Bernd asked me in a recent post what the difference was between ki and intent and I sorta blew off the question by saying it was just different vocabulary for the same thing.
But I spent part of the day on the mat today cogitating on the question, and I'm not so sure that was a good enough answer. In a lot of ways they are very similar, but they use different imagery and that changes how I work with them in practice.
Intent, as I seem to be practicing with it these days, is about where you put your focus. It tends to be linear, and runs in whatever direction I choose. So I might have intent shooting down out my elbows or knees, or I might use intent to expand in 6 directions, or I might use intent to get under and unbalance my partner, as Hunter talks about in another thread.
The classic image for ki is breath or water. So ki flows in channels. Doing breathing exercises, ki connects palms and soles to center, and the practice builds channels which I can then use during waza. So when I use ki during, say, tenchinage, I'm opening but also connecting palms to center by extending ki along those channels--but it's an extension of intent, not a physical extension. Ki can also cycle within the body creating suppressing or lifting force on uke.
So similar, but not really exactly the same as I think about them. But whether this matters in any practical sense, I'm not qualified to say.