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Old 11-20-2019, 11:49 AM   #26
Bernd Lehnen
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Re: I thought ki was fake.

Quote:
Gerald Lopez wrote: View Post
Yes, Bernd, it is both!

Ki, and its equivalents, qi, prana, etc, have been mentioned in literature spanning thousands of years; so, as a concept it has been discussed extensively. It has also been the basis of health systems that are still in use....

This is not to say it has not been questioned and challenged - the Vitalism vs Atomism/Mechanism debate has raged in ancient Greece and India for centuries. However, both the Vitalism and the Atomism theories are just that - models that have some coherence and some evidence to "prove" their existence.

As W. Edwards Deming, adviser to Japan after the war, said, "All models are not true; but some are more useful than others."
.........
Koichi Tohei taught that ki is a highly useful model for understanding aikido and performing it excellently. Not only that, he believed it is also a useful basis for self-mastery and personal transformation. Tohei was the first person to articulate Ueshiba's teaching in terms of ki, and to develop a system to learn and practise ki.
.........
My contention is that aikido was meant by its founder to be a means of personal transformation and individuation. This means that a holistic approach is needed: one that integrates body, mind and subtle energy - ki. It involves opening oneself up to a way of thinking, feeling and practising that is sometimes vague, sometimes seemingly beyond reach, yet sometimes very clear and tangible. Ki is not easy to grasp, it takes time, and it needs a sense of letting go rather than intellectual analysis. To have a mechanistic, reductionist approach to aikido reduces it to physical techniques and nothing else. That is why many people misunderstand aikido in relation to "self-defence," and why there is so much confusion about the purpose and modern-day relevance of aikido.

Best,
Gerald

https://www.mindbodyaikido.com
Hello Gerald,

In fact, you gave a lot of effort with your answer, and what you're saying sounds pretty plausible.

But actually, like Tohei, you're talking about a belief system, or perhaps a philosophical approach.
Tohei's approach, as far as I'm aware, was heavily influenced by yoga. But I know other people who can do comparable things, even more effectively, and they explain exactly what they are doing without resorting to Ki. Nevertheless, quite not a few would immediately say, oh, now I see for the very first time, what aikido is about.

Our perception is simply not always and under all circumstances reliable.
So, it may well be that you feel bewildered and do not understand why you find yourself on the ground again, but someone else could easily explain it to you, if he wanted, without having to resort to ki or any kind of esotericism.

The founder and Tohei may have said a lot of things and in the best of intentions.
In any case, the Japanese native speakers generally use Ki in down to earth terms i.e. combinations of memes, that have clearly nothing esoteric about them, just as we, on the other hand, do not need "Esoterics" in our Aikido, to make it incomprehensible. At least to quite a many of those with less experience.

In the end, a human being can only do what a human being can and there is nothing supernatural about it, however exceptional it may seem.

Best,
Bernd
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Old 11-21-2019, 02:51 PM   #27
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Smile Re: I thought ki was fake.

Quote:
Bernd Lehnen wrote: View Post

In the end, a human being can only do what a human being can and there is nothing supernatural about it, however exceptional it may seem.

Best,
Bernd
Hi Bernd,

Thank you for your reply. It is indeed a perplexing argument.

First of all, I completely agree with you that supposedly "supernatural powers" are actually resources we all have. The reason we do not often express them is that somehow our "ordinary" state of mind interferes with access to our natural resources. This is something that Tohei asserted - he said that mind-body coordination was a way to tap into a natural form of being and acting.

I also agree with you that Ki is a component of a belief system, which as you say is a an aspect of philosophy. I mentioned that it is a model of understanding the world. The reductionist scientific western approach is also a model, one that works to explain many things, but not all things. For example, it has no way of explaining the mind, except as a series of chemical reactions, which is a circular argument.

Tohei was apparently influenced by Nakamura Tempu, who was a man who went to the US to study medicine, then went to India to study yoga, before coming back to Japan to become a spiritual leader.

From my many decades' interest in personal development, holistic health, yoga, and aikido, I have come to understand that the only reason we do not achieve our human potential is because of interference from our own minds. However, to try to deal with the mind using the mind is like trying to pull yourself up by your bootstraps.

That is why I believe that coordinating mind with body, as in aikido or yoga with "mindfulness," and consciously using the concepts of Ki, we can eventually bypass the ego mind to an ego-less state (i.e. a state with less ego). Like my teachers before me, I can only present this way of practising aikido to people, and it is up to people whether they want to explore it or not.

We can have many belief systems and models to try to explain our existence, but in the end it is only experience that is 'truth." I am always grateful to the founder and teachers of aikido, for giving me the opportunity to have the exhilarating experiences of working and moving with others in ever more subtle ways as I get older in years. In this way, aikido is a never-ending journey of discovery.

Last edited by gezznz : 11-21-2019 at 03:00 PM.

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Gerald
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Old 11-22-2019, 07:37 AM   #28
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Re: I thought ki was fake.

Because I don't post anymore... but this conversation sparked my interest.

Putting on my grumpy hat, I have the following observations in my training:
1. Ki is not a belief system. I think Westerners consume ki as if it is mystical; "following ki", "putting ki in my life," and so on. Unless you are practicing a religion of which ki is a component, I think this is confusing at best and wrong at worst. The generalization of ki does not help, nor the cultural context.
2. Aiki is a tool for transformation. Transforming what? Transforming how our body moves and unifying it to the mind to coordinate movement. Changing how you think is not equivalent to improving your mind's interaction with your body. When you conflate those ideas, things get muddy.

Quote:
From my many decades' interest in personal development, holistic health, yoga, and aikido, I have come to understand that the only reason we do not achieve our human potential is because of interference from our own minds. However, to try to deal with the mind using the mind is like trying to pull yourself up by your bootstraps.
Our mind is not what is in our way. Poor lifestyles and the [perceived] higher opportunity costs of everything modern society offers are in our way. I have used this example before, but it fits here... If you work out at a gym 1-2 times each week, live a sedentary lifestyle and eat poorly, would you honestly expect to make a healthier body? No. But, you believe that you should be healthier. How is this different? It isn't. Blaming your mind isn't fair and its an excuse for poor performance.

Cultivating Ki is freakin' hard. It competes with your lifestyle, it requires and insane amount of time to accomplish, and it fundamentally changes how your body works. To imply that you can cultivate ki over a long weekend or something is a disservice to the training. Aiki do should be moving meditation - a constant exchange of rewiring the brain to move the body and gaining command of new muscle and tissue you didn't even know existed the day before and then coordinating those muscles with larger movement. Rinse and repeat.

None of this is mystical or insurmountable. But, most of us make decisions to do something else that we believe is more important than cultivating ki. In accounting, your budget always shows your intentions - where you spend the most money is what you think is most important. In your life, I think there is a strong argument that how you spend your time tells me a lot about how invested you are in this training. This isn't right or wrong and each life is different, so I want to be clear that there is no judgment in this observation.

If you have been training for more than a few years in aikido and still cannot personally understand, define, and defend what aiki is in your training, I think you should be critical of yourself to ask "why am I doing something that I cannot explain?" Honestly, the answer may just be that you don't know what you are doing, which is fine. In Western culture, there is no parallel to the insanity of training something in which you do not know what you are doing or why. Except maybe golf - the sh!t drives me nuts, still.

I posted this only because I think we need to be OK saying, "I don't know what I am doing."

"I had a great class tonight, it felt like everything was effortless..." "You know what you did?" "Nope. But, I sure hope it happens again."

Also, get off my lawn.

Grumpy post over.

Last edited by jonreading : 11-22-2019 at 07:40 AM.

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Old 11-23-2019, 04:57 PM   #29
gezznz
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Re: I thought ki was fake.

Woah Jon! Sorry if I may have triggered your grumpiness at the end of your week!

Why do we live a sedentary lifestyle? Why do we eat poorly? We do we make bad choices? Isn't it because of the mind, and lack of clarity?

Yes, I totally agree with you, cultivating Ki is hard, not because it is inherently hard, but because we need to let go of so much baggage that is in the way.

If we don't have a belief system that includes Ki, we see and experience the world as a physical place. If our belief system is vitalistic, and includes some form of life energy, we experience the world differently. That is the whole point of Don Juan's teaching in the Carlos Casteneda books.

Jon, I believe our understanding is very similar, perhaps it is just choice of words that get in the way.

Anyway, have a happy weekend mate. Kia ora from New Zealand.

Best regards,
Gerald
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Old 11-24-2019, 07:54 AM   #30
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Re: I thought ki was fake.

Hah!

I think there are some people who blame their poor decisions on their mind. I do not accept those decisions are related to a "Clarity of the mind." Mostly, I say this because poor decisions are often identified after the consequence takes its toll. I think most of us would argue that our decision-making skills are good, proven wrong only in the fullness of time. In any case, I do not think rational decision-making in the brain is a component of ki training. At least, not a component that is required for basic training.

In my earlier post, I indicated that I do not like laying a religion over discussions about ki. I have heard too many people use this complexity to obfuscate practical discussions of energy work. Second, I have heard many people (on this forum and elsewhere) who imbue "Ki" with a morality as a pseudo-religion. I don't think you can correlate morality and body energy to make any supported argument that energy training makes you a better person or improves your cognitive decision-making skills.

Ironically, Aikido people have a bad history of looking down on "lower" arts that focus on body training, not realizing that aiki training is... training to better understand the body. Which is the second observation I was making - that we will talk about aiki in our training, but the whole "change your body" stuff is too hard, so we talk about how much more "aiki" our minds are.

I could workout for 60 minutes tonight, but Game of Thrones is on and I have to watch that. I reject the premise the mind was simply "unclear" that 60 minutes watching GoT is less healthy than 60 minutes of exercise.

I think many of us simply don't know what we are doing, and we try so hard to prove otherwise that we literally make up things to sound like we know what we are doing.

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Old 11-28-2019, 05:38 AM   #31
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Re: I thought ki was fake.

Quote:
Gerald Lopez wrote: View Post
Woah Jon! Sorry if I may have triggered your grumpiness at the end of your week!

Why do we live a sedentary lifestyle? Why do we eat poorly? We do we make bad choices? Isn't it because of the mind, and lack of clarity?

Yes, I totally agree with you, cultivating Ki is hard, not because it is inherently hard, but because we need to let go of so much baggage that is in the way.

If we don't have a belief system that includes Ki, we see and experience the world as a physical place. If our belief system is vitalistic, and includes some form of life energy, we experience the world differently. That is the whole point of Don Juan's teaching in the Carlos Casteneda books.

Jon, I believe our understanding is very similar, perhaps it is just choice of words that get in the way.

Anyway, have a happy weekend mate. Kia ora from New Zealand.
Questionable whether Castenada's book are real.

"But doubts soon surfaced. Experts pointed out that Don Juan's "teachings" bore little resemblance to actual Yaqui Indian religious beliefs. Hallucinogenic mushrooms didn't grow in the Sonoran Desert, where Don Juan supposedly lived. Anyone who'd gone walking for hours in the desert at the hottest time of the day, as Castaneda claimed he and Don Juan had done, would surely have died of sunstroke"

and

"Journalists discovered that Castaneda was a habitual teller of tall tales who, among other things, falsified his family background and his place and date of birth."

https://www.straightdope.com/columns...or-make-it-up/

dps

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Old 11-29-2019, 03:48 PM   #32
gezznz
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Re: I thought ki was fake.

Quote:
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Questionable whether Castenada's book are real.

dps
His books are real enough. At least I can say I own a few physical copies from the 1970s.

Interesting, I was a teenager in the 1970s, and excitedly told a "rational adult" about the Castaneda books I had been reading. He patronisingly told me, "Why don't you just stick with the real world, Gerald."

My journey into drugs, going into virgin jungles, and meeting "primitive" (actually sophisticated) people made me realise the "real world" is what we perceive it to be as a result of our beliefs, our upbringing, our culture - i.e. the collection of our resultant thoughts. If you believe in magic, your life is full of magic; if you don't, your life has no magic.

There is an army of naysayers, who have wasted their valuable time trying to research and discredit Castaneda.

The problem with materialists and rationalists is their overwhelming arrogance, which prevents them from allowing possibility, and from recognising the power of symbolism. Their rationality prevents them from thinking more deeply, and experiencing life more richly.

For example, people who say thinking, creativity and genius are "only" chemical reactions in the brain, themselves are not thinking deeply enough.

Whether Castaneda's books are "real" is beside the point. Is the Bible "real"? Is the Tao Te Ching "real"? Is the Mahabharata "real"?

Castaneda's books inspired me as a 16-year old, and gave me reference points to experience the world in different ways from many other people. This did not prevent me from building another world of constriction and limitation, which I am now realising I have done. As a youth, I did not have the experience and wisdom to fully utilise Don Juan's tools and fully free myself from my psychological and emotional "personal history."

Even as a student of aikido of one of Europe's most charismatic and brilliant teachers in the 80's and early 90's, I did not realise the gift of what I was receiving from him. I thought I was learning aikido techniques, and how to defend myself. How naive I was. Now, 30 years later, I am realising what it is about - for me anyway. And it is something I want to share, so others don't have to take 30 years.

Like Castaneda's books, you either "get" Ki or you don't. You don't have to know what you are doing, you don't have to prove it physically, you don't even need to try and explain with phony biomechanics theories, you just have to be open to the possibility that it exists.

I cannot change cynics and angry people. My hope is that, those who are new to aikido, and those who have an open mind, can resonate with what I have shared, and that it might inspire them to keep exploring Ki.

Have an awesome weekend.

Best regards,
Gerald
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Old 11-29-2019, 07:34 PM   #33
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Re: I thought ki was fake.

He died of liver cancer.. Seems like a painful and unlikely way for a nagual to die.

dps

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Old 11-30-2019, 11:46 AM   #34
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Re: I thought ki was fake.

Quote:
Like Castaneda's books, you either "get" Ki or you don't. You don't have to know what you are doing, you don't have to prove it physically, you don't even need to try and explain with phony biomechanics theories, you just have to be open to the possibility that it exists.
I think this is part of my problem. In making a parallel comparison, you are equating a subjective discussion of a literature author with what should be an objective discussion of cultivating, training, and expressing ki. By choosing to subjectively discuss ki, you give yourself an opportunity to pivot away from differences in physical performance. For those of you who choose to believe in ki without requiring anyone to actually show us what its about... why are you willing to believe in it?

Jon Reading
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Old 11-30-2019, 09:45 PM   #35
gezznz
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Re: I thought ki was fake.

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Jon Reading wrote: View Post
I think this is part of my problem. In making a parallel comparison, you are equating a subjective discussion of a literature author with what should be an objective discussion of cultivating, training, and expressing ki. By choosing to subjectively discuss ki, you give yourself an opportunity to pivot away from differences in physical performance. For those of you who choose to believe in ki without requiring anyone to actually show us what its about... why are you willing to believe in it?
That is a very good question. There is belief that comes from "objective" evidence, i.e. the evidence agreed on by a large number of people. If a person is colour blind, they may believe the evidence of scientists that leaves are green.

Another source of beliefs is experience. Experience is purely subjective and individual, and it is often sufficient evidence to form a belief, unless one tries to rationalise the experience away by saying "That's not possible!" That has happened to me a lot, especially with regards to ki.

The original poster had an experience which challenged his beliefs. This caused a number of people to pile on him telling him to "forget about ki" and just focus on learning the basic moves. I may have reacted to this, and I apologise. I just feel it is a shame when a person is discouraged in the name of "objectivity." Don't get me wrong, I believe that being rational and scientific has its place, but I believe it only gives answers to part of the picture.

If you want an objective suggestion, what I suggest is you explore that experience and find a teacher who themselves have explored ki. I had the good fortune to have such a teacher. He was not a woo-woo flake, he was the first British dan grade of Kenshiro Abbe, a direct student of Morihei Ueshiba. Abbe had been sent to the UK in 1955 to spread Budo to Europe. My teacher learned under him - judo, karate, kendo and aikido - and attained dan grade in all of them, then became chief aikido instructor for the UK.

My teacher had felt his teacher's ki. His teacher had felt Ueshiba's ki (that's how he became his student). I had felt my teacher's ki. We all had had experiences (albeit different) of ki. The way I teach is very similar to my teacher's. We teach students about principles of mind-body coordination and ki, we give them exercises to experience the principles, then we show them how to apply their acquired experience and feeling to aikido, and daily life.

So we have an up-front approach. Tell them about the concept of ki first. Give them some small experiences. Guide them to gain more confidence. The understanding of ki is a felt one, and takes time to integrate. As a teacher, I found that understanding and capability to utilise ki is progressive. That is the purpose of the grades.

Other teachers have a different approach. Learn the physical moves first, then one day - perhaps - you will be lucky enough to "get" ki. From my perspective, that approach can result in aggressive or wooden styles, excessive focus on physical technique, a lot of shoving people around. Why struggle for so long?

One of the several reasons I made reference to Castaneda is that, in the books anyway, his teacher told him he was a lousy student because he tried to rationalise everything. So he had to take him through crazy experiences to "stop his world," ie suspend his rationalised world.

I think understanding ki is similar. We need to suspend our somewhat arrogant Western rationality and supposed need for objectivity (I have been guilty, I assure you), in order to allow a different kind of reality to surface in our awareness.

You can start by feeling the energy in your body. Try to extend the space around you, especially when you walk in the street. Extend to your aikido partner, and try to feel them even before they touch you. Lead them just before they touch you and see how that changes the flow. Relax more in the moves, especially when doing ukemi. Stop resisting and pushing, and relax and visualise the energy.

I have been away from aikido for 25 years, and have just come back. If there are no more teachers who can show people how to cultivate, train, and express ki, that is a tragedy. Definitely a lot has changed, and there appears to be a lot of polarisation and discontent within aikido.

I hope I have answered your question. Maybe the way I say things is not clear, and I am sorry for that. I haven't meant to insult anyone in particular, I just get frustrated because I can't find the words to make it clear to those who are struggling to understand ki. Perhaps, as someone has implied, it's because I don't completely understand ki myself. I did admit it is a lifetime journey.

Best regards,
Gerald
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Old 02-06-2020, 11:35 AM   #36
Bernd Lehnen
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Re: I thought ki was fake.

Quote:
Jon Reading wrote: View Post
I think this is part of my problem. In making a parallel comparison, you are equating a subjective discussion of a literature author with what should be an objective discussion of cultivating, training, and expressing ki. By choosing to subjectively discuss ki, you give yourself an opportunity to pivot away from differences in physical performance. For those of you who choose to believe in ki without requiring anyone to actually show us what its about... why are you willing to believe in it?
Take this for example. Would this be a good tool for starting an objectively discussion of cultivating, training and expressing Ki?

https://youtu.be/8mtDxlhZUCU

Without the protagonist explaining beforehand and hammering home the meaning and value of this internal practice into our brains, someone might come to think that this is simply a rather extensive, normal morning exercise, albeit in a wonderfully exotic environment

Best,
Bernd
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Old 02-06-2020, 05:00 PM   #37
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Re: I thought ki was fake.

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Castaneda's books inspired me as a 16-year old, and gave me reference points to experience the world in different ways from many other people. This did not prevent me from building another world of constriction and limitation, which I am now realising I have done. As a youth, I did not have the experience and wisdom to fully utilise Don Juan's tools and fully free myself from my psychological and emotional "personal history."
I hope you are enough of a rational adult not to jump off any cliffs.

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Old 02-06-2020, 05:18 PM   #38
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Re: I thought ki was fake.

Quote:
Bernd Lehnen wrote: View Post
Take this for example. Would this be a good tool for starting an objectively discussion of cultivating, training and expressing Ki?

https://youtu.be/8mtDxlhZUCU

Without the protagonist explaining beforehand and hammering home the meaning and value of this internal practice into our brains, someone might come to think that this is simply a rather extensive, normal morning exercise, albeit in a wonderfully exotic environment

Best,
Bernd
Maybe these would be good tools for starting an objectively discussion of cultivating, training and expressing Ki.

dps

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Old 02-06-2020, 06:55 PM   #39
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Smile Re: I thought ki was fake.

Going backwards to the original post:

Quote:
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Looking back I think I could have learned a thing or two about ki and my center from the baguazhong, but it didn't click until I took Aikido. Have any of you had an experience like mine?
as Ting Piao has said, the Baguazhang training you had very likely helped you get the feeling so early.

I read about ki before but didn't know what exactly it is or was, other than it was some kind of general energy (in the context of "Chinese medicine").

In my case, I *may have* felt the ki on day one but wasn't completely sure. The feeling just flowed soooo nicely and I haven't been consistently feeling it since then but it's getting better over the years! It flowed when we practiced ikkyo ura on my first day. So if you call that nice flow with no resistance as flowing ki (there was nothing to push back against!), then sure I felt it too. At the time, usually I was way off centred. One time I made a tall guy thump hard on the mat as we spiraled down together, and sensei later quietly chuckled a bit (both are now my best friends ). Good times and continued practicing/training with them since then.

However, I had no official or formal martial arts training prior to aikido.
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Old 02-07-2020, 09:19 AM   #40
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Re: I thought ki was fake.

Quote:
David Skaggs wrote: View Post
Maybe these would be good tools for starting an objectively discussion of cultivating, training and expressing Ki.

dps
https://youtu.be/3B2PMwdD2cc

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Old 02-10-2020, 02:25 PM   #41
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Re: I thought ki was fake.

I have been debating how to keep this conversation going. I think the video of Tohei sensei is OK, but lacks any real technical advice about what he is doing. I know a few of Tohei's older people who talk about how Tohei instructed, but I think there were limits to the transmission of his instruction.

First, I think someone, somewhere (i.e. "you") have to come to terms with a few base elements:
1. You are the sole person responsible for cultivating your [own] energy. If you choose to receive instruction from someone, hold her accountable for providing helpful guidance.
2. Make a definition of ki and stick to it. If you don't know what is ki, there is no way you can possibly train it.

From my perspective, "ki" is experiential. That is, someone with a knowledge of the body feeling can share that body feeling and transmit the awareness of ki. I think Takeda referred to aiki as a technique and something that he "gave" to students with whom he wanted to share that knowledge. Everyone remembers First Aid 101 - in the beginning, you grope around for the point on your wrist that the instructor says is were you feel pulse. But, you didn't know how a pulse would feel... so you squeezed too hard and couldn't feel a pulse, so you moved to the next part of the wrist and missed it. Later, the instructor came by and put your fingers on his wrist, lightly, and helped you to feel his pulse because he knew what his pulse felt like and where to find it.

I posted in another thread a small critique of some videos that were used to illustrate energy work; which I felt did not illustrate energy work, only physical balance. In that post, I felt the OP asked a very particular question, to which he received a very non-specific answer. I think ki has plenty of baggage without further confusing very specific questions with tangental information. The information is not worthless (it has value within its own context), but not germane to the specific question.

To this end, emulating motions captured on videos is a very difficult endeavor. The farther you move from someone you can put your fingers on her pulse to show you what she means, the more difficult that task becomes. In my other thread post, I chose my videos not because of the movement of the primary person, but rather the outcomes of those movements on another person that illustrate success. When we have difficulty replicating the results, it's a good guess that we are maybe mucking up the movements. When either the movement or the outcome is choreographed... fake comes to mind...

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Old 02-10-2020, 08:09 PM   #42
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Re: I thought ki was fake.

All of my teachers were Japanese and never talked about ki, except to explain the name of the art. My first teacher taught what I later discovered were the core waza. His English was too poor to explain in detail what he was doing, so I found out the hard way, by 'throwing' and being thrown. This was a very practical way of learning what the Japanese call atemi.

Early on, I came across Tohei's book 'Aikido: The Coordination of Mind and Body.' The book was illustrated with explanations and pictures of techniques. I think Castaneda had started to publish his books at the same time and, of course, I read them in great detail. This was in the late sixties and I think I took the explanations as an interpreting supplement to the actual training.

The 'teacher as guru' model used in aikido was quite different from the other model currently used in university philosophy departments, which followed the dialectical method begun by the ancient Greeks. Dialectic was interesting enough to write a PhD on the subject, especially as the focus of my interest was his belief became knowledge -- and this was also quite relevant to aikido training.

Then I met K Chiba, who combined an insistence on self honesty, with a volcanic way of training and teaching aikido. The danger here was that he was cast by his students as a major guru, but was not really equipped to play such a role. But he never tried to explain what ki was, especially to me.

In fact, none of my Japanese teachers ever tried to explain what ki was: they assumed that I, like anyone else, would learn enough about ki through training. This does not necessarily mean that it is fake: to state this would assume an intellectual position that was unwarranted.

Ki in Japanese is one of those common words that is mainly used as part of phrases used very often in daily life. A very well-established dictionary uses three terms: spirit, mind and heart, each with the equivalent Japanese term. Then follow detailed definitions of the term used in everyday phrases, covering 12 columns. (The dictionary is the 5th edition of Kenkyusha's New Japanese-English Dictionary, published in 2003.) So, when I am given a lift home from the dojo, I always say "ki-wo-tsukete" to the dojo member who is driving the car. One equivalent might be, "Take care; look after yourself."

This phrase is interesting because it uses the term 'self', which has some similarities to the term 'ki.' Some members might be aware of a book written by a Japanese expatriate living in Hawai'i. The title is "The Japanese Self in Cultural Logic" and the author is Takie Sugiyama Lebra. Lebra is a Japanese living in the US; I am an Englishman living in Hiroshima, so our situations are exactly reversed.

On p.39 there is diagram that purports to give an illustration of "The Fourfold Zonal Division of Social Self" which is the main topic of the chapter. The diagram attempts to explain the concepts of Uchi / Soto and Omote / Ura, which are common terms used in books that explain Japanese culture to foreigners (I used the diagram in a graduate class, in order to show what a badly constructed diagram looks like: diagrams are especially important in presenting statistical data in a PhD thesis.)

Concepts like 'self' and 'culture' are very similar to 'ki'; they are often used in common discourse and the meaning of the phrases in which they occur is sufficiently clear to obviate the need for further analysis of a philosophical sort, which in my opinion Lebra fails to do.

Jon, is this OK as a means to keep the conversation going?

P A Goldsbury
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Old 02-11-2020, 08:31 AM   #43
Bernd Lehnen
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Re: I thought ki was fake.

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Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
All of my teachers were Japanese and never talked about ki, except to explain the name of the art.
It must have been quite an "exegesis".

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Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
Early on, I came across Tohei's book 'Aikido: The Coordination of Mind and Body.'
Which reminds me of Tohei's book: „Aikido in daily life". It was also largely about „coordination of mind and body". Now, that you are to coordinate „mind" and „body" means that they are to be seen as two separate entities you should unite or reunite. So the book must have been written for or in a western mindset, because in a „culture" where the concept of „Ki" is prevalent this strict distinction probably a priori shouldn't exist.

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Old 02-11-2020, 01:44 PM   #44
gezznz
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Re: I thought ki was fake.

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Jon Reading wrote: View Post
2. Make a definition of ki and stick to it. If you don't know what is ki, there is no way you can possibly train it.
As others have suggested, defining ki is intellectually elusive. Not being able to make a satisfactory definition is not necessarily a sign of not knowing what is ki. Many have struggled to define love, yet can claim to knowing it in a personal sense.

In my opinion, ki cannot easily be learned from books or from videos. It is probably true that one eventually "gets there," as in many lessons of life, but on the other hand, being coached in ki accelerates and eases the learning journey - as in many lessons of life.

The reason I say ki cannot be learned or even perceived from videos, is that one can only observe the form but not the inner experience of the participants. This is why the moves or throws can appear staged or fake. However, once one understands ki in a felt way, one can then perceive the subtleties of moves on video, just like a good coach can understand an athlete's mindset from the way they move.

My concern is that learning aikido without some exploration of the mental and ki aspects may lead to excessive emphasis on technique, while ignoring principles. Ki and mind-body coordination are not mystical or metaphysical woo-woo, they are merely acknowledgement of natural principles of relaxed yet powerful movement. Anyone can do it, even children. Last night I practised with children half my height. I showed them some simple ways to change how they moved, and they got it instantly, and were considerably more effective as a result.

A felt understanding of principles liberates a practitioner from formal technique, allowing them to move spontaneously according to the attacker. On the other hand, I have observed highly experienced practitioners getting deeper and deeper into intricacies of physical techniques, yet remaining unable to flow and move in a relaxed way.

Another learning aspect is direct transmission. Quite often, when a practitioner just couldn't do a move, my teacher would go up to them and touch them on the shoulder. They then could do the move perfectly! I had felt this from him - a sudden burst of confidence and I somehow knew how to do the move. Touch is an important aspect of teaching, and is also understood in esoteric yoga.

Mind-body coordination is not necessarily a novel concept meant for Westerners. Tohei seems to have drawn his pedagogic methods from Nakamura Tempu (1876-1968), who developed a system called Shin-Shin Toitsu-Do (Way of mind-body coordination). I believe that, while Tohei thought these methods were instrumental in laying a proper foundation for understanding Morihei Ueshiba's aikido, the incumbent Kisshomaru saw them as too far-fetched and ultimately unnecessary for learning aikido. All I know is that my teacher was trained in the bad old days of budo, yet also trained with Tohei, adopted his methods and further developed them for the Western mind, and I am a product of that.

Best regards,
Gerald
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Old 02-11-2020, 02:17 PM   #45
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Re: I thought ki was fake.

First, happy new year Peter, I hope you are well and feeling better.

Second, I think there needs to be some tackling of "ki" as a cultural stumbling block if every there is going to be traction in the conversation. But, at some point someone's sacred cow goes on the block and then...

I also recall very little actual dialog about ki in the dojo. Some years back in a thread I teased that aikido people us "ki" like the 80's cartoon, The Smurfs, used the word "smurf." Ki could be a verb, or an adjective, or a noun. You could use ki in talking to someone, or put ki into your golf swing. As a cultural concept, ki is almost so big in its inclusion of usage that has become nonsensical. As a cultural comment, I think sometimes native Japanese speakers have dismissed the word in a similar fashion, while our western hyper-Japanese dojo culture still clings to it.

Personally, I think it is hard for someone to claim to know what ki is because there is so much room ti interpret what it means. Couple that with a general assault on any definition that does not align with *your* personal understanding of ki.

For example, if I have been training aikido for 10 years and never "felt" ki, but I understand my training to be "aikido," it's not without reason to assume that "ki" has no physical properties to associate with it. In contrast, if I have been training for 10 years and consistently able to replicate a feeling I identify as ki, but I understand my training to be "aikido," its also reasonable to assume that ki has physical properties to associate with it.

Without a great arbitrator to settle the difference, we are left with oppositional theories and no resolution. Except kinda. The founder's comments, early deshi, and other arts provide some guidance if you can manage the history lesson... While I strongly disagree with the "steal the technique" methodology for learning, I think there is some proof that correlates a body feeling to ki (an actual energy in your body) - the simple mechanic of repetition to affect change.
Do thing A long enough and eventually you'll feel something different than you did before.
So if we feel something different post-training, that means that our novice body movement pre-training [presumably] did not have ki (or at least enough to "feel"). Actually, I think this methodology firmly says ki is real AND that you will feel different when you train it.

The problem is that now you have to explain training when you don't feel anything different...

It may, in some respects, be more productive to translate "aiki" and move on to solving that equation without going back to the well and re-defining ki each time we run into a cultural obstacle. For example, if "aiki" = "joining of energies", what energies do we join and how do we join them?

Bernd mentioned the unification of mind and body and I think that is important. Also, the unification of mind and heart (i.e. body). But, how does that relate to the cultivation of energy?

Jon Reading
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Old 02-11-2020, 07:54 PM   #46
gezznz
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Re: I thought ki was fake.

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Gerald Lopez wrote: View Post
Mind-body coordination is not necessarily a novel concept meant for Westerners. Tohei seems to have drawn his pedagogic methods from Nakamura Tempu (1876-1968), who developed a system called Shin-Shin Toitsu-Do (Way of mind-body coordination). I believe that, while Tohei thought these methods were instrumental in laying a proper foundation for understanding Morihei Ueshiba's aikido, the incumbent Kisshomaru saw them as too far-fetched and ultimately unnecessary for learning aikido.
Of course, if Kisshomaru had accepted Tohei's pedagogy after the founder's passing, we might not now be having this discussion. By effectively throwing Tohei out of the Aikikai, did the doshu prevent aikido from being diluted with woo-woo mysticism? Or did he throw the baby out with the bathwater?

To add to Jon's last post, ki as a "subtle energy" may or may not have physical properties associated with it. Purely from a biological point of view, I recall that some recent Korean studies have claimed to have found physical artifacts in the tissues that could relate to the Chinese Qi meridian lines.

In addition, research in the last few decades have identified connective tissue, in particular fascia, that could be implicated in super-fast sense perception and super-powerful yet energy-efficient movement. It should be remembered that the nervous system is actually a very slow transmitter of perception, let alone motor signals. Ever since dissection was allowed by the Church, fascia was discarded in order to study the "really interesting" parts - muscles, bones, nerves etc. This has given rise to a certain way of perceiving the roles of the parts, which may not be in accord with ancient Chinese, Indian, Japanese, etc, systems of biological knowledge. The rediscovery and exploration of fascia has flipped the paradigm.

As opposed to the reductionist isolated nerves and muscles theories, the fascia have been found to be a completely continuous sensory and motor system that connects every cell with every other cell. This could possibly mean that effective movement is whole body movement, not isolated muscle movement. This could account for a hummingbird's wing motion in flight, which according to biologists who have calculated work done vs heat output, should theoretically cause the bird to spontaneously combust - but it doesn't.

Coming back to ki and Tohei's pedagogy, he insisted that relaxation enables the flow of ki. The founder's movements appear to be completely relaxed, and his response to attacks is instantaneous. Perhaps if we relax in a certain way, not only do we access a more efficient and powerful means of movement, ie fascial movement, but we also access instant response.

I have certainly found that when I touch or hold a person in a certain relaxed way, I feel a sense of connection, and I am able to substantially move that person through mere micro-movements on my part. There is no need for "pain compliance" and other such forms of aggression, as the person moves without sensing the source of the movement.

As explained in a previous post, mental activity is important in learning to move with ki. Tohei always talked about "keeping one point" and "extending ki," which are mental exercises to begin with. Keeping one point is completely logical for mind-body coordination. If your physical centre of balance is around your navel, and you mentally place your awareness there, by definition this is mind-body coordination.

I believe we have a lot to learn about the correlation between ki and the physical body. The problem may not be in the definition of ki, but may be in our reductionist understanding of the body as seemingly isolated parts. When I studied anatomy, I was shocked to realise that our understanding of the fundamentals of movement and perception is purely theoretical. Perhaps future research, e.g. in the fascia, will bring a more integrative understanding that better aligns with and explains the ancient concepts of ki.

Last edited by gezznz : 02-11-2020 at 08:08 PM.

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Old 02-11-2020, 08:11 PM   #47
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: I thought ki was fake.

Thank you for your good wishes.

I used to have a copy of "Aikido in Daily Life", but it disappeared at some point, and probably resides in some secondhand bookstore in. Tokyo. However, the other book covers the same ground, and before and after explanations of 28 chosen waza described in detail, provides explanations of how the mind and the body are related and how to 'coordinate' them. In this respect the cultivation of the 'one point' seika no itten, for example, plays a central role in Tohei's thinking.

The discussion of ki comes on pp. 82-84. Tohei prefers to use the Japanese term because, as he puts it:

"Ki is a very convenient word because it has both a deep meaning associated with nature and a light meaning which is used in daily life. It is very difficult to define ki and even more difficult to translate it into English. Therefore, the word ki will be used in the explanation of AIKIDO.

"In oriental thought, it is said that in the beginning there was chaos. The dust of chaos settled gradually to form the sun, the earth, the moon and the stars. On the earth. the elements combined to become minerals, animal and vegetable life. We call the chaotic condition before the universe took shape Ki. We say, therefore, that all things came from Ki."

Tohei therefore, amends the texts of the Kojiki to include ki and give it a central role. The next paragraph might have been uttered by Obi-wan Kenobi, the hero's mentor in Harry Potter, when he describes The Force:

"Ki itself has neither beginning nor end, nor increase nor decrease. Though its shape was changed, ki itself was never changed. We can see many things around us, all made from Ki, and when they lose their shape, their elements return to Ki. Depending on what you believe, you call it God, or Buddha, or Akua or some other name.
AIKIDO is the way of at-one-ment with cosmic power of Ki.
That is the deep meaning of KI." (Op.cit, p. 82.)

Tohei goes on the explain the light meaning of Ki, and I will not go into such detail. For Tohei, ki is a life force, a kind of physico-mental-spiritual liquid, which one can feel. Indeed, one has to feel it, in order to use or 'extend' it. He then attempts to strengthen his point with a carefully selected group of Japanese phrases. One especially, ki wo dasu, is explained:
"If you believe that your ki is gushing forth, your Ki is really gushing out." (Ibid.)
I have checked all the bilingual and monolingual Japanese dictionaries that I possess and this phrase does not appear. I conclude that the phrase is not in common usage (but I will check this tonight in the dojo).

The relationship between the body, the mind, and the soul has challenged western thinkers ever since Heraclitus and Parmenides, both in defining these concepts and explaining their connection. One way of seeking the end of this tunnel is through the study of meanings and metaphor. I have not, however, studied much about this in Japanese.

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 02-11-2020 at 08:13 PM.

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Old 02-12-2020, 05:34 AM   #48
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Re: I thought ki was fake.

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Gerald Lopez wrote: View Post

In addition, research in the last few decades have identified connective tissue, in particular fascia, that could be implicated in super-fast sense perception and super-powerful yet energy-efficient movement. It should be remembered that the nervous system is actually a very slow transmitter of perception, let alone motor signals. Ever since dissection was allowed by the Church, fascia was discarded in order to study the "really interesting" parts - muscles, bones, nerves etc. This has given rise to a certain way of perceiving the roles of the parts, which may not be in accord with ancient Chinese, Indian, Japanese, etc, systems of biological knowledge. The rediscovery and exploration of fascia has flipped the paradigm.

As opposed to the reductionist isolated nerves and muscles theories, the fascia have been found to be a completely continuous sensory and motor system that connects every cell with every other cell. This could possibly mean that effective movement is whole body movement, not isolated muscle movement. This could account for a hummingbird's wing motion in flight, which according to biologists who have calculated work done vs heat output, should theoretically cause the bird to spontaneously combust - but it doesn't.
Aiki Taiso is for developing Ki. Doing Aiki Taiso coordinates the nervous system (network of electrical signals) with the Facia ( network of mechanical signals) using the Mind (cognitive features of the brain). As the coordination progresses the cognitive features are used less and less (relaxation).

"Coordination of Mind and Body" or "Using the Mind to Coordinate the Body"

dps
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Last edited by dps : 02-12-2020 at 05:48 AM.

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Old 02-12-2020, 08:48 AM   #49
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Re: I thought ki was fake.

I think this is another important juncture in conversation.

I think aiki taiso was originally intended to cultivate mind-body coordination and ki. Almost never hearing this instruction in training, and having practiced neo-aiki taiso training since the 60's, I think there is a very few number of aikido people who actually can explain every exercise and its relational instruction to ki. And just so we don't get distracted, I am sure there are some number of people who will claim to understand. Which puts some pressure on us to figure things out, scream it from the mountain tops and get it back in training. But, we are first having to prove ki is real...

Using muscles in isolation is not coordinating body movement. We used to talk about "changing out the engine that moves us." Using muscles in isolation makes for less power in movement and less coordination within the body.
For example, walking using the typical "leaned-forward-balance-shift" is a very efficient way to walk, but linebackers don't chase down and tackle running backs using this movement mechanic. Why? Because they is not much power or coordination behind it. Similarly, sprinting athletes run using movement methodology different from marathon runners.

I am not sure why it is difficult to see that aiki training should make us be different. I hold some frustration that this specific training is so obtuse. For an art named after the thing we are supposed to be doing... I appreciate people who are willing to put out there what they believe is ki and how they train to cultivate it. Even if we turn out to be wrong, we can leave waypoints to look back and figure out where we went wrong.

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Old 02-12-2020, 01:53 PM   #50
Bernd Lehnen
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Re: I thought ki was fake.

Hello there, all of you, precious partners in looking for the real thing,

So, what is the real thing? Some would claim, what Ueshiba OSensei did. Others, what Takeda did and then again others what some Chinese internal Masters did and so on. And it would have to be „Inner Training", enhancing and probing our "Ki"..
Well, so far so good, perhaps…
If you train like a giant, you might end up like a giant, they say.
For the good or the bad…

I remember vividly, how I could replicate with relativ ease nearly all the exercises and tests that Tohei had put forward in his book „aikido in daily life". Coming from Yoga and what we in Germany call medical „autogenes Training", there for me was really nothing new, apart from the terminology Tohei chose. His "Ki" didn't seem to be so fare away neither from "prana" nor the old greek concept of „Pneuma".
Also, you may know the old adage „mens sana in corpore sano", may be an equivalent of the idea of „aikido".

But all this " ki wo dasu" didn't turn me into someone who would throw around with ease all the people I came to meet. I may even have been able to impress some people with these „Stunts", but that was it. A budo-giant? Not me.
So, time for a recap…
Tohei was really strong with obviously as much power in one arm as some others in two. He was well trained and fast, in general quite relaxed and had stamina. But even he with all his "ki wo dasu"wouldn't have been able to compete with the big champs in wrestling or judo…
In fact, I never met someone in Aikido, who could have. The claim of any superiority of aikido in this respect simply didn't hold truth.
And then, weapons are still an equalizer to body-strength and power, if you know what when and how to use.

That didn't hinder my further research into the waza , the solo exercises and the „coordination of mind and body". I had a lot of fun. Aikido is fun. Cross training also seemed a good choice. But we are human and, alas, there are limits, to each one his own.
I've met with people, who can do extraordinary things, but legends are legends. What I have seen so fare can be explained by surprisingly simple mechanics and good knowledge of how the human body works. Modern training science covers a lot of all this.

For the time being, I'm working on reforming my body into what some may call an aiki-body, whatever this means. This includes working the fascias, conscious working. May be you'd call that a kind of " ki wo dasu". In any case, this seems to be good for my health and, cause I'm getting older, I'm content with that.

Best,
Bernd
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