What Is Positive Ki?


The Art of Blessing, Aikido Style

(Personal Observations)

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.

The Demonstrations

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).

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. Have the person look at an object (wallpaper or a painted wall work just fine).
  3. Have the person think of how truly ugly the wallpaper is. Ugh, what icky colors. Is the corner peeling? Get rid of it. Yuck.
  4. As the person thinks negatively about the wallpaper, ki-test the person. (There is no sense in ki-testing the wallpaper).
  5. 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.
  6. As the person thinks positively about the wallpaper, ki-test the person.

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.