What is Haki?

“Haki is a power that lies dormant in all the world’s creatures… “Presence”, “fighting spirit” and “intimidation”… It is not different from the things that humans can naturally sense such as these… ‘The act of not doubting. That is strength!”

This is how Rayleigh explains Haki to Luffy for the first time. Haki seems to be a mysterious supernatural combat-based ability that sentient creatures within this fictional universe can access.

Rayleigh revealed three broad categories of Haki that can be used in combat, these are popularly referred to in the fandom as Observation Haki, Armament Haki, and Conqueror Haki. Each of these has later been revealed to have subcategories and/or specialized uses and applications e.g. future sight or seeing through solid objects as an extension of observation Haki, Ryou as a subcategory of armament Haki or the ability to coat physical attacks with conqueror’s Haki.

This is, however, mostly an explanation of the mechanics of Haki from Rayleigh than what it actually is. Deducing from Rayleigh’s choice of words, the word “Haki” itself, what’s been suggested in the story, and my own personal speculation, this is what I believe Haki to be.

Rayleigh relates Haki to a “presence”, “spirit” or “aura”. English translations of the word Haki allude to this: “The term “Haki” is a word that has multiple meanings when translated into English. It can mean “ambition”, “will power”, “drive”, “spirit”, “vigor” and “aspiration” to name a few. The term itself, however, literally translates to “Supreme Qi”.” – One Piece Wiki

This suggests that Haki is a latent intangible element present in living beings with both emotional and spiritual characteristics. Haki exhibits characteristics that are loosely related to the concept of the Freudian psychoanalytical concept of the ego as well as what amounts to a soul, in the spiritual sense, within the world of One Piece. I believe Haki is a physical manifestation of the user’s spirit and/or will. Haki allows the user to project outwardly what is otherwise an internal, or rather an intangible element. Sort of like how our voice (something physical and tangible) is a conduit for our thoughts (something that’s abstract and intangible).

This coincides with Rayleigh’s explanation for how Conqueror Haki works. According to Rayleigh, “this is the ability to overpower the opponent’s will…it is the user’s very spirit manifest.” This, in my opinion, suggests that the user has to externally manifest their spirit in order to dominate that of the target. Should the target’s spirit be significantly weaker than that of the user, they will be dominated and subdued. The concept of the spirit and the will or willpower in One Piece is seemingly interchangeable or at the very least closely intertwined.

A manifestation of the spirit

Before the time skip, the manifestation of Haki was seemingly invisible to the eye. It is unclear whether the blackening seen with Armament Haki users is an artistic choice from Eiichiro Oda or something other characters in the story can actually see. Elements of the story suggest that this is something other characters can actually see. This is supported by the idea of Black Blades, weapons that are permanently blackened using Armament Haki and acknowledged by characters in the series as such. This has often brought up the question of why blackening was not seen pre-timeskip.

A possible explanation is that the visualization of Armament Haki in particular is affected by how much the user is outputting. There’s possibly a threshold that has to be reached before armament Haki becomes visible. However, I doubt Eiichiro Oda will ever explain this discrepancy.

“Haki appears to be similar in principle to common types of Qi (Chi) found in various other anime and manga series; which is based on the concept of “qi” (or “life-force”) in Chinese philosophy. Coincidentally, the kanji for the “ki” in Haki is the same as the same character/hanzi used for qi/chi (気). By this proxy, the pinyin reading of Haki would be Baqi (“bah-chee”).” – One Piece wiki

I believe that the visualization of Armament Haki is not the only visible manifestation of Haki we’ve seen in the series. This is entirely my speculation based on the aforementioned explanation of Haki, but I would argue that Zoro’s Ashura, Luffy Gear Fourth, and Sanji’s Diable Jambe are all physical manifestations of their respective spirits.

“According to spiritual beliefs, an aura or human energy field is a colored emanation said to enclose a human body or any animal or object. In some esoteric positions, the aura is described as a subtle body. Psychics and holistic medicine practitioners often claim to have the ability to see the size, color, and type of vibration of an aura” – Wikipedia

Interestingly enough the Japanese terms used for the different types of Haki: Kenbunshoku, Busoshoku, and Haoshoku are translated in the English version of the manga as “color of…” e.g. Busoshoku is translated as the color of observation. Going by Rayleigh’s association of Haki to aura, I believe some elements of the paranormal concept of Aura are true for Haki as it is depicted in the series.

Zoro’s Ashura

In Chapter 1035, Zoro proclaimed “guess I might as well become the King of Hell.” This was an expression and declaration of his will and how far he’s willing to go for his captain. Incidentally in Chapter 1010 Kaido noticed Zoro’s ability to use Conqueror’s Haki right after he used a version of Ashura on him.

We’ve wondered since Enies Lobby during the fight with Kaku how Zoro could just grow an extra set of limbs and heads even though it’s suggested that he’s a normal human being with no devil fruit abilities. I believe that Ashura is a physical manifestation of Zoro’s spirit/soul. I believe just like blackening is a visual manifestation of Armament Haki, an extension of Conqueror’s Haki is the total external manifestation of the user’s spirit/will in physical form.

Including the latest chapter, Zoro has been associated with demons, hell, or the devil at many points in the story. His character and personality are very similar to how the mythological figure Asura is described:

“Ashura are warriors above all else, and live for battle. They love combat, war, and destroying things. They have enormous egos; Ashura always desire to be better than others, have no patience for those weaker than they are, and prefer to solve any problem with violence.” – Yokai Wiki

Luffy’s Gear Fourth

A disclaimer: I am not saying or suggesting that the entirety of Luffy’s Gear Fourth is just a manifestation of his spirit.

At its core Gear Four is just a combination of Gear Second and Gear Third stabilized and reinforced using Armament Haki. That’s how I interpret it anyway. What I find particularly interesting is the manner in which Luffy’s Armament Haki covers his body.

During Dressrosa Corazon spoke of the Will of D and how they were supposedly the enemy of God, that is to say, the Devil. Luffy and other members of the D clan have lived up to this myth. Luffy brought down Enel, a self-proclaimed god before he punched a Charloss, a Celestial Dragon, also self-proclaimed gods and also bright down Doflamingo, a former Celestial Dragon with a god complex.

Meanwhile, characters like Gol. D Roger, Monkey D. Dragon and Rocks D. Xebec defied the World government and in extension, the Celestial Dragons, a characteristic we also see in Monkey D. Garp. Marshall D. Teech brought down the former base of the Marines, the forces of the World Government that serve the “gods”.

During a recent chapter Hyogoro the Flower likens Luffy’s Gear Fourth bound man form to the figure of a deity, the Wisdom King. It’s interesting to note that throughout the series since Haki was officially introduced when characters use Armament Haki, they typically manifest it at the point of impact e.g. the fist or a weapon. Vergo during punk hazard was able to cover his entire body with armament Haki. He’s the only character we’ve seen do this, however, the coverage of Haki on his body did not have any distinct pattern or style.

Luffy in Gear Fourth form as far as I can remember is the first character we’ve seen to manifest his armament Haki in a unique pattern that only partially covers his entire body. Either Luffy developed a passion for the arts during the time skip or this particular manifestation of his Haki is unconscious.

This is where I go into the speculation that the physical form of Luffy’s Gear Fourth and how it resembles a devilish deity, is an external visual manifestation of his spirit. I will further speculate that further developments of either Gear Fourth or a possible Gear Fifth or other forms will further define this manifestation.

Sanji’s flames

Sanji’s Diable Jambe has been a point of contention for a long time with people asking how exactly it works. The initial assumption was that this was a result of friction, that Sanji would rotate his legs so fast that they catch on fire. However, there are reasons reason why this makes no sense.

First, Sanji for most of the series Sanji is just a baseline human, so those flames would’ve burnt the skin off his legs. Second, his pants never seemed to catch on fire or burn off when he uses them. Even up until the recent chapter 1034, Sanji admits that with his newfound abilities he can make his flames hotter without worrying about burning, implying that there’s definitely something to these flames beyond a simple visual effect. When questioned about Sanji’s flames in an SBS Eichiro Oda responded that they were simply a manifestation of Sanji’s passion.

During one of the recent chapters Queen suggested that Sanji might be Lunarian, however, that was disproved by the revelation of King’s appearance and that of the Lunarians. I will not dispute that there might be something to Sanji’s flames that’s more to do with his father’s meddling with his children’s genes, however here’s an interesting theory that may be helpful.

I believe Sanji’s flames are a manifestation of Sanji’s passion as the author stated. More specifically, a manifestation of his fiery will/spirit.

Another theory I’ve heard about the flames is that they are just a visual manifestation of an erratic and uncontrolled Ryou. We know from Hyogoro’s explanation of Ryou that it’s an outward projection of Armament Haki that one needs to properly control to use effectively. What would happen if someone were to use Ryou, but without controlling its shape and size?

We’ve seen a number of characters with attacks covered in flames even though their powers are not flame-based. Going by the author’s explanation of “SANJI’S HEART WAS BURNING SO MUCH HOTTER” or Sanji’s own explanation that “…my passions burn hotter than any real flame ever could”, we can speculate that Sanji’s or even Luffy’s Red Hawk/Red Roc flames as well as other flame attacks are just physical manifestation of the user’s passion or will in the form of uncontrolled or excessive release of Ryou.

Theory by Initial_XD (https://www.reddit.com/user/Initial_XD)