View Full Version : Thoughts on Ki, Aiki, Aikido, etc.

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07-08-2011, 04:01 PM
He most usually used the words harmonizing, harmonizes.

The logic that O'Sensei knew about these historical and oriental views means that's what he meant is what I always disagree with for to me it's patently obvious he didn't.

That's why I like to find out what your view of Aiki is as different from O'Senseis not to make yours wrong but to see the difference.

It's simple really. Aiki prior to his AIKIDO had a meaning obviously and was no doubt to do with to whatever degree what you say. That's all good and useful to know and do and thus help make sense of some of Aikido.

However, his explanations of Aiki and bu and Budo and Ki were different and it's that difference which made Aikido. Such is my view.

I'm also learning from this that there are descriptions of heart, thus desire leads mind leads ki etc. Once again I then understand where others get these Ideas from and no doubt these are old chinese concepts from various arts.

However I have never heard or read of O'Sensei or Koichi Tohei giving that sequence or holding that belief. In fact Tohei said the sequence is simply spirit-mind-body or ki-mind-body.

This indeed may have led to those old heated debates between chinese and japanese as to Ki being different to chi.

Mike, Graham,

Thanks for the inspiring discussion. Just want to add some thoughts from the perspective of a native Chinese speaker who is interested in both Nei Jia and Aikido.

1. The definitions of the word :ki:.

In Chinese/East-asian culture, the meanings of the word :ki: are wide and vague. It's used everywhere, so, as Phi pointed out, we just understand it through instinct. In Chinese internal martial arts(Nei Jia), it usually refers to what Mike described in the six harmonies, something like energy/force manifested by Jin. Let's call this Definition #1. However, from some famous Qigong masters' teachings, I do find that they also use the word :ki: to refer to some concept similar to "God". Let's call this Definition #2. Though I haven't quite figured it out yet, I do have a feeling that the two meanings have some internal relations, they probably are the same thing in nature but different appearances under different circumstances, just like the wave--particle duality of light in Physics.

In Aikido, I read from somewhere (probably some books of John Stevens) that in an interview by some western reporters when OSensei was asked to explain the meaning of "Ki", he quoted the New Testament Gospel John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." and then he said "Ki" was the "Word". If this is true, then it's easy to understand why OSensei said "Aiki is love".

In Koichi Tohei sensei's "Book of Ki: Co-ordinating Mind and Body in Daily Life"(Japan Publications Inc. 1st edition March 1979), on page 10 he wrote: Man, like any other creature or object, emerges from "nearly nothing," from the undivisible substatnce of which the universe is made. This is Ki. Christians call it "God," Buddhists call it "Buddha," Soka Gakkai members call it the "Gohonzon."

So both OSensei and Tohei sensei used the Definition #2 of the word :ki: in Aikido.

2. Did OSensei and Tohei sensei have the skills of the :ki: Definition #1?

Sure they did, we can easily tell that from their videos and the experiences of their students. However, they didn't just stop at that level, they went far beyond that level.

OSensei had been a Daito-Ryu master for many years until one day he was enlightened. He realized the true "Bu" was not about the fighting arts/skills that he(and we) had understood, it was beyond that. Only the true "Bu"(love/compassion) could subdue his enemies physically/mentally/spiritually that fighting couldn't and solve the conflicts. The true "Bu" was not from/by a man to another man, it was something from above.

In the page 87 of "Book of Ki", Tohei sensei wrote:
Aikido is fundamentally a way to become one with Ki. If you consider it a means to become one with Ki of others, then you misunderstand the essential meaning of aikido and the techniques become ineffective. It should be a way to become one with the Ki of the universe. In order to become one with Ki of the universe, you have to first coordinate your mind and body. If your mind and body are separate, how can you become one with the universe? Real aikido has to be based on unification of mind and body.

After I thought all of this out, I re-examined all the techniques in aikido in light of the rules for the unification of mind and body. I realized I had been performing them with force only, but that after I learned to lead an opponent's Ki, I could easily throw big men without using any force.

3. The four levels of Nei Gong (Internal Kungfu) training.

The Chinese Nei Gong is originally from the religious practices of Taoism(Buddhism has similar trainings). Mike may know about the four levels of the training. I'm trying to translate the ideas into English, I'm not an expert, so they may not be 100% accurate, they're only the ideas.

1)练精化:ki:,train the human body to the best conditions, so the food, water, oxygion can be turned into energy most efficiently.
2)练:ki: 化神,train the high energy level to get high spirit. His internal(spiritial, soul and mental) and external(physical) will be completely improved.
3)练神还虚,train to let his spirit go back to the original "Nothing", the original baby like natural state.
4)练虚合道。train to union with Tao/God with the "Nothing" state.

From the above, I personally can see OSensei and Tohei sensei were working on the level 3 or 4, while most of us are stuggling on the level 1.

4. What Tohei sensei teaches.

This is a big topic that I'd like to avoid. Just list something relative to this thread.

1) On the page 89 of "Book of Ki", Tohei sensei wrote:

In Japan when Master Morihei Ueshiba was alive, he always talked about Ki, so everyone thought about Ki. But after his death, people not only become unable to understand Ki but also ceased using the word. Techniques became incorrect and if a strong man held most students, they could not move him. If it were left as it was, Master Ueshiba's aikido would become merely formal techniques. I suggested establishing Ki classes at Aikido Headquarters.

"It is easy to learn techniques to throw people," I argued, "because movements of the body are visible. But people often neglect the invisible movements of the mind. Young people especially are interested only in aikido techniques. We should teach how to unify mind and body, the principles of mind and body and how to move according to the coordination of mind and body..."

2) "Heart -> Mind -> :Ki: -> Body" vs "Mind and Body unified":

I'm not qualified to tell which is better. To me, they're two different training methodologies. They approach the same target(we human) from different perspectives with the same goal and result. While in the current Ki Society's Ki training, we do work a lot on the mind part and the :Ki: is just a natural consequence of the training.

5. Does "Love" really work when you're facing your enemies?

Believe it or not, it does, both physically and mentally. I doubted OSensei knew the four levels, he found this "love" worked when he refused to fight back a samurai who had challenged him and was cutting him with a sword. He meant it.

The style of "Internal" is all about training the right mind-set or it's still "External" in my personal oppinion:) . So the mind-set of love or hate naturally kicks in whenever in training or facing the enemies. The right mind-set should be the original "Nothing" state of human which is love by default. With this mind-set, human-being can relax to unify mind and body with Ki. Other mind-sets with proper martial arts training can still be powerful to some degrees but "the techniques become ineffective" as Tohei sensei put it.

One of my teachers was an Uchideshi of Koichi Tohei sensei in 1980's. Tohei sensei asked him to start his training from the Ki healing and pulling weeds by hands with Tohei sensei in the garden, in order to remove his intention to throw people. He did this training for five summers, then Tohei sensei told him that he was ready to do Aikido. In current Ki Society curriculum, positive mind-set is still the core of training. Anybody wants to know more about it can check out Ki Society dojos.

6. Translation of the Aiki of Aikido:

There are many interpretations of the word Aiki of Aikido. I personally think the best translation of Aiki is "Union with Ki" which is also the title of Koichi Tohei sensei's legacy book, it's said being translated by William Reed sensei.

These are just some of my thoughts from your discussions. I'm still a beginner and learning. I've learnt a lot from your posts. Thanks!


graham christian
07-08-2011, 04:31 PM
Nice post. Well constructed. Thanks for the acknowledgement and may I say I think it was Mikes intention to cause such a debate so it's all good.

I like what you have written so now I can learn from you.


Mike Sigman
07-10-2011, 01:02 PM
2) "Heart -> Mind -> :Ki: -> Body" vs "Mind and Body unified":

I'm not qualified to tell which is better. To me, they're two different training methodologies.
Hi Ting:

I think they're the same thing. The idea and translation indicating "mind and body unified" is not uncommon from a traditional Chinese standpoint either, and since the ki logic, how it works, etc., is pretty immutable, I can't see any way for there to be two separate things that are talked about with the same terms that coincidentally come from the same background.

In terms of the spiritual and quasi-spiritual attributions of qi/ki, god, universe, spiritual, etc., you certainly have to know that such discussions are not uncommon in Chinese (as indicated in your post), but many of those aspects are subjective and tangential to the function ki/qi skills. Regardless of whether one believes that ki/qi is a physical manifestation (as Tohei indicated in the Hawaii interview on Aikido Journal) or whether it is a spiritual manifestation (as O-Sensei and others have believed at various times in Asia, in different countries), one still has to be able to demonstrate the skills in order to achieve the effects. For instance, O-Sensei doing one of the ki demonstrations (let's say one of the many "immovable" ones) had to use physical skills to demonstrate a physical effect. Whether he was doing it in a "spiritual" way or not, there were measurable forces at play. If there are measurable forces at play, the discussion about it being the product of "love", etc., becomes moot, logicially.

Good post, though, Ting.

2 cents.

Mike Sigman

graham christian
07-10-2011, 04:45 PM
To do with the word Aiki I agree with your view but also I expand on it in my Aikido.

Using the view of Harmonious and harmony when it comes to using the term.

Therefore I teach harmonizing with all aspects as Aiki. For example unifying mind and body and having them work in harmony. That's one aspect.

Leading the mind comes under this aspect. Then there is leading the Ki, harmonizing with it. Thats another aspect.

Then there is harmonizing with the motion and thus I call this Aiki motion.

Just three examples but one simple basic. Learning harmony. A path.

It's just that simple, that's why it's so hard.

Just my contribution to your thread.

Here's a bit of 'zen' for you. Simple is simple.