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HE CONCEPT OF AIKI (harmonized energy), central to both the Daitoryu and

Aikido, is extremely ancient. Clear reference to the techniques of aiki can be found in the eighth-ccntury Kojiki, Japan's earliest chronicle, which includes the tale of Take-mi-kazuchi-no-kami and Take-mi-nakata-no-kami. These two Shinto deities were both known for their tremendous strength, and eventually the inevitable contest between them occurred. When Take-mi-nakata grabbed the wrist of Take-mi-kazuchi, Take-mi-kazuchi's arm turned first into a pillar of ice and then into a sword blade, causing Take-mi-nakata to recoil in awe. Then when Take-mi-kazuchi grabbed his opponent's wrist, he crushed it like a young reed, causing Takemi-nakata to concede defeat and flee in terror. Similarly, masters of aiki know how to turn their arm into an iron staff and their hand into a sword blade; they are also able to apply techniques such as yonka-jd to crush an opponent's wrist.

The concept of ki (life force) is familiar to students of Chinese qigong, who call this same energy ch'i or qi. Every culture has a similar word for the harmonizing principle of universal energy that animates all existence, or the vibrant force that activates life. In ancient Rome, it was aura; in India, it was prana; in Japan prior to World War II, it was reiki or reishi. Shamans and mediums are believed to be particularly sensitive to the flow of ki. In its concentrated form, ki may be perceived as light, which explains why seers and saints like the Buddha or Christ are often depicted with haloes—divine light can actually be seen if one is perceptive enough.

This kind of perceptiveness is not simply a matter of acquiring knowledge of a person by closely observing his actions, listening to his words, and letting his character rub off on you; it is rather an actual and direct sensation of ki. Masters with a true understanding of kican accomplish such seemingly miraculous feats as curing mental and physical illness, exorcising malevolent spirits, communicating telepathically, or, in the realm of martial arts, downing an opponent without even touching him.

In addition, ki has the power to pacify. The chapter in the Kojiki on Emperor


Sujin states, "The divine spirit (shinki) will not arise to your harm and the land will be made tranquil," and in the Nihon Shoki we find, "Attain the divine spirit, and all will bow down before you." The following passage is found in Shin'ihd, an early text on ancient Japanese medicine compiled by Tanba no Yasuyori (912-95):

Within the human body the heavenly elements of fire, ki, earth, and water function together harmoniously. Whatever disrupts that balance is called "sickness." The eight ways and methods to restore that balance are called "medicine." All cures begin with the harmonization of water ki and fire ki.

The importance of ki is stressed again and again in Chinese philosophy. The Pao-P'u-Tzu (known in Japanese as Hobokushi), a seventh-century collection of Taoist texts, states:

Ki is inside and outside every human being, and there is nothing in this heaven or earth of ours that lacks ki.

Ki is the basis of creation and the determining factor of existence. Without ki, there can be no life.

In order to obtain immortality, an adept must treasure the body's essential fluids, foster ki, and partake of elixirs.

According to the Pao-P'u-Tzu, fostering ki is one of the three preconditions for immortality. Fostering ki (which includes breath control techniques) allows an adept to conquer all illness, pacify wild animals, walk on water, and attain great longevity.

The study and practice of ki has always been important in Asian culture. More specifically in Japanese Shinto, many esoteric practices handed down from ancient times are designed to enlighten human beings to the true nature of ki—to the way ki functions throughout the universe and the way its power may be harnessed.

In the very beginning of the Kojiki, the two deities of creation, Takami-musubi (representing the yang principle) and Kami-musubi (representing the yin principle), employed the marvelous power of musubi (creative energy) to bring the world into being. Likewise, the functioning of musubi can be seen in the techniques of aiki, in which one blends one's ki with that of a partner, or attempts to link one's individual ki with the universal ki. In Shinto, ki no musubi is the generative force of all life; in aiki martial arts, it is the origin of myriad techniques. Even without knowledge of the most basic martial art techniques, a person can still evade an opponent's thrusts and grabs from any direction if he or she is enlightened to the principles of blending ki.


The fostering of ki and the harnessing of musubi creative power are not just for Taoist wizards and Shinto sages but are key factors in the training of martial artists. Breathing that is not smooth and controlled has an adverse effect on one's body and mind; conversely, good breath control enhances ordinary strength considerably. Breath control is mandatory for mastery of the martial arts; all serious students do breath control exercises daily. In aiki budd systems such as the Daitoryu, movement of the hands—upward and downward, in and out—always requires and incorporates applied breath control; clear definition and understanding of these principles is essential to the development of ki power.

In a truly spiritual experience, control of ki and musubi allows the practitioner to perceive the real nature of existence and the functioning of the universe; only those with such profound perception are capable of harnessing the power of universal ki By means of their mastery of this spiritual power, Taoist wizards, Tantric masters, and Shinto sages are said to be able to protect human beings from natural disasters, heal the sick, produce pills of immortality, create happiness for all, and pacify the earth.

In Tantrism and Yoga, various mudra (hand signs) and asana {yogic postures) are employed to utilize universal energy. In aiki budd as well, various internal and external techniques are employed to foster the development of ki power. In order to utilize ki, one must understand certain principles and specific forms; when the true principles and their physical manifestations are experienced, movements can be transformed, leading eventually to total integration of body and mind, or self and cosmos. For example, in the aiki-age technique (lifting an opponent off the ground to break his balance), the simple act of forming the chinkon mudra and calming the spirit makes it much easier to perform the technique well. Of course, merely forming the mudra does not ensure full generation of ki power, but it does make it easier to concentrate and direct energy.

At present, practitioners of aiki-related systems often speak of "downing an opponent with aikx or "using aiki to immobilize an opponent," but each system has a slightly different emphasis, reflected in the respective theoretical and technical approaches employed. One common approach in aiki systems is the principle of "using

Chinkon Mudra
Chinkon mudra.

techniques that neutralize an opponent's power." By applying such techniques, aiki practitioners—whether men, women, or children—can overcome the strength of even a much more powerful opponent.

Another approach is based on the principle of "blending your ki with that of your opponent and Unking yourself to the cosmos." Proper execution of such advanced techniques requires a high level of enlightenment but, once mastered, these remarkable techniques enable human beings to disarm their foes and to eliminate aggression, sometimes even on a universal scale. The question of whether or not the principle of cosmic harmony and a desire for world peace are implicit in the Daito-ryu teachings remains a matter for debate, but Morihei Ueshiba, strongly influenced by the spiritual teachings of the Omoto-kyo sect of Shinto, made the quest for world peace a central pillar of Aikido.

In the martial arts, aiki exists simultaneously with kiai. The term kiai is often explained and used in a variety of ways, but it can be broadly taken to mean being inspired to act with ki; every system stresses its importance. (Kiai is both a state of mind and a physical form, manifested as a spirited yell.) It is said that with good kiai a weight lifter can increase the amount he is able to lift by as much as fifteen percent, The renowned kendo master Sasaburo Takano once wrote:

Kiai must be fostered constantly. The fostering of kiai is the fostering of the spirit, Kiai is the harmonization of one ki with another ki> the blending of two spiritual forces. Use ki to strike ki.

Anyone who truly grasps this principle may be able to control an opponent without even touching him, and there have in fact been martial art masters who have displayed this remarkable ability. Their mastery of ki allowed them entry to a higher spiritual realm.

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