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Ki Exercises

Ki. Shodo calligraphy by Stefan Stenudd.

How to Train the Life Energy of the East


Ki is very natural, so it flows in and through people, whether they are familiar with the concept or not. What needs to be trained is to experience this flow, increase it, and learn to utilize it better.



       For a good ki flow, several things have to be worked on, mainly:

  • posture
  • breathing
  • center
  • extension.
       These interact, so that one without the others is not enough. It is difficult to breathe correctly with a bad posture, yet it is correct breathing that perfects the posture. A strong sense of center promotes correct breathing, and correct breathing strengthens the center. And so on. So, all of them are needed, and they help each other along. You have to work on them all, and gradually the progress with one will help your progress with the others, and vice versa.

       Still, there is a proper order to them:

  1. A straightened posture opens for belly breathing.
  2. Belly breathing leads to awareness of the center.
  3. The center is the source for a strong spirit of extension.
  4. The spirit of extension equals a good ki flow.
There is one more ingredient, important in all of the above: relaxation. This may be the most difficult one. We tend to be tense, both in mind and body, and this tension is not easy to loosen. Belly breathing is the best, but that is still dependent on how the other factors above are developed. Maybe the best you can do to relax is to want to, and then give it time. Your progress with the other factors will automatically help you along.



Soft style aikido training.


       Below, I give some very simple exercises for the above steps. They are really very easy - I bet that anyone can do them, without any preparation. But they have to be repeated, until they become almost instinctive, the normal way of being. This can take long - maybe a year, maybe several years.

       In aikido this development is sort of automatically contained in the regular training, so that you develop posture, breathing, center and extension without even having to think about it - unless you practice aikido in a very misguided way. Still, the below exercises will surely speed up the process, and help you focus on it also in aikido training.

       The exercises below are from my book Qi: Increase your Life Energy.


Posture


Find the right posture

This is the most easy and efficient way I know, to correct one's posture.

Lie down.

  1. Lie straight on the floor, arms by your sides, feet at approximately shoulder distance. Your head should not be tilted back, but your neck stretched so that your chin approaches your chest.

  2. Rest for a moment. Accept gravity, allow yourself to feel increasingly heavy. Relax, as well as you can.

  3. Stand up slowly.

  4. Stand in the position your body had when lying down. Don't try to correct it, just let it happen. The ideal posture is the one you had lying down on your back, so with this exercise you will familiarize your body with it, and it will correct itself automatically.

  5. Remain there for a moment.

  6. Repeat a couple of times.


Correct shoulders

Usually, modern man has particular problems with the shoulders - because of computer work and so on. This exercise will help to correct the shoulders, if the above exercise doesn't do the trick.

Extend your arms.

  1. Stand straight.

  2. Extend your arms horizontally. Point far away, in both directions. Turn your head to look in each direction, with the intention of stimulating the feeling of pointing really far away.

  3. Turn your head forward and let the arms fall to the sides, wihtout changing the position of the shoulders.

  4. Remain there for a moment.

  5. Repeat once or twice.

Here is a video clip with the exercise:


Breathing


Belly breathing

Here's the most effective way I know of learning to breathe with the belly - what is also called diaphragm breathing. It is necessary to know, to be able to get a strong ki flow.

       This type of breathing must become automatic to you, and that can take some time. Try to think of it always, when doing aikido, until you are sure that it is always how you breathe.

Both hands on your belly.

  1. Walk, stand or lie down - it doesn't matter. When you learn it, though, lying down might work the best.

  2. Place the palm of your hand on your lower abdomen. The lower the better, but in the beginning try it right under the navel. Make sure that your palm is centered there, and not to one side of your belly.

  3. Inhale through your nose, in such a way that your belly pushes on your hand.

  4. Exhale through your mouth - also so that your belly pushes on your hand. At both inhalation and exhalation, your belly seems to be expanding.

  5. When it works well, take away your hand, but continue with the same breathing.

  6. If it is mostly your chest moving, put your hand back on your lower abdomen.

  7. Continue as long as you want to, and are not getting tense.


Breathe in a square

This is a regular ki exercise. What you do here is get your ki flowing. Enjoy.

  1. Sit or lie down.

  2. Breathe through your nose.

  3. Start a regulated breathing, with exhalation and inhalation taking the same time. Not too long at first. Somewhere between five and ten seconds should suffice. It's Ok to count - silently.

  4. After inhaling, add the same time with a continued feeling of inhaling. There's no more air coming in, but it should feel like there is.

  5. After exhaling, add the same time with a continued feeling of exhaling. There's no more air coming out, but it should feel like there is.

  6. Now, you're breathing in a square. Continue as long as it feels rewarding.

  7. The feeling of inhaling and of exhaling, when there's no air coming - that is ki.


Extension


Pointing

Here you exercise using ki to extend beyond the limits of your body, to direct your ki and let it flow.

Pointing with ki.

  1. Sit or stand.

  2. Direct yourself at a spot far away.

  3. Close your eyes and commence a good ki breathing, where you focus on the spirit of breathing in your center, not on the air entering and exiting your lungs.

  4. Start a long exhalation through the nose, open your eyes and gaze at the spot.

  5. With a continued exhalation, extend your arm and point at the spot.

  6. Close your eyes and lower the arm, before the exhalation weakens. If you go on until your spirit is weakened, the exercise as a whole becomes weakening instead of strengthening. You should not repeatedly measure up a limit to your capacity.

  7. Repeat.

  8. Continue as long as it works better than before.

Here is a video clip with the exercise:


Pushing

This is also a ki flow exercise, like the previous one, but here you use your ki flow for a physical action.

Pushing.

  1. Stand steadily about half an arm's length from the object you want to push. A door that opens away from you is a good object to use.

  2. Aim past the object.

  3. Place the palm of your hand on the object.

  4. Commence a good ki breathing, where you focus on the spirit of breathing in your center, not on the air entering and exiting your lungs.

  5. Start a long exhalation through your nose.

  6. Extend your hand and push the object away. It should feel like you exhale through your hand.

  7. Before the exhalation weakens, you should have pushed the object away.

  8. Repeat.

  9. Continue as long as it gives you something.


Walking

This exercise is good for ki extension, and also for increasing your balance and for learning to move with your center.

  1. Stand where you have a clear way ahead.

  2. Direct your gaze straight ahead, unfocused. Don't aim for a certain spot or distance. That would limit you at length, in this exercise.

  3. Commence a good ki breathing, where you focus on the spirit of breathing in your center, not on the air entering and exiting your lungs.

  4. With a long exhalation through your nose, walk forward.

  5. Walk as long as the exhalation is stable.

  6. Stop before the exhalation weakens.

  7. Repeat. It should feel like your steps ride on your breathing.

  8. It is fine to continue for a good while.


Center


Center breathe in a square

This is a combination of the breathing exercises "Belly breathing" and "Breathe in a square". All three exercises have a common function: learning to "breathe" ki with your center.

  1. Sit or lie down.

  2. Place the palms of your hands (one on top of the other) on your belly, where your center is.

  3. Breathe in a square, with the same time for inhalation, the continued sense of inhalation, exhalation, and the continued sense of exhalation. The breathing should be pushing your hands.

  4. Concentrate on how it feels in your belly.

  5. Continue as long as you want, while you feel a powerpoint in your belly. Your hands help to get this feeling and to intensify it.


Meditate the center

This exercise may seem a little vague, but please try it. The more you get in touch with your center through the other exercises, the more you will feel also in this one.

Zazen.

  1. Sit as in meditation. Important points are: keep your back straight, don't let your shoulders slope, hold your head in an angle where the fontanel is the highest point, keep your jaws slightly apart, let the tip of your tongue lightly touch the roof of your mouth, allow your belly to protrude - not by pushing forward from your lower back, but by feeling that you sort of open the belly and relax.

  2. Close your eyes. Don't let your eyeballs turn upward. If they do, you are likely to get sleepy.

  3. Bring your hands together into a closed figure, resting on your lower abdomen in front of your center. What figure is not important, just one you are comfortable with.

    Hand forms.

  4. Feel the source of your breathing in your center.

  5. When you focus on your center, it gives a resonance all through your body, making your breathing significantly more vitalizing.

  6. Sit as long as you can, without getting uncomfortable.


Rock

This is an old Eastern centering exercise, very good for finding a good posture and balance, experiencing your central pillar, and localizing your center.

Rocking.

  1. Sit, preferably with your legs under your body, as in regular seiza.

  2. Breathe calmly and deeply, with your hands on your thighs. Eyes closed.

  3. Rock your whole upper body from side to side, with the base in your center. Don't twist your body when doing so, but keep a straight back.

  4. Enter into the rocking, with the feeling of a growing and swinging pillar.

  5. Your body's actual rocking diminishes, the bigger you make it feel.

  6. Finally, your body movement stops completely, in a precisely vertical position, although the feeling of rocking continues.

  7. Let go of the rocking feeling, and let your central pillar sit in this vertical middle. This is to sit in one's center.

  8. Bring your hands together into a closed figure, resting in front of your center. Remain in this position for a minute or two. This is also a good way of preparing meditation.


Press

This exercise is actually the basic principle of suwarikokyuho - without a partner. When you get comfortable with the exercise, you can try it on a partner instead of a wall, or use the same method next time you practice suwarikokyuho in an aikido class.

Pressing.

  1. Sit at less than arm's length from a wall. It's best to sit in seiza.

  2. Commence a deep ki breathing. Look at the wall in front of you, as if gazing right through it.

  3. Put the palms of your hands on the wall, at about chest height.

  4. Commence a long exhalation and press slowly, but with force, on the wall. Your force should come from inside your center and straight at the wall.

  5. If your upper body is pushed back, you are pressing from your shoulders. If you press from your center, you will only sit more steadily.

  6. Remove your hands from the wall, before your exhalation weakens.

  7. Repeat as much as you like, as long as you don't get tired.

More about the Center here:
Tanden - the Center


More about the ki life energy here:

Ki, life energy


Repeat

Remember: most of these exercises need to be repeated - maybe even daily - for a long time, before you have trained your body to automatically assume correct posture, breathing, et cetera.

       A good way of knowing when an exercise is no longer necessary to repeat, is if you feel no different when or after doing it. Then you have outgrown its usefulness. Move on to other things.

Stefan Stenudd



The Qi book:

QI - increase your life energy.

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Increase your life energy
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