A perplexing question and uniquely a question asked in the West. We are brought up in a culture of deductive reasoning and rather than have something just 'be' we want to know the who, what and why? The trouble is we learn about Ki through Eastern practice often traditionally and these kinds of questions are unusual. So here we are asking a question of a culture/ pedagogy that is unfamiliar with being asked these questions.
Within the framework of aikido ki is popularly talked about and even practiced through Ki development exercises, so what to do - withhold disbelief and suspend our western minds while we learn - or can we find out a little more on the way.
Experienced practitioners of the martial arts including Aikido can demonstrate impressive feats of coordination and skill. Often their skills are shrouded in mysticism and eastern spirituality and these feats are sometimes attributed to the development of Ki or Chi energy. In particular the 'internal arts', which are those that use primarily soft blending movements, focus on the development of Ki and Chi. This paper focuses on these internal aspects as applied to the physical test or feat called "unraisable body" and its development in the art of aikido, but is somewhat generalisable to other martial arts. Some historical background to the concept of Ki is presented as well as suggesting why it is used as a teaching paradigm. Unraisable body, a teaching curriculum example of Ki development is presented and an equivalent physical paradigm is suggested. The test is performed under laboratory conditions with a tri axial force plate to validate the physical paradigm.
The concept of Ki is a Japanese concept (Chi originates in China). and is more easily interpreted in the context of the roots of Japanese society. However to a westerner Ki is sometimes something of a struggle to grasp conceptually (though it appears that many Japanese find this difficult as well), this is compounded by having not usually internalised many of the precepts of Japanese society. Ideally then one would study all facets of Japanese society including some of the various religions and philosophies (such as Shinto, Zen etc.) to fully interpret Ki in its cultural context, unfortunately though this is a serious undertaking and would require a significant investment in time. The translation can, however be assisted if we look at some words that include the Ki character as it appears in the calligraphy for aikido. There are a number of different characters that represent Ki, alluding to it having a wider use within the Japanese society . While there are many Japanese words that include this character for Ki which have deeply philosophical meanings there are also many that have purely physical meaning. Some examples that have a more physical meaning (together with their accompanying English translation) include denki (electricity), sekiyu (petrol/gasoline) and kiryoku (force). While this method of translation is at best a superficial one it demonstrates the generalised use of Ki in Japanese language and society. This is perhaps in line with Tohei 's teachings of Ki pervading all things. Perhaps using the physical sciences to examine Ki we need to be mindful of the development of science in eastern culture.
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