Breathing by Atsuo Hiruma

One day I asked Master Egami, “What does ‘ki’ mean to you?”.

He answered that he still did not truly know the meaning of the word, even considering the enormous experience of my master within the Karate world. I furthermore questioned him on irimi, and when I formulated the question, he answered in a very strong way, indicating that I should not use the word irimi so easily, that word, he said, has a very important meaning.

Irimi and Ki are energy itself, hard to understand and even more to attain, but never impossible, that is what Master Egami dedicated his life to search for, deepening in the understanding of them both. He started his research after having hurt his body due to a series of circumstances, among them overtraining which he submitted himself to when he was named instructor of the Armed Forces during the 2nd WW and maybe together with a mistaken training method during his youth. He always emphasized this when he told us to take our bodies to the limit during our training, we should always be conscious of the meaning of our search: not to become stronger physically, not to develop our bodies, because if this was the goal, the only thing we would attain would be the separation of body and mind within our training and in time we would only end up hurting our bodies.

We know that at the center of the Earth there is a nucleus of energy or magma that has enormous force, without this energy the Earth would not live, that would also happen to us if we didn’t possess the latent energy within us.

When this energy or magma is at rest, nothing happens, but when there is an excess energy it will tend to liberate itself from the source through the weakest point and this is visible when a volcano erupts. A vital point exists within ourselves, a center where energy enters and exits, we will call it tanden. The tanden is not a technical term from a medical or psychology dictionary, it is simply the vital center that living beings possess where energy accumulates. From it energy irradiates to other parts of our body. If the tanden isn’t alive, neither will we and it will be death that replaces life.

Earth, as the source of life is constantly irradiating energy, sometimes in an uncontrolled fashion as I have just mentioned and mostly in a controlled way. We have to use this energy, trying to absorb it with our body and our mind (Kimochi). We not only receive energy from the Earth but also from the air that surrounds us. I sometimes mention the word kimochi many times during a training session and my students interpret it in an erroneous way, you do what I wish you shall do, but you do not do it as I would wish you would. You have to notice that when you do things, you are conscious of your acts and this is the mistake. You are blocking the energy you are receiving from the air around you and the earth beneath you. You must abandon yourselves and let that which the earth and air is giving you follow its natural cycle, going through your legs and arms and accumulating in your tanden and then irradiating through your organism.

Our training must consist in feeling this energy accumulating in our vital center and then being able to control it.

We will first do this in seiza (photo 1), trying to get our bodies to flatten out on the ground, we must feel the energy that the earth offers us. In this position the body’s union with the earth must be complete, in a state of total acceptance of that which the earth is offering us.

After seiza, we do the exercise in hachiji dachi (photo 2), we try to localize the tanden. To do this, we mentally try to divide the body in two, from the waist up and the waist down, then we try to root ourselves more, towards the earth and then our body will talk and will clearly indicate our vital center.

Once this is done, the only thing left to do is through the breathing process, absorb the energy the earth is giving us. You can observe that people when they breath through the mouth or nose, they bring the air into the lungs and expulse it once again and nothing more. We through hachiji dachi will try, once we are well rooted to the earth and the air, to channalize the energy that these elements offer and accumulate them in the tanden, from there, through our breathing we will slowly raise it toward the top of our heads and pausing there, we will let it fall rapidly to the tanden where it will once again return to the earth from where it came. We will be united with the earth through a mutual acceptance and our vital center generates the necessary reaction to produce any movement and project all energy to the point one wish to reach.

It is important that you observe and feel through your training the breathing movements that have been indicated, as something natural, as natural as walking, because our life revolves around our breathing and to do this in an erroneous way means we are only in life; for us to feel this life, to find the answer of many of our doubts and for us to work along the path Master Egami showed us, it is necessary to be in contact with the energy the elements such as the earth and air have to offer us and this will be the highest goal of the Martial Arts and our training within Shotokai.

(Right) & Atsuo Hiruma, offering him a gift.