What is Ki-Aikido?
By Jan Baars, instructor Ki-Aikido Haarlem, Netherlands
To understand what Aikido is it is helpful to explain the three components of the Japanese term ‘Aikido’. These three parts are indeed – as the word ‘component’ suggests – part of a whole so they must be seen in their interconnectedness. The first term is ‘Ai’ which means ‘harmony’; the third term ‘Do’ means ’way’; especially a way to develop your skills or a way of living. The second term ‘Ki’ can have many meanings. The ideogram (気) that is used in the name Aikido is highly symbolic. It shows the combined forces of earth, fire, water and air: steam coming out of a boiling pot of rice.
What Aikido might mean cannot, however, be found in a dictionary. Symbols and images need interpretation; an inspiring tradition cannot be copied but must be re-interpreted and adapted from our present situations and integrated in a way of living. In Ki-Aikido we give more attention to the development of Ki than in other forms of Aikido. Students take not only exams in executing aikido techniques but also in how to develop their Ki. Generally Ki refers to life-energy. But not in the quantitative or comparative sense in which somebody can be said to have more energy than somebody else. Ki is more like the energy of life that we see in a baby who begins spontaneously to breathe and suckle, or in buds that are bursting open in spring. However, Ki is not a blind natural force but has something to do with giving life’s energy a human form.
In Ki aikido we practice the development of Ki for instance with breathing techniques that develop inner strength and health. It is a way of inspiration and self-confidence in awareness that we need to protect ourselves from danger and avoidable harm. Learning to move in such a way that the strength of your whole body becomes integrated; not tight or tense but in such a way that you can feel the beauty and openness of the movement. What Aikido might mean must be explored while practicing, not only in the dojo but especially in daily life. It has more than one meaning depending on what aspect of life we may be thinking about: health, leadership in work, movement, conflicts or tensions.