Five Principles of Ki Testing

Onegaishimasu.  Hello everyone.  Thank you for joining us.  

This is a discussion of the Five Principles of Ki Testing: 

  1.  The Ki test is to check state of mind, not state of body.
  2.  Test others based on their level of development.
  3.  Test others to support them, not to make them fail.
  4.  Understand Ki Principles through testing others.
  5.  Do not teach how to pass the test but teach the meaning of the test.

Ki Testing is Koichi Tohei Sensei’s original and essential teaching, and is used to help us determine our current state of mind. Ki Society students have long studied the fundamental principles guiding the giving and taking of a Ki Test. And yet we continue to spend a major portion of every seminar, whether it’s in Japan, Hawaii, or Europe, on this very subject.  This must be a very important part of our practice.

There are many significant and compelling aspects of Ki Society training. We have techniques, Ki Exercises, Kiatsu, Ki Breathing and Meditation, and training with Bokken and Jo. It seems like we never have enough time to cover all these facets of our practice.  So why do we dedicate so much of our practice time to this one thing, Ki Testing?  

The reason why we emphasize Ki Testing so much is because it’s the nearest thing to a true-to-life situation that we practice in the dojo. Ki Testing provides us the best opportunity to understand the principles of how to respond to what life is bringing to us in each moment. 

Sometimes good things happen, and we tend to want them to happen more often. Maybe we even seek them out instead of waiting for them to come. Sometimes not such good things happen, and we want them to happen less often. Maybe we even flee from them and try to avoid them, instead of meeting them as they arise. In every case, good or bad, a Ki Test is involved for each of us. 

“A Ki test is to check state of mind, not state of body.” This is perhaps the most often misunderstood of these five principles.  Since we largely are using the state of the examinee’s body to indicate their state of mind, it might seem that it is the body we are testing. This thinking leads us to imagine that a Ki Test is performed by pushing on the body of the examinee in some way. In this scenario, if the examinee moves, he fails, and if he does not move, he passes. Very simple.  However, a true Ki Test involves much more than this.

For an examiner, a properly performed Ki Test, whether it is a beginning or an advanced test, is made up of three basic aspects, Look, Feel, and Confirm:

  1. “Look” We face our partner and briefly gaze at them. If we are experienced, this is often enough for us to understand whether the examinee is unified or not.
  2. “Feel” We raise our right hand, and lightly touch the examinee’s chest. This touch further reveals whether there is stability on the part of the examinee. At this point, the examiner should be fully aware of the state of mind of the examinee.
  3. “Confirm” Then, for the sake of the examinee, our hand continues to rest on the examinee’s chest, as Ki extends throughout the body of the examinee. If the examinee is not unified, the examiners hand will gently move forward.  If the examinee is unified, the examiners hand will not move forward. If the examinee was not yet clear as to their state of mind, their condition will now be self-evident.  

“Test others based on their level of development.” No matter what the level of the Ki Test is, the three aspects of the test listed above remain the same.  However, the Ki Test changes, depending upon the examinee’s level of development. The fundamental change in the test, as the level of becomes more intense, lies in the examiner’s degree of calmness.  In other words, if we are testing someone for Jokyu, we maintain a degree of calmness matching theJokyu level.  If we are testing someone for Shoden, then we maintain a degree of calmness matching the Shoden level. This assures the examinee that he or she is being tested at the appropriate level of fairness. 

Importantly, this means that the one doing the testing must possess the experience and understanding of the various degrees of calmness, and how those are manifested and maintained when required. In order to be awarded an examiner rank, the recipient must at the same time be granted the related level of Lecturer status. Because of this, first Koichi Tohei Sensei was, and now Shinichi Tohei Sensei is, extremely strict regarding the promoting of individuals to the three levels of Lecturer, and the four levels of Examiner: 

Assistant Examiner – may test up to Chukyu Ki Test and 1st Kyu Aikido (must be Assistant Lecturer)

Associate Examiner – may test up to Jokyu Ki Test and Shodan Aikido (must be Associate Lecturer)

Examiner – may test from Shokyu to Shoden Ki Test and Sandan and recommended rank up to one rank lower Aikido. (must be Lecturer)

Special Examiner – may test up to Chuden Ki Test and Sandan and recommended rank up to one rank lower Aikido. (may test Joden Ki Test in special circumstances)

(These ranks must be renewed every four years.)

“Test others to support them, and not to make them fail.”

This principle is designed to help us to be aware of and clarify our intension. Sometimes the examiner can unintentionally cause the examinee to fail the test. This usually happens because the examiner fails to understand and follow the first two principles of Ki Testing.

First, when the examiner imagines that the Ki Test is a test of the body and not of the mind, then he will physically push against the body of the examinee. This causes the examinee to react physically, and he braces himself and pushes back against the hand of the examiner with his upper body, which is already failing the test, even if the examinee does not move. 

The result is that this mistake on the part of the examiner may cause the examinee to imagine that passing the Ki Test means not moving the body, which is not the case. This means that the examiner is mistakenly encouraging the examinee to misunderstand the meaning of the test. If this mistake is made by the teacher, how many more will be taught this bad habit?

Second, as mentioned the examiner must match his level of calmness to the level of the test being administered. In other words, the examiner must respect the level of development of the examinee. When the attention of the examiner is haphazard or arbitrary, his level of attention will not match the level of the examinee’s attention, and so the examinee may imagine that they are more developed or less developed than they are.  The purpose of Ki Testing is to provide an accurate measure of the level of development in the examinee.

“Understand Ki principles through testing others.” The examiner must always demonstrate mind body unification during the Ki Test. When the examiner tests another, he must be maintaining the state of mind that the test requires in the examinee. When the examiner is looking at and touching the examinee, the state of mind of the examiner is being transmuted into the examinee. If the examinee feels the intention of the examiner is to try to move the examinee, then the examinee will automatically react by pushing back against the examiner.  

In other words, when we’re giving a Ki Test it is critical that we be honest. To provide a true Ki Test, our mind must be completely empty of any intention other than to discover the state of mind of the examinee. 

Do not teach how to pass the test but teach the meaning of the test.”

How we demonstrate a Ki Test is how we teach the meaning of Ki Aikido to the student. 

Our understanding of this principle is often reflected in our daily life. If we have an intention to influence another person, then automatically there arises within us the hope for success and the fear of failure.  When either of these states arises within us, there is tension, and this tension cuts off our free participation in the movement of the Ki of the universe. This tension is not limited to affecting us alone, but also whomever is the object of our attention.

Please understand this distinction that Tohei Sensei is making here. The difference between teaching a student how to pass a test and teaching the meaning of the test, is the difference between trying to make something unnatural happen, and actually allowing ourselves to be naturally unified. The meaning of the Ki Test is to demonstrate how to allow free action to take place naturally, not how to cause something to be a certain desired way. Giving a Ki Test when we have even the smallest tendency to attempt to control the results, our actions may cause the examinee to fail.

When the teacher is giving Ki Testing in the dojo, there is often a misunderstanding simply because he or she is the teacher. When we give a Ki Test to someone in the class, they often fail the first time.  It seems that they believe they must fail because the test is given by the teacher.  They believe that the teacher must have stronger Ki than they do. This kind of misunderstanding may even be encouraged by an inexperienced teacher. This fundamental mistake reveals a point of view being influenced by an immature and competitive mind. 

The unlimited power of Ki is everywhere in this universe. If we practice noticing, deeply paying attention, then we become very calm, and we have access to the experience of this power. Once we realize that it is Ki that turns itself into everyone and all things, then we can freely participate in this, and we no longer need to control the results of our actions.  Ki is both what we are made of and what empowers us. 

As Tohei Sensei said, “The teaching is the moon, not the finger pointing to the moon.” The “finger pointing to the moon” is how we pass the test.  moon itself is the meaning of passing the Ki Test. A Ki Test is a test to confirm our state of mind, not our state of body. This basically means the importance of the teaching is not the form itself, but what the form is revealing to us. In other words, what is most important is always what’s hiding behind what is evident. Whatever we see first may seem to be the most important. But what’s most important is what’s behind what is most evident. What is the fundamental principle of cause? In this case, it’s what the moon is reflecting

So, we don’t only listen to what the teacher says and try to do that. Instead, we look beyond or behind what is being said to the meaning. Koichi Tohei Sensei always told us that he didn’t have any secrets. He said that we keep his teaching a secret from ourselves, by looking in the wrong direction, by not seeing the meaning that is behind the teaching.  He emphasized that fact by changing how we do something so often. This can be very frustrating if you are completely addicted to clinging to precisely how to do a technique. He changed his “how to” teaching often. He wanted us to live for the meaning, not for the form. 

Shinichi Tohei Sensei teaches us that the meaning of kaisho is form without Ki movement, the meaning of gyosho is form with Ki movement, and the meaning of sosho is Ki movement without form. Of course, this does not mean that with sosho there is no form, but just that we are no longer a slave to the form, because in shosho we’ve mastered the form. 

Our fundamental principle of Aikido practice is that mind leads body.  The unseen is what guides what is seen. As humans, we often tend to believe what we see over there, what is most apparent. But this Mirror Universe is always pointing within, and so we want to be looking at what’s inside, what’s motivating us to say the things we say, and feel the way we feel, and do the things we do. When we don’t feel good about something, that’s something deep in us that needs to be noticed. And just noticing this “something” changes everything. 

So, this is a study that Tohei Sensei asked us to do by providing us with these principles of Ki Testing. I would like to have you make comments or ask questions now. 

Student: Sensei, as a teacher, I have some difficulty with the concept of Ki Test, and that is the word “test” in itself. Because we have these different levels that we test, and as you point out, Tohei Sensei taught that we don’t apply a Joden Ki Test to a Jokyu student. We always must match level for level. It is difficult for me to find an objective kind of level when we test. As a teacher for instance, I have no idea of these different levels. What should it feel like? What is it?

I will give you an example. Sometimes we see someone that we don’t know. In this case we take very little interest in them. Our feeling for them is almost neutral, compared to a good friend that we may know well. So, we have a different kind of feeling of recognition there with the person we don’t know well, than with our good friend. And that feeling affects our relationship with each of these two persons, it affects the words we say and even the tone of our voice. It changes how we interact with these two persons. And then if, at the end of the day, we see our spouse, our feeling is different again. In that case do doubt an even more powerful feeling arises. 

Okay. So we can see that those different levels of relationship in daily life cause us to feel differently. For those we feel closest to, we pay most attention to, and have the strongest feeling.  And level of attention is the same as level of calmness. So perhaps you already know about different levels of calmness in Ki Testing, but just haven’t realized that you do. It’s our recognition of our relationship with others.

When I am giving a Ki Test, you must be able to tell whether I am giving a Jokyu Ki Test or a Joden Ki Test, just by watching me, even though the form for these two tests doesn’t change. What fills the form is what changes. I have found that the best way to express that, and what you may notice most, is a level of calmness. 

Student: So, that makes me wonder if I would give a Ki Test, it wouldn’t be the same as you would do it or someone else would do it? 

Yes, of course. And don’t think about that because you must not copy me in giving the test. You discover for yourself what it is for you to give the various levels of Ki Tests.

What changes for each level of test is what changes in you, and you can’t copy someone else and have the change take place within you. The test may look basically the same as what other examiners do, form-wise. But again, when we speak to someone that we care about, the tone of our voice is completely different than when we speak to someone that we are indifferent to, or that we don’t know well. The form of the words may be the same but the feeling is different, so we may say the tone is different. 

When we give a Ki Test it must be the correct level of feeling, not a higher level or a lower level. That is why we do this thousands of times. No one can actually give this to you by showing you what to feel. I can show you what it looks like, but each of us must discover for ourselves what that represents. The only thing that ever stands in the way of discovering this within ourselves is our tendency to rely too heavily on form. 

I think that’s enough. Thank you.

Student: Sensei, how are you?

I’m very fine. Thank you.

Student: Well, I’m searching for the feeling I get when I’m getting tested. I want to have this feeling to get to become one with the one who is testing me. I feel no resistance when I test myself. I want to have the same feeling when someone else is testing me. But there’s always something different between us because I always feel there’s some pressure to resist. So how can I become one with the one who is testing me? I want to have the same feeling as when I am pushing myself, when I feel the other is touching me. Do you understand what I mean?

Yes. And that is exactly the question for everybody, isn’t it? How to become one with the other person. So, what is it that stands in the way? What is it that makes separation between us and another person? 

There are so many obvious differences that define us. We see the differences of teacher and student, as I spoke of, then there is Dutch and American, old and young, male and female, familiar and unfamiliar, etc. These differences join to make a complete characterization of each of us. It is not really possible to erase those differences, because our senses recognize those every time we see someone.  

Instead, what Tohei Sensei suggests is to Keep One Point. Because if we just rest in One Point and be present, that puts us immediately in tune with the other person. The other person has an essential being, just like us. Iwao Tamura Sensei used to say, “Universal Mind always recognizes itself.” So, when we are resting in Universal Mind, the same is always recognized in the other person, and vice versa. 

We can only become one by virtue of our ability to experience Mind Body Unification. Think about darkness. We can’t do away with the darkness except by turning on the light. In the same way, when somebody is going to test us, we turn on the light, we Keep One Point. 

When I experience Mind Body Unification I am just me. I’m my true self, so to speak, not the American one, not the Chris Curtis one, not the old man that my grandchildren know me as. I am the essential being, the center of my universe. Tohei Sensei calls this “Reiseishin,” one with the spirit of the universe. That is you exactly as that is me. 

So, this whole Ki Test thing is huge because it gives us this opportunity to experience this together, as you say.  This is our chance to experience true connection with the other person. 

Thank you.  Someone else?

Student: Good morning, Sensei, I have a question and it relates to what Toby Sensei was asking. And what you said before, when you greet your person, whether you know them, whether it’s your wife, or completely unknown person, it changes your relation for some reason. And when we do Ki testing, one of the principles is, we should always test according to the level of the student. But in effect in the dojo, there are all kinds of levels of people on the mat. But now we are supposed to know?  So, if we are practicing the Jokyu test, if we’re lucky, one of them is actually at this level. So, if he is to be only tested according to his level, are all the other students unable to do practice this test. You know what I mean?

Yes. Of course, one single size can never fit everyone. But somehow, we must practice this together. As a teacher who provides the example, it may be best to be able to perform all levels as examiner and as examinee. Not everyone is going to be at this level, of course, but those who are not simply need to approximate as best as possible, and soon they will learn.  As students, we are practicing in the dojo, not performing. And we learn to understand this better and better by repeating this practice with each other.

We are fortunate to have this perfect example of daily living to practice. 

Thank you very much. Domo Arigato Gozaimasu.