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Ki Principles

Koichi Tohei Sensei’s Four Basic Ki Principles

1. Keep One Point
2. Relax Completely
3. Keep Weight Underside
4. Extend Ki

Note: Doing one properly, means you are doing them all!

Keep One Point

The One Point is not a physical space in the typical sense of the word, but rather a point within the body upon which the calm mind may focus. It is really a state of mind. People often talk about the One Point being 2-4 inches below the navel. Such attempts at objectively describing a state of mind miss the point (no pun intended).

By camly focusing the mind on the lower abdomen, one becomes centered in the truest sense of the word. Physical movements, such as walking, are much more coordinated, while at the same time being very powerful. One may think of the One Point as the center of the universe. Since the universe is infinite, there is no single “center”, but rather infinite centers. Thus, each person’s One Point is the center of his or her universe.

This universal mind/body centering creates a very powerful and calm feeling, which is very conducive to performing aikido. There are several tests which may be used to demonstrate whether a student has developed the ability to keep One Point, such as standing in hanmi (normal aikido stance) and being pushed gently by a partner on the upper chest, shoulder and small of the back. If One Point is being maintained, it will be relatively difficult to move the person being tested. The position is maintained by simply holding your place, not by resisting through pushing back.

Relax Completely

This is probably the most misunderstood of the four principles of mind and body unification. Complete relaxation in the sense in which it is applied in aikido is not the relaxation of a 3 lump of jello, that of the “dead” relaxation or being limp. It is instead the sense of a body full of energy without tension.

Complete relaxation goes beyond simple muscular relaxation into mind/body relaxation. A calm mind naturally produces a calm body. Removing stress from the body greatly enhances freedom of movement, which is so necessary in aikido.

Keep Weight Underside

With all objects, weight naturally falls in the direction it is pulled by gravity, namely down. In human beings, however, it is possible to influence the manner in which the body “carries” its weight.

The human body is not solid in the strict sense of the term, but is instead fluid. As water moves within a glass, so may parts of the body “float” in relationship to one another. If one concentrates on the weight of the body being underside, or in the lower portion of the body, one finds that the body is very stable.

If one concentrates on the upper body, for example the top of the head, the body becomes weight upperside and, as a result, unstable. When moving in aikido, it is important to keep your weight underside. This happens naturally if you are calm in mind and body, whereas tension automatically makes the body weight upperside.

Extend Ki

In aikido, extending ki means extending energy. However, it does not mean to simply push with physical force. Rather it is a state of mind used to align the body to permit movement in a unified and calmly concentrated fashion.

The classic illustration of ki extension is the Unbendable Arm test. The arm is extended in neither a rigid nor limp manner, but with a feeling of lively energy coursing through the arm from the One Point and extending out to infinity through the finger tips. This mental image produces an arm which is soft and pliable to the touch, but which is very difficult to bend.

This feeling of dynamic energy extension is used in all aikido techniques. Without it, throws quickly become exercises in muscular tension, largely dependent on mere mechanical advantage and bulk.

Following all the Four Principles of Mind and Body Unification

The good news is that it is easy to follow the four principles. If you follow one principle, the others are taken care of automatically. For example, if you keep one point, you are naturally relaxed, weight underside, and extending ki.

The bad news is that if you break one of the principles, the others are lost as well, for the moment at least. For example, if your are tense, you will naturally become weight upperside. All is not lost, however, for you can regain your composure in a moment, regaining all four principles in the process.

How To Learn & Practice the Four Principles

  • Open your mind. You must empty your cup to accept more tea.
  • Find a good school. Visit the school and ask to observe a class. Most dojos will let you attend an introductory class for free.
  • Attend regularly. Change takes time and patience.
  • Keep training in its proper perspective. Remember, the expert was once a beginner too.

Koichi Tohei’s Four Ki Principles are under copyright by KNK, all rights reserved.