...Suddenly you are standing in front of the refrigerator without intending to get yourself a beer...
And how is this a bad thing?
I am project-oriented...Part of my job... Everything is a verb. Intent causes action, actions are verbs. I think sometimes we uses examples that are really just exercises of poor grammar. For example, to love someone to death, if love is a verb is ... well... um... I tend to agree that mens rea is not an action, it is a state of being. Emotion for me is more of a description of my state of being. If I raise my hand in anger that is different than raising my fist in defiance, is different than extending my hand in friendship. All three examples are simeple actions of my hand; the state of mind I possess while performing the action is different.
Anyway... I think intent is important to ki. If I remember correctly in Budo Renshu O'Sensei writes about kokoro and the proper union of mind (intent) and body. In this sense, I tend to see "heart" as a willfull disposition; the intention of mind to accomplish a goal, and response of body to act on that intent. To express "heart" is to have both the drive and
ability to carry out a task.
When athletes speak about drive, heart, intent, or other motivational factors in their careers, I think they are trying to align their capacity to strive for a goal with a goal. i.e. to have something to fight [for]. I am not sure if it is fair to criticize an athlete for aligning their motivation with a goal that defines success in a sport. In Sonnen's case (as with MMA fighters), a route to victory is to acquire more round points than your competitor.
This past week in Florida, Saotome sensei spend several minutes speaking about the seriousness of budo training. Many of his regular students have heard the speech before, but in the context of my post, I bring it up to illustrate the importance of matching our intention to do something with our ability to do something. Let's just say sensei does not share the same confidence in our ability to defend ourselves as our intention may imply...
The road to somewhere, I think, is paved with good intentions...
To Benjamin's point... I still think "ki" has more to do with efficient muscular and skeletal structure, leverage, rotation, and subconscious response (from uke). I think to Hugh's point, there are a number of ways in which to habitualize these traits into your movement, one of which in mnemonic devices.