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.
Points, along the meridians are associated with beneficial therapeutic effects. Stimulating these cavities with acupuncture needles, or by finger pressure in ki energy massage, acupressure, and shiatsu have physiological effects.
Knowing where the main points are, and how to stimulate them, can add a new dimension to your warm-up exercises. Rather than just rotating your ankles, you can be pressing points of the kidney, liver or spleen meridians in the foot.
Rather than tapping your body randomly during warm-up, you can follow the line and direction of the meridians and stimulate more effectively. A study of shiatsu and similar oriental systems can be of great benefit in your practice.
We already make use of at least one of the cavities in our normal practice.
Yonkajo uses the pressure 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 points can be used in shiatsu and acupuncture to cure ailments. It is possible to press points when performing Aikido techniques. You could even learn how to stimulate the healing energy of your partner... as you practice.
The technique of cavity press, or tien hsueh, is well known in Chinese martial arts and regarded as 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 coordinated with breathing.
The stretches are aimed at stimulating meridians and exercising joints and muscles. They will 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.