There may be a physical limit to how far you can reach with your hand.
There may be a time limit to how far your can reach with your life.
But, there is no limit to how far you can reach with your heart and mind.
Extend from there.
Yes, this is another "wherever the head goes the body will follow" type of articles. When I started to write, I studied the business of writing. I always heard to write about what you know. What I know is that if I cannot get my mind around it, I am certainly not going to get the body to do it. So, I lead with my head. I have even been known to block with it and to use it for a battering ram, but that's another topic and one I don't talk about much because the brain damage sort of clouds the memories.
Extend ki. Extend ki. Extend ki. Seems like I have heard that a lot. It's one of Tohei Sensei's four golden rules. Yet, I had no idea what it meant. I'm still not sure I have an accurate understanding. I do have some vague general hints that you may find useful. It is easier to demonstrate energy than to describe it.
The unbendable arm is a standard test of ki. If you hold your arm out in front and resist with muscle contraction, it is relatively easy to bend the arm. If you relax, breathe, and pretend you have a metal rod running from the back of the room, though your shoulder, elbow, fingers, and into the wall in front of you, it will be very hard to bend the arm. Do the same exercise without the visualization, and the arm goes down easy. Flick the fingers towards the face, atemi, and likewise, the arm falls. So, perhaps the mind, or the pictures we place in it, directs the ki.
The unliftable body is another ki test. Standing normally with your center of gravity placed well into the skull, the body is easy to lift. Relax, breathe, and extend the center of gravity beneath the feet into the ground. With the mind in the earth, it is hard to lift the body. Distract the mind by giving it a different priority (like avoiding get hit, atemi) and the body is easy to move again.
I often use applied kinesiology, or muscle testing to make a point. Hold your arm out in front and have somebody test how strong it is. This is not a power struggle (yet another topic), but a sensitivity drill to establish a base line. Now think something that is negative, a lie, or bad for you and the arm goes weak. Think something positive, true, or good for you and the arm stays strong. Many people think that anger makes them stronger, but according to the body, it makes one weak. Love makes us strong.
This exercise I borrowed from the occult sciences or metaphysics is the pendulum. Take a necklace, any chain that tangles some object. Hold it between your fingers and let it hang down towards a tabletop. Let it come to a rest. Let your mind think back and forth and the pendulum will follow. Think side to side and the pendulum will move side to side. Circle it one-way then circle it another. The pendulum follows the dictates of the mind. If we connect (musubi) to another human being the same way we connect to the pendulum, can we equally effect them? Our lives tend to follow the mental map we unconsciously identify with too.
Sit next to someone who is smiling. You can feel their energy. You want to be there. Sit next to someone who is angry or depressed and you will want to leave as soon as you can. Remember they say that everyone lights up a room; some when they enter and some when they leave. Perhaps ki, our mental/emotional intent, is the energy of that light.
All of this is easiest practiced at first standing still. If you have a good training partner, they can provide you valuable feedback. First just focus on your physical movement, the energy will stop where your hand does. Next, extend that energy as if you had a light-saber shooting from your center (or from within the earth) that follows the structural alignment of the body, traces the walls and ceilings, and directs your energy out into the universe. Relax, and breathe, let the energy extend. You cannot make it extend, you release it and let it.
I have often been kidded about thinking outside the box. To be truthful, I didn't know there was a box. The box is just another mental map that limits our hearts and our minds. Extend beyond what you thought were your limits. Let the mind and heart open. Let the energy extend from there.
Thanks for listening, for the opportunity to be of services, and for sharing the journey. Now get back to training. KWATZ!
Lynn Seiser (b. 1950 Pontiac, Michigan), Ph.D. has been a perpetual student of martial arts, CQC/H2H, FMA/JKD, and other fighting systems for 40 years. He currently holds the rank of Sandan (3rd degree Black Belt) in Tenshinkai Aikido under Sensei Dang Thong Phong at the Westminster Aikikai Dojo in Southern California. He is the co-author, with Phong Sensei, of Aikido Basics (2003), Advanced Aikido (2006), and Aikido Weapons Techniques (2006) for Tuttle Publishing. His martial art articles have appeared in Black Belt Magazine, Aikido Today Magazine, and Martial Arts and Combat Sports Magazine. He is the founder of Aiki-Solutions and IdentityTherapy and is an internationally respected psychotherapist in the clinical treatment of offenders and victims of violence, trauma, abuse, and addiction. He currently lives in Marietta, GA and trains at Roswell Budokan.