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
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
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
- 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 friend.
- 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,
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 person.
- Have the person look at an object (wallpaper or a painted wall work
- 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
- (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.