Many Aikidoists think of ki as the universal spirit present in all things. This seemingly exotic concept has much in common with the ancient Hebrew ruach, meaning "smoke," "wind," or "spirit" and with the ancient Greek pneuma meaning "air," "breath," or "spirit."1
The Greek word is familiar in modern English pertaining to air or other gases, or their mechanical properties. But the older, deeper meaning is the animating breath of life — the spirit. In the original Greek of the New Testament of the Bible, the word appearing in English as "spirit" or "soul" is actually one of two Greek words — psyche (also meaning "life" and equivalent to the Latin anima) or pneuma. And our English spirit is from the Latin spiritus, literally meaning "breath" (as in respiration, "breath-ing").
The wind [pneuma] blows wherever it pleases. You may hear its sound, hut you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone horn of the Spirit [pneumatos].
"Harmonious ki" or aiki may also be thought of as "that which is right." Sometimes it is "aiki" (right) to fall or fail, or to cause an opponent to fall or fail, but "not aiki" to add punishment to action. This moves you from the negative trap of revenge thinking, the neutral of retribution, to the positive of control or constraint for the sake of all concerned, to accord with what is right
This accord and harmony, softness and relaxation is not weakness.
Care and concern for the attacker is not mere sentimentality, nor does it lessen effectiveness.
1 "If we may trust to language," noted Freud (Moses and Monotheism, 1938) "it was the movement of the air that provided the image of spirituality, since the spirit borrows its name from the breath of wind (animus, spiritus, Hebrew, ruach, smoke)." Hence the "cloths hung in groves" (referred to in the Old Testament of the Bible) were essentially serving as "spirit" detectors.
Dave Butts was a devastating All-Pro defensive tackle for the Washington Redskins football team. His job was to knock down the opposing quarterback, and he did it very well. But watching Butts and his quarry go down, you would often see him slip an arm under his opponent's helmet to cushion the fall; or roll so that his body (300-some pounds) would not come down on top of the other player. Contrast this approach with that of players who delight in body slamming their opponents.
Nonaka Sensei of Hawaii presents a practical reason for not bashing the opponent: "He will not be happy." None of us can afford to fill the world with people who feel they have something to avenge.
Aikido offers an unusual combination of care and effectiveness. Wise kindness. Tough love.
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