Ki, 気 – Slightly different, yet the same

Ki, Chi, Qi The concept of a life force found in most of the ancient cultures of the world. In India, it is called prana, in China, chi, in Japan, ki in the west it's called spirit - Kingston Aikido

Ki? I have an idea, mostly through osmosis, so before I wrote down my notions, I thought it best to do some research, see how close or far my ideas were to the accepted knowledge that is out there.

First up, I used an online automated translator, not the most ethereal of places to start, I know, but hey why not. I selected Japanese to English and eagerly typed in the word Ki, hoping that all my base questions would be answered.

The results of the translation, after double-checking I was looking at the right symbol were: Spirit, mind, heart, nature, disposition, motivation, intention, mood, feelings, ambience, atmosphere, air… this list goes on and on.

So what is Ki? Further digging was needed.

The word Ki seems to have originated from the Chinese word Chi (or Qi), the Japanese still using the Chinese character 気 (kanji), pronounced Chi, which describes the circulating life force, whose existence and properties are essential for life.

The Japanese use and meanings of Ki are slightly different, yet the same. In Chinese, Chi describe the ‘life force that animates everything’ the western equivalent being words such as ‘Spirit, vitalism and perhaps energeia’. In the case of Ki, the Japanese interweave the word into their everyday language, making it more ambiguous.

What is Ki, Ch, Qi and what is Spirt

If I were to ask 10 people to give me their personal definition of ‘Spirit’, I’m sure I’d get 10 different answers, ranging from religious notions to sporting attitudes.

But most would agree, that as a concept, one’s ‘Spirit’ animates, provides intent and drives one to live; and the same seems to apply when using the word Ki, although the boundaries are broader.

Ki can be found in hundreds of Japanese words from teriyaki (cooking technique) to Buki (weapon) to tenki (weather), each having its own nuance.

The use of Ki to describe motivation (Dōki), emotions, thoughts, ideas and feelings, makes it part of the rich tapestry of daily life in Japan.

“Please don’t take my mind off the work.”
わたしの き を しごと 仕事からそらさないでください。

“Can you imagine what our life would be like without electricity?”
もし でんき 電がないと、わたし 私たちの 暮らしがどのような ものになるか そ うぞう 想像できますか。

After a while you slowly get the impression, that the term Ki is used to support and describe many concepts such as change, changing states, thoughts, a flow/transfer of energy, which can be in the form of physical, mental, emotional or metaphysical.

So what does Ki mean to me, how do I translate and personalise this word, symbol, metaphor in relation to self-development and Aikido?

With my western bent on the concept, Ki can perhaps be described as, the unseen life force, yet to be empirically measured, that is NOT everywhere or penetrates everything, but instead is the ‘stuff of everything’, that we can inexplicably sense, direct and sometimes channel, so as to amplify and extend our Will. As with all aspects of human nature, our lives and life energy can be used to heal, fix, focus, repair, bring together or break, dissolve, confuse, destroy and tear apart.

Tree of life - kingston Aikido

This concept of a life force seems to be found in all cultures around the world. Native Americans call it the Great Spirit, in India it’s called Prana, the Hawaiian Aloha is translates to ‘alo’ meaning to go with, to share or to follow and ‘ha’ the breath of life, in the Jewish ancient mystical tradition of Kabbalah it’s called Ruach, the middle soul, the ‘spirit’; and so it goes on… all giving a name to the central theme of Life Energy.

According to many, this energy can be development to enhance mental and physical vibrance. This concept also extends beyond the physical body, to include emotions, consciousness and spiritual development, so as to enter higher states of being; this higher state running at the core of all secular and non-secular spiritual evolution.

Ki, can possibly be retrospectively acknowledge after a natural reflexive action has occurred the falls outside your normal experience. With training; some believe it can be directed, by-passing all intellectual and conscious inhibitions to enhance your physical, mental and metaphysical abilities.

Some healers will tell you, that a prolonged misalignment with this stream of energy, through your own actions and choices, will induce some level of suffering.

Within the realms of Aikido and the safety of the dojo, I believe the concept of Ki can be farrowed, researched and perhaps with good intent, focus and a pinch of luck, be cultivated.

By this I don’t mean a sour faced in-flexible approach, but rather the honest and mutual execution of self-development and growth through the experiential art of Aikido. Learning how to feel, move, join and blend physically and mentally without restrictions. The road is definitely long.

Perhaps that’s what Ki is; life energy, which is us, within us and everywhere, that we can align with and focus our intent through, to manifest a very palpable physical and emotional change.

What do you think?

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7 thoughts on “Ki, 気 – Slightly different, yet the same”

  1. I wanted to thank you for the very useful info for those who are seriously interested in this particular subject.

    Tom and I will certainly keep an eyes out for your next post

  2. An interesting and informative post ..I expect Aikido folks will be discussing this topic over a post-training pint for another 200 years a least!

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