Japanese book review: 一流の人が学ぶ 気の力 (“Ki for Business Professionals”) by 藤平信一 (Shinichi Tohei)

By | June 3, 2019

Before I begin this book review I should give some background information about myself. I’ve been practicing Ki-Aikido (more formally known as 心身統一合氣道, “Aikido of Mind and Body Coordination”) for around 2 years now. Besides practicing in a local dojo several times a week, I have trained once in a Japanese dojo, and also have begun reading some books on the topic for a deeper understanding. 

The first book I read was “The Power of Ki” by Koichi Tohei, the founder of Ki-Aikido. You can see my detailed review of that book here, but it was a great read that I recommend to anyone interested in learning more about Ki and Ki-Aikido. For my next book I chose one authored by Shinichi Tohei, Koichi Tohei’s son and successor to the Ki-Aikido organization.

The book is titled “一流の人が学ぶ 気の力” with the English subtitle “Ki for Business Professionals”. A somewhat literal translation of the Japanese title would be “The Power of Ki, learned by first-class people”. This book was published in 2017 from Kodansha (講談社), although the majority of the content was originally published incrementally in a business-oriented web magazine (in 2015-2016), although I didn’t know this until I got to the end of the book.

Two of the above points had a major influence on my impression about this book: that I had read Kouichi Tohei’s “The Power of Ki” (which has a similar name) plus the fact I didn’t know the content was originally published in serial format.

I have a lot of good things to say about this book, but first I wanted to briefly touch on a few minor complaints.

First, I felt as a whole the content was a little fragmented, and could have used some more overall cohesion and better transitions between topics. I wouldn’t call this book a comprehensive guide to Ki or Ki-Aikido. But now that I know the book was originally published a piece at a time, the lack of cohesion makes more sense.

The other grip I had was regarding the sections about how Ki principles have been taught to professional sports (mostly baseball) players with good results. These are interesting in isolation, but in “The Power of Ki” there were similar stories that I felt were a little more impressive and impactful. But there is something to be said for giving more modern examples of the applicability of Ki principles, and for business or sports people who are reading this book I think it’s a good way to show the effectiveness of said principles.

Now that I’ve gotten these minor issues out of the way, I can say that I was really glad to have read this book to the end, especially as a supplemental resource.

Especially interesting was the last half of the book which had a series of short segments that provided important insight into Ki, Ki-Aikido, Shinichi Tohei, his father, and other related topics. The third chapter focused on Shinichi’s time as an uchideshi (live-in apprentice) with his father, and included some surprising stories about Kouichi himself. The fourth chapter talked about how to apply Ki principles in everyday life, with many good real-world examples.

It’s interesting to note that the content of book has strong ties to language itself. For example, there are several sections which focus on important words or phrases, like the difference between 集中 (shuuchuu, concentration) and 執着 (shuuchaku, persistence), or the expression 氣が強い (ki ga tsuyoi, literally “ki is strong”). Shinichi also describes some techniques he used to improve his English and to communicate better with others, and there was a very surprising section about his feelings on foreigners’ understanding of the word “Ki”.

One thing I wanted to clarify is that, despite the title (and subtitle), this book is not only about Ki. Sure, many pages are devoted to Ki––clearly one of the most important parts of Ki-Aikido––but there are also other things at work here. After all, only one of the four principles of Ki-Aikido directly refers to Ki (ki do dasu, “extend ki”).

For anyone who is serious about learning more about Ki or Ki-Aikido, I think this book is a must-read. There are some who learn about these things exclusively at the dojo, but I find the depth and significance of these principles makes me want to probe deeper and get as much information as I can.

I would like to summarize the main things I learned from this book (there are many), but out of respect for the publisher, and Shinichi himself, I won’t give away too much. Hopefully we will get an English version of this book eventually for those who don’t know Japanese.

By the way, if you want to learn more about Shinichi Tohei, but don’t speak Japanese, his blog in English is a good place to check out. Some of the content he posted there seems similar to what was listed in this book, for example his story about public speaking

As with most of my reviews, I’ll give a few notes about the Japanese used in the book for those learning Japanese.

Shinichi’s text is quite readable, and he even mentions near the end of the book that he purposefully avoided a textbook style in favor of something more accessible. Keep in mind, however, that this book is targeted at Japanese business leaders, so your vocabulary and kanji skills must be pretty high to be able to understand this at (or near) the level of a native Japanese speaker.

Personally I was able to get through it without that much trouble, but since I’ve been studying Japanese for over two decades (and was already familiar with much of the content), you should take that with a grain of salt. The book is not very forgiving when it comes to kanji readings; there are almost no furigana in the entire book. So if your kanji knowledge is weak, this book may not be the best thing for you. One uncommon word that is used throughout is 滞る (todokooru), which means something like “to be blocked” or “to stagnate” and is generally used in context of Ki. One word I came across for the first time in this book was 他方 (tahou), which means something like “on the other hand”.

However, I should caution that understanding the words and grammar at a surface level, and understanding them deep enough to really integrate into your life (or explain to someone else) is another thing completely. But with this kind of weighty content this could happen even if the text was in one’s native language.

I’d like to close this review by touching on one of the more memorable topics of this book, where Shinichi’s talks about the concept of 道 (pronounced ‘michi‘ by itself, or ‘dou‘ in kanji compounds). 道 can mean a physical road, but it is also used commonly to refer to a ‘way’ to some objective in a more abstract sense. While I had heard of this before, Shinichi summarizes it skillfully on page 145:


(and my rough translation)

From the point of view of “a way” (道), one can come to believe that even failures and setbacks are important experiences that will unquestionably have an effect on their future, and this is the very reason that we can overcome them.

I’d like to add a little of my own interpretation to this. The idea of 道 applies to martial arts like Aikido (合気道, aikidou) and Japanese archery (弓道, kyuudou), but it also applies to other areas like calligraphy (書道, shodou). So I think it’s fair to say you can apply this concept of long-term effort for the purpose of future benefit––which perhaps is captured succinctly by the word ‘journey’––to many other areas, even things like developing a career or raising a child.

Personally, I have several important journeys going on in my life now, and I hope that all my readers can find rewarding journeys of their own.

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