©™ 2003 - 2007: OWH International - Ueshiba Aikido : Victoria, Canada
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Ueshiba Aikido e-Reflections
ISSN 1712-2341
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May 04 , 2007

"Breathe in a circle. Belly breath is healthy.
Chest breath is ordinary. Shoulder breath is sick."

Kyudo Master Awa Kenzo

As I practice and study Aikido, it is interesting to come across the lives of enlightened martial artists who lived during the same period of time. Among them, besides Morihei Ueshiba O Sensei, were Yamaoka Tesshu (Ken School of No-sword), Jigoro Kano (Judo), Gichin Funakoshi (Karate), and Kyudo Master Awa Kenzo. All refer to the practice of martial arts as a way of peace, having had similar experiences of the oneness of existence. The serious practice of the art as a path toward self-realisation, and not just a system of defence or of fighting.

Central to all martial ways is the importance of breathing and keeping one's centre. When teaching his students archery, Master Kenzo would frequently refer to deep centred breathing, which provides both the power and the essence of aiming with the bow and arrow. The quote above, from Kyudo Master Awa Kenzo, provides a sense of how a student may approach breathing. The intake of air has been compared to the healing power of spirit, used in the healing arts and yoga. It is one of the first things that is done when relaxing oneself into meditation or contemplation.

This is the focus of the warm-up at the beginning of each Aikido class. To get the most out of this preparatory exercise, focus on the area around your navel as you take deep breaths during each exercise and stretch. Look inward, instead of looking around and distracting yourself. Bring all your thoughts and your presence into the dojo. Even when moving in Tenkan, Irimi, or gliding through your footwork, execute each move from your centre. You will find stability and the ability to execute your techniques firmly. Exhale as you execute each technique, extend in kokyuho or as you execute your backward and forward rolls, and your breakfalls. Never hold your breath while performing techniques and ukemi.

In daily life, most of us go through our day functioning on shallow breaths. Try centering yourself even when you are performing the most mundane tasks or as you go through your daily routine, quietly breathing deeply into your belly. You may discover a whole level of awareness added to your life.

As we approach another week of Grading (testing), remember to breath, especially to calm yourself.

Ganbatte Kudasai! All the best!

In peace and harmony,
Rafael Oei Sensei.
(© Copyright May 2007: Rafael Oei)

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