Koichi Tohei Sensei’s
Four Basic Principles
Rest in One Point
Weight is Underside
Ki Extends Infinitely
Onegaishimasu. Good evening, everyone.
Participants: Good evening, Sensei.
Tonight the subject of our discussion is “Ki Extends Infinitely.” Extending Ki is the fourth of Koichi Tohei’s Four Basic Principles. Tohei Sensei always taught us, “These four principles are four ways of looking at the same thing. If you lose one of these principles, you lose them all. If you gain one of these principles, you gain them all.” In other words, when we are experiencing one of these four principles, we are experiencing mind body unification. These are simply four different ways of expressing access to this unified state of mind and body.
Here are Tohei Sensei’s Five Principles of Extending Ki:
1. A posture in which you are not disturbed by your body.
2. A posture in which centrifugal force is working.
3. A posture with merciful eyes and a kind face.
4. A posture which is quiet.
5. A posture in which you are positive and accept all things.
Once again, we have made an effort to go back and look carefully at the original Japanese. You may find, for instance, that the first translation of the fifth principle here, was, “Therefore you are bright and easygoing.” What Tohei Sensei actually said was, “A posture in which you are positive and accept all things.” Well, I guess if you’re positive and you can accept all things, you’re probably “bright and easygoing,” so it is not exactly incorrect to say this. But it is simply not what Tohei Sensei said. I am always inspired to go back and discover the translation of these original words from Japanese.
Being “positive and accepting all things” points to us having this state of mind when we are meeting our lover that we haven’t seen in a long time, when being provided with a nice meal when hungry, or just surrounded by family and friends when everyone is happy and quiet. This is “Ki is Extending.” However, when we say “positive and accepting all things”, we are also pointing to those occasions when we are challenged by unpleasant things, maybe even the insulting or aggressive words of actions of another person. No matter the nature of what is arising in our lives is, plus or minus, Extending Ki means meeting that with equanimity and grace.
This way, the whole of life experience is appreciated and valued. Far from being limited to something that happens only in an Aikido dojo, we can see that “Ki Extends Infinitely in all Directions” is clearly a mind state of gratitude and appreciation. The “Ki is Extending” part of receiving a nice meal when hungry has to do with appreciation, not just personal pleasure. The “Ki Extending” part of meeting an insulting remark from someone, also indicate a realization of gratitude and appreciation for this challenge, for without this side of the spectrum, we would never grow and develop. Ki Extending is an inclusive state of being.
Tohei Sensei is basically giving us these five principles to help both our cognitive understanding and our experiential understanding.
An important thing to understand about Ki Extending is that it is a feeling or experience that is completely natural, and not something we must manufacture. Our habit of attempting to force actions and changes in reaction to plus or minus events is what prevents this natural condition from being perceived and enjoyed. We are often so distracted by our subconscious reactions to happenings that we forget the great relief of resting in our natural field of awareness. In example, when we are in the dojo, there are the sounds, the smells, the textural feel, and there is color and brightness. All of this is the Ki of the Universe. Are we aware of this in the middle of a technique, or is our attention collapsed down on only what we are thinking and doing in response to our partner? Being aware of and enjoying all aspects of life is being in that constant flow of Ki Extending. There is no need for us to get more Ki, but only to become more aware of it, as it surrounds and infuses us.
“A posture in which centrifugal force is working.” Centrifugal force, of course, is the force of a spinning body, causing an energetic falling away from the center. Centripetal force, on the other hand, is the attraction of a small object to a larger object. We usually just refer to this as gravity. The balance of these two forces provides us with a sense of comfort and harmony as we’re moving around on the surface of the planet.
The more intense our movement becomes, the more we must be aware of and utilize the centrifugal force generated by our movements. When we are moving through the Aikido techniques, the more experienced students show a mastery of centrifugal force in their movements. In other words, they’re not distracted or thrown off balance by the phenomenon of centrifugal force when twisting, turning, even spinning rapidly. There is a certain grace and smoothness in their movements, showing that they have mastered the phenomenon of centrifugal force. This does not always mean moving very rapidly. O-Sensei often liked to say, ‘slow but fast,” indicating that it is not the speed of a movement that infuses it with power, but the awareness of, and utilization of, these natural forces by the participant. This remains true even as we age, though we may move more slowly.
“A posture with merciful eyes and a kind face.” Can you please make that kind of face for me? Can you show me merciful eyes and a kind face? Can you make your eyes merciful and your face kind? No, this is not possible. Mercy and kindness is not a phenomenon of the face, even though it may show in the face. Our face can only show what we are feeling. This is why we are disappointed when we see someone who is only representing a feeling in their face, not actually feeling it. On the other hand, when we have a naturally caring feeling about those around us, we will automatically have have a kind face, and our eyes will be more supportive, more gentle, and more merciful.
“A posture which is quiet.” A mind that is peaceful, a mind that is calm, is quiet mind. This mind is quiet even in conflict, even in rapid engagement, and so even in the middle of an Aikido technique this body is quiet. A quiet body also means there’s no extraneous movement. This quietness produces movement that is very simple and straightforward, very basic. Nothing extra.
The simplicity of this requires a direct connection with our partner, and once this connection is made, everything takes place naturally. Suzuki Sensei liked to use the phrase, “tsuki ganai shisei.” This means, “a posture of no opening.” This describes a mental quietness, not some sort of stance that prevents someone from attacking us, which you see in martial arts so much. When we strike some sort of stance or hold our hands frozen in some form to attempt to denote readiness, this is actually nervousness, not quietude. This kind of “showing readiness” actually provides a target, and an easy opening for our partner to attack, and so is the opposite of “tsuki ganai shisei.”
Whatever we might do to make ourselves look quiet or calm, peaceful or undisturbed, all those things are actually just filling our mind body movement with unnecessary clutter. This is a natural state, which is the opposite of doing something, This is a “do nothing” state. This does not mean “don’t do anything.” It means “do nothing”.
Once, in a class at Headquarters in Japan, someone asked Tohei Sensei for an example of Ki Extending. Without a thought, he said, “Watch Suzuki Sensei when he is entering a room. He lights up the room!” Too often even experienced Aikidoka seem to be making and effort to maintain a “cool” presence. This actually requires closing ourselves off from the others in the room, not connecting with them, and indicated a person who is obsessed with themselves. The exact opposite of the message most of us would like to communicate to others. Suzuki Sensei was always happily greeting everyone, shaking hands, bowing, whatever was appropriate but always open and friendly.
Thank you very much.