The Doctrine of Ki, Part I: How To Acquire Charisma and a Powerful Spirit

(Adapted from the eBook Fighting to Win: Samurai Techniques for Your Work and Life, David J. Rogers, Crossroad Press, 2014)

“Fill yourself with ki” (Ki o mitasu)

An Extraordinary Form of Power

For centuries Eastern warriors have sought to cultivate an extraordinary form of personal power. It is called “ki” (pronounced “key”) in Japan, chi (“chee”) in China and prana in India. We really have no one word in English that adequately conveys the full meaning of ki. Approximations include energy, spirit, aura, vitality, vital spirit, breath, life force, and inner strength. It’s simply ki. The warrior doesn’t really care very much what something is called, but only if it actually works and, if it does, how to make it work.

Warriors are pragmatic people.

After learning how a person could generate ki through simple physical and mental exercises, one night I actually tried it. Then before boarding a commuter train to take me to a lecture I was to give, I tried it again. I felt as though I were floating two inches off the ground the whole day. I experienced an energy and power I had never known before. The day went beautifully, almost blissfully. Everything was absolutely right. It wasn’t only that my mind was sharp: the energy was simply phenomenal.

Some time after that I had breakfast with a friend. He told me that he had been “off” recently. He was going through a rough period He had a hell of a lot of work to do, hard decisions to make, and was operating under a lot of pressure. But try as he would, he simply could not get himself together, and the work was piling up.

All I did that morning in a short fifteen minutes was describe my experience with ki and suggest how he could develop his own if he wanted. Writing on a napkin, I outlined the steps he could follow. We paid the check, left, and that was that.

Two weeks later he telephoned to thank me.

“Thank me for what?” I asked.

“That ki business,” he said. He went on to tell me that since we had talked that morning he had experienced the most fruitful two weeks in his entire life. After our breakfast he had gone to his office and immediately taken out the napkin and followed the steps.

“I haven’t been the same since.” Decisions he couldn’t make before, he was now able to make easily. He had felt heavy and listless before; now he felt strong, buoyant, and energetic. What had seemed like insurmountable problems before suddenly had become mere stepping stones to progress.

You are more likely to overcome obstacles that have been stopping you and to achieve your purposes if you have a powerful spirit.

A journalist who only read what I wrote about ki in Fighting to Win because she was going to interview me said essentially the same thing. She got her start by doing her ki breathing while sitting in her tub! She said, “You know, it works and it’s amazing.”

Those experiences with ki taught me that even a minimum of information about this unusual form of power can lead to positive and sometimes extraordinary changes in a person’s life. It’s a learning that’s been confirmed many times since.

What my friend, the journalist, and I had experienced for ourselves were two features of naiki, the samurai “doctrine of ki:” energy and mental control. We had learned that if you use your mind and body in a certain way you can create an unusual form of energy field that can change your life.

 The Formula: Shin makes Ki makes Ryoku

 The samurai men and women were first and foremost superb warriors. That’s what they were trained for. That was their occupation. But they were something of psychologists too—psychologists of action. They knew that three things always go together:

1. Your frame of mind or attitude (shin)

2. Your vital energy (ki)

3. A force—a strength—coming out from you that affects other people, and sometimes very powerfully (ryoku).

 Shin makes ki makes ryoku

Shin is psychological; ki is psycho-physical; ryoku is physical.

Charisma is Powerful Ki

Some actors on the stage or in films possess charisma. Intuitively we all recognize charisma when we see it, and can identify who has it and who does not. Charismatic actors and other performers only have to make their entrance and the audience is in awe. Why? Because they are handsome or beautiful? Often they are not. Because of their voices? Their voice may not even pleasant. Because of their talent? It may, in fact, be almost non-existent.

That charm, that attraction caused by the performer’s whole being in which even faults are turned to advantage is not inexplicable as has been said. It is the direct effect of ki on an audience. And it can be cultivated. Charisma is accessible to everyone.

Speaker A at a conference may be extremely articulate and extremely bright and extremely knowledgeable—far more so than Speaker B. Yet Speaker B may be the one you are impressed with and will remember. That is not at all unusual. B is not as smart or as good a speaker or as knowledgeable, but she has powerful ki coming out of her. Why? Because her shin, ki, and ryoku are in order and are functioning full blast.

© 2014 David J. Rogers


In coming posts we will  be discussing naiki, the doctrine of ki. Or you may wish to refer to chapter four of Fighting to Win: Samurai Techniques for Your Work and Life.

Till then, remember: KEEP YOUR KI STRONG AND LIVELY.

For my interview from the international teleconference with Ben Dean about Fighting to Win, click on the following link:


Filed under Developing Talent, Human Potential and Achievement, Eastern Philosophy, Samurai Techniques

2 responses to “The Doctrine of Ki, Part I: How To Acquire Charisma and a Powerful Spirit

  1. Hi David, could you outline the steps I could follow that you shared with your friend? I’m a newbie and Id really love to know the exercises that you used in the beginning, just to get me started. Thanks!


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