Aikido and the Use of Ki

Recently there has been a lot of discussion regarding whether or not Ki, Chi, or inner energy is real, and if so, is it some kind of magical “stuff”. I believe Ki is more about being centered and connected rather than some “mystical powers”. In Aikido, we have some techniques to help us become more centered and more aware of our bodies and movements. I think by sharing a couple exercises that I use in my classes, it may help others with their training, be it Aikido, or any other art.

The first exercise to help with the use of Ki, or centeredness is first learning where your center point is. Your center point, or Hara, is about an inch below your navel. To center yourself, put your attention on your center point. It may help to place your hand on this point, while calmly breathing deeply into your abdomen; you should feel your hand on the Hara move with your breath. For the purpose of focus, let’s breathe in through the nose, and out through the mouth.

Now, many may think, “How does this help?” Well I got this next exercise from George Leonard, a renowned Aikidoka, and author of “The way of Aikido”. This exercise takes two people. First, your friend stands about 10 to 15 feet away from you with their arm outstretched to the side at about chest level, holding it there with moderate force. Now, you are going to try to make it to a point just beyond your friends arm. We are going to try this 3 times, using 3 different methods. It is important that the friend does their best to use the same amount of resistance each time.

First method: Put your attention on the back of your head, think to yourself that you just got out of bed and are tired and want to do nothing but crawl back into bed. Now, feeling sluggish, walk toward your partner’s outstretched arm, trying to pass through the arm. Note what happened, how it felt, if you were able to pass, etc. Many first time participants either cannot pass, or if they do, find it hard to push through.

Now, the second time, we are going to put our attention on the front of our head. Think to yourself that you are determined to break through that point no matter what. Feeling powerful and

determined, walk toward your partner’s arm, again trying to pass through it. Once again note what happened, how it felt, if you were able to pass, and if so, how did that feel. Using this technique, most people find they will pass through, but most say it feels choppy.

Now, the third time, we are going to put our attention on our center point, about an inch below our navel. You may want to put your hand over this point to help keep your attention there. Now try not to think about your partner’s arm so much, but more, about walking to the point just beyond your partner’s arm. Now relax, keeping your attention on your center, walk toward your partner’s arm, again passing through it. Note again how this felt, what happened, and whether you could pass though. Most times people find it almost effortless to walk through the outstretched arm.

By using this centering technique, one can start to use this way of thinking in all aspects of their training, helping to make their techniques flow more, have more power, speed, etc. Try using this technique with self-defense, sparring, kata, or any other area of training.
Another technique I like to use in Aikido, with regard to self-defense training is inviting our attacker in. By keeping this line of thinking, and welcoming our attacker, we can stay calm and centered, focused on our Hara, but attentive, while our attacker is aggressive and off balance. Once they attack we can move in to block or grab, and by staying calm, we can see a multitude of options, including countering, joint locks, even letting them go, but the main lesson is, we have made the choice.

Thus, by using Ki, or centeredness, we have potentially changed an aggressive situation into a more controlled one. For this application of Ki, try not to think of your partner as someone attacking, but rather someone who you have invited to your “home” to help you become a better martial artist. With this in mind, both you and your partner will want the best attacks either of you can deliver. You don’t want sloppy attacks; you want to be the best that you can be. You are being invited to help your partner as well, afford them the same opportunity
Just as with your regular training,

Ki is what you make of it. It does not need to be an out of reach mystical action, but can be a simple, effective tool, which can be used not only in training, but in all aspects of our lives, on and off the mats. Ki can be developed, trained, and improved. How far you take it, and what you do with it, as always, is your choice.

Aikido and the Use of Ki by Tim Johnson

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