“When you’re afraid, tense the muscles of your stomach and the fear will disappear” Zen adage
(Adapted from Fighting to Win: Samurai Techniques for Your Work and Life by David J. Rogers (Crossroad Press, 2014)
A Powerfully Built Man and a Little Man
To many Easterners the center of a person’s spirit and strength is a point within the abdominal cavity two inches below the navel. This special point is called the tai ten, tanden, tan-tien, tan, seika-tanden, or simply “the one point.” In addition to being your body’s center of gravity, the one point is also the center of ki— energy, spirit, aura, vitality, life force, inner strength.
The one point can be compared to the boiler of a steam engine. When your mind is concentrated on it, energy is created and distributed throughout your body, and your body is able to move quickly and powerfully. Athletes, if they are not already, should be very interested in learning more about ki.
R. E. West, a powerfully built Western black belt judoka (practitioner of judo) who knew very little about ki and the one point, asked an old, 130-pound Japanese master for a demonstration of its power. The two men sat on their knees facing each other. Each placed his right hand on the other’s chest. Hard as West tried, he couldn’t budge the old man. Then the old man gave a slight push and West flew backward. The master then said it was only because of the power in his one point that he could knock West over.
Samurai men and women going into battle concentrated on the one point.
How to Draw the Power of Ki
The way to draw the power of ki is very easy. Just concentrate your mind fully on your one point. Look at your stomach and find the point two inches directly below your navel. Now press it hard with your finger. This will leave a residual feeling of where the one point is. Then simply visualize. Don’t look at it, just imagine it as a point, a dot, and concentrate on it.
Now that you’ve located the one point, practice beginning your everyday actions with your attention on it until it becomes second nature to you. Before starting any task, any task at all, first think of your one point—sitting down at your desk, starting a meeting, going to a party, entering a sales conference, starting a race—whatever. If you devote yourself to concentrating on your one point, it will gradually become a habit. Until it does you will have to remind yourself: “Hey, concentrate on your one point.”
When you’re able to remember to begin at least some of your acts from the one point, become a little more ambitious. Get in the habit of concentrating on the one point when you’re upset or irritated. You’ll find yourself becoming calm and tranquil and strong at the same time.
After you’ve started the habit of one-point concentration, begin to use it during times of more severe tension and nervousness. When you’re troubled and your thoughts and emotions are shooting around like rockets, or you are facing an inner or outer block, concentrate on your one point. When you’re discouraged and are thinking, “This time I’ve reached rock-bottom; everything is against me now,” simply concentrate on your one point. Don’t think of yourself as a discouraged person; think of yourself as a strong person with powerful ki.
“If you know the art of breathing you have the strength, wisdom and courage of ten tigers.” Chinese adage
The psychotherapist Wilhelm Reich used the word “streamings” to describe energy in the human body. He said that at times streamings flow, and other times they’re dammed up. They flow when you’re optimistic, when you’re not tense or worried, when your expectations of success are high. When they flow you experience an inner glow. You have a completely new sense of courage and self-confidence. Reich’s concept, “streamings,” may seem strange to some people, but it certainly wouldn’t to the practitioners of ki breathing. He would call it ki and state that what Reich says it does, it does. And modern technology is helping to prove Reich was exactly right.
According to a research project undertaken by M.I.T., there actually is an electrical energy field around the human body, and it can be regulated in exactly the way Easterners regulate it—by breathing in a particular way.
Ki is very closely related to breathing, and that’s why it’s sometimes translated as “breath.” The M.I.T. research demonstrated that the breathing exercises in fact thicken the energy field. Everyone has a ki energy field around him or her, but martial arts practitioners using ki breathing techniques actually have a different kind of field than the average person. Using modern photographic processes, the field can even be seen!
In one of the most dramatic demonstrations of ki, Kirlian photography was used to film karateka Teruyuki Yamada breaking a one-inch board with a ki-powered blow. Now there’s nothing amazing about a punch breaking a board. But it is amazing that the punch never hit the board. Playing the film in very slow motion revealed that the board actually snapped when Yamada’s fist was still an inch away from it. What had shattered the wood was the pressurized force of the ki field between the board and the fist!
Ki is also curative. For centuries Chinese healers have used their knowledge of chi to manipulate its flow in sick patients. Physicians in various Western countries are using electrical energy stimulation to heal a variety of body injuries, often with extraordinary results. Russian sports scientists photograph streams of electrical energy in and around athletes’ bodies, then use lasers to stimulate its flow to heal injuries and treat fatigue and emotional disturbances, such as depression and anxiety.
Deep abdominal, diaphragmatic breathing has been shown to have particular health advantages over “high chest,” shallow breathing. Medical researchers estimate that up to 80 per cent of all diseases are attributable to nervous problems. Worry, nervousness, anxiety, anger, and stress narrow our capillaries and restrict the flow of blood carrying fresh oxygen. By breathing the right way, you can open your capillaries and send oxygen freely throughout your body. Diaphragmatic ki breathing also increases your physical strength. That’s another reason why people are so interested in sanchin, “breathing exercises.”
There is breathing high and breathing low. Westerners breathe high. We are taught “stomach in, chest out.” Our breathing is done high in our chest. Ki breathing is done low. It’s bringing the inhaled air far down in the lungs. In other words, as far as ki development is concerned we have learned to breathe wrong. Right breathing is “chest in, stomach out.” It’s breathing from the abdomen—it’s diaphragmatic breathing.
If you’re conscientious about practicing your ki breathing you may come to breathe this way all the time. Most people, however, even if they don’t forever after breathe in the ki way, use it as an alternative way of breathing. When confronted with disturbing situations, when in trouble or doubt, or when they’re in need of a pick-me-up, they simply drop their normal high chest breathing and launch into deep abdominal ki breathing.
To prepare yourself to use ki breathing whenever you wish:
-Get in a comfortable, relaxed position—your weight on your legs and feet, lying on your back, or sitting comfortably.
–Concentrate your attention on your one point. Remember it’s the center of gravity point located two inches below your navel. Throughout your ki breathing keep your mind on your one point. When your thoughts wander from it don’t fight them, just gently nudge your attention back to your one point.
–Get rid of the carbon dioxide in your lungs by opening your mouth and making a slow, steady “haaa” sound as you breathe out for ten seconds. When you think you’re out of breath make one last hard “ha.”
–Inhale slowly, evenly and deeply through your nose in one uninterrupted motion taking four or five seconds. Concentrate on bringing your breath far down. Imagine your diaphragm swelling out like a balloon and your breath pressing your one point from inside your stomach. Your breathing should be going on in your diaphragm and not in your chest. Your chest should be moving very little, if at all.
–Your attention still on your one point, and your breath pressing against it, hold your breath for five to ten seconds.
–Then exhale deeply, but slowly and evenly through your mouth. Pull in your abdominal muscle to force out as much carbon dioxide as possible. If you get out of breath just stop and breathe in your usual way for a few seconds. Then start your ki breathing again.
Try to practice this method of ki breathing at least five minutes twice each day. If you set aside time every day for ki breathing you’ll feel the effects of it not only when you’re actually doing it, but throughout the day.
If you’re like a lot of people and twice a day is asking a lot, at least learn how to do your breathing so you can launch into it when you’re upset or unsettled, or when you just feel like it.
It doesn’t take long to get the hang of it and once you do you can do it whenever you wish. When your ki is lively, you react confidently and quickly. If it’s clouded and negative, you hesitate and become awkward and indecisive. Therefore, keep your ki flowing all day long
After you have become accustomed to deep abdominal ki breathing you can do it anywhere—in a cab, on a train, at your desk, while walking down the street, in an elevator. Whenever you need ki simply breathe down to your one point.
Points to Remember Blog Posts I, II, and III: The Doctrine of Ki
–Remember to “Fill yourself with ki.” (Ki o mitasu) Do it as often as you can. In particular, do it to increase your expectations of success and whenever you experience defeat.
–Ki is energy, a frame of mind or attitude, and it’s a force that you communicate to other people.
–Positive ki creates positive power in your actions and positive responses in others. Negative ki creates negative actions and responses.
–Make certain you never forget the personal power formula of shin–ki–ryoku (mind-energy-strength). Your frame of mind determines how much energy you have and the amount of power you live and work with. You can choose how much power you will communicate by choosing what you will think.
–To increase your ki and ryoku power: (1) transmit your ki, (2) concentrate on your one point two inches below your navel, and (3) breathe diaphragmatically.
–The time will come when you realize you have been neglecting your ki development. Whenever that happens, go back to these posts and refresh your memory of how you can increase your ki and ryoku power whenever you want.
© 2014 David J. Rogers
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