My interest in aikido started only after I read the book "Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere". I was mesmerized by the sketches of the author, illustrating the Nage (defender) defending himself by blending gracefully with the Uke (attacker) or several attackers. There started my journey into the world of this fascinating martial art. At that time, I was still studying at the university and it so happened that Aikido was also taught at the school gymnasium. I enrolled together with 2 of my university friends. My first experience with Aikido was a disappointing one. I expected to see the flowing and graceful movement of the art but instead, I felt physical brute strength of a senior aikido student applying Kokyu-Nage on me. I could still remember myself having bruised neck after being pressed hard a few times by the senior student. Not surprising I stopped practicing after a few sessions.
By chance, I came across a book by Koichi Tohei Sensei on "What is Aikido?" and was impressed by what he said, "the mind leads the body". I was fascinated by the concepts of "Ki" and "Mind" and it's effects on the art. Fortunately, there was a Ki-Aikido dojo in Singapore and I enrolled for the beginner class together with another 25 students. I must admit that the understanding of Ki took a long time for me to grasp and even right now, I am still learning new things, especially on "the mind leads the body" by respecting the Ki flow of the Uke. I progressed from white belt to 5th kyu and then on to 4th kyu. During this period of time, I began to dwell more on the technical aspects of the art as I find the "Ki element" harder to understand and it can be frustrating at times in trying to move the Uke.
In the process, I also learnt about the 4 principles of Mind and Body Co-ordination and the 5 principles of Ki-Aikido. Learning the 4 Principles involve a great deal of experimentation both in the classes as well as in daily lives. It is always very interesting when done outside the art of Aikido. However, applying the Ki principles in Aikido was quite frustrating for me as it was always easier to be "technically" proficient in the art by being "physical" instead of understanding and using Ki in Aikido. Of course my instructor, Sensei Francis Chong, always pointed out to me that I am "too technical" and at that time, I couldn't really comprehend what he was saying.
The first turning point came when I completed my 2nd kyu. I was beginning to grasp bits and pieces on what Sensei was lecturing regarding "the mind leading the body". Still, I felt that I was navigating my way down from a long and winding river and still see no sign of the ocean. Of course, I was a lot more proficient than before in my art but felt something was still missing in my art. It could be my little understanding of Ki or even lack of it in my Aikido arts.
The next turning point came when I begun to teach Aikido to the junior members. I begun to understand what Sensei meant when he said, "you will only grow when you give". I found that by teaching, I was able to understand my own arts better and indirectly, it improves my Ki understanding as well. By sharing my little understanding of Ki and Aikido knowledge, I was pleasantly surprised that I begun to improve tremendously in my own arts. It is so true that only when you share freely, you will receive abundantly. On the contrary, when you are calculative in your sharing, you will never grow in the way it would have grown if you were to give freely.
The third turning point came when I was preparing for my Shodan grading. In one of the training, Sensei was lecturing on "how do you actually lead the opponent's mind?" He paused for a while, smiling away, waiting for our answers. Of course, no one gave the correct answer. He said, "It is in our eyes* [ *CI's Comments - 310801 ], the Nage's eyes. Your eyes are windows not only to your soul but your mind." I felt, at that moment, as if a great revelation has been revealed unto me. Suddenly, it all make sense, everything seem to come together. The 5 principles of Ki-Aikido, which I learnt when I was a white belt, made perfect sense there and then. I was in awe of the simplicity of the Principles yet it is so profound and deep in understanding. To lead the Uke, the Nage's eyes must be used to project Ki extension from the mind. If we were to project our mind to infinity, it will act like a laser beam and aligned ourselves with the intentions of the Uke. In this manner, we are able to move the Uke effortlessly. This sounds easy but it is a journey one must take and explore earnestly in order to grasp the essence.
I am a Shodan now and I must admit it is a good feeling to wear the hakama finally. Yet, I felt like a beginner again. I seem to have navigated through the long and winding river and reached the edge of the ocean. Beyond me lies the vast wonder and infinite ocean and suddenly I felt very "small" and "insignificant". I know that this journey will never end due to the infinite knowledge of Ki. I know it sounds strange, as normally, someone will associate achieving Shodan as something very important and probably an increase in status. It is important in my Aikido journey but yet merely a drop in the ocean in the knowledge of Ki and its application on "the mind leading the body". I feel that I have only just begun my journey and hopefully, this journey will help to polish not only my arts but my soul as well.
Dated 15th Aug'01 - Kevin Ho, Shodan
'EYES' - Let's elaborate on the function of the 'eyes'. ∞
The eyes, mind, body and Ki actually form an interesting interactive structure.
1) For a start, the eye acts as aperture of the mind. Do not, however, underestimate its relevance. Further study will reveal it's subtle but crucial functions. It acts as double-sided mirror to reflect not only the mind but also everything around.
2) The abstract mind uses the eyes as a telescopic amplifier to exhibit its power. This power is enhanced by the mind. A mind of irrevocable conviction produces tremendous possibilities for achievements. The outlet of this determination is displayed in the eyes of a person. A person of irrevocable propriety displays a gentle face with eyes that shines with warmth kindness. [This was the unforgettable impression of my master, Sensei Koichi Tohei when we first met at his Shinjuku office in October, 1984]
3) The body is led by the mind. When the mind and body is unified, they coordinate as a complete entity. This enables the body to be fully dictated by the mind. Let's go further from here.
4) Ki serves as the energy to provide the body with the power it needs to excel.
Where do the eyes play in this entire correlation?
Actually, having said all that needs to be clarified, it is obvious to the adept already.
The mind leads the body, which in turn, is empowered by the Ki.
This overall coordination is facilitated through the eyes. That's all!
Having realized this oneness within, simply blend with the opponent (4th principle).
What remains is to perform with confidence (5th principle).
These conclude the finishing touches to Ki-Aikido.
[This is best illustrated and guided personally by the Ki-Aikido instructor]
A well-written personal experience by Kevin who has done well in grasping this important aspect of Ki.
Yes, it is only a start. Just persevere and you will find true joy in your practice of Ki and Ki-Aikido too. All the best!
Dated 31st Aug'01 - CI's comments