What is Ki?

What is Ki?

Liam Venter, Shodan Roban, 2008

I recently observed that I have two questions that underlie my approach to understanding everything I encounter in life.

  1. How does it work?
  2. How can I make it better?
    1. Is fundamentally a scientist’s approach
    2. Is an engineer’s approach

My approach and understanding of Aikido including ‘ki’ has been shaped by these two questions.
I have always looked at demonstrations of ki as demonstrations of bio mechanical forces and motion. Sure, I have used imagery of water running from my finger tips, etc to conjure up the necessary bio mechanical actions and responses but I have never believed in Ki.
So it would seem that my personality profile doesn’t match that of someone who should attempt to understand or even explain ki.
And yet recently I was surprised when someone leaned over to me in the middle of training and said “you know there is really no such thing as ki.” It certainly got me thinking… which was probably the intent.
The reason I was surprised? I have recently grasped an explanation and understanding of Ki that works for me – and also explains one of the two reasons why I do AiKido.
Recently I began asking myself what it is about Aikido that I like so much.
I am inclined to be a pacifist by way of reason and logic (and not necessarily by reaction) and despite being outspoken no one has attacked me yet. So if I have been studying Aikido as a defence for all of these years… then I have wasted a lot of time. So I am not doing it as a defence nor am I doing Aikido for spiritual enlightenment. And no one who knows me has ever suggested I lack confidence.
Over the years I have been attracted to and competed in many sports that all have some things in common: skateboarding, snow boarding, roller blade hockey, mountain biking, road cycling, rallying, sports car and kart racing.
Did you spot the commonalities?
People think I am a speed junkie. But I am a coward and speed just scares me. More enticingly these sports have the common components of balance, timing, rhythm and flow. I am convinced it is these elements rather than speed that have made me an endorphin addict.
I have never been consistently successful in any of these sports.
However in each of these sports I have experienced what I believe could be Ki. There have been brief moments in which I have been able to perform well above what I am or was normally capable of. Moments where everything has come together, time has seemed to slow down and I have seemed to be in complete balance and tune with the moment. Times where every component of what I have been doing reinforces every other component so that the result has greatly exceeded my standard performance and the result has simply seemed to be greater than the sum of the parts.
I am sure that musicians in a band experience the same thing from time to time.
This is the Ki I am looking for.
As yet the glimpses of this in Aikido have been just that, tantalisingly seen fleetingly, but enough….