Thread: Defining Kokyu
View Single Post
Old 07-15-2005, 02:52 PM   #13
Mike Sigman
Location: Durango, CO
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 4,123
Re: Defining Kokyu

Jun Akiyama wrote:
I've only trained with Ushiro sensei a few times during the past three Aiki Expos, but I'll get the chance to do so again in a couple weeks at the Summer Camp in the Rockies. I've also read a bit from his books (in Japanese), although not enough to make much comments. Mike, if you have any specific questions that you would like me to ask of him, please let me know and I'll see what I can do. (One clarification I did get from him a few years back was whether he meant purely "breathing" when he talked about "kokyu," since so many of the translators kept using the term 'breath" whenever he used that term. His answer was, as I expected, "no.")
Hi Jun:

I'd be interested, if it's possible without being pushy or undiplomatic, to get a sense of the tradition from which his kokyu training comes from. The Okinawan traditions related to ki and kokyu (note that it's no coincidence that everyone uses those same 2 terms to describe the same phenomena and abilities) are pretty much unapologetically derived from traditions stemming out of the Yi Jin Jing and also the Marrow Washing classic.

O-Sensei's ki and kokyu practices are purportedly derived from Shinto (specifically the Hada traditions of the Kojiki), but I think there are too many of his comments and practices that mirror the Chinese practices for the same skills to possibly overlook. Pictures of Ueshiba involved with the mudras, "powers" that exactly mimic Chinese descriptions of those powers, ki demonstrations that mirror Chinese demonstrations of and for the same things... it's simply impossible to wave those off as coincidence, particularly in light of the use of "ki" as a cultural basis borrowed directly from the Chinese. In short, Okinawan karate practices overtly come from China, Ueshiba's appear to come from China due to too many similarities, and I'm curious about what Ushiro Sensei will say about his traditions.

Incidentally while I'm thinking about it, "Fune Kogi Undo", while it is called a "rowing exercise" is such an obvious copy of a very common jin/kokyu/ki development exercise used in *many* Chinese arts, that I suspect it's basically a borrow, as well.

Given all the more-than-probable Chinese background, I look at the Dan Penrod article at and I read things like:

Ten-no-kokyu: Breath of heaven
The breath of heaven involves the deep inhalation, with the hands together in front of us, raising the hands in ten-no-kokyu (breath of heaven) posture, together and over the head. We then proceed to the breath of earth...

Chi-no-kokyu: Breath of earth
The breath of earth involves exhaling slowly and bring the hands down in chi-no-kokyu (breath of earth) posture. The hands are brought down the sides of our body as though pushing down the universe until the hands come back together in front of our abdomen to complete the circle.

Generally, the cycle of ten-no-kokyu and chi-no-kokyu is repeated 3 times in succession. When practiced by itself, there is usually a quiet pause of kishin at the end of the breathing cycle. When combined with the other exercises the transitions change and the kishin may move to the end of the combinations.

Furitama, torifune, and ibuki are often practiced together in various combinations. Sometimes the furitama is interwoven with ibuki. Other times furitama is interwoven with torifune. These practices vary a great deal from aikido association to aikido association as well as from dojo to dojo even within associations.

It's interesting to note that aikido associations heavily influenced by Koichi Tohei (Ki Society, AAA, Seidokan, etc...) practice a great many other kihon undo ki or aiki-taiso exercises that Tohei embraced and extended... said to help manifest ki and focus on the one point. As his interests shifted from the old Shinto ways and his attention became focused specifically on the principles of ki, he took some of the old chinkon-kishin exercises and modified them to compliment his newly codified catalog of ki exercises.

What I notice is the pictures and descriptions of the Heaven and Earth breathing and they are right out of very common Chinese practices. There's actually a lot more going on in that breathing with the circular exercises than just breathing and no, I don't want to go into them. It's a way of building up your power (if I explained it fully, everyone would say, "of course... that's obvious). So it's a power that is based on breathing practice to build it up (technically I think it could be a complex discussion because, as I've noted, you can build up ki without building up the kokyu power that the Chinese call "jin"). Obviously, O-Sensei did the more martial approach that practices both ki and kokyu-power in his exercises. So his power could easily be described as "breath power" involving "inhale and exhale" (remember "ki" and "air" relationship with "breathing") and of course when you use it you get most power on the exhale, so you have to be aware of the timing of that power.... i.e., there are indeed connotations of "breath" and "timing" in "kokyu", but it's just easier to skip all that and focus on the core power of kokyu and avoid the complex explanations.

Given the Chinese commentaries on qi, breathing, jin, etc., from which I'm fairly sure the Japanese practices derived, I'd bet with reasonable confidence that the relationship of kokyu power to "breath" is pretty much as I've laid it out. At least it's plausible, covers the conditions in place, and it gives a good target for people to try and work at and disprove.


  Reply With Quote