What is Ki? 氣とは何ぞや？ Part 2
(This is Part 2. Please read Part 1 first if you have not yet.)
OK so you may wonder why the development of Ki has to come with breathing and particularly deep breathing. First, let’s see if deep breathing is considered as beneficial in the western world. Believe it or not, if you google you will see many related articles and sites.
(Brush painting of “Ki” kanji written by Morihei Ueshiba)
One site is by the motivation and awareness site called One Powerful Word: http://www.onepowerfulword.com/ It lists 18 benefits of deep breathing:
1. Breathing Detoxifies and Releases Toxins
2. Breathing Releases Tension
3. Breathing Relaxes the Mind/Body and Brings Clarity
4. Breathing Relieves Emotional Problems
5. Breathing Relieves Pain.
6. Breathing Massages Your Organs
7. Breathing Increases Muscle
8. Breathing Strengthens the Immune System
9. Breathing Improves Posture
10. Breathing Improves Quality of the Blood
11. Breathing Increases Digestion and
12. Breathing Improves the Nervous System
13. Breathing Strengthen the Lungs.
14. Proper breathing makes the Heart Stronger.
15. Proper Breathing assists in Weight Control.
16. Breathing Boosts Energy levels and Improves Stamina
17. Breathing Improves Cellular Regeneration
18. Breathing Elevates Moods
Enough benefits? For the full article access here:
It is true that the editor of this site is not a medical person. Then let’s check what the medical experts say about deep breathing. I am posting only one of them here but you can check the internet and find many other similar sites. The site I am referring to is called “Women to women”; Changing women’s health – naturally by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP. In one page she wrote, “In a 2005 review and analysis of several studies, Richard Brown, MD and Patricia Gerbarg, MD reported that yogic deep-breathing techniques were extremely effective in handling depression, anxiety, and stress-related disorders. These techniques can serve as an excellent adjunct to conventional medical treatment — or in some cases as a suitable substitute — in treating myriad psychological disorders, as well as eating disorders and obesity.”
If you are interested you can read the entire article here:
So, the modern medical society also acknowledges the benefits of deep breathing. It is a shame that it is not popular among the average people including the athletes. It is more shame that not many karate instructors emphasize the importance of deep breathing and incorporate it in their syllabus.Anyway, the Asian people knew these benefits for centuries and incorporated deep breathing in different training methods. We believe that the Ki energy must be activated and circulated throughout our body to produce the positive results and this is why the deep breathing method was used to energize the circulation. It is like when you boil the water in a tea kettle. As you heat the kettle from the bottom the water circulates up then it rotates and comes down. You can have that image with your Ki in your body. Breathing does two things. One is to assist the Ki energy to circulate (internal). The other is to give the energy source (air) to the remote parts of your body (external). The latter is done by the blood circulation but deep breathing will help it by increasing the intake of oxygen and the discharge of carbon dioxide.
OK then you would wonder where the Ki energy would travel in our body. The Chinese experts developed a meridian chart called Keiraku (経絡) to show the exact paths and the system (see the illustration). There is much debate among the western medical personnel about the existence of such paths or routes because no physical organs are visible or detectable while the circulatory system and nervous system are. The Keiraku chart was developed by the physical experiences by the experts of acupuncture and the moxa over thousands of years.
The smooth flowing of your Ki is the key to your health and the life strength. The slow and deep breathing that is coordinated with the slow physical movement will aid and promote the circulation. I repeat that this is the reason why I have mentioned that Tai Chi chuan is one of the best methods out of all the martial arts systems (provided that you agree to include it into this category) to develop your Ki. Then you will naturally want to know about karate. Yes, it is about time to talk about our karate training but what do you think? Unfortunately, the training syllabus includes specific breathing exercise or special training for breathing only at a few Shotokan dojo. If so, then, you would think of the training that you do with your kata. Sadly again, none of the kata is taught with proper instruction pertaining to breathing and few instructors know how to harmonize breathing with the kata movements. The only visible breathing kata we have in Shotokan, namely Hangetsu, has lost its breathing method teaching for many years. Only Kanazawa sensei and I are the ones who do such teaching. n addition, this kata not only almost lost its breathing method but also the most important key point of Hangetsu dachi. I wrote about this in Shotokan Myths (Hangetsu chapter) so the readers may remember. I plan to put an instructional video of Hangetsu at Karate Coaching video site (www.karatecoaching.com) where I will explain how it should be done including a few different breathing methods.
You are familiar with Ki-ai (気合) which you do frequently in your training. It literally means to gather or collect Ki. Doesn’t this help develop Ki? How ironic it can be! The consistent or an excessive use of ki-ai, believe it or not, prevents Ki from flowing. It may be a shocking statement but it is true. A loud ki-ai means a loss of energy and it disrupts the flow of Ki as your body needs to tense. It is like a loud sound when a bomb explodes. Such sound does not aid the power but the energy is wasted as it is an escaped energy. So, if a sound comes out from a powerful technique then that is ok (like a loud sound from a dynamite explosion), but making loud ki-ai for its own sake, you are simply wasting your energy. Maybe it is ok for the children’s class so that they can learn the spirit or let their energy out as they are full of energy. I wrote this also in Shotokan Myths (Ki-ai chapter) that there was no ki-ai in ancient kata and during the training in Okinawa prior to 20th century. Even Funakoshi did not emphasize ki-ai anddoing one or two ki-ai in kata was optional (you may want to re-read Karatedo Kyohan). It all changed when kata became a tournament event where some strict rules are needed to judge. Is all ki-ai bad? No, as I said earlier, it is all right if it is done correctly. It can bring an extraordinary power to a technique and I do not mean by a magical power. It is difficult to explain with the words but a correct ki-ai will act as a connecting point that brings all the muscle energy together harmoniously from the different parts of the body. This is why the tension of the body or kime must be one hundredth or even thousandth of a second. This is the true kime and it can be seen in Hakkei (発剄) which is translated only as explosive power which is supposed to be a secret or an ultimate technique of kung fu training. This is the energy used in one inch or zero inch punch. You can see my demonstration of one inch punch in this Youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gl0vq9nOl3Q
Then, how about ibuki (息吹き) breathing used in Goju-ryu and other Okinawan styles (photo above)? I have only a limited experience with Goju-ryu training so I am not an expert in this style so I welcome inputs from Goju experts. My understanding is that there are two parts to the objectives of ibuki breathing. One is used in sanchin kata which aims to coordinate body movements with the breathing. The concept is similar to Tai Chi but there is a big difference that in Tai chi the idea is to relax the muscles but in Goju a practitioner learns how to tense his body. So the blocking and punching arms in Sanchin (三戦) kata move slowly but there seems to be too much tension throughout the body that would slow the circulation of the Ki in your body. The purpose of this kata and original Hangetsu was not to aid to the circulation but maybe only to strengthen the local Ki. The other training of ibuki breathing is done while a practitioner is standing still while doing heavy ibuki breathing (fast inhaling and slow and forced exhaling). The instructor will check the practitioner’s tension by punching and kicking him pretty hard. The idea I understand is that Goju practitioner will turn the body to withstand the hits and kicks of an opponent. Obviously this concept comes from a close distance fighting method and based on the situation of fist to fist only fight.
In Okinawa all weapons (swords, knives, etc.) were banned for hundreds of years so this concept could be considered. Shurite including Shorin-ryu and Shotokan was based on a long distance fighting method which means fighting against an opponent with a weapon. This is one of the reasons why Funakoshi did not adopt ibuki breathing training and de-emphasized in Hangetsu kata (半月形). The other reason was the way it is being practiced; upper body naked. Funakoshi knew that this does not go with the Japanese culture too well as only the manual labors would take their top off. He wanted to introduce karate to Japan as the martial arts of samurai or gentleman. One great benefit of ibuki breathing, however, is its training of diaphragm. During ibuki you have to pay much attention to your diaphragm and its actions. You will learn how to “push down” and “pull up” the diaphragm while you control and manage the breathing. However, this exercise is also being practiced in Yoga. I like their exercise better as it is done with much less tension. In addition, its training is incorporated with moving the internal organs (up and down or in a circular direction) along with the deep breathing. This exercise is excellent for circulating your Ki and it will help you with your health. I recommend this exercise strongly and I hope the readers will try it.
Back to kime. The extended kime or tension of the muscles is not good for the Ki flow and you can about this in Kime chapter of Shotokan Myths (Second Edition, cover photo right). To develop the Ki flow in your karate training you need to learn how to relax more while you are training. If you enjoy the tensions in your training then I recommend that you will have a separate session of breathing exercise. I explained how to do the long and deep breathing in my previous blog. There are other ways to develop Ki and I will include them in my longer version of the subject.
Now that you know how to exercise a long and deep breathing method, let me conclude this article with the highest level of benefits that can come from the strong Ki and the healthy Ki flow developed by deep breathing exercises.
You will be able to control your heart beat and blood pressure. You will have a stronger immune system. What do these mean? The result is that you will have a very healthy life. Funakoshi boasted when he was in his 70’s and early 80’s that he never got sick. He credited to his karate training which I endorse. He lived till 88 years old which was an amazing longevity in that era. He even went through the war time in Tokyo where the food was scarce and sanitation was extremely poor in 1940’s. I agree with Master Funakoshi and I will write a separate article on how karate training can produce the good health. The more I practice karate I realize how amazingly human being is createdand that our potential is almost unlimited. So, wouldn’t you be happy if you simply do not get sick even when you are in your 70’s and 80’s?You can achieve that health with deep breathing and karate training.
You will also be able to control your brain waves at your will and emotional states much better than the non-practiced people. Under the heavy stress or emergency situation don’t you want to have an ability to keep calm and collected? You can do this if you can keep your brain waves at relaxed mode? By having strong Ki you will not be depressed or influenced less by the bad or sad news or incidents. This will certainly enable you to have a happier life.
Your mental alertness will improve with better breathing and stronger Ki. What does this mean? You will be able to avoid the accidents while you walk, run, ride a bike, drive and whatever the activities you may have. Out of all the accidents you may encounter an automobile accident can be the most serious one which you want to avoid the most. I have already written an article specifically on this subject and it is also available in my third book, Shotokan Transcendence. The title of the article is Jidosha Dojo (Automobile Dojo), how to practice karate while you are driving your car. I thin the concept of this training is unique and new. I am sure you will enjoy reading it.
I hope I covered everything I wanted with Ki and its relationship to deep breathing. In Shotokan Transcendence, along with “What is Ki?” and “Jidosha dojo” I have a chapter on how you can increase your Ki by doing Ki exchange with the trees. Please do not be skeptical. The sources of Ki are available all around you and if you try you will find that it is easy to increase your Ki.
I hope you will get yourself a copy of my third book, Shotokan Transcendence (cover photo right).
It is available at Amazon Books:
After reading it, would you kindly put your book review for the future readers?