Category Archives: Seeing Ki

…Ki-kata and Tanren-ho…

In aiki keiko,  the most important things are practising ki-gata, and doing tanren-ho.   And Ki-gata absolutely have to be practised  [in a spirit of] shinken-shobu.  Because  in budo,  of course,  there has never been any such thing as a “sporting” contest.   Any  contest that does occur  is a  life and death struggle.   And yet,  seeking a contest for no reason  is  a terrible, terrible mistake.  Truly:  destroying life, shedding blood,  that is the biggest mistake a human-being can make.

– – – O’Sensei,  probably audio-recorded by by Masatake Fujita, transcribed by Sadateru Arikawa Shihan,  published in Aiki-Shinzui, p.161

…ki-gata: movement and shape of ki-flow…

O’Sensei said that the two most important things for practising aiki are: “ki kata” and “tanren-ho“. We think we know what tanren-ho is: at its simplest it’s the repeated striking at a bundle of wood with a bokken, just as in those iconic pictures of O’Sensei and Saito Shihan in the fields at Iwama. But “ki kata“? Does that mean “kokyu-waza” (“aiki-waza” ) ? Or is it possible that O’Sensei is thinking of kata not as physical forms… but as ki-flow? The shape and movement of ki-flow? That, in fact, O’Sensei saw kata primarily as ki-flow – and maybe he wasn’t watching physical form at all?

One thinks of Zeami’s remark that the highest form of singing in Noh theatre is the “singing of no singing” – where the performer is so focused on what they are doing to the audience – on the emotion that they are creating – that they are not consciously aware of the sound of their own voice.

The more one translates O’Sensei’s words and thought, the more it becomes obvious that, for him, what happens in the mind is primary..

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…”you don’t need to be looking at the world of ‘things’ “…

Aikido doesn’t work if you’re looking at your hands – or at aite’s hands.  You don’t need to be looking at aite. You don’t need to be looking at appearances at all:  you don’t need to be looking at [the world of] ‘things’.  This is because aikido is  hireburi of the spirit,  and if you train in this Way,  our patron O-KAMISAMA:


will [come and] enter into all of your aikido.

– – – O’Sensei, probably audio-recorded by by Masatake Fujita, transcribed by Sadateru Arikawa Shihan,  published in Aiki-Shinzui,  p.27

…in the dojo (16) – blindfold…


…early in the 1961 Japan TV documentary,   Aikido 1),    O’Sensei is seen lecturing in front of this exposition of TRIANGLE, CIRCLE, SQUARE…


[and see also the recent translation by the indispensable Stanley Pranin Sensei of an article on ‘Triangle, Circle, Square’ by Sakura Mai]


  • [TRIANGLE <PLUM>]  In the 3,000 worlds all at once the  [plum-]tree-blossom – the ki-energy – of aiki is opening…  in that light and in those miraculous sounds that are being produced, take control!
  • [CIRCLE <BAMBOO>]   Izu and mizu manifesting as a cross, as intersecting vertical and horizontal, as tate-yoko…  this is aiki…  now, on the golden bridge,  act as if you are fulfilling the destinies of Mount Fuji and of the whirlpools of Naruto!
  • [SQUARE / SHIKAKU <PINE>]  With the tate-yoko cross of aiki manifesting as [kotodama]  voices, as  light and as shadow…  in the light be aware of something like charcoal (sumi) 2)  and something like spirit…
1)  reissued on the Aikido Journal DVD,   Founder of Aikido
2)  Sasaki Masando Shihan used to refer to a verse by Ikkyu which describes kokoro as a sumi-e drawing of something intangible and ungraspable. There is a specialist meaning of kokoro, outlined  inter al  in eighteenth century versions of the Kujiki-den. In this schema, kokoro is the very first, subtle impulse of intent (the thing that O’Sensei was famously able to tune in to), this impulse becomes ri, the mind at work, which becomes ki just before it manifests in the “real” world as actual utterance or action.

O’Sensei no kuden: Triangle, Circle, Square

The secret of the Aikido of Sumikiri is in the spherical rotation of the triangle, circle and square – unified by the Ki-flow.

– – – recorded by André Nocquet Shihan,  reported by J.-D Cauhépé and A. Kuang,  Shobu aïki. La victoire selon l’art chevaleresque de Morihei Ueshiba,  p. 106

…Michio Hikitsuchi Shihan: seeing your partner’s ki…

In training,  O’Sensei would teach you to look at your partner’s ki.   Seeing your partner’s ki is to perceive your partner in his totality.  Seeing in this way allows you to absorb your partner’s spirit at the same time as his body – from the head down to the feet.  This is [all] hard.  [For instance]: you cannot wait for your partner’s attack – you have to acquire the ability to perceive instantaneously your partner’s suki,  and his [very first] intention to attack…

– – – Michio Hikitsuchi Shihan,   retrieved from Page française sur Hikitsuchi Michio Sensei 10e Dan,  retrieved December 12th, 2014

…in the dojo(21)…

Gozo Shioda Shihan on “seeing the flow of power”…

…I would like to give a more detailed explanation here about being able to see the flow of power.

During the intensive training classes and black belt classes at the dojo, when we’re working on techniques together, some of you have probably seen how I just slightly change the direction of the power and make a technique that wasn’t working work. What’s happening here is that I can see the flow of power. This is not some sensation or intuition that I have; I can actually see it quite clearly.

The first point that I notice is the expression in the opponent’s eyes. Then, I determine what kind of stance he has and where his center of gravity is placed. You can’t look long and hard at all this, though, you have to take it all in at a glance.

If you can’t achieve this, you won’t be able to fully execute things like nikajo.

Gozo Shioda Shihan, Aiki Shugyou  pp.104-105

So your partner, as an aura… (Rei no aite…)

So your partner,  [seen] as an aura,  comes in with a straight punch. You should catch it with a light that is impregnated with the light of  “I am coming in with a straight punch.”  This is to say, precisely, that you should change your own  energy-state to be like the light of “I am coming in with a straight punch.”  Making this light a floating bridge, you should turn in its  direction and go in that direction yourself.  Now…  you have this experience every day:  with the ki of the sun and of the moon, with the  kokyu of the sky and the kokyu of the earth, and with the ebb and flow of the tides: these are four jewels to which you absolutely have to be sensitized – and then [instinctively] you will know how to do this.

– – – O’Sensei,  probably audio-recorded by by Masatake Fujita, transcribed by Sadateru Arikawa Shihan,  published in Aiki-Shinzui,  p.14