Ki BreathingThere are several methods for developing the Ki energy. One of the best methods is known as ki breathing. This is usually done while sitting in the seiza position. Starting with an exhalation of breath through the mouth until all the air is comfortable released. Some people lean forward slightly at the end of the exhalation, bending at the One Point. At the height of their inhalation, they come back to an upright position. During exhalation a 'ahhh' should be made. Once the air has been completely expelled, you may repeat the cycle, breathing in once more through the nose.
If you spend ten to fifteen minutes per day doing Ki breathing, particularly just before bed, you will find that it is very relaxing. Perform the breathing cycle for as long as you fell comfortable in you're sitting position.
An exercise of particular importance for the development of Ki is the practice of deep abdominal breathing.
Sit in seiza (or cross-legged with a cushion underneath you in order to keep your spine straight). Adaptation to sitting in seiza should be built up gradually, increasing the time spent in this position by a few minutes every session. Sit lightly, with your back straight and shoulders relaxed so that the weight of your body falls naturally to your one point.
Inhalation should be prolonged, as a thin stream of air is drawn in through the nostrils at a regular, controlled rate. The sound of such a prolonged inhalation should be close to the letter "u". And this inhalation should be done relaxedly with no straining. Moreover, even though the air is drawn in through the nose, the glottis at the back of the throat should be used to control the stream. By drawing the air in through contraction of the glottis, instead of "sniffing" the air, you will achieve a slow, steady stream.
The air you inhale should fill not only the chest cavity, but also the lower abdomen. Inhale deeply into the lower abdomen such that it expands normally, without undue strain or tensing of your stomach muscles. The idea is to breathe as fully and naturally as a child.
Keep your shoulders down and relaxed during the inhalation. When you have inhaled all that you comfortably can, rest quietly for a moment or so before beginning to exhale.
Exhale through the mouth in a steady, concentrated, powerful (but relaxed) stream - the sound of the exhalation resembles a "haa". Again, there should be no strain. Don't attempt to exhale suddenly with great force.
Breathing exercises should be practised daily. When combined with regular practice of the arts of Aikido this results in coordinated development.
There are four basic forms of Kiai (as sound) practised in Aikido:
There is also "silent kiai". This is accomplished by holding the breath and extending ki strongly from every part of the body. This kind of focused, powerful kiai can be used to save others from imminent danger, or to control those in an angry mood.
There is an old Japanese story of a samurai walking through the forest. He was set upon by a pack of wolves, clearly threatening his life. Instead of exhibiting fear, he calmly continued on his way, his countenance so stable, aware and potentially explosive, that the animals were frozen in their tracks, and he was able to pass safely through their midst. This is an example of silent kiai.
As in all aspects of Aikido, it is of primary importance that kiai be used only for good, and never used lightly.
Five principles for kiai:
- Relax completely to avoid straining your voice.
- Remember that volume is not the objective.
- The sound is sharp and penetrating, like an arrow.
- Feel the movement of Ki like a strong gust of wind passing through you and beyond. Let your voice be swept into it.
- Listen to the audible silence that follows good kiai.
First sit calmly in seiza. Open your mouth wide and place your tongue behind your lower teeth. Inhale fully, and while leaning slightly forward, throw your exhalation forward and out in one forceful blast. It is not necessary to make a particular sound with the voice box. The breath, passing rapidly through the throat region will create a sound by itself.
It is imperative that you remain calm and relaxed in the midst of this great breath movement. Do not move your shoulders, your jaw or mouth area, or your head. Maintain an erect posture, with mind and body coordinated, and as the breath comes out, lean forward slightly with the entire upper body.
If you perform haku breath completely, a natural vacuum is created in the lungs at the end of exhalation. This means that the lungs automatically refill with air. However, if you hold back even slightly, the vacuum will not be created and you must suck air into your lungs. If this happens you will find it very difficult to repeat haku breath rapidly.
All rapid or dynamic movement originates in, and is controlled by, the breath. If we learn to use this breath in a calm, but strong and lightning fast manner, we will be able to use our entire body in this way when an emergency requires it.
Sit in seiza with your arms extended, shoulder width apart, elbows down, fingers spread and fingertips turned slightly upwards. Your partner, kneeling in front of you, grasps your wrists lightly from the sides.
No matter how hard your partner resists, you must pay no attention, but calm your spirit in your one point and maintain a strong outpouring of Ki. Maintaining this extension, lean straight forward and your partner will lose their balance and begin to fall backwards.
From here it is easy to guide your partner by pushing gently to the right or left, allowing them to fall. Come up onto your toes as your partner falls and follow with your whole body to kneel beside them. Extend Ki. You will be like an immovable rock and your partner will be unable to rise.
The essential elements of formal misogi are sitting seiza, chanting, ringing of the suzu (bell) and controlled breathing.
When performing misogi, the sound of the voice and the sound of the bell must be one. To do this properly, the student must give 100% to each sound, each ring. Never try to pace yourself in misogi, attempting to save energy for later on in the exercise. Give your all at each moment, and you will discover that your reserves are far deeper than imagined.
This vigorous chanting and bell-ringing requires much flow of Ki. This power must come from a strong Ki developed through mind and body unification. Physical strength will not do. When done with a positive flow of Ki and correct breathing, you will not feel any ill effects.
Misogi usually takes anywhere from 30 minutes (10 minutes breathing, 10 minutes chanting, 10 minutes breathing) to 60 minutes plus (15 minutes breathing, 30 minutes or more chanting, 15 minutes breathing).
Doing misogi regularly, the student develops powerful kokyu (total body extension) by stretching beyond assumed limits.
Like a straight, sharp spear, your training must be true.
Do not change the road on the way, keep the teaching pure.
Through training, Self becomes like a beautiful polished
crystal ball and mind becomes clear like a mirror.
The cadence changes twice. Beginning with eight beats, the cadence changes to five beats and then to two beats. At each of the two transition points, the osa raises his bell high above his head and places strong emphasis on the phrase 'kami'.
In changing from eight to five:
TO HO KA MI E MI TA ME,
TO HO KAMI EMI TAME
In changing from five to two:
TO HO KAMI EMI TAME
Achieving these transitions with precision requires tremendous
concentration at all times. Do not slacken your attention.