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Aikido Meditation


Aikido Moving meditation 

Aikido is often  described as moving meditation, that is we strive to be in this 'zone' or detachment from self amidst the flurry of combat. In this head space we are free from negative thoughts of failure, fear or being hit or hurt and can truly perform at our best. Its a state desired by athletes who need to push their bodies beyond normal limits and pain to achieve competitive success and also by climbers and mountaineers who cannot allow fear of falling to enter their mind..or they surely will.

Within Aikido there are a number of meditation practices to help us understand how to achieve this mindset, starting with sitting practices and then integrating this into moving practices. One first needs to control the mind, then get the mind to control the body, then under some physical stress and finally the mind can let go. Many of the below practices are from the Ki Society, embraced in the Aikido Yuishinkai and found in other Aikido schools as well.

An important note is that meditation when practiced in the dojo is a group meditation and thus the practices are geared not just to the self but the whole group. For example in the breathing exercises the leaning forward at the end of the exhale is a signal to the meditation leader that you are ready to breather in again, when most of the dojo lean forward the next in breath clap or begins.

Much of this material is sourced from the Ki Society Student guide by Michael Williams Sensei (prior to Yuishinkai)

The four ways of Aikido
These are:
  • Ki no fudo ho (The four basic principles)
  • Ki no i shi ho (Ki meditation)
  • Ki no kokyu ho (Ki breathing)
  • Ki no taiso ho (Ki exercises).
Ki no fudo ho
Understanding the four basic principles enables us to develop immovable mind and immovable body.

Ki no i shi ho
The study of meditation includes 
Ki no toitsu ho (Keep One Point) and 
Ki no kakudai ho (Extend Ki). 
In the understanding of this Way a strong will and positive attitude.

Ki no kokyu ho
There are many different ways of Ki breathing. They all lead to a healthy body and calm mind.

Ki no taiso ho
The goal of Aikido exercises and techniques is to learn to coordinate mind and body during any activity, whether sleeping, standing, sitting or moving rapidly.

Ki breathing Meditation

An exercise of particular importance for the development of Ki is the practice of deep abdominal breathing.
Sit in seiza (or cross-legged with a cushion underneath you in order to keep your spine straight). Adaptation to sitting in seiza should be built up gradually, increasing the time spent in this position by a few minutes every session. Sit lightly, with your back straight and shoulders relaxed so that the weight of your body falls naturally to your one point.
Inhalation should be prolonged, as a thin stream of air is drawn in through the nostrils at a regular, controlled rate. The sound of such a prolonged inhalation should be close to the letter `u'. And this inhalation should be done relaxedly with no straining. Moreover, even though the air is drawn in through the nose, the glottis at the back of the throat should be used to control the stream. By drawing the air in through contraction of the glottis, instead of `sniffing' the air, you will achieve a slow, steady stream.
The air you inhale should fill not only the chest cavity, but also the lower abdomen. Inhale deeply into the lower abdomen such that it expands normally, without undue strain or tensing of your stomach muscles. The idea is to breathe as fully and naturally as a child.
Keep your shoulders down and relaxed during the inhalation. When you have inhaled all that you comfortably can, rest quietly for a moment or so before beginning to exhale. 
Exhale through the mouth in a steady, concentrated, powerful (but relaxed) stream the sound of the exhalation resembles a `haa'. Again, there should be no strain. Don't attempt to exhale suddenly with great force.
Breathing exercises should be practiced daily. When combined with regular practice of the arts of Aikido this results in coordinated development.

Kokyu dosa meditation
Kokyu dosa is usually practiced at the end of every Aikido class. It is an exercise of sitting extension, to help you generate a greater flow of Ki from the one point in your lower abdomen. Since it is by means of Ki, not bodily strength, that we in Aikido always throw and pin our partners, this exercise is particularly significant, emphasising as it does the deep meaning of Ki. Relying on strength alone will get you nowhere against an opponent who understands how to use Ki. There are many kinds of kokyu dosa, but the one explained here is typical.
Sit in seiza with your arms extended, shoulder width apart, elbows down, fingers spread and fingertips turned slightly upwards. Your partner, kneeling in front of you, grasps your wrists lightly from the sides.
No matter how hard your partner resists, you must pay no attention, but calm your spirit in your one point and maintain a strong outpouring of Ki. Maintaining this extension, lean straight forward and your partner will lose their balance and begin to fall backwards. 
From here it is easy to guide your partner by pushing gently to the right or left, allowing them to fall. Come up onto your toes as your partner falls and follow with your whole body to kneel beside them. Extend Ki. You will be like an immovable rock and your partner will be unable to rise.

Misogi bell meditation

Misogi is one of the most important of the Aikido side- disciplines. Its purpose is to unify mind and body in the midst of chaos. The word <M>misogi comes from the Shinto religion and means `to go to the river and cleanse oneself'. This word is used in Aikido for certain breathing and meditation exercises because they have a cleansing effect on the mind and body.
The essential elements of misogi are sitting seiza, chanting, ringing of the suzu (bell) and controlled breathing.
When performing misogi, the sound of the voice and the sound of the bell must be one. To do this properly, the student must give 100% to each sound, each ring. Never try to pace yourself in misogi, attempting to save energy for later on in the exercise. Give your all at each moment, and you will discover that your reserves are far deeper than imagined. This vigorous chanting and bell-ringing requires much flow of Ki. This power must come from a strong Ki developed through mind and body unification. Physical strength will not do. When done with a positive flow of Ki and correct breathing, you will not feel any ill effects.
Misogi usually takes anywhere from 30 minutes (10 minutes breathing, 10 minutes chanting, 10 minutes breathing) to 60 minutes plus (15 minutes breathing, 30 minutes or more chanting, 15 minutes breathing).
Doing misogi regularly, the student develops powerful kokyu (total body extension) by stretching beyond assumed limits.

Aikido exercises

The exercises performed at the beginning of class are designed to coordinate mind and body while stretching, warming and relaxing the muscles. The body performs best when free of stress. The regular performance of these exercises develops both suppleness and speed. 
The exercises are divided into three sections. All should be performed with Ki extension.
Junan kenko taiso (soft exercises for health)
Toitsu taiso (coordination exercises)
Aiki taiso (exercises for Aikido arts)