Sep
26

“The High Cost of Externalizing “Internal” Energy,” by Nev Sagiba

“As with money, ki is easiest to direct when it has been earned and when it resides in your own account.. You can waste years searching for the ki that does not exist, or you can daily make your acquaintance with real ki, as it is, and explore its nuances in the dojo daily.”

The grand delusion of all time is the superstition of unnatural “magic,” this being something which it is imagined, can happen outside of the simplicity that forms the fabric of nature, as it is. The illusion of “power” is often sought instead of the refinement of common-sense.

Presenting the impossible as if plausible is the realm of con men and cheats. The lure of a facile means to achieve more than is possible without work appeals to infantile greedy fantasies. Ockham’s Razor is a good yardstick: If it sounds too good to be true then it is unlikely to be true. Notwithstanding the fact that we all well understand the nature of dishonesty and fraud, people still go back for more. The lure of the lottery is strongest in the complacent who continue to subsidize those who exploit. I don’t know if anyone has noticed yet, but our “economies” have come to resemble little more than Ponzi schemes and humanity is not better off for it.

Similarly with the concept of “internal energy.” The presupposition of some kind of short cut which will enable the avoidance of necessary work, has done no-one any favors. As the attached video clip below reveals, many even succeed in deceiving themselves! (Ki Master or Deluded – The Litmus Test?) “There’s magic out there in them thar hills, I got some, and for a special price, only today, just for you I’ll give away my secrets. And you will be powerful above others!” But that’s not the way it pans out in the end, is it? Predictable irrationality may well be the science of cheating, and it can be milked for a breif while, but it always has severe repercussions.

How many times have we heard the spiels promising hope but stealing your hard earned cash? How many times have we invested in such schemes that in the end sell only disappointment? Did you become a “master” in six weeks or six months? Why not? Then can’t you recognize a lie and move on instead of continuing to chase the same shortcut which by now has become a really long way around avoiding simple practice?

If you want hope, it is free of charge to just sit on a rock and hope. Better still is acquiring real skill through regular practice.

Is it possible to extend “internal energy” externally? This is what superstitious thinking deemed the wizards of old to be able to do. Some Russian experiments in the 50s and 60s added to this delusion when some talented test subjects allegedly moved ping pong balls using mental energy. The results were negligible. After each episode they collapsed with exhaustion it taking them weeks to recover. Such outcomes are obvious really, but not to wishful thinkers wanting to avoid work.

It gives rise to the question: Whatever for?

In the fiction movie adapted from the Mark Twain Classic, “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” the protagonist in the tale was mistaken for a sorcerer. Having gone back in time and then displaying the “magic” of modern techno gadgetry, the fear riddled, bloodthirsty pundits of the day had decided it was the, “devil’s” magic and not any “god’s,” and so he was sentenced to be burnt at the stake. It came about that following some astronomical calculations, he threatened to “put out the sun and cast the world into darkness,” if they proceeded.

He managed to stall the execution date until the same day of the eclipse of the sun and then took his chance to capitalize on it by making a proclamation as they were about to ignite the pyre he was tied to. Sure enough the sun started to go out and that created the impression he wanted.

This incident sured up his “power” in their primitive minds and he was able to regain his freedom thereby.

Twain, in his wisdom used this allegory, woven into the story to make a valid point. The guy in the story had simply recalled the date of an historic eclipse and maneuvered to get the two events to coincide. Understanding and timing did the trick. Not manipulation of the cosmos.

In the dark age minds of then, just as in the dark age minds of now, the attribution of cause and effect can get mixed up by a skewed interpreting of appearances.

The ability to notice and adapt is the oldest principle of nature which drives evolution itself. To the superstitious mind however, it is more comfortable to indulge the fantasy that some “superior being” or “beings” somehow zapped it all together in a way that is impossible, irrational and unprovable. Then by subjugating to a perceived “superior mortal,” who is somehow believed to be associated with these deities, this mythological ability will somehow be transferred in exchange for a profusion of obsequiousness. As witnessed in many dojos. Sadly it is often too late by the time a victim finds out that thus compromising one’s integrity will end up in loss not gain. Getting exploited is not the way.

There is no secret to “ki” and all its connotations.

It takes neither 50 years in a monastery nor convoluted breathing, not loss of cash nor subjugation to any guru figure to acquire ki, because you already are ki, have ki, are held together by ki. All it takes is the mental effort of intention followed by the relevant action to express ki.

In today’s world, compared to our ancient ancestors, we have distanced ourselves from interaction with the natural world and daily intense activity. As a consequence we are considerably weaker physically and our modes of thinking have become confused. To our detriment, not only have excess of artificial environments changed us, but we still retain the old instincts, the “old operating system” the physical habits of using force, stressing and devious means. Unbalanced with natural activity our lives tend to detour or become susceptible to various diseases.

Here before us is a valuable opportunity to learn to relax and use leverage, gearing, efficiency of motion in interaction and the right use of our body and mind in the practices of noticing and intention in concert, otherwise synergistically referred to as “ki.”

No opportunity greater for this research of ourselves exists than through the practice of Aikido.

There is no mystical “energy” that does all the work for you. Well, there may be, but that is already doing the work it needs to do to maintain your form and function. Anything beyond that is your own jurisdiction to refine and perfect.

The myth of controlling things remotely may be fun to watch at the movies but is not real. As with money, ki is easiest to direct when it has been earned and when it resides in your own account. The ki of others is not easy to reach without diminishing returns causing too great a loss. Cheating carries consequences.

It is in the relationship of energy or the harmonization of it that the magic of Ai-Ki is to be discovered. To achieve that mastery requires work, refining skill through practice. There are no short cuts.

As for moving ping pong balls or lifting tables, you have arms for that. Why waste time glaring and stressing like Sheldon Cooper trying to zap (from “Big Bang Theory – a TV comedy series), when you can simply and honestly pick them up?

In other words you already “have it.” Nature’s laws dictate that if you don’t use it you will lose it.

This whole “internal energy” thing has too often become a con and a money spinner for cunning shysters. Snake oil with no substance. A fool and his money are soon parted. Yes ki exists. But not as the snake oil salesmen have been misrepresenting it in order to get their clutches on your dollar. Ki is free. Wasting money will not augment it. Practice will.

Medicine, both Eastern and Western have already defined it to some extent within the limitations of each understanding. “Ki” is bound by the immutable Laws of Nature and the Universe.

If you want to make progress and discover internal energy and all its ramifications, you need to move, practice, explore and draw your own conclusions. And then the step up to Ai-ki is a quantum leap well worth investigating. The ki of Aikido and the Universe is linked to Deai.

In the Universe, everything has a price and must be earned by effort, expenditure of energy. Nothing for nothing. The price for cheating in seeking lazy shortcuts results is the squandering of time fraught with guaranteed setbacks. You can waste years searching for the ki that does not exist, or you can daily make your acquaintance with real ki, as it is, and explore its nuances in the dojo daily.

The cure for the immense superstitious ignorance of impossible ki is simple: It is to be found in regular practice.

For as long as you bank on Masakatsu Agatsu you will be in credit, no matter what life all around you is doing!

‘When the wind of change blows, some people build walls and other people build windmills.’ Chinese Proverb.

Postscript: Research suggests that: The terms “ki” or “chi” are generic terms and as used by native speakers may refer to any of a number of natural functions or conditions such as mood, ambience, intensity, will, etc.. Parallel to the legal definition of intent, the ki of budo is nothing more that the use of the faculty of intention which precedes action and goes ahead of it. The various phenomena that may either participate or arise as a result, often combine synergistically to create any of several illusions which are also nonspecific and where the term “ki” often used inclusively and conceptually “interpreted” by the experience of each individual. This ambiguity leaves “ki” wide open to improper exploitation by the ignorant and unscrupulous and often difficult to impart by the sincere. Ki can mean any of a number of things to any of a number of people, depending on their own interpretation of it. As an entity, ki does not exist and there is no such “thing” as “ki” per se, it being the synergy of a number of entirely natural phenomena which may give the appearance of an intangible phenomenon existing. Or a combination of these. Much as with the double spilt experiment of physics, there remains ambiguity as to whether what is being witnessed is “particles” or “waves” or “both.” In this case one phenomenon or many. Ki is more of an “attribute” than it is a “thing.” Most known “research” into ki-like expressions has been anecdotal and attempts by empirical sciences have tended to stray into associated byways or agendas not denoting pure science with pure intent. Ki has remained elusive, yet the experience of it, according to each individual interpretation is claimed as real. Various “discoverers” of ki-like attributes tend to insert their own bias and labels to this elusive subject in their research.

The most ancient texts on the subject are Eastern. Possibly the earliest texts are Vedantin, where it is claimed to date back over 5000 years in written texts and 40, 000 years by oral traditions where multiple strata and substrata were accorded a variety of names making it a seriously complex subject. This was later inserted in a more simplified manner into many of the latter day yogas. Such terminology as “pranas”, “kundalini”, “fohat” etc. Some of these “forces” could be manipulated by humans, some by machines and others only by “the gods,” whatever that is intended to mean.

Later, China developed a complex system of medicine revolving around the variables of what was then named “Qi” or “Chi”, most is valid but from an entirely different perspective than Western medicine’s more mechanical and profiteering blunt chemical approach. Some is entirely mythical and superstitious. Valid meridian points (pin ying) were identified and treated with acupuncture to successfully treat disease. This vast panoply included cupping as well as herbal and other materia. The theory revolves around the natural polarity of all things they named “Yin” and “Yang,” Five Phases theory expressing the phenomenal qualities of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. Presented here extremely briefly, Xue, Jinye and Zang fu, blood, body fluids and organs are a complex study.

Various tribal communities from Melanesia to the Amazon, Mongolia to Australian aboriginal, North America to the Pacific Basin, Africa and the Middle East, all identify and successfully use corresponding means within their cultural context and mythical framework with entire success in most cases. This is a long and arduous research.

The ancient Greeks, Romans, Phoenicians, Nordics, Celts and others each had their similar but uniquely expressed renditions.

The Egyptians also had complex studies on the subject to include the “soul” and after death processes. These included: Ib (heart), Sheut (shadow), Ren (name), Ba (soul), Ka (vital spark), In this case the Ka or vital spark more closely corresponds to modern conceptualities of “ki” and was associated with breath. The Ka was the Egyptian concept of vital essence, that which distinguishes the difference between a living and a dead person, associated with the “breath of life” which at death left the body. Akh (meaning effective one’) associated with thought and intention. These last two when combined would suggest a “ki,” similar to modern interpretation. As you can see it is not the entire story.

In the more recent Western world Franz Mesmer, labelled attributes of the phenomenon he found “Magnetic Fluid,” or “Cosmic Fluid,” and as with Ueshiba understood it to be somehow associated with Gravitation.

Wilhelm Reich labelled attributes of his viewpoint of the phenomenon as “Orgone.”

Others called it “Animal Magnetism.”

These are by no means the only individuals to give consideration to the subject.

Whilst the phenomena do have validity, they are mostly discredited because of ambiguity, bias, showmanship, self deceit and lack of understanding. But more so because of blind scepticism which stifles further research. The subtlety of most attributes of the phenomena and gross misunderstanding also tend to sway opinion on the subject. This combined with mostly a lack of empirical scientific investigation that is sincere and authentic, the jury is still out on the subject.

There are numerous cases in both East and West, the Eastern going back into far antiquity more than mentioned above.

Attempted militarisation of many such subtle attributes under the umbrella of “psychology” have invariably been discontinued following the “blowback” effect, an innate recoil of nature restoring balance long ago discovered by the ancients already known as “karma.”

From medical studies it is known that some attributes of human composition and function are fundamentally electromagnetic. Technological methods have also been trialled as for example the use of extra low frequency waves (ELF) for purposes of mass mind control. These failed because of the limited understanding of the researchers. Aside from causing disruption, no definitive results were obtained other than severe damage recoiled on participants. It is hoped something was learned from this. Notwithstanding most of these old sciences have been plagiarized from readily available sources, they are reportedly considered as “classified” in some circles. The misuse of natural energies contributing unnatural stressors may in part explain the rising statistics of mental illness.

After all that, Ki ~ is also known as “The Energy of the Universe.” This is is a broad and vast subject.

The intellectual rejecting of the Great Harmony by small specs of dust which are effects of It’s processes, will not make It go way. Acting counter to It’s accord is not intelligent and the consequences are precise and unstoppable. Every atom and sub-atomic particle is accounted for in the restoring of balance.

With understanding comes great responsibility. The first step is attaining the clarity that there is no significant “power” humans can wield. Being subject to a Greater Power, when trust is misused, much as with the monster of Frankenstein, the natural propensities innate in the nature of the Universe itself, will return to hunt down and devour its abuser. This reminiscent of Morihei Ueshiba’s, “I don’t need to defend myself. I am at one with the universe, nothing more. When the attacker’s discordant ki is sent to me, the universe itself, it will recoil to destroy him. All I have to do is stand like this and do nothing…”

Whatever “ki” may be, if through adding “ai” to it we can fulfill:“The ultimate purpose of budo.. to produce custodians dedicated to caring, nurturing and protecting all life and our life supporting environments..” also Morihei Ueshiba, then there is hope for a sustainable future for humanity. Even a lasting and happier one..”

Nev Sagiba
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Comments

  1. Thanks for this interesting article Sagiba Sensei. As Thomas Jefferson said “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.” There are things one cannot buy with money and it is silly to believe otherwise, for every aim we should work hard. And if we like to learn a good aikido, where the techniques work, the only secret is to train, to train and keep training.

    I remember somebody, a high dan grade, who showed us such ki performances, his ukes fell always. I just was in my beginning and went with this aikidoka and others to Tokyo to the Hombu Dojo. I wondered why this high Dan grade only trained with his Spanish colleague, he had his own uke, he never trained with any other aikidoka while we attended the morning class of the Doshu, I was very happy to have the opportunity to train with both ukes of the Doshu and grateful when a 6 Dan teacher asked me to train with him. Meanwhile, I realized the reason of this man avoiding to train with any Japanese or other aikidoka.

  2. Charles Humphrey says:

    Good on you man. This is a subject of much discussion between my romantic/number one training partner and I. We have both come across numerous such cons in our travels and studies. We’ve both narrowly ducked being duped by them. We’re all susceptible to them…particularly at the beginning. It is frustrating and pitiable to see people doing all sorts of bizarre mental and physical contortions to achieve something that can be achieved very, very simply.

    I would add a little note to soften up what you’ve said though. You’ve said it before and I just want to emphasize it in my comment. The “hard” way is the “easy” way and vice versa. Much can be learned by doing one simple movement slowly over and over and over for at least an hour a day as the foundation of one’s training. It’s so easy and relaxing and downright enjoyable. It’s fun! But everyone seems to want to learn special systems, fancy forms or super amazing mega killing techniques when a collection of simple exercises done with the right intent and with serious (but not too “serious” if you know what I mean) dedication can unfold a world of insights into martial arts. This can then serve as a foundation for more easily learning what appear to be complicated techniques and understanding apparently baffling concepts.

  3. Charles Humphrey says:

    I should add quickly that there is another danger at the later stages. That is of letting yourself become deluded by the adulation of others into believing that you “have the power!” Sometimes this happens to genuinely good people. I’m reminded of a priest of whom I was rather fond and who was a genuinely caring and intelligent person but who seemed to believe that he had magic powers that allowed him to “take away people’s pain.”

    The first time I was in hospital in excruciating pain after doctors messed up my pain management following major bone surgery and couldn’t fix it until they returned to work several hours later. I talked to him because he’d mentioned the spiritual benefits of suffering… I had wanted to just have a conversation about pain and how it strengthens the mind to distract myself from the actual pain, but instead he told me that he would take away my pain if I was willing. I got off the phone. Later on the pain was taken away. By dilaudid, not super powers. This happened again later with a different kind of pain, and I got the same routine. It makes me sad because I rather liked the man and found him interesting, but I’ve learned from hard experience to steer wide of people who claim to have magic powers, no matter how well-intentioned they may be. I’ve seen how the best intentions in these cases always end up serving a sinister end.

  4. there is a tiny little exercise in Sensei Tohei’s book where you make a circle with your thumb and forefinger and you cannot separate them as long as your mind and body are working together…as a beginner i find this helpful when i forget where i am supposed to be….thank you Sensei Sagiba

  5. Joe Peterson says:

    What drew me to Aikido was the unbendable arm demonstration. I exerted all my strength on the sensei’s arm. In those days I was lifting some heavy weight, and full of testosterone, and still I couldn’t bend the arm. The possession of supernatural power or superior human power to easily defeat another has always been an irresistible lure to Aikido. Osensei set that stage, and by doing so made it a part of Aikido culture.

     Osensei caught peoples attention and impressed them with these martial arts tricks, such as the famous unbendable arm. At the time, most people had no clue to how it was done. A feat impressing many, obviously a testament to the popularity of Aikido. Osensei’s “trick” was showing a principle (ki) as a metaphysical superpower that supported and promoted his metaphysical spiritual philosophy. A feat indicating that Aikido, and himself operated on superior principles. In truth, as we know now, it wasn’t a metaphysical superpower, but one of simple explanation relating to body mechanics. The true superiority lied with exploiting the principles of body mechanics in that manner. Osensei used such “tricks” enough times to set the stage for Aikido students to be less skeptical than they should be. They supernatural became part of Aikido culture, students came to accept the mysterious, metaphysical feats as valid functioning principles of Aikido base on Osensei, and their lack of understanding. Not to mention it was great marketing tool for Aikido well past Osensei’s time.

    Yes, those of us in Aikido are gullible, for the most part. We are primed though Osensei to be less skeptical and more accepting of the metaphysical feats, the special powers. And it appeals to our sense of obtaining the same superior knowledge and supernatural power possessed by Osensei. Therefore, I feel we are not looking for a short cut, most of us, rather we are following what we perceive as the goal of Aikido. Combine both that goal of Aikido with the feeling of struggling to reaching that lofty goal and over time you reach for anything to aid you to obtaining that goal, even if it is outside of Aikido.

    I agree with Nev that experience leads to knowledge. But, I think more needs to be done. A change of perspective is in order first. Osensei didn’t have supernatural powers, he had a knowledge of how body mechanics works, and how to manipulate the body n a specialize way. He obtained that knowledge not from a supernatural god, but from a skilled practical warrior. That knowledge was not taught to Osensei in a metaphysical way. It was taught to him in a realistic, practical and applicable way that was realistically tested in the field. Osensei had to work at it turning that knowledge into a skill. He had to work at being good and improving that skill. It wasn’t obtained by Osensei though some magical process. But, he didn’t teach in the same manner as he was taught in terms of realistic approach. So as students we need to realize this, if we don’t want to be lured by those offering questionable “short cuts” or special information that will get us to better skill in Aikido.

    *Ki is a principle characterized by the Chinese pictogram of chi/qi that shows a pot on a fire (campfire not stove) where steam is lifting the pot’s lid. That is ki. Steam, a force resulting from a combination of things that come together (the water to make steam, the pot it is in, and the fire’s heat), not obviously seen that moves uninterrupted, uninhibited, i.e. flows with enough energy to move something. Nothing more. Yet as an abstract, it is subjected applied to anyone’s fancy what it is, or isn’t, and even how it is applied, and that purpose. Chi/qi is an observation, an abstract concept, it not a metaphysical phenomena.

  6. Unbendable arm demonstration is entirely natural and externalizes nothing. Indeed it and more dynamic ki exercises are “internalized,” and that’s why they work so well. There is nothing “supernatural” in the proper use of ki. Aiki is an advancement on just plain forcing of ki. “Supernatural” does not exist other than in the minds of people who misunderstand the natural, its combinations or their own fogged up viewing of something entirely natural. You see it a lot in IT, skewed logic trying to insistently achieve something the hard way when there is a simple way at hand. All it takes is going through the pain of learning what it is. Sadly, in IT as well there are individuals who having stumbled upon a finer way to get results, rather than share and teach it, will try to create an aura of superioristic mystery whilst withholding information. At first they appear to fly ahead, and once their programme is hacked or independently discovered by someone else, as it invariably will be, they get left behind.

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