Connecting Aikido and Ki
Ki, Khi, Qi, or Chi is a life force or energy that is all around us from inside our bodies to the breeze in the air. It connects everything in the universe and it is the power of life. Qi has been described by different philosophers in various ways. The earliest reference of qi as a life energy is in the Vedas of ancient India from 1500 to 1000 BC and by the philosopher Mencius in 4th century China. It is in the second century that qi was connected to how energy moves through the body in a Chinese medical book called “Huangdi NeiJing”.
While training in Aikido you will hear the word Ki (Japanese) a lot. Ki was very important to O-Sensei and he always talked about Ki while training. Examples of Ki are being immovable or demonstrating the un-bendable arm. In this exercise you extend your arm out with a natural curve to it. Uke then attempts to bend your arm backwards. If you succeed then your arm stays where it is, if not then your arm is bent and you need to try again.
If you don’t get the un-bendable arm right away that is fine. It involves relaxation and focus of your energy or Ki. I was wearing a Green Lantern shirt once and our visiting instructor compared this exercise to using Green Lanterns power ring. He said extend your energy out through your fingers like a Green Lantern uses his ring and focus it. How can it be explained any easier to me than referring it to comic books? It still wasn’t perfect but I understood the concept a bit more.
You can try the un-bendable arm by extending your arm, spread your fingers, and focus on a spot on the wall in front of you. Have a friend or fellow student hold onto your arm and move it back. Start light at first and increase the pressure as you continue to practice. It an exercise to help you relax not a technique you have to master. You have your whole Aikido career to practice just like everything else in Aikido.
Another exercise you can practice is becoming immovable. Mustard sensei makes this seem like the easiest thing in the world. Again this is an exercise but this moves into your techniques and training. First start off by getting into a good kamae and then have uke lift your back foot, it may move and it may not. Uke will then push on shite from the front and the back, again you might move and you might not. What this exercise does is help you learn about your kamae and how to find it.
If you tense up and try to push back you are going to be moved. You then need to adjust your kamae, relax, and send your energy forward. Envision yourself connected to the floor and your Ki directed outwards. Relaxing makes you heavier and therefore harder to move. Have you ever tried moving a big dog that did not want to leave its spot? Or when a baby does not want to let go of an object? In both cases they are relaxed and not tense making it a lot harder to deal with them.
A common occurrence in martial arts is to not wash your belt along with your dogi. This is based on the belief that you’re Ki and knowledge become stored in your belt and if you wash it out you will be empty. The blood (sometimes) and sweat you put into training soaks into your belt and collects. Don’t worry it does not become used as another technique to keep Uke away. It becomes worn in and a part of you in time, after you get a new belt there is a significant difference.
Passing along a belt to another student is a tradition in some schools. Once someone achieves a new belt they can pass their previous belt to another student. This is a great gift to give, in a way you are sharing your energy and knowledge with them. If you have received your sensei’s belt then you have had a lot of Ki and knowledge shared with you. You should feel their Ki and make it a part of you and remember to thank them respectively.
This has been a short explanation and ideas of Ki. It can be explained and demonstrated in many different ways not just in martial arts. Ki is all around us and part of us, in our bodies and outside our bodies. Some objects give off more energy than others and you can feel it while with other objects you need to concentrate harder. In time you may visualize someone’s energy in various ways and colors and be able to follow it. You are already part of the universe now connect to the rest of it.