February 1, 2005

Genkikai Club examines Ki, places in national competition

Many students spend their time here pondering what constitutes the universe. For members of the U of C Genkikai Club, the answer is simple: Ki, or power.

"Ki development and coordinating mind and body are the things that are not addressed in other martial arts that I've ever seen before," said Michael Shramm, a second-year graduate student in chemistry. "I study this [Ki-Aikido] to find out things about myself, like how I work, how I think, and how things integrate."

The Genkikai Club recently found success in the aikido world both in the College and internationally.

Leila Zajac, a second-year graduate student in geophysical sciences who is also the secretary and treasurer of Genkikai Club, won the US Open Taigi competition held in Oakland, California, last May. In Taigi competitions, teams perform a series of movements for judges, who rate them on technical proficiency and understanding of Ki, rhythm, balance and grace. Zajac performed in an improvised team with five other non-Chicago people at the competition, and her team won third place.

"I think Genkikai Club's consistent training in Taigi and emphasis on Taigi as part of our regular practice, which is unlike anything I've ever seen, was really helpful," Zajac said. She said the competition was about how to coordinate mind and body with oneself and one's partner through the whole movement and contact with each other. "The beauty of Taigi competition is that it starts from the minute you walk on [the mat] and it ends the minute you walk off."

One of three aikido clubs on campus—the other two being the Aikido Club and the Aikido-Kokikai Club—the Genkikai Club practices Taigi, a form of aikido that uses an exercise and expression of Ki.

The Genkikai Club started out as the "Energy Body Work club," which focused exclusively on Japanese yoga and Ki training without the martial arts component. The youngest aikido club, it expanded to 20 members when the club started practicing Ki-Aikido, and now practices every Tuesday through Thursday from 5:15 to 6:45 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 to 11:45 a.m in the Ratner Center Dance/Martial Arts Studio.

All three aikido groups, which specialize in different styles of aikido, have a "gentlemen's agreement" to practice at different times and support each other since they all practice the same art.

In addition to winning Taigi competitions, Genkikai Club hosts events featuring the highest-ranking teacher of Ki-Aikido in the Americas, Kashiwaya Koichi Shihan, twice a year. Through this event, the campus has received more recognition in the Ki-Aikido and Aikido communities as a place to hold seminars with top-ranking teachers.

Saket Trivedi, a GSB student and the vice president of Genkikai Club, said the activities at Genkikai Club are not only useful for self-defense. "[Genkikai is] applicable to lots of domains and useful in a wide variety of areas," Trivedi said.

Ryo Chijiiwa, the president of Genkikai club, explained that the fundamental training involves coordination of mind and body. He claimed that the results from training are apparent in daily life: calm awareness, focused concentration, and the ability to move through the typical U of C student day, balancing school, work, and playtime.

Zajac attributed the driving force of Genkikai Club's progress to "the basics." "What we learn here translates into our life, and it is an exciting environment of discovery of self, which naturally draws other students to the club," Zajac said. "In the future, what we would like to do is to bring the whole club to the Taigi competition and have a Taigi team from the University of Chicago," said Zajac.

Members of Genkikai Club all agreed that that is a definite possibility. For now, the club is planning a two-day seminar with Kashiwaya Koichi Sensei on February 10 and 11, and is preparing to train with guest instructor Jason Yee Loy Sensei from the Toronto Ki Society this May.

Anyone interested in the club can go to