One of the questions that gets discussed probably more than any other in Aikido. The Various styles of Aikido (Akikai, Iwama, Ki, Yoshinkai, Tomiki etc etc) all have there own slants on the nature of this mysterious, omniprescence force, and this is one discussion that, by it’s very nature, will remain endless, rather like Ki itself :0)
Here is a fascinating take on the subject from the Houston Aikido Website.
What is meant by Ki?
Ki is an old japanese word which does not translate easily into english. It is used in many common Japanese idiomatic phrases where it conveys a meaning of spirit, energy, power, or air (gaseous).
There is an old connection between spirit and breath (air) related to the Chinese word Chi (or Qi) and to the Hindu word Prana. This older meaning of Ki as being a term for the life force (breath) and natural power within us and within all things is how we use the term here.
Tohei Sensei speaks about connecting to the Ki of the universe. This means to let go of the conflict we perceive in the relative world around us and in us and becoming aware of the infinite stillness of the absolute world where there is no other. With a calmer open mind, we begin to truly relax allowing the Ki of the Universe to flow through us. We are extending Ki.
Extending Ki is a natural state that we knew intuitively as babies, but as we have grown up in the hectic modern society of today we have forgotten how to let the Ki of the Universe flow through us. Thus, people tend to assume that Ki is a supernatural energy because reconnecting to the absolute allows one to do things one assumed not possible, and this sometimes leads people to lose perspective and focus on what amount to fancy tricks that are supposed to demonstrate some mystical invulnerability.
The Ki society approach to Ki development simply teaches a person how to develop his inner vitality or energy and to reconnect to the Universal Ki. The heart of one’s study is really about relationships. In finding one’s own inner space of calm in a frenzied, stressful world, one can then be capable of connecting to others in a compassionate, authentic way that enriches life and nourishes the spirit.
Ki development teaches you how to truly relax. From relaxation comes the ability to sleep better and lead a healthier, happier life. Of course, it is always up to the student to take advantage of those teachings and apply them in their daily life.
Koichi Tohei’s Shin Shin Toitsu Do (The Way of Mind and Body Coordination) can be done without the self defense arts of Aikido. Therefore, your age or condition is of little importance. Of course, practicing this way of mind and body unification would push your aikido technique towards a very high level of skill.
Koichi Tohei Sensei’s Four Basic Ki Principles
Keep One Point. – Calm and focus the mind at the One Point in the lower abdomen
Relax Completely – Completely release all stress from the body
Keep Weight Underside – Let the weight of every part of the body settle at its lowest point
Extend Ki – Keep a positive, open mind all the time.
Note: if you are doing one properly, you are doing them all!