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Old 07-03-2012, 06:59 AM   #6
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 1,996
Re: Ki to the Highway

Matthew Story wrote: View Post
I am a real jerk about words. When we start deciding that words can mean whatever we want them to mean, words begin to lose their meaning altogether. We already have words for breathing, biomechanics, and visualization. Adding ki to that mix only obfuscates things.

For instance, when an instructor tells me to extend my ki outward as I throw, what he means is that if I think outward rather than downward my muscles will follow suit and my throw will go where it is supposed to go. He is telling me to visualize. I got similar advice from my singing coach in college, and he didn't need any mysterious foreign words for it. The best aikido instructors I've ever had just skip the ki middleman and say, "Think out, not down." It gets the same results and makes a lot more sense to most of us.

So to recap:
  • There is no agreed-upon definition of ki.
  • None of the martial arts phenomena attributed to ki need more explaining than can be provided by simple physics.
  • Belief in ki leads some people into ridiculous and dangerous delusions.
  • Use of the word ki complicates and obfuscates things that could be better explained with simple English (or German, or Portuguese, or Hindi, or whatever).

In closing, I must, as always, remind people that I'm no authority on anything. I am not even three years into my martial arts journey, and have no business telling a sandan how to run her class. She can use whatever words she wants. But I, for the reasons above, will never use the word ki in reference to any part of my martial arts training, and will have a little difficulty taking those people seriously who do.
I think you might want to consider history before you toss out everything "ki" related.

Why did Ueshiba and Shioda (to name two top martial artists) use "ki" in their descriptions? They certainly could demonstrate their martial validity. How many of history's martial masters/grandmasters used ki/chi/jin in their vocabulary and yet could still martially prove their skills and abilities?

(NOTE: It's been stated somewhere that in Chinese, the kanji for ji and chi were different. Ji meant yin/yang while chi was more life energy. But, I'm not entirely sure how accurate or true that is.)

Historically, you have to state that there was something "valid" in those martial artists usage of the word "ki".

Skip to modern day. Why keep an ancient, old word? Well, for one, if you start reading the old texts, you can at least have an idea of what they might be talking about. But, you say, how can you do that when no one has a definition for "ki"? Which brings me to your list of 4 points.

1. Yes, there is an agreed upon definition. Those who think there is no agreed upon definition, those who say it means everything to everyone, etc do not know and most likely have never experienced it. Why do you think most martial artists who had 20-40 years of training wanted to study with Ueshiba, Shioda, Horikawa, Sagawa, Takeda, Chen Fake, etc? Why did they all say that what they experienced was beyond their comprehension?

Do you truly think it is valid to equate "Ryuken the Ki Master" with "Ueshiba the Ki Master"? Yet both used ki to explain their skills. Obviously, throughout history, there have been very talented and skilled martial masters who have used ki/chi/ji to describe what they are doing. Are you willing to toss all that out just because 99% of the world thinks of ki like some magical, mystical energy? What would you be missing in that 1%?

2. Simple physics can never cover what the human body is capable of. If you want simple physics, most judo and aikido can give you that. But, then ask yourself why all those hardened judo men couldn't stand up to Takeda, Sagawa, Ueshiba, Horikawa? Within Judo itself, why was Mifune so different than all the rest? If you want to use simple physics to explain "ki" like 99% of all the rest of the martial artists, what are you missing in that 1% which includes Takeda, Ueshiba, Sagawa, Horikawa, Chen Fake, etc who did not use simple physics but instead used ancient, old, known martial definitions which included the word "ki"?

3. LOL, oh, how true. 99% true.

4. Well, yes and no. Yeah, we can do better at explaining things. If you want to understand the martial classics, you still have to understand their wording and usage, including "ki".

If I had met Ueshiba or Shioda or any of them, and they had talked about "ki" as meaning something to them, I certainly would have listened. I would have no difficulty taking them seriously. I may have been with all the rest of the students standing there confused and dazed, not understanding him, but I would never have taken it lightly. Yeah, 99% of the rest of the martial world isn't like them, but isn't that what budo is all about? Getting to that 1%? Otherwise, why not yoga or sports or meditation? So, why are you listening to the 99% who can't do and not trying to find those 1% who can?

Standing over 6 feet tall and weighing in around/above 200 pounds with known record. Recognized name by many. Won quite a few matches. Great guy and confident in his abilities. One of the 99%. Very good in what he could do. Yet, when he met one of the 1%, he could do nothing and couldn't understand how he was rendered powerless. Know what the funny thing is about that description? It matches certain people who are now dead and certain people who are now living, all of whom have pointed to the martial classics and "ki".
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