December 01, 2023

Act while Ki is Extending

There is a set of principles that is most important in the practice of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido. These principles show the process of leading people.

Five Basic Principles of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido
1. Ki is extending
2. Know your partner’s mind
3. Respect your partner's intension
4. Put yourself in the place of your partner
5. Perform with confidence

It might be easier to understand “Ki is extending” if we replace it with "Ki is flowing."

Ki is flowing through every part of the body. When Ki is flowing throughout the body, we can move our body freely. When the body is tense, Ki becomes stagnant/gets stuck and the body cannot be used as we want.

Ki also flows through the people we encounter and our surroundings. When Ki is flowing, we can see the surroundings clearly. When our mind gets attached to something, Ki becomes stagnant, and we cannot understand clearly other persons nor their surroundings.

Only when our Ki is extending are we able to use the power we have. And because our Ki is extending, we can execute our [Ki-Aikido] techniques.

This is the reason why the first principle of our Five Principles of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido is “Ki is extending”.

One of the methods of practicing Shinshin Toitsu Aikido is, while in a sumo wrestling-like grappling position with your partner, to practice stepping forward to move your partner backwards - but just by touching/connecting with your partner, without holding onto the partner's dogi or obi (belt).

It is a very simple, but a profound way to practice.

Our mind tends to be easily disturbed at the beginning of a movement. At the very moment we are about to make the move, our Ki tends to get stuck/becomes stagnant. This practice method allows us to become clearly aware of this disturbance we experience.

If we try to "push and move the partner," we will feel tension in our upper body, arms, and legs. This causes Ki to become stagnant and prevents us from moving forward.

If we start thinking about how to move our partner, our mind becomes attached to the effort. This intention causes our Ki to get stuck and we can’t move forward.

If we try to feel the sensations in our body, then our mind will be full of openings. We will be in a state of collapse - we lose our Ki and cannot move, so this is out of the question!

Through this practice method, we directly experience how easily Ki can become stagnant, and how surprisingly easy it is for us to get disturbed and thus lose our natural power.

If we move while our Ki is extending, we can move forward without any problems, but we humans [thinking too much] have a hard time doing so.

The state of “Ki is extending” is difficult to understand in words and can only be understood by directly experiencing it and acquiring it through our body.

However, there are criteria that we can use to check it ourselves.

For example, when Ki is flowing, there is no tension anywhere in the entire body. The posture is also solid and stable because Ki is flowing through every part of the body, including the toes and fingers. In this way, we attain a state in which our field of vision widens and we are acutely aware of our surroundings.

In Shinshin Toitsu Aikido practice, we check this state with a Ki test, and then, train ourselves to maintain that same state even during strenuous movement.

When top athletes experience the state of “Ki is extending”, they all say, "This is how I feel when I am in my best condition!”. The challenge is to always maintain this state.

This is why many athletes continue to practice Shinshin Toitsu Aikido.

In order to learn how to move in a state of "Ki is extending", it is essential to practice it not only at the dojo, but also in our  daily life.

This is because “Ki is extending” is directly connected to the condition of our mind and not just the condition of our body.

You might recall a time when you had something “you must do”, and you wondered whether or not you should do it, or you did it reluctantly. The moment your mind falls into such a state, your Ki is already stuck/stagnant.

“If I am going do it, then I just do it”, “If I am not going to do it, then I just don’t do it” - it is important to make up our mind, and once we have made up our mind, we have to do it without any hesitation.

By repeating this process, we can form a habit of "moving while Ki is flowing”. This way, we can solve one of the causes of our Ki becoming stagnant at the beginning of the movement.

Ever since I was a child, I have had a hard time making up my mind about anything.

When I started uchideshi training, “overwriting” this habit was the training that was drilled into me.

Strangely enough, the technique began to work after I developed a new habit [of “Ki is extending”].

Koichi Tohei Sensei said to me, "Every time you tried to do something, you were allowing your Ki to get stuck. You can understand your partner only when your Ki is flowing. And you can lead him only when you understand him."

He continued, “Shugyo is the training you do day in, day out, 24/7. Continue your practice for the rest of your life, so that your Ki flows under any circumstances.”

Since then, I have always made an effort to "act while Ki is extending" in everything I do, not just at the dojo, but also in my daily life.

And that [kind of training] brought me to where I am today. Nowadays, no one seems to be able to imagine that I used to be a kind of person who couldn’t make up my mind in everything.

Our techniques change if we change in our daily life. This is truly "Aikido in daily life”.

Translated by Mayumi Case
Edited by David Shaner and Matthew Attarian
Eastern Ki Federation

Original article in Japanese: 氣が出ている状態で行動する (Ki ga deteiru jyotai de kodo suru)
December 1, 2022


November 15, 2023

Acquisition and Mastery

I attend the Shinshin Toitsu Aikido black belt promotion tests, which are conducted throughout Japan, as an observer.

This is done in addition to the existing testing held in Tochigi (three times a year), Osaka (twice a year), Sendai, and Fukuoka. Also, the promotion tests will be held in Nagano, Nagoya, and Hiroshima, and other cities beginning this year.

People who take black belt promotion tests seem to become quite nervous, and some of them even experience their mind going completely blank. I am often asked the question,

“how can I prevent my mind going completely blank?”

People seem to sincerely and honestly want to know the answer.

Even when we calm ourselves at the One Point in the lower abdomen, our mind can go completely blank. The more we consciously try not to let that happen, the worse our condition becomes.

The way to handle this, however, is quite simple: we “put what we have learned (acquisition) in our body” over and over again so that we can move freely even when our mind goes blank.

If we move while being too much in our head, too consciously, or intentionally, we cannot move at all and our mind goes blank.

But when we have put the know-how into our mind and body, we can move without thinking. In other words, it is important to “knead” [what we have acquired] into our body until we do not have to rely on our head.

Here is a rule of thumb. Let’s say, when we experience something once, we call it “1”.

Experiencing something can not even compare to having seen or heard it, and experiencing something just once makes a huge difference. However, we call experiencing something once “1” here.

If you repeat it “10” (times), which is one digit more, we get to know how it feels, and how you are supposed to feel it in your body. There is a sense of excitement in acquiring something, and this is what makes our training so appealing.

However, the feeling we gain will disappear after a night's sleep. This means even if we were able to acquire it, we have not reached the level of mastering it.

It takes another "100” (times), which is one whole digit more, for what we have acquired to be firmly established in our body. Once we repeated that many times, we can probably say we have mastered it.

In general, many people assume that they have "made it" at the stage of acquisition, and this may be the reason some people have difficulty making progress.

And to be able to do what we have mastered at any time and in any environment, we need to repeat something “1000” (more times), which is another whole digit more. I always use this as a minimum standard for building on our efforts.

This means we need to “knead” one additional digit of time at each stage: experiencing →acquiring → mastering → being able to do it, which is a point where the training literally becomes a part of you.

As long as we put what we learn into our body and mind, we will never be betrayed by what we have learned. When we have to deal with something important, if we put something only in our head, we can be easily betrayed by it.

I often talk about these important things with young instructors and leaders at every opportunity I have.

I have two young instructors who are training under me. One of them was quick to understand and seemed to be able to acquire what was taught in a short period of time. The other one, however, is slow to understand and had a hard time acquiring it. Over the course of two months, I worked with him until he acquired a solid experience of what it feels like.

Each of them seemed to be moved deeply by moment they were able to acquire it.

Some time later, I was able to check on them when I had an opportunity to see them both at the same time. Unfortunately, the instructor who had understood quicker reverted back to his original state and had not mastered what he was taught, while the other who had understood slowly was steadily mastering it.

When I heard their stories, it turned out that the instructor who was quicker to understand thought he mastered it, so he did not create enough opportunities for “kneading” it afterwards.

The other instructor who was slower to understand took a long time to acquire it, so he repeated what he was taught every day from the day he received the instructions, so that he would not lose the feeling he had acquired.

They say what is easily gained is easily lost, and that is exactly what had happened to them. As attested by some old sayings, luck, steadfastness, and perseverance are very important.

Having an overwhelming gap in ability between them, the instructor who was quick to understand changed his basic attitude toward "acquiring" the skills. He seemed to have realized the most important thing, and I am very much looking forward to his future growth.

We can master something by first acquiring it. Acquiring is the start of learning, not the goal.

Let's strive to master our arts.

Translated by Mayumi Case
Edited by David Shaner and Matthew Attarian
Eastern Ki Federation

Original article in Japanese: 会得と体得 (Etoku to Taitoku)
November 1, 2022


November 01, 2023

Putting the Important Things in One’s Mind

Once, while I was still in my uchideshi (apprenticeship) training, I was summoned by Tohei Sensei and rushed to see him in the waiting room of the main dojo. This happened immediately after training, so I was still in my dogi.

Tohei Sensei stood up and took hold of me by the lapels of the dogi, staring into my face but smiling, and said,

“You know, I am being very patient with you.”

I knew I had not met his expectation in any way, but I felt this must be something very serious that I was not aware
of. I was not sure what this was all about, but I thought I should apologize anyway.

Tohei Sensei continued, “You still do a lot of things that bother me. So I am planting this in your mind now. And as long as it is in your mind, it will eventually come out. Even if you don’t understand it right now, there will come a day when you will understand it as you gain more experience. So, I am going to put what is important in your mind now.”

I had no idea what he was talking about.

“Do everything you were told to do without saying this or that!”

Then, it hit me! I had been deciding in my mind whether the task I was given was meaningful or meaningless, and I did not always have a positive attitude to engage in things that did not interest me. I knew he was referring to this tendency of mine.

Tohei Sensei’s words had such a tremendous impact that I clearly remember the conversation to this day.

Even though it has already been 25 years since we had this conversation. During that time, Tohei Sensei passed away, and 10 years have gone by since his death.

And what Tohei Sensei put in my mind in those days has finally started coming out. There are things we can understand only with an effort and after having gained various experiences.

We are always seeking results.

As leaders and instructors, we have this desire or selfinterest to have people meet our expectations, because we poured our time and energy into guiding them.

This self-interest becomes a problem when people do not improve in the way we want them to. It makes us feel impatient and frustrated.

We simply need to put what is important in their mind, even when they are not listening to us, not understanding or not being unable to understand it. As long as it is in their mind, it will come out someday, and they will come to understand it.

This is especially true with children.

It can be very frustrating when children don’t listen to us.

But they are listening, even when they act like they are not. They will never get better if we stop putting what is important in their mind just because they do not seem to be listening or understanding what we are telling them, or they don’t show any improvement.

The important thing is to put it in their mind again and again.

When I train young leaders and instructors, and they do not change for better no matter how many times I explain something, I, too, sometimes get irritated and become quite forceful in tone out of frustration.

Yet whenever that happens, I have to recall the conversation I had with Tohei Sensei, and I have to make an effort to “put what is important in their mind”.

Oddly enough, people improve out of the blue several years later.

I remember Tohei Sensei treated everyone in this way. This was his basic attitude as a leader.

The sun does not shine on only those who please it. The sun's rays create a bright side and shadow side of things depending on the environment we are in. But the sun itself shines equally on everything.

This is the spirit of “Ban-yū Aigo” (loving and protecting all things), which is the most important thing for all the leaders and instructors to understand.

I am striving to become a leader and instructor who can continue to put what is important in people's mind, regardless of their listening to me, not listening to me, understanding it immediately, or unable to do so.

“I am being very patient with you.”

Having become an instructor myself, I can now really related to what Tohei sensei felt.

Translated by Mayumi Case
Edited by David Shaner and Matthew Attarian
Eastern Ki Federation

Original article in Japanese: 大事なことは入れておく(Daijina koto wa irete oku)
October 1, 2022



October 15, 2023

The Validation of Kiatsuhō

The Shinshin Toitsu Aikidokai has 24 federations / chapters throughout the world and about 30,000 members are training.

One such federation, the Oregon Ki Society, has been very active in practicing and teaching Kiatsuhō, along with other Shinshin Toitsu Aikido programs.

Kiatsuhō is a health regimen based on Shinshin Toitsu Aikido, where a practitioner, while their ki is naturally extending, touches patients to help them relax and have better blood circulation, which improves various ailments. Pain is eased and stiffened body parts become more supple. To put it simply, Kiatsuhō is an important health regimen to help dissolve the blockage of Ki that causes various health problems. It is one of the important disciplines we have in Shinshin Toitsu Aikido.

Over a period of several years, Calvin Tabata Sensei (Shinshin Toitsu Aikido 8th degreeblack belt) and his core dojo members studied Kiatsuhō directly from Koichi Tohei Sensei. They became the only federation allowed to open a Kiatsuhō school in Oregon.

Many members study Kiatsuhō in addition to Shinshin Toitsu Aikido.

Recently, instructor and physician Terry Copperman and other co-researchers conducted a clinical study on Kiatsuhō, and published their findings in a medical journal.

This academic journal is given a rating called Impact Factor (IF). IF of 3 or greater is generally considered to be a reliable journal. Here is the article:

Beneficial Effects of Kiatsu with Ki Training on Episodic Migraine 

Although I have some background in science, reading and understanding a medical journal article is quite difficult. So I asked for help from Takeshi Tanigawa, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Graduate School of Medicine and Chair of Department of Public Health at Juntendo University, to explain this journal article.

Tanigawa Sensei is an enthusiastic Shinshin Toitsu Aikido practitioner. “Kiatsuhō is going to be a historical step that will cut into existing alternative medicines. [This study] has a great significance in that it conducted experiments based on the strict and demonstrative methodologies of Western medicine, and successfully demonstrated the positive efficacies of Kiatsuhō.” Tanigawa Sensei explained.

This article mainly talks about migraine headaches.

And according to Tanigawa Sensei, migraine headaches have a high rate of prevalence around the world, and drug therapies
come with side effects. Existing alternative therapies also have limitations, such as high cost, and clinics who provide those  therapies are limited in number.

Kiatsuhō was demonstrated to be a promising approach. It provided sustained efficacies to female subjects with migraine headaches by significantly reducing the frequency, improving QoL (Quality of Life) scores, and reducing the need for medication use.

Of particular importance, the effectiveness of Kiatsuhō increases when combined with Ki training (Shinshin Toitsu Aikido) rather than performing Kiatsuhō alone.

It turned out that migraine symptoms improved by Kiatsuhō can be sustained by continuing Ki training. Tanigawa Sensei, who specializes in Public Health, took particular note of this point.

This clinical study was accomplished by the local instructors’ passion to spread Kiatsuhō and Ki training to the world.

In collaboration with Tanigawa sensei, we have decided to advance our research in Japan too. We have many years of experience with Kiatsuhō in Japan, and my desire is to demonstrate the effectiveness of Kiatsuhō and Ki training. So in the near future, we will begin recruiting people with a graduate degree (or bachelor degree) to get involved in these studies. Along with Shinshin Toitsu Aikido, we will spread Kiatsuhō to the world.

Translated by Mayumi Case
Edited by David Shaner and Matthew Attarian
Eastern Ki Federation

Original article in Japanese: 氣圧法の研究論文について
June 1, 2022


October 01, 2023

Understanding Conveyed Through Ki

When I was in high school, I started taking classes at Sundai Yobikō to get ready for university entrance exams (“Yobikō”, or preparatory school, are privately-run schools marketed to high school seniors who arepreparing for college entrance exams, or in many cases, high school graduates who failed the exam to enter the university of their choice. Students can apply for college only once a year in Japan). I was attending a math class taught by Prof. Akiyama (currently, the Specially-Appointed Associate Chancellor at Tokyo University of Science). His class was very interesting and fun, even to someone who didn’t like to study specifically for college entrance exams like myself.

His class always made me say things like “I see...” and “I got it!”, and even made me feel as if I understood the full depth of mathematics. But when I returned home and tried solving math problems on my own, I just couldn’t do it, despite having thought I understood everything clearly during the class.

After having experienced this phenomenon so many times, I became aware of one thing: during his class, Akiyama Sensei was filled with an incredible excitement of having clearly understood mathematics, and his Ki was then felt by everyone in his class. Even I felt like I understood everything completely.

Of course, really understanding something requires effort and an accumulation of knowledge. However, if you think the subject matter is really difficult from the get-go, or you dislike your teacher, you will lose your “yaruki” (meaning motivation, but literally means “Ki to do/try”). In other words, Akiyama Sensei’s class motivated students (“ki o hikidasu”, which literally drawing out his one’s Ki).

I learned later that Akiyama Sensei himself was not a very good student when he was young. He failed university entrance exams, and even after he managed to become a researcher, he continued facing many setbacks. The reason he was teaching at Sundai Yobikō was to earn money to fund his research, too. However, he aspired to become a mathematics researcher because he experienced the joy of mathematics from his high school mathematics teacher. I immediately understood that this was why his class was so fun.

I am an instructor of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido. I am constantly researching and devising various ways to communicate something deep in a very simple way. What I try to be careful of the most is making sure that I personally feel inspired and excited about understanding something. This is because my inspiration or excitement leads other people to understand through my Ki. When instructing at the dojo, giving a lecture at a seminar, or speaking at a corporate training program, I approach each teaching opportunity in this way. Acquiring a skill requires practice and repeated effort, but being able to feel that we can do it is just as essential in any learning. If we feel we can’t do it, then we probably will not be able to.

A true leader is a person who can demonstrate to people that they can do it, too. When we understand something, our Ki naturally extends. When we can’t understand something, our Ki becomes stagnant [doesn’t flow, gets stuck]. When we communicate something to others and observe carefully each time how people extend their Ki in response to it, we can see how much they understand the subject you just communicated. If they are not understanding, it means that there is some room for improvement in the way we are communicating the subject matter. If we continuously train ourselves to help people understand the subject better, our teaching skills will also improve.

“Teach what people don’t know using only the words they do know.”

This is one of the most important points when instructing Shinshin Toitsu Aikido. It applies to when we communicate / teach verbally or in writing, too. When we always communicate / teach this way, we can also deepen our own understanding of the subject. I am always making an effort to teach this way, too.

However, this sort of “ease of understanding” has its drawbacks. When people think they understand something only from an intellectual perspective, this stops them from making an effort and practicing repeatedly. There is a saying, “suit your speech to the audience”, but we will discuss that at another time.

Professor Katsuhiro Nishinari at University of Tokyo Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, who proposes “Jamology” (mathematically solve mechanism of spontaneous traffic jams on highways: assigns his university students to prepare a presentation on a very difficult and abstract theme in a way that middle school students can understand, so that they themselves can deepen their own understanding of the subject matter. If you are not really understanding the subject matter, this task is quite difficult, because you are required to use the words and expressions middle school students know. In Aikido, this is like developing our teaching skills in our children or kindergarten classes.

I interviewed Professor Nishinari and it was published as a book in 2019. I was impressed by his ability to talk about quite abstract subjects using only extremely simple words.
“Origin of communication lies in Ki” (No official English title)
I hope you would read the book if you haven’t done so.

Translated by Mayumi Case
Edited by David Shaner and Matthew Attarian
Eastern Ki Federation

Original article in Japanese: 理解は氣で伝わる(Rikai wa Ki de Tsutawaru) July 1, 2022


September 15, 2023

Breathing Imitation

It was over 10 years ago when I came across a book review in a magazine about a well-known Japanese impressionist / stand-up comedian, Michiko Shimizu. She talked about Koichi Tohei Sensei’s book “The Ki Breathing” (Ki no Kokyūhō, 氣の呼吸法). Because of this article, I decided to watch a video clip of one of her live performances. Her performance was brilliant and really funny, but what really struck me the most was what Michiko Shimizu said: “Impersonation is all about “kokyū” (which can be translated as breathing / timing).

At this time, I was regularly working on “breathing out / exhaling” in my Aikido training, so I knew that vocalization is done by exhaling. But I had never thought about imitating or mimicking someone’s vocalization. Ever since then, I have been studying how I can make myself sound like someone else.

I first tried a couple of well-known people, whom Michiko Shimizu often mimicked: Jakuchō Setouchi, a Japanese Buddhist nun and activist, and Akiko Yano, a well-known Japanese female pop / jazz pianist and singer.

At first, I didn’t sound anything like them! So, I decided to forget about their voices, and pay attention only to their breathing. Consequently, I ended up mimicking their breathing instead of their voices. It was then that a wonderful thing happened! Even though I was imitating them with my male voice, I was gradually beginning to sound more like them!

People have all sorts of habits in their breathing. Some people breathe with cadence, some breathe heavily, and some breathe as if they are going to collapse. But if you can reproduce these kinds of breathing habits exactly, the listener will feel as if you sound like the person you are imitating.

Ever since learning this, I started to pay careful attention to people's breathing. I cannot recall how many people I have mimicked over the years. Although this endeavor started out of mere curiosity, this ability turned out to be quite useful later on.

For example, when I teach Ki breathing. I often notice that many people have difficulties with breathing naturally. I have observed so many breathing habits in people that I have became very aware of what makes one's breathing difficult.

Another example is when I teach Kiai and counting, because one’s breathing habits are more clearly reflected in these actions. Instructions given about voices during our training are normally expressed in terms of “feelings”, and students who received this type of instruction often have a hard time understanding them.

However, because of my experiences with mimicking and imitating others, I can reproduce and demonstrate their habits, and thus show them what they sound like.

When we see ourselves from the outside, we are able to see what we are doing from another person’s perspective. Therefore, we become aware of our own habits. And once we are aware of our habits, our Kiai and counting can improve naturally.

I also became better at showing individuals how they can improve specifically and in a concrete manner. In Japanese, we say “manabu” (to learn) is to “manebu” (to mimic/imitate) and this seems to be true.

In the Ki Society, we have many members who are actors. “Vocalization” is all about “Kokyū”. Our breathing shows the status of our mind, so our emotions and our breathing quality are closely related. Each emotion has its own particular breathing quality, so if you can reproduce a specific breathing quality, your voice naturally comes out. If there is a separation between our breathing and our emotions, we would sound unpleasant to our listeners. But when we live with mind and body coordinated and we are extending Ki fully, we can have full command of our breathing, and thus can control our voice at will: a skill that probably many actors are interested in.

I myself speak to large audiences of sometimes several thousands. Of course, I have to think about what I want to say and talk about, but considering what kind of kokyū I would employ to communicate is also important. This is because how well we can communicate is affected greatly by the quality of our breathing.

More importantly, the condition of our breathing is extremely important when we execute our techniques in Shinshin Toitsu Aikido. When we can execute a technique successfully, that is because we are breathing in a way that allows the technique to work. For advanced students, mimicking (like stealing) other's breathing is also an important part of training.

Everyday, we can have fun training to mimic and imitate the breathing of others, like Michiko Shimizu did.

Translated by Mayumi Case
Edited by David Shaner and Matthew Attarian
Eastern Ki Federation

Original article in Japanese: 呼吸を真似る (Kokyū o Maneru) June 1, 2022


October 30, 2022

Finding Good Points

This is an interesting story that I heard when I accompanied Koichi Tohei Sensei during one of his seminars in Hawaii.

During that trip, an American young man was observing a class with his mother and came to greet Tohei Koichi Sensei after the class was over.

The mother told us that, years ago, she had brought her child to the dojo during Koichi Tohei Sensei’s long stay in Hawaii to promote Aikido. At the time, the boy was very naughty, and his mother was concerned about this, and sought help from Koichi Tohei Sensei.

Tohei Sensei immediately remembered them, and they had a lively conversation. Especially for me, who did not know about those earlier days, the mother told me the following story in detail.

She said that when she first consulted Tohei Sensei about her child, she said, "My son is restless and misbehaves all the time. There is not a single good thing about him.” When Tohei Sensei heard this, he said, "Don't worry, every child has good qualities.” Tohei Sensei decided to let him participate in the training to see for himself.

When Tohei Sensei met him in class, he found that he was not really able to pay attention and follow directions, and Tohei Sensei confirmed that he was a very difficult boy. His mother, who was watching the class, had a look on her face that said, "See! Isn't it just as I said?"

After practice, Tohei Sensei decided to talk to the child alone. The child must have thought that Tohei Sensei was going to be angry with him, and so he shrank with shame.

Tohei Sensei said to the boy, "I tried to find your good points, but today I couldn't find them. However, next time I will find them for sure, so be sure to come back to practice again!" The child was relieved to find that Tohei Sensei was not angry with him, and said, "All right! I'll come back!" and left with big smile.

After that, the child started practicing attentively. Whenever Tohei Sensei found a good point in the boy’s practice, he would say, "I found a good point!” and he would identify it to the boy. The mother, who was observing the practice, watched this exchange.

Little by little, the boy began to calm down, and the behaviors that had been bothering his mother became less and less. Seeing this remarkable change, the mother became aware that she had been consciously looking for the child's bad points.

When it came time for Koichi Tohei to return to Japan, the boy and his mother came to bid him “goodbye,” and the boy cried and would not leave Tohei Sensei’s side.

Twenty years later, that “bad boy” had become a fine young man.

The mother also said that her now grown child was "a proud son who loves his parents", and tearfully thanked Koichi Tohei Sensei, saying that "that experience with you changed our lives".

The expression on the face of the mother and son at that time left a deep impression on me.

The Lesson:

“Finding good points and supporting others”, rather than “finding bad points and scolding others” may be easy to understand in our head, but it is not easy to do in daily life.

This is because to discover those good points in others, we must take the time and effort to find out what is good about the person. Often it is not possible to understand a person just by spending a little time with them, without looking at them lovingly and carefully.

Only by calmly understanding another person can we support their development. Therefore, practices such as 'keeping one point' and 'Ki breathing' are of great help.

If you just want to point out what is wrong with someone, it does not require that much effort. It is easy to fall into this trap because it seems so straightforward and clear. However, just pointing out what is wrong will never make it better.

The same is true in the practice of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido. Simply pointing out what is wrong with a student cannot be called teaching. Teaching is about "guiding the other person until he or she can do it", which is what instructors need to practice all the time.

The Japanese former baseball star, Tatsuro Hirooka simply says, "What is good is good, what is bad is bad", and he looks carefully at "how to make the person better" and continues to think about it. Once he has made up his mind to train someone, he will take care and continue to support them until the end.

I feel that this is what I should be doing as a leader.

Sometimes, I forget, and look at the 'lacking areas' of the other person. When this happens, I remember to return to the basics of 'finding the good points'.

Edited by: C. Curtis
Hawaii Ki Federation


October 16, 2022

The Real Value of Ukemi

In the practice of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido (Ki-Aikido), we attach great importance to “ukemi.”

The Japanese word “ukemi” is usually interpreted as “passive attitude’” “Passive” here meaning being in a defensive position to receive an attack by others.

However, in practice, ukemi is the exact opposite. It is active, meaning offensive.

Ukemi means “to defend oneself,” only in the sense of being ready, at the moment of being thrown, to make the next move instantly. The moment of being thrown is not the end, but the beginning of the next movement.

Therefore, in Ki-Aikido practice, you do not "win" because you throw, and you do not "lose" because you are thrown.

If your body is jarred or even injured by the throw, you will not be able to make your next move, or you will be slowed down. It is immediately after being thrown that your biggest moment of vulnerability occurs.

If the nage (thrower) is keeping one point, then the uke (person being thrown) must also need to keep one point. Even if the nage throws in an unreasonable way, if the ukemi is maintaining mind and body unified, forceful techniques will no longer work.

This is how we can understand the meaning of respecting the opponent and interacting based on the Five Principles of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido.

The Five 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


About 20 years ago, one of the athletes I regularly coached was a professional boxer. He had come to me to learn “Keeping One Point” and “Ki Breathing” in order to be able to maintain his strength in stressful fights.

One day, as I explained the meaning of ukemi and showed him how to perform ukemi, he looked at this with longing. I asked him why he was so interested in this, as I thought there were no opportunities to do ukemi in boxing. He gave me an answer that I did not expect at the time.

He said, “Ideally, you should always be able to knock down your opponent, but against a really strong opponent that doesn't always happen. When you get knocked down, the impact of the fall can be substantial, sometimes even more damaging than from the opponent's punches, Therefore, I would like to study how to fall without being injured.”

In a competition where the goal is to knock down the opponent, the perspective of studying how to fall was very impressive. After that, this fighter trained ukemi until he could do it unconsciously and seemed to have acquired an exact feeling of it.


The same is true in everyday life.

Life is not always peaceful and there are times when we make mistakes and fall down. At those times, it is important to know “how to fall down.”

Effective Ukemi is directly related to the strength of mind.

Real strength is not about never falling down, but about instantly getting up and being ready and take the next action. Falling down is not the end of life.

You will find the real value of ukemi when you are faced with adversity.

Edited by: C. Curtis
Hawaii Ki Federation


July 22, 2022

Fresh Impression

The Japanese painter Ms. Yuki Ogura has lived to the age of 105. I once accompanied Koichi Tohei Sensei to visit her home in Kamakura.

Yuki Sensei was the wife of Tetsuju Ogura Sensei, one of Koichi Tohei Sensei's teachers, and she took care of Koichi Tohei Sensei whenever he visited Kamakura for Zen trainings.

When I visited her, she was quite old and was happy to see Koichi Tohei Sensei again with tears in her eyes.

Even though Yuki Sensei was in a wheelchair, she continued her painting every day. The day that we visited her, she was painting a still life, with bananas as the subject.

According to her family, the bananas had been ripening each day and consequently changed gradually from yellow to brown and from brown to black. Due to the slow pace of her work, the bananas in Yuki Sensei’s painting also changed day by day.

Finally, when she saw her own painting of black bananas completed, she said.

"It looks not so delicious. ......"

If she only wanted to complete the painting, she could have simply replaced the bananas each day. I was amazed by the way she continued to paint simply what she saw and felt, in a state of pure heart and soul.

It made me think deeply about what it means to paint.

After that, I began my “Uchideshi training”, apprenticeship under Koichi Tohei Sensei.

There were times when it seemed like a big wall stood in my way, and everything went wrong for me. This happened not once, but many times.

One day, I suddenly remembered Yuki Ogura Sensei.

“I see. I am not seeing or feeling what is right in front of me.” My mind was not focused on the present moment.

Then I noticed that, whenever Koichi Tohei Sensei touched something important or wonderful, he reacted as if it were the first time.

When I was accompanying him, I sometimes thought, "The same thing happened last time, so he must have forgotten about it." But actually, it was not so. Instead, it was precisely because each time he turned his mind to something, it was in a completely fresh state, and therefore he was able to receive only fresh impressions from it.

I began to follow this way of seeing. With practice, I realized that I had often gotten stuck on my past experiences, and my mind was not focused on what was right in front of me. Because of noticing this. I learned to use my mind in a completely clear state each time.

This made me think deeply about what practice means.

If we train our body, we can use it better. The mind is the same, and if we train it, we will be able to use it freely.

If we train ourselves to turn our mind to a see clearly every time we repeat something, we will not view it as “just the same old thing.” Instead, each time we will discover something new.

Conversely, if we repeatedly see our events in our daily life as the same, we will develop a chronic habituation and have no inspiration or discovery in those things we experience.

When we get used to people doing something for us, we may take it for granted. Then, we will no longer be able to feel gratitude.

This is a very frightening thing.

During a Q&A session at an external training course I taught for a management association, a business owner told me that he was not impressed by anything he did. This is despite the fact that his business was going well, his family was healthy and there was nothing wrong with him.

His face had a dull pallor, and he had no vitality at all.

When I asked him how he liked his experience in that day’s training, he replied, "Today was fun." And so I asked him, “Then why don’t you start practicing?”

I think that tackling something for the first time with all his body, mind and spirit began to turn his mind to a state of clear awareness. I was so impressed by the fact that when he passed the promotion examination he was as happy as a child!

Even now, at various moments, I remember the paintings of Yuki Ogura Sensei.

Today is another new day!

Edited by: C. Curtis
Hawaii Ki Federation


June 15, 2022

Noticing Signals

Last year, I was asked to participate on the popular TV program “Asaichi,” on Japan’s public broadcasting station, NHK. This program aired in April 2021. At that time, I provided a variety of specific approaches to dealing with the fatigue, irritability, and anxiety caused by Covid-19. After the program was broadcast, there was a huge response from all over Japan.

At the end of the program, we talked about “noticing intangible signals.” I explained that we often tend to move only when we are told or on demand. However, this is often too late in terms of timing.

For example, in the practice of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido, when our opponent attacks us with a punch, as in “munatsuki,” and we react only after it hits us, this is too late!

When there is an attack, the mind of the opponent moves first before the body moves. When our mind is calm, we can feel the movement of the opponent's mind as a “Ki movement.” This way we can notice the intangible signals. By taking action when we sense the presence of that signal, we can act effectively without being too late.

Imagine that you want to order in a restaurant, and the waiter does not notice you. This is despite the fact that the restaurant is not very busy, and the waiter is available. This is because the waiter waits to respond until approached by the customer. If the act of being approached by a customer is compared to a “munatsuki” attack, this means that the waiter is moving after he has been hit.

When a customer wants to ask a waiter for something, the customer’s mind is moving first at that moment. This is expressed as a signal called "Kehai”, the Ki movement.

People who perceive and act on intangible signals are able to provide customers with what they need, when they need it. We would describe such a waiter as “attentive.”

Whether we notice and respond to tangible words and attitudes or to intangible “Ki,” the results will vary greatly.

Koichi Tohei Sensei learned this on the battlefield. When there is a crisis, formless signals are shown as signs.

When the mind is calm, we can notice these signs and respond usefully to them. But when the mind is disturbed, we must deal with a crisis after it has occurred, and in a war zone, this is too late.

Therefore, even in a war zone, Koichi Tohei Sensei practiced daily Ki breathing exercises to calm his mind.

On the TV program “Asaichi”, Mr. Sadaharu Oh also spoke about the “surface of the water with still waves,” which he had learned from Koichi Tohei Sensei:

On windy days, the surface of the lake is covered with waves. Then, even if the moon is in the sky, it will not reflect its image on the surface of the lake. When the waves calm down infinitely, and become like a mirror, the moon reveals itself as the moon. In other words, when the waves of a lake are infinitesimally small, they correctly reflect the image on the surface of the lake. When the mind becomes as infinitely calm as the surface of the lake, we can notice the Ki extended by the other person as a signal of movement to come.

If we struggle to understand with our brain or see with our eyes, we will lose sight of the intangible. The only way is to calm the mind.

This is discussed in the trilogy book "Dojinai" in Japanese with Mr. Tatsuro Hirooka and Mr. Sadaharu Oh. in which they explain in detail in their own words.

Noticing signals does not mean "looking at their faces". This is a point that is easily mistaken and should be noted.

When looking at the other person's facial expression, the mind can be preoccupied with “how they think of me” and the field of vision become narrower, making it impossible to notice the signs of movement to come.

The movement of the mind is transmitted by Ki. And when the mind is calm, the movement of Ki can be understood. Furthermore, if you act when Ki is moving, you will not be too late.

When you are struggling but not getting results, you are often looking at the other person's words or attitude and then acting. Because you are always late, it is like a pushing the wrong button.

The quickest way to learn these things is to learn to use your mind and body to notice the unseen.

I would like to suggest that you get this feeling through practicing Shinshin Toitsu Aikido.

Translate: Moe Mimori
Edited by: C. Curtis
Hawaii Ki Federation