sensei was a true master of O sensei's style.he was if I remember corectly 3rd Dan and had studied at Hombu dojo and knew O'sensei and Koichi Tohei personally. Tohei came to our area and I had occasion to work on the mat with him in 1969. Sensei showed us ki in this fashion:think of centering(a bit above the navel) put your mind there and you will be just about unmoveable. Also if you hold your arm out and bent at the elbow and think of your ki flowing from your center through your arm an opponent cannot bend it. If you stop thinking of the ki flowing in ;either case your can be easily bent and you can be picked up easily in the former case. Hope this works for you and helps. 30 yrs is a long time! Arch

04-27-2004, 10:18 PM
To approach this from a slightly different perspective:

Ki, in Chinese chi or qi, in yoga "prana", in Hawaii "mana", all mean "breath". They translate literally that way. However, it would be more appropriate to think of it, not as breathing, but in the mythological or Biblical sense of the "breath of life".

Ki also can be translated as "life energy". It is inside all of us, around us in a field (your aura if you wish, your magnetic field if you prefer), and in and around all living things. Interestingly, it is also believed to exist in and around things that we would not necessarily think of as alive, like rocks or bodies of water.

Ki can be directed, just as you direct your arm to point at something or direct your legs to walk. You just have to learn how. It can also respond as a reflex, just as your arms and legs will respond without you needing to think about it.

Chinese medicine invented acupuncture, which uses needles to stimulate the flow of chi through the body in order to heal an illness or injury. They believe that chi flows through the body along meridians -- just as blood flows through veins, and electricity flows along our nerves. The main organ for our nervous system is the brain, of course. The main organ for our blood is the heart, or if you prefer, the marrow in our bones where blood is made. The main organ for chi is the Dam Dien, also spelled Tam Tien or Dandien. It is in the belly... I wish I could remember how the name translates right now -- it's something like Lake of Fire, as I recall.

In Tai Chi and Qi Gong, there is a very simple pose that is used to find the Dam Dien; the best way to find it is to simply stand quietly, and rest one hand on your belly, with your thumb just touching the navel. Then rest your other hand over the first, comfortably. Then breathe. Your hands are resting over the Dam Dien, and breathing into that place will help to fill it, and to stir the chi inside so that it flows more freely.

In Tai Chi, another beginning pose is described as "hugging a tree" or "holding a beach ball". The arms are elevated forward, at about chest height, and curved gently. Then breathe. :) With practice you may be able to feel the energy fill the space inside your arms, like a large glowing ball of light.

The pose I just described is one that I have seen aikidoka use, in motion of course -- I've seen people roll with their arms in this position, I've seen them turn with an attacker's motion while flowing their arms around the "ball", and so on.

You can also move ki along the channels of your body, instead of creating a ball outside of you. Imagine that you are a tree. You can send roots into the earth, and breathe into them, and people will have a very difficult time pushing you over or lifting you. You can send it up into your arms like branches, and they will rest comfortably, without effort, but the people around you won't be able to bend them.

My soke told me that in Chinese calligraphy, the artist is meant to hold the pen with chi -- the grip is not tight, but no one can take the brush out of your hand while you do this. Soke handed me a ballpoint pen, and sure enough, his arm was shaking with the effort to take the pen out of my hand, but I felt like I was barely closing my fingertips around it. :cool: Also, in theory, the letters that you write in that way would carry some of your ki with them, and be a little "powerful" so to speak.

I know that I push ki, or chi, when I give massage to people. I can use it to "hear" where they feel the most pain, and I can direct my hands to those spots; also, if I want, I can add my chi to theirs to help things flow properly, to loosen tight muscles, and so on. Most people feel this as a warmth or tingling.

I hope these descriptions help!

04-28-2004, 05:32 AM
I see you already have many suggestions about how to explain 'ki'. I wish you luck with that, but I can't contribute anything to it.
As for the demonstration you saw on the TV though, I'd suggest "assuming its not a trick" is a mistake. It is almost certainly a parlour trick, whether the person demonstrating it realises it or not.
I suggest that maybe you shouldn't mix up trying to explain 'ki' with trying to explain the trick, for the latter look at the biomechanics of the situation instead. Maybe something along these lines:


04-28-2004, 12:41 PM
I guess I'll have to take her to my Sensei one of these days and ask him to demonstrate 'unbendable arm' or something like that.

Why don't you teach her how to do it?