January 13, 2016

Ki Society HQ – Kagami Biraki 2016

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We have celebrated and welcomed in the New Year. I wonder how the New Year has been and what this year will bring for everyone.

On January 10 (Sunday) 2016, HQ held the annual Kagami Biraki at Ki Society HQ Tochigi. Kagami Biraki is one of the most important event and seminars of Shinshin Toitsu Aikidokai. Instructors and members from all over Japan, came together to participate in this event. There were a total of 93 participants this year.

Early in the morning with temperatures of -1 degrees, participants started with Senshin no Gyo (a practice of pouring water on oneself), followed with Sokushin no Gyo (a practice of swinging the bell and breathing out in one breath at the same time.) The Dan Recommendations for 2016 was also formally announced, after which I taught the first Aikido training session for 2016.

All seminars and camps for 2016 officially starts for Shinshin Toitsu Aikidokai.

We look forward to meeting and practicing with all members again this year, Yoroshiku Onegai Itashimasu.

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January 08, 2016

Ushiro Ni Susumu – Continuing Forward While Moving Back

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In everything that happens, if there is a beginning there will always be an ending.

When we begin something, we are usually very positive and extending Ki to move forward. When we near the end of doing or accomplishing something, we tend to look or think back and in that process pull our Ki back. Ending or completing something is always more difficult than beginning or starting something.

Especially for leaders, it is particularly difficult assessing and knowing the time to quit. For example, knowing the time to retire or step down from the role as a leader. As well as realizing the time to pull out or retire from a role in a company or business.

If we pull our Ki back at such a crucial time, it can impair our ability to make correct decisions. Even though retiring or pulling out of an important role, we always need to continue to extend Ki forward.

Soshu Koichi Tohei Sensei realized this during his time in the war.

When advancing forward, it is easy to extend Ki continuously. As Ki is extending forward, it is easy to perceive and avoid a dangerous situation.

When withdrawing, it is easy to pull Ki back. As Ki is pulled back (inwards), dangerous signs become unnoticeable, thus making dangerous situations unavoidable.

This was learned by Soshu Koichi Tohei Sensei the hard way, he realized while withdrawing to never pull Ki back, it should not be thought of as ‘withdrawing or falling back’ but ‘proceeding and continuing back’. This helped him avoid many dangerous situations.

Even in Shinshin Toitsu Aikido training and practices, Soshu Koichi Tohei Sensei always taught in this way.

An example is: two people line up side by side at one side of the Dojo, both facing backwards away from the other end of the Dojo. They then both start to run at full speed (backwards) to the other end of the Dojo.

One person extends Ki forwards (even while running backwards). As Ki is extending, he is aware of his surroundings and is able to feel calm and confident while running.

The other person runs while pulling Ki inwards (still running backwards). As Ki is not extending, he is not able to feel his surroundings and therefore feels less confident and calm while running.

Beginners, who take part in this exercise for the first time, are surprised by the big difference in result just by the direction of Ki projection. This experience also showed that even while moving back, Ki continues to move forward.

During the [Ki Business Talk Session] seminar with Mr. Takeo Hori, we talked about knowing the right time to step down as a leader.

Mr. Hori retired at the age of 51 as president of Hori Production. At that time, not only his company, Hori Production – but every talent agency in Japan, looked like a business that would not be able to continue on to the next generation, Mr. Hori’s purpose then was to make Hori Production into a public company that could continue regardless of whether the new president was related to the Hori family or not.

Even then deciding to retire at the age of 51 still seemed very early, I asked Mr. Hori how he came to that decision.  

Convinced that the next President of the Hori Pro Company would protect and continue the progress of the company, Mr. Hori decided for himself that he wanted to continue to try new things.

After retiring, Mr. Hori was able to continue forward and take risks which he was previously unable to take while being the president of the company, which led to all his business decisions and ventures becoming successful.

Indeed, a president retiring should not just retire and step down, but should think of stepping down as a continuation and progression forward.

Even being 83 years old, he is always still continuing forward.

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January 05, 2016

Holding with Ki

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I have had more opportunities recently to teach both professional baseball players and coaches.

Through teaching these players and coaches, it has also helped my own understanding deepen.

An example of this deepening of my own understanding is what I call “The Holding of Things.”

To hold or carry something, is actually one of the most basic movements or actions that human beings do all the time, while at the same time being probably one of the most complex or ‘‘high level’’ actions or movements that we all take for granted.

When a player in good form or condition holds a bat, his hold is supported by his whole body as one. Even by applying Ki Testing by pushing the bat, the player does not get affected.

A player, who is not in good form or condition, usually holds the bat only with his hands. By applying Ki test and pushing the bat, not only does his bat move, but his whole posture also waivers.

Human beings are fortunate in the way that our wrists function and move. Technically just by moving our wrists we can swing a bat, which as the Japanese phrase “Kote Saki” implies, literally means moving only with wrists.

Ki Testing is first applied to check if the posture of the player is stable and calm, then it is applied again to check the player’s posture when he holds a bat. The stability of a player’s posture should always be calm and stable regardless of whether he is holding or not holding a bat, this is an important part of training which is practiced continuously.

By repeating this practice continuously, the player can understand the difference through feeling.

The same thing also applies when practicing Shinshin Toitsu Aikido.

When we practice Aikido techniques, we use our hands to perform the throw or techniques. If our throw feels incomplete or it doesn’t feel correct, it usually means that we are only just using our hands to throw. In Japanese this is called “Kote Saki”.

This is why it is very important to always practice checking of the stability of our posture, to make sure that it is always calm and stable with our mind and body being unified as one. This feeling should be applied when we perform Aikido Techniques. We should not be practicing ‘throwing just with our hands’ but we should always practice ‘throwing and moving with our whole body as one.’

Let us return back to the topic of: The Holding of Something.

When we hold something tightly (like grabbing or squeezing) this puts unnecessary tension and strain into our whole body resulting in our reaction and performance being less efficient than we actually think.

On the contrary, to just hold something lightly and loosely means we will not be able to apply and exert the correct amount of force when using or holding something. We should always hold with Ki extending and flowing, therefore, ‘Holding with Ki’ is a very important.

In Shinshin Toitsu Aikido training, we often practice with the holding of bokken. One of the purposes of this practice is for our bodies to be able to feel and get used to ‘holding with Ki’.

When we try hard to hold things, our Ki has already stopped flowing. In this case, by applying Ki Testing to check our posture, we can see that our posture is less stable and disturbed easily.

By continuously practicing holding the Bokken lightly with Ki flowing to the tip, we can catch the feeling naturally and our posture starts to become stable and calm even when holding a bokken.

Once we get the correct feeling with continuous training and practice, we can apply it to the holding of a bat, or the holding of a golf club, or even holding a brush when practicing Calligraphy.

Improvement in performance can be seen for baseball players, when they hit with their bat they will have more strikes, for golfers, they will have better scores during their games, and a calligrapher will be able to write characters with more Ki flow present in their work.

‘Holding with Ki’ means that Ki should always be flowing continuously throughout, with whatever we hold.

 

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January 01, 2016

Happy New Year 2016

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Living life, is to always be extending Ki
- Soshu Koichi Tohei Sensei

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December 09, 2015

November Combined Camp 2015 with Members from Australia, Tahiti and Malaysia

                       

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Tochigi HQ had a Combined Camp with members from branch dojos in Australia, Tahiti and Malaysia. The camp was held from 3, November (Tuesday) – 12, November (Thursday).

I taught 3 days of seminars held on 7, November (Saturday) – 9, November (Monday).

In the evenings during gatherings, we enjoyed talking and getting to know all members. Other Seminars during the camp were also taught by HQ Instructors, Taketoshi Kataoka Sensei and Tomonori Kobori Sensei.

This year instead of having World Camp, we decided to hold seminars and camps for branch Ki Societies and Federations. During this November Combined Camp, we were able to combine smaller groups from different Ki Societies and Dojos to come and train together at HQ. 

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October 28, 2015

Utilizing Ki with Music (Ongaku ni Ki o Ikasu)

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Ki Principles which are the basic foundation of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido are utilized in many different fields of activities and sports.

There are many members of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido who are professional musicians, such as pianists, singers and professional drummers, just to name a few.

For pianists, they have come to realize that if they are relaxed when playing the piano, they feel that the sound of the piano tune changes and becomes very clear.

Music is made up of a collection of many different notes. This is why it is very important when playing the piano that between each note the flow of Ki is not stopped. The end of one note is the beginning of another note, even in the space or pause between notes the musical flow continues.

For anyone that is involved in an orchestra, it would be very useful to apply keeping a calm mind.

When we play with a calm mind, not only can we hear the music that we are playing clearly, we are also aware and able to hear other sounds and music that is being played around us. When our mind is not calm, we will not be able to hear clearly the music that we are playing and the music being played around us. As a result, we will not be able to give a good performance. 

When our mind is calm, all the sounds will come together in harmony.

For singers, practicing breathing exercises, especially exhaling, will be very useful. With Ki Breathing, we practice relaxing during exhalation and letting it be natural. This directly connects to the quality of the voice that is being projected and sung.

When our consciousness is up in our chest when we practice Ki Breathing, our breathing becomes shallow. When we calm our mind at our one point in the lower abdomen, our breathing naturally becomes deeper and calmer.

Practicing exhaling for using our voice aloud (to sing, talk or count), actually helps make projecting our voices easier. Sometimes, it can also help project tones of our voice that we had difficulty trying to project before.

Musicians, who are especially sensitive, are usually not very good at controlling their emotions. They go through very intense changes in their emotions which lead them to suffer from stress. 

When Soshu Koichi Tohei Sensei went to the U.S. to spread the teachings of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido at seminars, a very famous American pianist came to join.

This pianist, who was very sensitive, always went through intense emotional changes, causing him to take medication to try to keep these emotions under control. This took a toll on his body and health which made him unable to see a continuation in his music career. 

He was able to learn from Soshu Koichi Tohei Sensei the principle of keeping calm at the One Point as well as Ki Breathing, which he practiced daily and made into a daily routine. He was then able to reduce using medications, which led to a continuation in his musical career.

Mind Moves and Leads Body

The state of our mind will appear in the music we play or sing. Therefore, if we do not control our mind then the performance we give can never touch a chord in the heart of others. Calming our mind is very important before performing or giving a show.

I have been learning about music since a very young age. My teacher was a student of Soshu Koichi Tohei Sensei. Her teachings of music were all based on Ki Principles. I remember clearly her advice of “Keeping a Calm Mind” before doing performances.

Shinshin Toitsu Aikido teachings and practice can be applied even in the field of Music.

 

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October 10, 2015

Distance

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In education or teaching the distance or space between the teacher and the student is very important.

If the distance or space between them is close enough, it is possible to deal with private matters. If the distance is too far, it would be difficult to become involved and participative with each other in any kind of private situation.

The easiest relationship to make reference to would be space between members in a family.

In a family, there are times when we have to give advice and be involved with situations, even if it might be a very sensitive situation. Therefore it is simply necessary for us to step in closely in order to say something.

In schools, the distance between individuals in relationships is not likely to be as close as in family relationships. In particular, the distance difference between relationships teacher and students have, is going to be quite different than those relationships between parents and children. Thus, there are things a teacher can and cannot do.

The main role of a school is to provide students with a forum for learning, as well as to develop and cultivate social skills. Therefore it is appreciated that schools fulfill their responsibilities. But when it comes to matters of discipline that involve teaching the basics of becoming independent, this responsibility belongs to parents and family. Discipline should not be out-sourced.

Lessons relating to nurturing should be taught at home and should not be pushed over to schools to be responsible for. If, for instance, a teacher was given this responsibility he or she might be violating the student’s privacy.

The space involving work relationships is even more distant than family and school relationships, as advice can only be given on work related issues to fellow staff members.

Family or school related issues cannot be forced on to the work environment making work relationships responsible in this way. If this happens it could lead to power harassment.

Within families, schools and work companies there are different distances that have to be recognized and understood.

A clear example that can be understood easily is the relationship between a mentor (“shisho”) and disciple (“deshi”).

The relationship between mentor and disciple is not the same as a relationship between teacher and student.

A mentor’s relationship with his or her disciple is based on wanting to tell, to teach, and to pass on knowledge to a particular disciple that can be trusted completely. A disciple’s relationship with his or her mentor is one of yearning to learn everything and accept any advice from the mentor.

This relationship is not just about understanding interests. In some cases it is as deep as, or even closer than, a relationship between parents and children. This can be felt and carried through only because the distance between mentor and student is very close.  

This is why it would be very fortunate and special if and when a disciple is able to meet or find a good mentor.

In the past, there was a program for “Uchideshi Training”. Each Uchideshi took 10 years to learn everything completely and graduate. Efficiency in training and education cannot be measured, which is why this program also had limitations in development.

At present, instead of having the “Uchideshi Training Program” we have started an “Instructors Development Program”. We select Instructors from around Japan that will be able to continue the development of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido for the near future and next generation. Recently, by trying to develop a closer distance with these instructors, I have started teaching and practicing even more often with them.

Also recently, I have started receiving requests for interviews regarding relationships between teachers and students.

Currently in Japan, there is a problem with students inheriting high level skills from high level teachers of crafts, cultural arts, activities which have a high level of importance to Japanese culture and many years of history. People have discovered that the education at schools and companies is not enough, and they have started to review the relationship between master and disciple (teacher and student).

When communicating and teaching, the master cannot always say things that are easy to listen to by their disciple. Most first time disciples who are just beginning to learn, feel that it is too difficult or too much trouble to go through. However, these feelings usually only last temporarily and the results, achievements, and lessons learned have far more value in the long run.

The fear of being disliked or hated, have increasingly started to influence parents making them unable to discipline their children, as well as teachers having difficulty in giving advice or having control of their students, and even bosses being unable to lead and advise their employees.

One of the main reasons contributing to this is the inability to understand the proper distance involving relationships. If we are unable to understand our role and our responsibilities clearly, how are we then able to comment, guide or give advice of caution to those that need it. We may not be giving advice appropriate to the circumstance of the situation.

Even in the world of professional athletes, the trend of coaches nowadays is to only give good comments and advice that players are interested in hearing. This apparently is what seems to be considered a “good coaching”. 

If a person only wants to hear good comments and advice from their work and personal relationships, it would not be an exaggeration to say that he or she has wasted their chance to continue to learn and improve.

Currently in Japan, roles in homes, schools and work (societies) are not clear. If these roles continue to remain unclear it would become more difficult to fulfill responsibilities.

What I believe is that responsibilities should be clear and learning the difference in distance or space involving relationships is important in fulfilling our roles.

Needless to say, Shinshin Toitsu Aikido Dojos and classes have a role to play and we will continue to fulfill our responsibilities.

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September 24, 2015

Leading People

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In order to be able to lead people, building “a trust relationship” with them first is very important. 

“What should we do to build a trust relationship with someone?” There is no direct, easy answer to this question, as it all depends on the other person, and the situation involved. On the other hand, it is very easy to know “when a trust relationship is lost or broken.” Before we can carry on further, let us reflect and think about this together. 

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What about someone who has no confidence in themselves or when dealing with situations, or someone who is unable to keep their promises or be punctual during appointments, or someone who changes their attitude to match the person they are dealing with. I think there are many other reasons that can contribute to losing or breaking a trust relationship with someone.

If you start thinking “What is required or needed to gain someone’s trust?”, and approach all situations with this mindset, you would then be able to understand naturally.

An example of a behavior that contributes to losing someone’s trust is, not really listening or paying attention when someone is talking or telling you something.

If you listen to someone and start prejudging them based on your own “correct” way of doing something and deciding in your own mind that they should have done it a certain way, this means that you will not able to really hear what they are trying to tell you. At this time, the other person will feel rejected or rebuffed and Ki will stop communicating.

Please do not misunderstand. Try to understand your partner by thinking that they are correct in everything that he or she says. Even if they may say something that is not “correct or agreeable”, it is important to try and understand the reason why they think that way.

At this point, most people would like to assert their opinion on what they think is “correct” on to the person they are speaking to, and try to force the other person to think in the same way. When this happens, the other person would feel as if their personality and opinion was being unaccepted, thus making him or her feel that there would be no meaning to continuing the conversation. 

First, acknowledge the other person’s way of thinking, and then try to understand why they think in that way and accept it. This means to understand the other party or person, which then helps us to be able to lead the other person or partner.

When the other person starts to think that they can trust in us to share their views and opinions, only then can we actually really share our own thoughts and opinions with them as they will be ready to accept it even though it may differ from theirs.

At this time during the conversation, if we start to get emotional because of the difference in opinions, it means we have started to put ourselves first and this would not help us to ever be able to really understand what our partner is really trying to say. At this point, our Ki flow has stopped and trying to lead our partner or the other person becomes difficult. 

During an official Dan Grading – a situation occurred:

There was a young man during his multiple attack exam, as he was being caught by an Uke. He started to get very affected and started throwing aggressively. An instructor who was also judging the Exam that day, stopped the exam immediately and reprimanded the young man, telling him that his grading was invalid and that he had to re-take the whole exam at another time.

The young man who took the Instructor’s stern reprimand seriously, started to walk out trying to leave the Dojo. As I was there as Head Examiner overseeing the overall grading process, I noticed this young man and called out to him trying to calm him down by telling him to stay till the end and watch the rest of the grading.

 The young man started to calm down and immediately sat to watch the rest of the grading. At the end of the whole examination, I spoke to the young man and asked him why he behaved the way he did during his Exam. He explained that he was not trying to do anything but that he panicked and just reacted. 


The rest of the conversation is as follows:

Me: “I am sure you didn’t mean to do this on purpose?”

The young man: “Please believe that I didn’t intend to re-act that way!”

Me: “I believe that your actions were not done on purpose. I hope you realized that your actions were very dangerous to the Uke, who was part of your grading.”

The young man: “Yes, I realized this. I am really very sorry.”

Me: “Let’s go apologize to the Uke together.”

The young man: “I understand.”

The young man sincerely apologized to the Uke, as there was no injury fortunately, it was not a problem. The young man has continued to train and has improved significantly. If the young man had left immediately after being reprimanded so sternly, I think his life would have turned out differently.

During this situation, I was able to lead the young man. If our Mind is not calm when we are trying to understand someone, all we would be doing is forcing our opinion on the other person, this would actually be very frightening as we would appear very controlling and commanding, I always advise against behaving like this.

This process is the same as being able to lead and throw your partner during Aikido training. If we try to move our partner according to how we think he or she should move, because we think we already understand the “correct way” of moving and performing the technique, we will still clash with our partner and not be able to lead and throw him or her.

By understanding your partner, you can then lead and throw them. This is to understand and put into practice the “5 Principles of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido.” 

5 Principles of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido

1) Ki is extending

2) Know your opponent’s mind

3) Respect your opponent’s Ki

4) Put yourself in your opponent’s place

5) Perform with Confidence

To listen is to be able to understand the other person. This is one of the best practices that we can apply outside of the dojo during our routines in our daily lives. Let us continue to practice this together.

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September 10, 2015

HKF Special Seminar at Ki Society HQ Japan (Tochigi)

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HKF Camp 2015 was held at Ki Society HQ Japan (Tochigi) from August 31(Monday) till September 3rd (Friday) 2015. HKF stands for Hawaii Ki Federation, which is a branch federation of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido Kai in Hawaii, USA.

During this camp, branch Dojos from Germany, Netherlands, Spain as well as USA came and practiced together.

Due to many participants coming for World Camp which has been held annually at HQ, we decided that from this year we would hold smaller seminars for branch Dojos, Societies and Federations, so that I could teach and interact with every member that came for the seminar. For HKF Camp, 60 members in total including HQ members and instructors came and participated in the training.

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The themes covered and taught during this camp were: (Ki is always extending and exchanging), (Ken and Hanmi), (Hanmi with Wazas) – Having No Openings with Aikido Techniques, (Irimi and Tengkan), (Kokyu with Dosa) – Relationship between Breathing and Movements, (Ki Breathing), (Ki Meditation) and (Kiatsu).

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During the 4 days of practicing together at Seminars and having Gatherings after classes, we were able to spend a lot of time together with all members. We sincerely would like to thank Chief Instructor Christopher Curtis Sensei and all members for their efforts in helping to make this seminar a success. We have also decided to hold this seminar during the same time again next year, HKF Camp 2016.

We will be having more seminars at HQ soon with members from other branch Dojos, Societies and Federations. With these Seminars coming up, I am looking forward to teaching and meeting all members and hopefully being able to instruct each member personally.

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August 17, 2015

Breathing Training

When practicing breathing training, it is best to start with Ki Breathing. The basic of Ki Breathing is to do Ki Breathing with natural posture (Oneness of mind and body). Exhaling should be slow and calmly from the One point.

At this time, if we consciously try to control our breathing by trying to exhale longer or trying to exhale better this will not help our Ki breathing exercise improve.

While Exhaling, it is best to leave it alone and let it naturally become 1/2, 1/2, 1/2… allowing it to continue and become infinitely smaller. At this time the “waves” in our mind should also become calmer and continue infinitely to the ends of the Universe.

An example that can be used to describe this is like a bowl, which is filled with water. In the beginning there will be waves, but if left alone after some time the waves or ripples that were on the surface of the water will naturally become calmer and quieter.

If we try to control our exhale during Ki Breathing, it is the same as creating “waves” in our mind, which has the opposite effect of leaving the breath alone, and our mind will not become calm.

The most important point of Exhaling during Ki Breathing is to “exhale and to let it be natural”. Once this feeling is experienced and felt, practicing Ki breathing becomes very easy.

This is like learning to ride a bicycle. To be able to ride it properly some practice time is necessary. The same applies to Ki breathing. For us to do it naturally and for Ki Breathing to be a part of us, frequent practice is necessary for us to catch this feeling and for it to become natural.

For Exhaling during Ki Breathing, “our breath should continue infinitely to the ends of the Universe.” Once this feeling is experienced, we can start to practice “exhaling in one breath.”

During the practice of exhaling in one-breath, many people usually tend to have unnecessary tension.

By frequently practicing Ki breathing and catching the correct feeling for it, the same applies to exhaling in one-breath. Here the end of the exhale is calm and continues infinitely to the end of the Universe. When this happens, inhale happens naturally after exhaling.

Practicing exhaling in one breath can be done continuously.

If each exhaled breath is not calm at the end, or if each breath is not exhaled completely, the next breaths for inhale then becomes shorter and not complete, thus the feeling of shortness of breath.

Another form of training, is practicing exhaling with one breath while swinging the bell, this is called “Sokushin no Gyo”. In the past this training was done for many hours in a day. Now we practice Sokushin no Gyo for about an hour.

By being able to extend our natural energy and strength completely, we then receive new energy and strength naturally. If we do not extend our natural energy and strength fully, then are unable to receive new energy and strength. “Sokushin no Gyo” can teach you this secret of breathing.

Once we get the feeling from practicing exhaling in one breath, we can start to practice “Ki Ai”, as in “Counting with Ki”.

“To count out loud” is the same as “Breathing out or Exhaling.” The way we exhale is projected in the way we count out loud as they are both connected.

When we keep One point calmly and exhale with one breath when counting out loud, we experience this same feeling, and so the voice that we project out will sound calm, confident and clear. 

With a voice that sounds calm, clear and confident it will also help when practicing or interacting with our partner and our surroundings. This is why we have had many actors and people who give speeches come to learn this breathing practice so as to improve and apply it to their work.

The final stage when practicing Breathing Training is to practice matching our “Breathing” and “Movements”.

This practice is usually applied by counting out loud during Bokken and Jo training, but the main purpose of training during Bokken and Jo moves should be that our count and our moves match as one naturally.

During Kengi and Jogi (Bokken and Jo) training, if our count is weak or not correct, it reduces the power of our actual movements by half. This is why it is very important for us to realize the importance of counting correctly.

Breathing and movements should always match as one naturally. It is when we are not in our best natural state or condition that our breathing and motion becomes separate and we are unable to perform to the best of our ability.

When teaching athletes, we also teach them how to train matching “Breathing and Movement” as one. By practicing this, most athletes usually improve their performance.

“Breathing out calmly”“Breathing out or Exhaling in One Breath” “Ki Ai or Counting out loud” “Breathing and Movement”, these are the steps that we can use to train in our Breathing Training.

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