What Is Positive Ki?
The Art of Blessing, Aikido Style
Disclaimer: These are my own personal views, expressed with my own
terminology. You may or may not agree with what I say or how I say it. By no
means should these be construed to be official Ki Society teachings!
Within even my brief aikido training, I and others keep hearing about the value
of "positive" ki (energy/attention). Supposedly, one should always be
extending "positive" ki, not "negative" ki. For some of us
who started off with the very basic lectures about "Keep One Point"
and "Extend Ki," we were left with the question, "What is this
so-called 'positive' ki and why is it different from any other ki?"
I think I may have just enough insight to offer a small explanation of my
own, thanks to the teaching of several excellent teachers (in aikido and other
fields). You may not believe it, or perhaps you may find exceptions. But, on a
small scale, this is what I and others have observed.
It is possible to send out energy/attention or ki that is not positive --- ki
or energy that is sent with anger or hatred. I do not think that one is relaxed,
centered, or weight-underside at such times. In that sense, I think the phrase
"If you are extending ki, you are automatically centered and relaxed"
is not quite true. People routinely send out energy when they are tense and
hostile. (Maybe the problem lies in my defintion of "ki"? That's quite
possible.) On the other hand, if one is truly relaxed and truly centered,
one can not be simultaneously angry or full of hate --- one is rather calm and
peaceful --- and the energy one is extending at such times is usually
"positive" ki. (Sometimes it is said that one's eyes should be
"soft" and not "hard" when practicing aikido).
When I was in George Simcox's Virginia Ki Society classes, he did an
occasional demonstration of some of the power of "positive" ki. I
think Harry Eto Sensei also did a similar demo at the 1995 Maryland seminar. You
may demonstrate these for yourself if you already know the basics of ki testing.
Note: "ki testing" is nothing more than applying physical pressure
with one's hand to someone (such as pushing gently on the upper back, shoulders,
or near the collarbone), in a test of stability - however, there are many
different ways to apply the force, some much much harder to withstand than
others. It also must NOT be done with an attacking or critical mindset, because
then it is no longer a test but an attack.
As a note, these demonstrations have not been subjected to rigorous scientific
testing. However, it would be interesting to do these tests at some point.
Demonstration of the Power of Positive Ki --- Effects on the Target
You'll need at least two people, preferably 3, for this. Preferably, all should
have some ki training (even if it's just a 5-minute demo of how to do ki-tests).
- Stand one person in front of the other(s). Ki-test this person with
level-one tests, gently pushing on her (with muscle strength, not with ki)
from the front, back, and sides to establish her level of stability.
- Instruct the observer (or class) to look at this person (who is probably
nervously smiling at this point) and to think how truly wonderful she is. A
great person, with a friendly smile, someone good to know, and an excellent
- As the observer(s) are doing this, ki-test the person being observed
again. How does she fare? We've found that such subjects do much better when
tested under the positive gaze of other people.
- (It is possible to do the reverse of this, of looking at the person and
thinking negative thoughts at her. This seems to have the effect of making
the person less stable. However, I don't recommend doing this very often.)
- (This experiment has been done with the person being looked at not knowing
whether the people looking at her were looking at her with positive or
negative thoughts. This was not rigorously controlled, however. In any case,
the results were the same - negativity weakens, positivity strengthens.)
Demonstration of the Power of Positive Ki --- Effects on Thinker
You'll need 2 people for this. This technique could also be done in conjunction
with the one described above. However, in this case, one does not project
negative thoughts at a living person, and hence it's probably much safer.
- Ki-test someone sitting (or standing) comfortably. Use a first-level ki
test (press the person on the front, back, and sides with low-level muscle
strength, not with ki). Use this to get the general stability level of the
- Have the person look at an object (wallpaper or a painted wall work just
- Have the person think of how truly ugly the wallpaper is. Ugh, what icky
colors. Is the corner peeling? Get rid of it. Yuck.
- As the person thinks negatively about the wallpaper, ki-test the person.
(There is no sense in ki-testing the wallpaper).
- Next, have the person think of how great the wallpaper is (you were wrong,
it's not actually that bad). It's actually a restful color. Maybe little
kids grew up with that wallpaper and have fond memories of it. It's actually
a pleasant, very nice wallpaper.
- As the person thinks positively about the wallpaper, ki-test the person.
- (Having done this numerous times and having seen it done in several aikido
dojos, I and others have found that to have a positive mental state and to
be radiating positiveness makes oneself stronger, more relaxed, more
centered, and so on. To be thinking unpleasant things at, say, the
wallpaper, makes one less centered, less relaxed, and less stable.)
Totally wild speculation
These results seem to indicate that to generally radiate positive ki, to think
well of those around you, to be compassionate and to see the good in the people
you meet, will help not only those around you but yourself as well. Of course,
just because you are thinking good thoughts at an incoming train (or any big
powerful attacker) won't mean that you will survive if it runs over you --- but
it may just help you stay calm enough to get away in time. Better yet, it might
help you from getting into trouble to begin with (and that's part of what aikido
is all about!).
The idea of the power of positiveness helping both yourself and others may
be at some level the Wiccan "Three-fold Law" in action, at another
level the Eastern idea of "karma" in action, and at another level the
Christian "Love others" law in action as well. It may have other
effects that we don't see, effects beyond what is detectable by simple ki-tests.
(If you're feeling truly adventurous, you might even try reading some near-death
accounts of people shown how their thoughts affected others).
Some people say the action of looking upon others positively is actually the
act of "blessing." Perhaps it's an indication of an underlying
spiritual truth --- that kindness is really the right way, even in this, our
crazy and messed-up and often painful universe. Whether or not you believe in
the spiritual, you may find that viewing others with respect and positiveness
may lead to improvements within your life. Conversely, you may find that by
trying to throw frustrations or aggressions at others, you are weakening
yourself. Our universe, it seems, allows each person to make this choice.