Deep breathing fills your lungs with universal ki energy and oxygen, which helps maintain your health and well-being.
Stretching exercises will lengthen your muscles and allow them to work more efficiently. Your joints are encouraged to maintain and increase their range of movement, and your internal organs are stimulated.
Learning how to relax and soften your body is of great benefit to your general health. Studying aikido, chi kung, kiatsu, shiatsu, acupressure or makko ho, are all great practices to help you boost your energy levels.
The idea of ki energy or chi is fundamental to Chinese medical thinking, and it fills everything that exists.
A Chinese doctor will talk about a person having strong chi, weak chi, stagnant chi, collapsed chi etc. These conditions manifest themselves in ways they can recognize, diagnose, and treat if necessary.
Meridians and blood vessels are the pathways through which ki energy circulates around the body. They include 14 major and 6 minor meridians.
These channels are associated with the major organs of the body, though these organs do not always coincide with western anatomical ideas.
Certain points, or cavities, along the meridians are associated with beneficial therapeutic effects. Stimulating these cavities with acupuncture needles, or simply by finger pressure as used in ki energy massage, acupressure, and shiatsu have specific physiological effects.
Knowing where the main points are, and how to stimulate them, can add a new dimension to your warming-up exercises. For example, rather than just rotating your ankles, you can be pressing one of several potent points of the kidney, liver or spleen meridians that pass through the foot.
Rather than tapping your body in a random fashion during warm-up, you can follow the line and direction of the meridians and stimulate them more effectively. Even a superficial study of shiatsu and other similar oriental systems can be of great benefit in your normal practice.
We already make use of at least one of the cavities in our normal practice. Yonkajo uses the points located on the inside of the wrist. The three arm yin meridians pass through the inside of the wrist (lung, pericardium and heart meridians) and yonkajo exerts pressure on one or more points.
These same points can be used in shiatsu and acupuncture to cure ailments. It is possible to press many different cavities when performing ordinary Aikido techniques.
This suggests that you could learn how to stimulate the healing energy of our partner... as we practice.
The technique of cavity press, or tien hsueh, is well known in Chinese martial arts and is regarded as probably the highest accomplishment of Chi Kung in the martial arts. They have identified 108 cavities that can be attacked by striking with a finger, palm, fist, foot or elbow, or grasping.
Chi Kung or Qigong is the study of how chi circulates in the body and many of the exercises involve slow stretching movements that are coordinated with the breathing.
The stretches are aimed at stimulating particular meridians as well as exercising joints and muscles. When performed correctly, they help to make the body more balanced and healthier.
Being aware of the purpose of a particular breathing and stretching exercise can help to focus your attention on the reason for the exercise and increase its effects. This way it becomes mental and physical.
'Tree hugging', standing like a tree, or Zhan Zuang, is a static form of Chi Kung/Qigong and of enormous benefit in releasing the strength in the shoulders, an essential ability for people who practice Aikido.
Knowing about its purpose and Chi Kung/Qigong roots can make the exercise more beneficial. It has many other benefits like stimulating the flow of Ki energy in the body, which increases the body's vitality.
Arm swinging, or Bai Bi, works on the principle that swinging the arms stimulates the chi channels in the shoulder joints, arms and hands.
The increased flow of Chi in the arms spreads to the rest of the body, producing a generally beneficial effect. The arms become loose and free, helping to make our Aikido more relaxed and effective.
These ideas and practices can be very useful for Aikido Instructors, helping them to respond to the needs of individual students more effectively both in their training and for their general health.
It adds to the pleasure gained from practicing Aikido ki energy, and understanding its potential for promoting health and vitality.