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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Short aikido article by Yusuf Sensei - 3

This is the third article in this series [part1][part2]

"Aikido" is comprised of three characters: ai-ki-do. Whether we approach this concept from either a historical or philosophical standpoint, correct understanding of those three words within the ideal Aikido system is essential.

Let us consider the concept of ki. Right from the beginning, the notion of ki was deemed to be of utmost importance in the traditional martial arts and ways of Japan and East Asia. Ki was researched intensely and extensively by all schools, much like a Zen koan, a riddle that had to be pondered deeply before it could be solved. In every ancient transmission scroll or philosophical treatise, the concept of ki is discussed at length. Ki words pervade the Japanese language: shiki (spirited); seiki (vital); genki (healthy); kisei (ardor); kihaku (vigor); kiai (spirited shout); yoki (cultivation); iki (disposition); shinki (mind); konki (patience); kiryoku (vitality); kisoku (breath); tsuyoki (powerful); the list goes on. It would be very difficult to have any kind of conversation in Japanese without some word or phrase that has a reference to ki in it.

Let us now look at the concept of ki as presented and explained in two transmission scrolls that have a direct relation to Aikido: the Kito Ryu Densho Chushaku and the Yagyu Shinkage Ryu Heiho Kadensho ("The Life-Giving Sword"). The Founder Morihei had training in both martial art systems and he adopted and incorporated certain elements of each system into Aikido.

Here is the excerpt from the Kito Ryu Densho Chushaku:

Ki fulfills the body. When ki arises, it is called yang, when it is suppressed it is called yin. In this system, we employ ki in the instruction of all the techniques, but ki is not a manifest object. If the body is not set aright, ki cannot be brought forth. Within everyday life, when one is in a sitting position, vigorous ki flourishes, and one becomes stable and secure. However, when techniques are executed with gestures to the right or left, it adversely affects the ki equilibrium of everyday life. Ki pervades the body. Therefore, to set aright the body and correctly perceive ki everywhere is the tradition of our system. "Correctly" means through proper physical forms. The secret teaching of our system is this: continually polish your ki, do not be captivated by worldly objects, and keep firmly to the fundamentals. Do that, and when you execute the techniques, following the dictates of original ki, you can utilise ki and conduct yourself freely, right and left, back and forth. This is true for all aspects of life, stand, sit, move, remain still in a state of natural ki. Heaven calls this Unshakable Wisdom.

From the Yagyu Shinkage Ryu Heiho Kadensho:

Ki (opportunity) equals ki (vital energy). Perceive your opponent's ki, pre-empt his ki, neutralise his ki, and seize the opportunity. This is the same function as zenki; complete and concentrated control. Discern what is hidden and hard to discern, seize the opportunity and function totally. This is called the "strategy of seizing the initiative".

Here is a related excerpt from a book entitled Budo Hiketsu: Aiki no Jutsu:

The most marvelous things in this world is the art of aiki. The art of aiki is a mystery, the secret to all the martial arts of this sacred land. A kiai projected with aiki is so powerful it defies all definition. The most marvelous things cannot be explained with words, nor be measured with a ruler. Learn the secrets of kiai, make progress, and stride single-mindedly and with confidence through he world.

Ki as a Vehicle to Overcome Mental Obstacles

From these excerpts we can see how important the concept of ki is in East Asian life and thought, and how it is related to yin and yang, the source of the Oriental view of the universe. From life and death experiences on battlefields, our predecessors learned the nature and quality of life power, spirit poser, integrated body/mind power, meditative power, self-controlled power, ordinary power, and so on. In short, they learned about the functioning of "mental potential energy". All those qualities are a functioning of ki. Ki is the source of all activity.

In the old days, the quality of one's ki was tested on the battlefield, and thus was cultivated on the most practical levels. Those methods were used to control rebellious enemies. However, the real purpose of Budo is to defeat the enemies within one's own mind. Drawing on the wisdom of ancient philosophies based on yin/yang world view, our predecessors developed mental potential energy systems. From the concept that gentleness controls toughness, based on life and death battlefield experience, the notion that an "ordinary mind" is the key to free-flowing, liberated movement arose, in that state of ordinary mind it is possible to develop ways to perfect the human character. All of this, as our venerable predecessors indicated, is derived from ki.

In regard to the teachings of the past, the Founder Morihei said: "One's ki, mind and body must be linked harmoniously to all phenomena through the marvelous functioning of universal ki" In regard to ki, Aikido maintains and expands upon the venerable traditions of the past.

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