I appreciate everyone participating in this new format and welcome to everyone coming for the first time. We are working to keep our regular class schedule going so it will be easier to return to our training together.
Please share any comments, suggestions or questions.
This difficult time; while we wish it was not going on, is an opportunity to deepen our practice by appreciating what is really important to us and what we can let go of-A Light on Transmission by Mitsugi Saotome (pg. 63).
In our last on-line class we continued our series of classes focusing on center. We worked with a deeper practice of chinkon kishin by adding alchemical imagery of fire/water steam from O Sensei. Chinkon kishin refers to calming the spirit and returning to the divine or the source. The breathing practices related to chinkon kishin O Sensei called the Breath of Heaven; Breath of Earth and the Breath of Human Beings-The Secret Teachings of Aikido translated by John Stevens (pg. 108).
In today’s class we will work more directly with the alchemical imager of fire-water-steam at center. O Sensei referred to this but did not as far as we know leave a detailed outline of the process. We will use a practice of fire/water steam at center from T’ai-chi, an art closely related to Aikido and with similar connections to Taoism. The practice is described in detail the book Cheng Tzu’s Thirteen Treatises on Tai Chi Ch’uan by Professor Cheng Man-ching (Treatise Three pgs. 30-33).
Our Aikido technique will be katate-dori irimi nage.
Let’s bow in and start with misogi breathing and a good full warm-up.
Five Principles for Ki Breathing
Breathing tip of the day
Our tip today on the misogi breathing is to visualize your exhalation as not only cleansing your body but also the space around you. Then with the inhalation and pause visualize the space around you as well as your body is filled with life-giving energy.
- Breathe out with the sound of HA, don’t let your breath just leak out
- Breathe out as calmly and quietly as possible
- Breathe out the Ki of your head to the Ki of your toes
- Breathe in from the tip of your nose until your body is full of air
- Calm your mind infinitely smaller at the one point after inhaling
- Let’s begin with a round of practice with the technique.
- Begin with the practice on katate-dori irimi nage.
- Get feedback on the technique to establish a baseline to use for comparison as the practice progresses.
Creative Aliveness of Center
- Let’s begin where we left off on Saturday with the rowing exercise (kogi-fune undo). Place particular emphasis on the hips moving first before the hands and arms. The rowing exercise is an ancient Shinto practice from the yamabushi, the mountain ascetics. O Sensei’s version came from a famous teacher, Bonji Kawatsura, who reputedly learned from a mountain wizard who was 697 years old.
- Let’s return to the technique to see how this round of the rowing exercise has enhanced our performance of the technique.
- The rowing exercise has given us a good basic center from which the rest of our practices can build. Now let’s work with the chinkon kishin breathing exercises, the Breath of Heaven, Earth and Human.
Breath of Heaven
Breath of Heaven starts with the hands resting on your legs. Then the hands move in front of your center and up the center line of your body as you inhale.
Then the palms turn outward and circle down back to your center with the hands crossed over each other as you exhale. Visualize the movement of heavenly energy as water circulating throughout your body, emanating from your center and spine.
The goal of the practice is to touch the divine source and bring it into your own center.
The practice is described in detail in Aikido the Way of Harmony by John Stevens (pgs. 31-33). It is also illustrated on our Group Facebook Page.
Breath of Earth
Then let’s move on to the Breath of Earth. This practice starts with your hands in front of your center palms up with the thumbs pointing toward each other.
There is a starting exhalation which focuses on aligning the shoulders and upper body with the hips. Next is an inhalation with the shoulders rising slightly. Then an exhalation with the breath focused on center and the shoulders relaxing. Visualize the movement of grounded earth energy as fire-water-steam, from the interaction with the water energy of the breath of heaven and the fire energy of the earth circulating from your center and spine throughout your body, connecting you deeply to the earth.
The goal of the practice is to touch the life giving fecundity of the earth and bring it into your center.
The practice is described in detail in Aikido the Way of Harmony by John Stevens (pg. 34).
Breath of Human Being
Then let’s move on to the Breath of Human Being. This practice starts with hands in front of your center palms up with the thumbs pointing toward each other. Then visualize the energies of heaven and earth coming together in you center.
Visualize the energies of the breath of heaven and the breath of earth giving birth to you the human being, through the life-giving steam like energy,-The Heart of Aikido translated by John Stevens (pg. 48 and pg. 103).
Our goal is to experience through your center the fullness of our humanity as the blending of heaven and earth.
The practice is described in detail in Aikido the Way of Harmony by John Stevens (pg. 35).
- Let’s return to the technique to see how this chinkon kishin breathing practice has enhanced our performance of the technique.
- Using the foundation from the rowing exercise and these breathing practices let’s go more deeply into the alchemy of center. The center is like an alchemical furnace that can generate a very refined energy to feed the entire body, mind and spirit. This helps to create a sustainable experience of center because it is a constant source of this refined energy which can aid in the development of physical health, emotional strength and spiritual stability and growth.
Combining and Refining
We will use a practice of fire/water steam at center from T’ai-chi, an art closely related to Aikido and with similar connections to Taoism. The practice is described in detail the book Cheng Tzu’s Thirteen Treatises on Tai Chi Ch’uan by Professor Cheng Man-ching (Treatise Three pgs. 30-33).
The position of the hands will be explained during the class. Begin by placing your attention at the heart/solar plexus area in the front of the body. As your attention rests gently in this area you will notice an increase in the level of energetic activity. As you maintain your attention in the heart solar/solar plexus area the build-up of energy will cause the energy to overflow and travel down the front of your body to the lower part of your center. This is the fire energy of the heart mind.
Next, shift your attention to the kidney area in the back. Once again as your attention rest gently in the kidney area you will notice an increase in energetic activity. As with the heart solar/plexus area, maintaining your attention on the kidney area will cause the water energy of the kidneys to rise from the bubbling well-spring area in the front of your feet and move up the legs and travel to the upper half of your center.
This creates a balanced state at center, in which the fire energy is below and the water energy is above. As the fire heats the water a very refined steam like energy is generated that moves to the base of the spine and then up the spine to the top of the head. As the energy moves to the top of the head. Place the tip of your tongue at the point where your two front teeth come together.
The energy moves down the front of the body back to the heart/ solar plexus area and the cycle is complete.
It is most important to keep your mind focused on your center throughout the practice once your fire and water energies are positioned in your center. If your attention wanders the interaction between fire and water will slow down and eventually stop. It will resume when your attention returns to your center.
The goal of this practice is to feed your entire system with this highly refined life giving energy from a place of centered balance.
- Let’s return to the technique to see how this practice of fire/water steam has enhanced your performance of the technique.
This series of classes is designed to offer a deeper and multi-dimensional experience of center. The more vibrant and alive the experience of center, the easier it is to maintain center as we go through our regular daily activities. Today we worked to create the experience of a deeper fuller center by adding a practice of fire/water steam alchemy to the breathing practices from our previous classes.
Feedback and discussion.
Cheng Man-ching Master of Five Excellences translated by Mark Hennessy (pg. 59).
Practice before next class
Practice the alchemical fire/water steam practice before a daily life activity and see how it enhances your ability to accomplish the task you selected.
Finish with misogi breathing and bowing out.