Posted by: yoko | April 13, 2006

Ki Phrases

StC reminded me that I intended to write a post about the Japanese word, ki.

The ki in aikido gets a lot of attention from practitioners, but what the word means seems to be shrouded in mystery in practice– sometimes ostentatiously so, in my mind. Ki is an abstract idea, to be sure, but it’s a word used in everyday expressions in Japanese. The Japanese-English dictionary that I use (The New Crown Japanese-English Dictionary, sixth edition: Sanseido, 1995) lists over two pages worth of definitions and expressions. Here are some of my favorites. The literal translation, where available, is in parentheses next to the translated expression.

Ki refers to:

1. mind, heart, spirit, mood
Ki ga kawaru– to change one’s mind (ki is changed)
Ki ga omoi– to be heavy-hearted (ki is heavy)
Ki ga suru– to have a hunch [about something]
Ki ga tsuku– to notice [something]

2. disposition, temper
Ki ga nagai– to be patient (ki is long)
Ki ga tsuyoi– to be strong-willed (ki is strong)
Ki ga yowai– to be weak-willed (ki is weak)
Ki ga hayai– to be short-tempered (ki is fast)

3. will, intention
Ki ga aru– to be interested [in doing something] (to have ki)
Ki ga nai- to lack interest (to have no ki)

4. care, attention
Ki ni suru– to be worried [about something]. Ki ni shinaide kudasai! means “Please don’t worry!”
Ki o tsukeru– to be careful, to pay attention. Ki o tsukete kudasai is sometimes used as a farewell expression, meaning “Be safe.”



  1. In Iwama-ryu Aikido, one of the major “classic” or “traditional” styles, doing a technique “in motion” or “with a lead” (not nearly as big a part of practice in stiffer styles like Iwama as it is in the aikido you and I were raised on) is referred to as “ki no nigari.” I don’t know exactly how that translates.

  2. Hmm… I don’t know how that translates, either. If any aikidoists out there know the literal translation and/or the kanji for this phrase, give a holler.


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