A Few More Thoughts

In the morning, I have clarity. What I could have written about last night was not all the things Hanshi said that I could not remember, but rather, the moment that I sparred with one of the new white belt students. I began the movements without a second thought to her perspective, but then sometime during our work together it occurred to me 1) that I have gained confidence in working with others, and 2) that she might have been feeling as nervous and unsure as I was in my first attempts at sparring. Thus, I softened my voice, eased my touch, and tried to smile.


I’ve been reading more of Kenjo Tokitsu’s Ki and the Way of the Martial Arts, which is a bit philosophical for my current needs but the cumulative effect is helpful. Where we last left off, it was determined that ki is the sort of overseeing sensation or intuited feeling that infiltrates budo when it is budo at its best. Budo at its best is practice for mind, body, and spirit and the three are woven together like a braid; it is when the physical work to be done works in directly relationship with the spiritual work to be done; it is when becoming a better karateka means becoming a better person.

But there is still more that can be said about ki and its place in Japanses culture. Primarily, Western practitioners must remember this: “Through the sensation if ki, the Japanese seem to have grasped the sense of natural phenomena without trying to explain them,” (23). This means that even the word ki has come to be used for vague sensations and experiences or notions that are difficult to express. In the Western world, there is no direct translation for this word.

Techniques for recognizing and/or enhancing ki have long been practiced in Japan and they are religious in origin but they also have therapeutic uses. Since ki is a sensation felt in the body and not easily expressed in words, understanding it requires attentiveness and honesty. Ultimately, one’s own sense of being can dissolve into its surroundings through the sensation or embodiment of ki. Beginning always with the sensations inside oneself, this is moved outward to external phenomena and then to the entire universe. Furen shuten is when the body becomes permeable to ki in the most profound ways. In Chinese, ki is known as qi (pronounce “chi”), which is more commonly talked about in the West nowadays.

Because it is so difficult to talk about or describe, there lies an inherent and eternal difficulty in cultivating this aspect of the martial arts into the Western mindset. Tokitsu reminds us: “However, we are not at all suggesting trying to regain the state of a primitive human being. We are talking about an effort to recover or re-establish the qualities, the sensitivities, or the faculties that we have lost in the course of the development of our civilization,” (30).

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