Monday, August 13, 2012

Using (the) Ki, to Unlock your Motion

  Aside from the term Kyusho, the Japanese word Ki (Chi in Chinese) has had more nonsense attributed to it than any other Japanese term that's regularly (mis)used in the instruction of martial arts.
 Having recently posted a comment that was (loosely) on this topic (on the RyuTe® Member forum), It brought to mind the (actual) use of the word "Ki".

  As martial arts are taught and practiced in the West, the term regularly has various supranatural if not paranormal qualities attached to it on a regular basis.
  Depending upon which (Japanese/English) dictionary one chooses to utilize, it's definition is several paragraphs (with several pages of examples). Not because of the words complexity, but because of the breadth of it's application.
  Being a simplistic, yet encompassing word, it has a wide range of application. Because of that feature, it has also acquired (unjustified) patranormal-like attributes that are regularly (and also unjustly) being used as it's primary definition.
 If/when I utilize the word "Ki", I'm (Only) using it in the sense of breathing. By using the Japanese vernacular, I'm implying the concept of breath and/or breathing in conjunction with motion.
  Westerner's (or at least American's, LOL) are prone to latching-on to the supernatural/mystical attributes. Be it seen as the easy way of learning how to do something (or just the lazy way), Westerner's just seem to climb right on board with anything mystical that will promise to provide them with something unique,....(at least those that require minimal effort on their part, LOL).
  Because of this western tendency, I have been forced to modify the way that I have taught certain principles/actions. Not for my RyuTe® student's, but for my Shuji (Brush Calligraphy) student's.
  When practicing Shuji (as it is with RyuTe®), breathing is an integral part of the procedure. The manner which breathing is used when brushing kanji, is very similar to that when used in the practice of Te.
  Eastern instructors have always provided very visual descriptions of motion and physical experiences/actions. Western students, will often mistake these as being (literal?) descriptions of para-physical actions (ie. “Ki/chi”, “energy”, etc.). 
  As my student's work with brushing the strokes of the kanji, they obtain a greater understanding of how the breath is utilized in conjunction with the application of technique motion. 
  The same principle is utilized in the practice of Te. The breath is exhaled as the motion progresses towards it's destination. The process of exhalation, is one that is often done without thought, or concern. Attention is usually (only) being given to the inhalation process.
  To the majority of the Eastern cultures, this (Western) focus is completely backward. If you tighten every muscle possible (throughout your body), you will force the air from your lungs, as well as constricting the diaphragm upon the abdominal region. When you relax the (whole) body, the lungs will (naturally) expand (taking in air) as the entire body relaxes.
  These (natural) reactions can be capitalized upon by controlled timing of their occurrence. In most martial arts, this is done through learning to exhale (often adding a kiai to emphasize the action) in conjunction with a techniques motion, and then inhale between those actions.
  Though commonly seen (and heard) during the performance of kata, the act of Kiai (spirit yell), at least verbally, is only intermittently (if ever) used outside of a dojo (other than possibly for a “startle” effect). Though actually assisting in a techniques effectiveness, it also is an indication of an opponent's breathing cycle (which could easily be utilized against them). 
  In the practice of Shuji, the breath is exhaled as the brush is motioned to create each stroke. As one progresses through the various styles (Kaisho/Block, Gyosho/Semi-Cursive, Sosho/Fully-Cursive), one see's that the breath can be intermittently utilized, or exhaled as one continuous breath/stroke.
  The use of the brush will (clearly) show the student the importance of breathing correctly. If/when one attempts to inhale during the performance of a brushstroke, it is obviously “shaky” and uneven. When done during an exhale, the stroke is smooth and controlled.
  When watching “new” students, we are constantly having to remind them to breathe (exhale). Student's will inevitably hold their breath when performing newly learned motions. In many ways, it reminds me of an aerobics class (same problem), you have to constantly tell people to breathe (ex-hale). People will always in-hale, they just seem to forget to ex-hale ?, LOL.
  In many ways, the charlatan's who (mis)use the term KI, have corrupted the way that even simple concepts can be taught. Because of their fraudulent use of a language that they don't (or rarely) understand, simple concepts that could have (previously) been conveyed with a single word, now have to be explained in great length/detail to avoid being construed as some paranormal exercise. These manner of fools irritate me continually.
 When our student's are ready to learn how to breath (with their practice of Te), then we have them begin their practice of Shuji. And as the title of this narrative suggests, it will be the key to their understanding.

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