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Old 07-21-2023, 12:41 AM   #1
Location: Prague
Join Date: Jul 2013
Posts: 79
Lightbulb What is Ki?

For one who'd like to transmit Aikido as Ai Ki Do, or something like a way of harmonizing energy I found an article about place of Ki in Japanese language. I'm not sure if the original link is working still but I'll put it here.


Author: Irina Petrichenko, May 2, 2009, Japan

The word "ki" is an integral part of the worldview of the Japanese and representatives of other Far Eastern cultures. It is used to designate everything that circulates in the human body and forms it (the so-called "inner ki" or "microcosm" in the usual terminology) and, on the other hand, to name that which gives shape and fills the universe ("outer ki" or "macrocosm"). But while retaining certain universal Far Eastern features, the concept of ki in Japan has its own specific national features.

Starting to learn Japanese, practically from the first weeks you come across a considerable number of expressions that refer to the sphere of expression of feelings and contain the word "ki". Like many other terms of material and spiritual culture, this concept once came to the Japanese islands from the territory of ancient China, but took root on the new soil and began to have its own national peculiarities. To identify them, let us first briefly outline the features of the mainland conceptual "original source".

For the ancient Chinese, the term "ki" (Chinese pronunciation of "qi", "qi") primarily denoted "life force". The archaic version of the hieroglyphic writing of this word originated from the composition of two components: "mist, vapor, breath" and "grain of rice", i.e. "fruit of the plant". Formed from these two components, this hieroglyph "denotes that which gives form and fills the universe. Thus, the fact that this notion combines two layers of meanings - the substance that rotates in the human body and forms, creates it, on the one hand, and life in the space between heaven and earth, on the other hand - clearly demonstrates the deep essence of the term "ki" in ancient China" (1; 24 - here and further translations of primary sources are made by the author of the article). That is, using more familiar terminology, we can say that the Chinese view of the concept of "ki" contained both the meaning of "microcosm" and "macrocosm". It will be expedient to note that the ancient Chinese themselves also often divided "ki" into "external" and "internal", but neither "external" nor "internal" "ki" constituted separate substances - everything in nature, according to ancient Chinese philosophy, inhales and exhales "ki", mutually influencing each other.

The concept of "ki" appeared in China around the seventh century B.C., when a route from India through the Himalayas to Chang'an, then the capital of the Chinese Empire, emerged. Thanks to this route, in that epoch in China "along with Buddhism came the Indian medicine of yogis and Ayurveda with their concept of "prana" ("soul"), which was initially translated as "wind", and then, having created a new character, began to be translated as "ki" (2;2). Thus, until the time of connection with ancient India, the basis of Chinese philosophy and medicine was the concept of two complementary oppositions Yin and Yang, as well as the doctrine of Tao - "the 'way' of nature and its laws" (3;107). After the seventh century B.C., due to the interpenetration of ancient Indian and ancient Japanese cultures, in China the idea of the opposition of the two above-mentioned oppositions emerged in the form of an antagonistic pair of the concepts of "Yin energy ki" and "Yang energy ki". In Mengzi (3rd century B.C.) "ki" is an entity that fills the physical body and should control it with the help of will. According to the classical science of divination, "ki" is the substance that is related to yin-yang and the five primary elements and which, through self-movement, gives rise to existence. Zhu Xi (12th century B.C.) regarded the ideal beginning "li" as the origin of all living things, and "ki" as the material component that created life (see 4; 482).

In Japan, continuing the mainland tradition, the word "ki" was also used to refer to the "macrocosm" and the inseparable "microcosm". But there are some differences from the Chinese philosophical paradigm. In this article, we would like to try to systematize Japanese national peculiarities in the interpretation of the semantic field of "ki" and illustrate them with examples from the monographs of famous Japanese researchers.

"Ki" as the quintessential expression of feelings

One researcher, Doi Takeo (5; 109-110) - believes that 'ki' basically means the sensuous work of the body', but in expressions such as, for example, 'ki ga kiku' ('ki acts, functions', i.e. to take care of the smallest details), 'ki ga tsuku' ('to pin, glue ki', ki o ushinau ("to lose ki," i.e., to lose consciousness) or ki ga susumu ("ki advances," i.e., to be determined), word "ki" "denotes not only the realm of the senses, but also the ability to make decisions, the will." In other word-combinations, such as, for example, "ki ga togameru" ("ki annoys for his own mistakes", i.e. gnaws at the conscience), "it can be said about the sphere of feelings, but it is a special sphere, on the border between feelings and conscience". Thus, the author concludes, "words such as logic, feelings, will, consciousness, conscience, etc. - are translations into our [Japanese] language of European cultural terms. If we mix all these concepts, we get what is called "ki" in Japanese.

"Ki" as a source of worldview

But there is practically the opposite viewpoint. Thus, Kimura Bin (6;168) believes that "one cannot agree to conceive of ki as a mixture of all these concepts ... [like] logic, feelings, will, consciousness, conscience, and so on. It is just the opposite - the concept of 'ki' is larger than all the concrete manifestations of the sphere of feelings or realizations, because 'ki' is the source from which the whole range of various concepts of the sphere of human perception originates."
Comparing the above two positions of Japanese researchers of the word "ki", we are inclined to the position of the latter, because, proceeding from the sphere of its use, the concept of "ki" appears to be rather some universal primary source for specific manifestations of human mental activity.

"Ki" and "heart"/"will"

There are several additional perspectives on the phenomenon of ki in Japanese culture. For example, the scholar Akatsuka Yukio (7;9) discusses the relationship of ki to other closely related terms such as heart and will. "'Ki' is something like tentacles or radio waves invisible to the eye that emanate from the 'heart' region. Therefore, without touching such 'tentacles' or tuning in to the corresponding 'radio waves,' it is impossible to look into the heart of one's interlocutor."
In another work, the same researcher (8; 11-14) answers his own question whether it is possible to consider that the whole world is preceded by "ki", the author convinces - "ki" really precedes anything in those cases when "a person thinks strongly about it, drawing in his head an image of the successful realization of his desire, in other words, the state of filling "ki of the conceived". ...transforming into the "ki of desire", "ki" actually represents "will", but it would be a mistake to constantly narrow the scope of the word "ki" only to the level of the concept of "will".

Realization of "ki" in everyday life

The ways in which ki is realized are also discussed in a collective English-language linguistic study of Japanese word combinations using the word "ki" entitled "Communicating with ki" ("Communicating with ki"; 9; 8). Thus, in particular, in this work "ki" is explained as "a certain substance that is invisible to the eye, but in relation to which one feels that it fills a given space or object". As an example, the authors humorously suggest recalling beer that has stood in a glass for a long time and therefore lost its special taste and smell, i.e. such beer, which in Japanese is said to have evaporated its "ki".

"Ki" in dictionaries

Many Japanese explanatory dictionaries offer generalized ways of interpreting the word "ki". Let us choose the encyclopedic dictionary of the Japanese language "Nihongo daijiten" (10; 482)
"Ki" (see also "ke").
1. An invisible substance that fills space. Mist. Gas
2. Phenomena of nature (in the space between heaven and earth)
3. Exhalation. Breath
4. A specific feature, flavor. Odor
5. Cardiac activity. Feelings. Character
6. An uncertain, vague feeling. Meaning. Characteristic trait, atmosphere.
7. Consciousness

That is, the authors of this dictionary explain "ki" as an invisible substance, because it is "exhalation, breath". On the other hand, "ki" is also interpreted as "consciousness" or "sensual activity".

A dictionary look at the concept of "ke"

Let us pay special attention to the reference in the dictionary entry to the word "ke", which is often written in the same character as the word "ki", i.e. it is something like a graphic synonym of the concept we are considering. Such a comparison testifies to the fact that the word "ke" must fulfill the role of some semantic twin of "ki" within the framework of Japanese culture. To clarify the details of the degree of similarity between the words "ki" and "ke", let us cite the dictionary entry of the word "ke" from the above-mentioned encyclopedic dictionary of the Japanese language Nihongo daijiten (11; 643)
1. A guess. Type. The state of things
2. Still, in any way, somehow, somehow
3. A suffix for naming diseases

Thus, we can see the similarity between definition 4 of the concept "ki" ("vague feeling, characteristic feature, atmosphere") and the first two interpretations of the word "ke", and the semantic field of the word "ke" is less clear, but more specific. This peculiarity of the concept "ke" is also confirmed by the presence of its third definition with a purely practical, word-forming meaning. But, taking into account the fact that in ancient times diseases were traditionally associated with the influence of negative, "unhealthy" Spirit, the deep connection between the concept of "ke" and magic becomes obvious.

"Ke" and magic

It is about the magical side of the perception of the word "ke" that the already mentioned Akatsuka Yukio writes (12; 14): "ke is the governing order of man and nature; it enters the body and soul like breath or wind. At the same time, since it also controls plants, mountains, rivers, and weather, ke was perceived as an irresistible force and only cried [against it] protective prayers and performed magical rituals". Until the 14th century, the concept of "ke" was widely used and was written in many characters, but it is the character that is the same as the widespread writing of the word "ki" that is found most often. According to the gradual weakening of ideas about the irresistible magic "ke", the mentioned hieroglyph began to be used more often as "ki", while changing its semantic accentuation and emphasizing the inner identity of the life-giving force of nature and man, peculiar to "ki".

Thus, it is the Japanese national peculiarities of "ki" that can be considered as emphasizing such meanings as "heart activity", "vague feeling" and "flavor, atmosphere" while preserving the general Far Eastern character of micro- and macrocosmicity. That is, it can be considered that, despite some peculiar national features, the word "ki" is a worldview universal, a concept that is used by representatives of different cultural traditions in the process of cognizing the environment.

List of references

1. Takeda Kenji. "Ki" no geng'i to "ki" no shiso no seiritsu // Nihongo gaku. - Tokyo, 1996. #7. - P. 24
2. Motoyama Hiroshi. Ki, meiso, yoga no kenko gaku. - Tokyo, 1994. - P.2
3. Philosophical Dictionary / ed. by I.T. Frolov. - М., 1987. - P.107
4. Nihongo daidziten / Umetaku hoka hen. - Tokyo, 1989. - P.482
5. Doi Takeo. "Amae" no kozo - Tokyo: Hirobundo sensho, 1971. - P.109-110.
6. Kimura Bin. Hito tohito tohoto no aida: Seishinbioteki nihonronron. - Tokyo, 1972. - P.168.
7. Akatsuka Yukio. Nihon ni okeru "ki" no rekishi: bungei shyakaigaku tekina ikkosatsu toshite // Nihongo gaku. - Tokyo, 1996. - #7. - P.9.
8. Akatsuka Yukio. "Ki" no bunka ron. - Tokyo: Sotakushya, 1990. - P.11-14.
9. Jeff Garisson, Kayoko Kimiya. Communicating with KI: the "spirit" in Japanese idioms. - Tokyo: Kodansha, 1994. - Р.8.
10. Nihongo daijiten / Umetaku hoka hen. - Tokyo, 1989. - P.482.
11. Nihongo daidziten / Umetaku hoka hen. - Tokio, 1989. - P.643.
12. Akatsuka Yukio. Nihon ni okeru "ki" no rekishi: bungei shyakaigaku tekina ikkosatsu toshite // Nihongo gaku. - Tokyo, 1996. - #7. - P.14.

P.S.: energy-related thoughts most welcomed

Last edited by IvLabush : 07-21-2023 at 12:43 AM.

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Old 07-25-2023, 02:36 AM   #2
Dojo: Shoheijuku Aikido, Fukuoka
Location: Fukuoka
Join Date: Sep 2002
Posts: 157
Re: What is Ki?

A thought that came to mind some time ago is, when Japanese people greet each other, they often ask:

Genki desu ka?

Which translates, roughly, as "Are you in good spirits?" However, if any of your mind, body or spirit (emotions or more) is not, then you are not "genki". As such, I see "ki" as meaning "mind/body/spirit". Likewise in Aikido, "ai" means to join or unify. You cannot unify just your spirit without also unifying your mind and body, or otherwise exclude one of the three in working on any other, so it makes more sense to translate "Aiki" as a way of unifying mind, body and spirit.

In fact, I'd go even further and say that mind, body and spirit are all one and the same thing, and we focus on different parts or aspects of ourselves to bring them into harmony with each other.

Naturally having something useful to say is like natural responses during training: It takes much practice.
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Old 07-28-2023, 08:00 AM   #3
Location: Prague
Join Date: Jul 2013
Posts: 79
Re: What is Ki?

Should be careful of translating Aiki as 'the way' of something. Old Aiki teachers called it skill, and fashion in different kinds of ways seems to appear later.

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