Traditional Japanese Martial Arts for Adults
‘Ki’ is our energy, our spirit. ‘Ken’ is our sword, but in the case of Aikido, ‘ken’ means our techniques. ‘Tai’ relates to our body and our body movement of both our hands and feet. ‘Ichi’, in this context, means together or as one.
When put all together, this concept implies that Mind/Spirit, Body, and technique should all synchronize together as one. Intellectually, this concept sounds easy to grasp, but it is a skill that is, for most, takes time to attain physically. We should always keep this in mind and strive for ‘Kikentaiichi’ in Aikido practice.
Often, when a student is struggling with a technique, their problem could be any one of these components. For example, if their ‘ken’ is missing, it could be that they just don’t understand the mechanics of the technique. If ‘tai’ is missing, this usually means that their feet and upper body are not in line with each other. It is also possible that they are using too much strength, or perhaps, too little – that is, they have no ‘kokyu’ or extension to their techniques. And, of course, a lot of beginners have yet to forge the necessary ‘ki’ or energy/spirit in their techniques. ‘Ki’ is an attitude where we “extend” our mental and physical spirit toward our opponent. This can include a ‘ki-ai’ or martial shout.
When we do not have a good blend or a good balance of these components, our technique will be lacking. A great example of this is when we are executing our basic ‘Shomen-Uchi Ikkyo’ or first technique. You will often see beginners not moving their feet, "catching" the ‘shomen-uchi’ or overhead strike instead of blending with it. It then almost turns into a block, which is not what we are trying to achieve. However, when we learn to move our lower body along with our feet while remaining extended in our upper body we engage the strike at the top of the movement (where it is weakest) and then turn the attack into our pure ‘ken’ or ‘Ikkyo’ defensive response.
‘Kikentaiichi’ applies to all of our Aikido practice whether we are doing our open hand movements or practicing with our Aikido weapons. I would encourage you to really internalize this concept into your practice and ask yourself, “Am I moving my feet as much as my upper body?” “Am I extending my spirit and my Zanshin?” Zanshin means a strong mental finish.
Eventually, we can take this notion off the Aikido mat and relate it to our daily lives. Imagine how effective a person, parent, employee, or friend you could be if you applied ‘kikentaiichi’ in everything you do! But a good place to start applying this concept is in our practice on the mat! Once you learn it on the mat, it will be infinitely easier for you to apply it off the mat and you will find that you make exponential improvements in many other areas of your life. Make sure to come and enjoy practicing ‘kikentaiichi’ in class with us. Let’s begin!
In Aikido, there is an important relationship between the upper and lower halves of the body that often goes unnoticed by students, particularly newer students. Strong, clean technique is the product of this successful integration. This is something that I recently have been focusing on teaching in class in our ‘taijutsu’ or open-hand techniques and in our weapons work.
Working with a ‘bokken’, or wooden practice sword, in the practice of Aikido bring awareness to the student for the necessity to move your body as a whole. This is a well-known concept in other martial arts such as Kenjustsu and Kendo called ‘kikentaiichi’ (pronounced ‘key’-‘ken’-‘tie’-‘each’-‘ee’).
KI-KEN-TAI-ICHI: Moving as One, Integrated Whole