Personally I like the slightly older version. This one is still in use in China, but pronounced "Chi". Most Aiki martial artists in Japan also seem to favor this one.
This is a modern simplified Chinese version - with cool stroke order animation!
Construction of the Character
The image behind this pictogram is cooking rice with vapors coming off of it.
I made a video to explain
So lets try to get a clearer understanding of the meaning of this word. I think most people have a poor concept of it. They see it as magic, or the force.
The dictionary definition is Gas, Spirit
The original meaning was Gas
Let's look at some Japanese words using Ki in the "gas" context
Kitai - gas, vapor
Kika - evaporation
kiryu - air current
kanki - ventialtion
It also has many atmosphere feelings to the word
taiki - the atmosphere
fun'iki - mood
keiki - things, times, business conditions
Ki can also mean Breath
kikan - trachea, windpipe
kisoku - breathing
ikik ni - in one breath, at a breath
Ki - vital energy, spirit, breath of life, vitality
byoki - sickness
genki - vigor health
seiki, energy, essence
yuki - valor, courage
Ki as energy or force
denki - electricity
jiki - magneticism
Ki as natural phenomena
kisho - weather conditions
kiko - climate
tenki - weather
Ki as spirit, mind, conciousness
shoki - sanity
kyoki - insanity
kigamae - readiness of mind
kizuku - notice, become aware of
kimochi - feeling
kimae - generosity
honki - seriousness
When used as a suffix - can indicate temperment, temper, disposition, pne's nature, character.
tsuyoki no - strong, firm
tanki na - short tempered
makenki - unyielding
Ki as "mind to do something, intention, will"
kiraku na - easy going
kaiki - bullish
hakike - nausea
Ki also has meanings like - care. attention, precaution, sign, indication, symptom, trance air, flavor, a dash of
When independent it Ki feels more like
Spirit, mind conciousness, one's feelings, mood, frame of mind, temperment, temper, disposition, one's nature, intention, will, attention and precaution
In a special reading it can also mean honor and self respect.
So I hope this has helped to confuse you on the complex meaning of ki. Really by looking at the words the Japanese make out of it, I think the meaning becomes somewhat clearer, and useful for our practice as Budoka.