View Full Version : Dousing with cold water: Who does it?

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08-11-2004, 02:14 PM
Hi all,

I was interested to read about how Morihei Ueshiba would douse himself with cold water regularly, even in the freezing winter of Hokkaido.

Are there any schools/branches of Aikido that do this as part of training? Or is it generally thought of as madness that is left up to the individual?

The reason I ask is that a good friend of mine in England teaches the Russian martial art of Systema. A couple of years ago he showed me their version of it which is apparently part of their health system. Basically it involves standing outside sans clothing (except for swimming trunks) and emptying a bucket of ice cold water over yourself!

I psyched myself up to give it a try and I found it to be a much better experience than what I had been dreading. Does wonders for headaches and stress and it is claimed it helps with fighting sicknesses as well.


Nick Hallale

Chris Birke
08-11-2004, 02:23 PM
I've never done it for medicinal reasons... but yeah, I know the feeling. =)

I've read that submerging the face in cold water triggers a reflex response. Various mood and physical altering chemicals, the constriction of blood vessles, etc. Whether or not this is good I don't know, but it's certainly a documented effect. (Is there a brain surgeon in the house?)

Reasoning aside, I've always been of the opinion that a little shock does a body good.

John Boswell
08-11-2004, 02:58 PM
Every so often, after a hot shower and a good nights work at playing aikido, I'll turn the hot off and brace myself for the cold. And it is just that... COLD!

Benefits? Dunno. I notice my sense become more aware and I'm very awake and alive. My breathing becomes deeper and paced... that is, after the initial shock. After a minute or two, you get used to it and wonder what the big fuss is.

It's very rejuvinating. I would be interested if there were any medical findings on whether it was good/bad/neither... just out curiousity.

2 cents.

08-11-2004, 03:18 PM
Are there any schools/branches of Aikido that do this as part of training? Or is it generally thought of as madness that is left up to the individual?

yes, it's part of practice in Ki Society known as River (water) Misogi.

It's optional training. No one is required to do it.

Often down in early January as part of Kigami Biraki seminars.

You are taught some breathing techniques first before entering the cold water. Once you are out there as a group at around waist high ice cold water you all dunk as a group and while doing kiai's. The best way is actually finish with ki breathing and meditation back at the dojo to warm up (assumming it's close by) and then have a hot breakfast ;-)
That's what you can do in Seattle using a lake fed by ice cold mountain water. In New Jersey or Kansas they actually make a large hole in the ice covered river or lake and do it. In Canada .... ?

In Texas, like Hawaii, the best we can do is splash you with a big bucket of ice water

just not quite the same.

Chris Li
08-11-2004, 03:29 PM
yes, it's part of practice in Ki Society known as River (water) Misogi.

I've seen various Aikikai instructors do it as well. It's a fairly common type of ascetic practice in Japan.



08-11-2004, 03:30 PM
I'm not a brain surgeon by any means, but I am a diving instructor. It is called the mamillian diving reflex and in short, when your face is submurged in cold water it triggers a response to the rest of your body to completely slow down, i.e. your heat rythm slows, your respirations decrease, the amount of oxygen your body comsumes decreases. It doesn't directly change your blood chemistry but it will alter it due to the fact that your body as a whole is slowing down. It's thought that this is to either allow for longer submurged lenthes underwater and/or to increase the survival time after plunging into cold water. This is where cases of children being submurged for extreamly long periods of time in near freezing water come from.
An amazing test for this is by filling two big bowls of water (having a saftey person there is a must) one with ice water and the other with room temp. Hold your breath in the room temp 2 or 3 times, take a 45 minute break (this again is a must, due to decreased carbon dioxide levels in your brain, which triggers your breathing reflex) and then hold your breath in the ice cold bowl. Make sure you are doing something while your head is in the water like wiggling your finger, tapping your foot, just in case the person blacks out so your saftey person can take your face out of the water. On average, for experienced divers, I found for room temperature breath hold is between 2-3 minutes, for the ice cold water it is 5 or 6 minutes or more and most people pull thier head out because they are cold and not cause they need to breathe.
Sorry I went off on a tangent there and please correct me if I am worng on any of those points if you know better, it has been a while since I went over my advanced physiology diving stuff.

Jerry Miller
08-11-2004, 05:22 PM
When I studied Aikido in my youth we were taught something similar. At the end of your shower turn the water to completely cold. The goal was to be relaxed enough as to not get any goose bumps. We were told this was a ki exercise. :straightf

daniel chong
08-12-2004, 01:02 PM
Hello everyone,
As a naturopathic doctor, I am quite familiar with 'hydrotherapy' as we call it. I have never asked a patient to stand under a waterfall, or dunk themselves in an icy cold river, but I often prescribe different hydrotherapy treatments for a variety of ailments. These treatments invariably involve the application of hot and cold water to different parts of the body. The main objective in all of this is to increase circulation to whatever area you are treating. Switching back and forth between hot and cold water has this effect, as hot water applied to the skin dilates the surface blood vessels and brings blood to the skin, whereas a brief cold application constricts the vessels and drives blood deeper, or away from the area. There are numerous treatments for things like sinusitis, headaches, swelling/injuries, bronchitis etc. One treatment in particular, called a constitutional hydrotherapy treatment is extremely powerful and very helpful in treating more serious chronic disease, as well as for general detoxification (misogi) and general health maintenance. I actually end every shower with a cold 30 second rinse. Again, as you have been in hot water the whole time before that, there is a lot of blood at the surface of your body, ending in cold helps drive the blood back into your core and is especially helpful if it is cold outside because of this. You would think that ending in cold would make you cold once you get out of the shower, but you actually warm up much more quickly. If anyone wants to learn more about specific treatments, I wrote an article on hydrotherapy once a while back. You can find it at www.mercola.com Just type hydrotherapy in the search engine on the the home page. Sorry so long-winded.

08-12-2004, 01:30 PM
So say you are very hot after exercising. Is a cold shower better, or a hot one? Or do you do the freezing rinse then too?

daniel chong
08-12-2004, 02:44 PM
I would recommend cooling off first, or using the whole shower to do so. To do this you would start the shower with about 3 minutes of cold, until you are nice and cooled down, then switch to hot for a while and back to cold to end it. You always want to end with cold. That is an old-time naturopathic hydrotherapy rule.

Robert Cowham
08-13-2004, 04:51 AM
I remember shots of the England World Cup Rugby team having cold baths filled with ice after practice - all to do with recovery times etc. See:



08-13-2004, 08:28 AM
Speaking of ice baths, here is a little piece from an article on the training the actors of the matrix had, it seems to apply.

"Ice bath

The actors were trained by martial arts expert Wo Ping, who was particularly proud of Moss' "scorpion kick" at the beginning of the film.

But the training was not without injury, with Moss breaking her leg and Fishburne damaging his wrist.

Jada Pinkett Smith, who is new to The Matrix films, said it did not take long for her to understand why she sometimes saw Reeves sitting in a bath of ice to reduce swelling in his joints.

"I looked at him like 'what are you doing that for?' and he said 'One day you'll know'," she said.

"And I swear, after I did my first fight scene and my legs felt like concrete boulders and every part of my body was aching, then I knew what that ice was for," she said. "

08-13-2004, 10:29 AM
From "Ki : A Road Anyone can Travel" pg 211...Drawn from Shinto rituals of purification, Sen Shin no Gyo (Training to Cleanse the Mind) involves dousing the body with several buckets of cold water first thing on arising. This is done year round, even in the dead of winter...pg 247...Ueshiba (the founder) rose every morning at 4:00 A.M., doused his body with cold water, and then went outside to greet the morning sun, meditating before the Aiki Shrine for an hour and a half, feeling the communion of being in harmony with the universe...He would practice chinkon-kishin, a Shinto meditation technique for centering the mind and body, with gestures and invocations performed at sacred spots and shrines. He also practiced misogi, the ritual washing away of impurities with cold water, in streams and waterfalls.There is Sen Shin tei Misogi Well at the Ki Society Headquarters in Japan, where people perform this misogi before sunrise.

You can also read about Shaun Ravens' Misogi Room on this website by clicking here (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=4916). Shaun studied with Abe Sensei, who discussed misogi and aikido with the founder.

George S. Ledyard
08-13-2004, 10:44 AM
Cold water dousing is an important part of the Systema. From the decriptions I've had it is very much the same thing as the Japanese usage, in practice and explanation as well. One of my students is quite involved with studying both the breathing and the cold water dousing as done in the Systema..