Ki - Japanese Character

Developing an understanding of Ki is a central aspect of our training. Ki is an ancient Japanese concept that is similar to the Chinese concept of Qi (Chi) or the Yogic concept of Prana. In simple terms it is understood as an underlying energy that is present in everything, but there is much more to it than that.

The term Ki encompasses all energy and that idea is embedded into the Japanese character for Ki. The symbols used to write the Japanese language were taken from Chinese written language long ago. Each of these symbols is a pictogram, so it not only represents a sound or sounds but also a concept.

We interpret the Ki character in the following way. At the top of the character are a set of horizontal lines or, in the more cursive styles, something similar to a flatten letter “S”. This represents clouds. Clouds are associated with the breath, the vapours, the heavens, the unseen and inexplicable forces affecting the world.

Leading down from the top of the character towards its bottom right is a line that usually ends in a tail. That tail represents the earth. This is symbolic of the coarse, visible and measurable forces that effect our world. The line from the top to the tail joins heaven and earth, bringing together the inexplicable and the known forces of the universe.

Finally, on the left side of the symbol is a set of crossed lines. On the compass these lines would point towards North, East, South, West, North East, South East, South West and North West. This portion of the symbol represents eight grains of rice exploding dynamically outwards from the centre. Rice has been the staple food of Asia for thousands of years and this is interpreted as representing the energy gained from food; the personal physical and creative energies of a human being.

All of this symbolism taken together provides us with a single character that represents and encompasses all energy. This is our concept of Ki, a universal and all inclusive view of all of the energies and forces that we encounter and that effect our world.

The name Aikido is comprised of three separate words written as three different Japanese characters. These words are Ai, Ki and Do. Ai means harmony, Do means the way, as in a way of life, and Ki means universal energy. So Aikido is literally the way of harmony with the energies of the universe.

Ki can be directed, to some degree, by the human mind. By learning to coordinate mind and body, students learn to grow their ability to direct and control the Ki that is naturally theirs. This is called Ki extension.

All attacks and defences are taught as interactions of Ki. An aggressor's physical attacks and mental intent are part of their Ki. Students learn to lead an attacker's mind, enter and take control of different attacks and throw or subdue an attacker by means of technique that is based on strong Ki extension.

Students learn to extend Ki through the practice of techniques, the practice of Ki tests, breathing methods and meditation techniques. Initially students are asked to use visualisations in various Ki tests and exercises, over time the visualisations become unnecessary and students simply extend Ki.