Of the four principles in Aikido Kokikai, one-point is the one that is most likely to seem mysterious. After all, we tell people that if you concentrate your mind on this elusive place, you will be able to coordinate your mind and body and find your strongest state. How could there not be some kind of mystery to such a special place? How could one- point not be hard to find?
The truth is, you've probably "found" one-point many times before in your life. It's just that nobody called it "one-point" at the time. For whatever reason, you were doing something that you felt particularly happy and comfortable doing. You were calm, relaxed, and positive. You were keeping one-point.
You see, one-point is not an invention of Aikido. It was a discovery made by Aikido practitioners. Now, Aikido (and it's related exercises) may very well be the best way to discover one-point and reinforce it's feeling. But one-point is not owned by Aikido. It is just a natural part of being a human being.
So now we'll give away the secret, and tell you just where one-point is located: It's about two inches below your navel, within your lower abdomen. (Wasn't nearly as mysterious as you had hoped, was it?) This is your body's center of balance. The most powerful motions of the body originate here. And the calmest minds are concentrated here.
It's hard to say exactly why this this is the best place to concentrate your mind. But with a few minutes, and a friend to help out, you can see for yourself that one-point really works.
Stand with your feet side by side, about shoulder width apart. Have your friend stand just to your side. Now think about the top of your head. Touch it with your hand, if that helps to concentrate your mind there.
Have your friend place one hand just below your collar bone, and gently push toward your spine. Keep concentrating on your head. Do you feel balanced? Or do you start to tip over?
Now stand the same way again. Only this time, place one finger on your lower abdomen, about two inches below your navel. Think about the place that you are touching. Have your friend push you again, gently, in the same manner as before. Keep concentrating on the place you are touching. Do you feel more stable? Try both ways a few times.
You will find that when you keep one-point, you are harder to move. That's the physical result. But you may also notice that you feel different when you keep one-point. You feel more comfortable and calm, although fully aware. You may not notice it, but your face will look more relaxed and serene. You are finding a more dependable state.
That's a fascinating thing about one-point. By concentrating the mind there, you become more stable both physically and mentally. And when someone tests you - as when you just had your friend press on your collar bone - it tells something about you mentally by the way you react physically.
This really comes in handy. Because we can't see your mind! But now we know that we can test your mind by testing your body. And this is a great way to learn about one- point and your overall mind/body state. When someone tests you in this way, we call it a ki test.
Several of these ki tests are demonstrated in the Cool Ki Tricks section of this site. But since these ideas are so important to your understanding of one-point, we'll talk about a couple more of them here.
Stand, once again, with your feet side by side, about shoulder width apart. Concentrate your mind on one-point (don't tense up your abdomen though). Have your friend once again gently test you by touching just below your collar bone and pushing toward your spine.
Now, raise your hands up over your head, as though someone had just yelled "Stick 'em up!" Have your friend test you again. A little less stable? Most people are, because as they raise their hands, they raise one-point, too. Try doing it again, only this time feel as though your one-point goes down while your arms go up. Any better?
There are plenty of way to test for the one-point feeling. Put one foot forward and then bend over as if you are going to tie your shoe. Have your friend push forward on your lower back. Or, bend backward and reach up as though you were changing a light bulb, and have your friend test on your collar bone. Each time, experiment with concentrating somewhere else, too, say the top of your head, your feet, or even on a point in front or behind you.
The point of all this is to find out how you feel when you "pass the test", that is, when you don't move as you are being tested. When you don't move, it suggests you are doing a pretty good job of keeping one-point. Does it feel a little different? A little calmer, more comfortable, a little less like striving? With ki testing, you can become very familiar with the feeling of one-point. You will be able to return to this state at will. It will become a natural part of your life.
I remember when I first graduated from college and got my first real job. For the first time in my life, I had to get up early on a regular basis. And it felt horrible. I recall thinking, "Am I going to feel this lousy every morning for the rest of my life?" When I started practicing Aikido, I was happy to find that at least there was a way to feel better. If I got up in the morning and did ki exercises and caught that pleasant one-point feeling, pretty soon, I felt pretty good . And now, after a number of years of practice, I wake up and that pleasant feeling is right there waiting for me. It has become a natural part of my life.
There are some other methods that I have found very effective at helping me to catch a one-point feeling. Rolls are one of them. You can learn more about forward and backwards rolls in the Ki Exercises section. But basically, they are a lot like doing a kid's somersault. And if you do enough of them, they make you dizzy. Now, if you're fortunate enough to have a big space with a soft surface, do several rolls - enough to make you feel a little dizzy - and then stand up. Feel like you're going to fall over, or at least stumble? Try keeping one-point. The world will still be spinning, but you'll feel more stable. It's like the whole universe is spinning around your one-point. (Cool feeling, I think.)
Exercises like this are great because they give you feedback on your feeling of one-point. Before, we got feedback by having a friend test you. Did you move, or not? That was your feedback. And it told you a lot about your physical and mental state. Now your feedback is, did you fall over, or not? Still excellent feedback, only now, you can do it on your own.
You can experience the same feeling without rolling around on the ground. Just put your arms out to your sides (horizontal) and spin around and around in place. Keep one-point after you stop, and you'll still feel very stable. I practice this same idea when I give my kids airplane rides outside (spinning them round and round in the air while holding under their arms). The plane rides last longer, now that Daddy knows a little bit about one-point.
So experiment with your friends to catch a feeling of one-point. (Don't just read about it - that will do you no good!) Try catching that feeling when you first wake up in the morning. Try finding one-point a few times during the day. And don't get frustrated if you find it's sometimes elusive. The challenge you face in undertanding one-point is what will make it a strong, resilient, and enduring part of your life.