Archives par mot-clé : ki

Seizing, an art of detachment

By Régis Soavi

Seizing in itself is not the difficulty, it’s the coagulation of ki in the wrist, the arms or around the body that causes a problem and blocks us, and it’s through detachment that we can get free of it. The way to achieve this is visualization. Tsuda Senseï provides us with an example in his second book The Path of Less:

Aide-mémoire Itsuo Tsuda saisie
Drawing by Master Tsuda showing different types of seizures.

« Aïkido for me is an art of becoming a child again. […] It takes art to become a child without being childish.
[…] John, for example, tackles me from behind. I want to crouch down to sit, but he prevents me from doing so. He has biceps twice as big as mine and weighs almost 200 pounds (90 kilos). I cannot move, he is holding me so tightly. What should I do? Throw him before I sit down? I try but I cannot do it because he is too heavy and too strong.
So I become a child. I see a wondrous seashell on the beach and bend down to pick it up. I forget John, who is still grasping me from behind. (There is an important technical detail here: I move one foot forward to make two sides of a triangle with the other foot, because it is more concentrated that way.) There is flow of ki, starting with me and moving towards the seashell, whereas before, the ki was frozen at the thought of John. John’s 200 pounds become very light, and he falls forward over my shoulders.
How is it that with different ideas, we obtain opposite results, while the situation remains the same?
The idea of throwing provokes resistance. In the child’s gesture, there is the joy of picking up the shell that makes one forget the enemy’s presence. » (1)

Grabbing, appropriating

There are many ways of seizing and it is the intention put into it that is often determinant. Some of them can be considered as superficial or even unharmful, others more dangerous, like for instance those which carry a mark of appropriation or others which can sometimes be insidious and insistent.

The scenography which allows training in Aikido considers seizing as the result of an act manifesting itself with some kind of aggressivity. This act in itself is already an attempt to appropriate the other person, so as to use him in some way, rob him, destroy him, destroy his person or personality, setting apart the well-founded cases which are not of our concern in this example. What I am talking about is the abuse of a power, whether it be real or unreal, known or desired, over the other, this other person being presumed unable to react when faced to such a display of strength.

Assuming power

In the animal world, the power of an individual or clan in the bosom of a larger group of the same kind matches quite definite criteria, generally in relation to reproduction, preservation or to the defense of a species. As a consequence, it is borne and finally accepted by the whole group; in case of any attempt to contest, genetic or merely ancestral rituals are meant to clarify the situation.

In human societies, particularly in ours which would like itself to be more modern in some respect, the need for assuming power over the other person seems to me more like a dysfunction, or even a disease, which are fully created by the behaviours induced by civilization. Uncertainty about one’s own power, as well as the conditionings exerted by all those already installed in the bosom of society bring about frustration and lead human beings to try to reconquer their power through words or even acts, trying where this power doesn’t lie, where they won’t find it, that is in the other person who anyway does not detain it. But on the other hand, it forces them mentally to take all the risks implied by this vain hope. The arising of such aggressivity is often due to a lack or deficit of one’s own power, whether admitted or not, that one tries to make up. Pressure undergone and felt, hence experienced as such, sometimes since early childhood brings in people the will to reappropriate what they feel intimately robbed of, deprived of, or even what they just lost. It makes them dangerous persons, merely due to their frustration. We can all understand and feel that kind of thing when helplessly faced to an administration, or when put under power by somebody against whom there’s apparently no possible opposition. From that point, there’s just one step to becoming aggressive, which some people take, while others manage to be reasonable, resign themselves because they have already accepted this state of domination out of habit and they daily undergo it. If a few people are only hardly moved, it’s because they have already overcome these difficulties and are not damaged in their own power, never having lost it or having already recovered it.


« It’s a case of the biter bit » says the proverb and this reversal of perspective is indeed what happens when seizing. We forget too easily that the one who is seizing becomes prisoner of what he has seized. He can’t get rid of it without risking to lose something in the process he has initiated. His freedom, if he has any at all, is now transferred to the one he thought he could detain or retain. He becomes a jailer to the other person, who will only think of getting free, who will put all his strength, intelligence, sometimes all his craftiness or even perfidiousness into it, because he is totally within his right and nobody can blame him for it. Our society generates this type of alienating behaviour in which both persons try to free themselves, one against the other, instead of moving to another dimension which would be more human, intelligent, and respectful of the this other person. Wanting to change these behaviours might seem utopic, yet if Aïkido exists and continues to be an art at the service of mankind, it is maybe to assert and demonstrate that, like others have already stated, other relations are possible between people and we aïkidokas are not the only ones who wish to continue in this direction.

Respiration, an answer to a specific situation

It is through ventral respiration and the calmness it brings about that one can find the immediate solution to some difficult situations. To prepare for that, it is not absolutely necessary to be an outstanding technician, or someone brave as a blizzard, or a very competent analyst but on the other hand there is need to recover this force which has taken refuge at the very bottom of our body, of our kokoro, or which even sometimes has been scattered in multiple defense systems. Trying to find a defensive solution in violent martial arts when faced with the awareness of our weakness, real or assumed, is just dodging the issue, seeking an alternative, or worse, forging ahead regardless. Aïkido, by its philosophy, suggests another direction but if this fails to be heard and above all understood, it may well cause Aikido to lose its justification, its singularity.

Attacks in Aïkido are just a way of setting a situation in order to enable practitioners to solve a problem, or even a conflict, which by the way puts them in opposition more with themselves than to with their partners. Seizings, for instance, often represent attempts to immobilize the body, therefore to block the other’s movement, through imprisonment of the wrists, arms, trunk, keïkogi or any other part which can be grabbed for this purpose. Sometimes, however, seizings may follow on from an attempt to strike that has failed. They are seldom solely a matter of blocking; considered in the perspective of a fight, they should almost always be followed by an Atemi or a final immobilization. They are only the first act, the first scene of a play which is much longer, if one may say so. It might seem paradoxical but it is through working on seizings that one will discover detachment.

Sensibility, instinct

Quite before seizing or hitting materializes, our sensibility is touched by something invisible even though very physical. This may be inexplicable as scientific knowledge currently stands, but this is something we know well, and even sometimes very well. That’s what makes us move, dodge, although we have seen nothing but simply felt it in an indefinable way. In order to give a clearer example, one which everybody has been able to verify in one way or another, in different circumstances, I would like to write about gazing. Gazing carries an energy, an extremely concrete Ki that our instinct can perceive. Haven’t you ever experienced, while taking a walk one evening or one night, feeling something indescribable behind you as if someone was gazing at you, watching you; you turn around, nobody there, and still the sensation lingers? The sensation, if you are not at peace, can turn into anxiety or perhaps trigger an « irrational-since-there’s-nobody » fear, when at the angle of the street behind a half-opened curtain you suddenly discover somebody observing you – or on an overhanging roof a cat watching you. The gaze of cats, and of animals in general, as well as the gaze of humans when intently observing something or somebody, carries an extremely powerful Ki. Our instinct can feel it, but it all depends on our state of mind at that moment. If we are talking with a friend, if we are lost in our thoughts after a love encounter for instance, our instinct, if not well-prepared, will have difficulty feeling this kind of things. The same obviously applies when we are worried, frightened or anguished, in this case all our being is somehow weakened, it loses its instinctive abilities.

Discovering the direction taken by Ki

Aïkido enables us to re-discover and conduct our instinctive abilities. It is thanks to a slow work on ourselves and our sensations that will appear again what we have often let go to sleep, rocked as we were by the comfort due to modern society which may seem so reassuring to us.

The work based on seizing corresponds, like everything we do in Aïkido, to a process of renewed learning and to a training of the body as a whole so that there will no longer be any separation between body and spirit. First of all, when our partner gets closer, there is no question of waiting kindly for him to seize us as requested, our whole body must feel the directions followed by the different parts of his body: arms, legs, his bearing points, all of this without looking, without observing, because it would already be too late. With unexperienced beginners, if the exercise is done slowly enough, they will be able to discover the routes taken by their partner’s Ki, the force lines. Since they work without any risk, they start again trusting the reactions and sensations of their bodies. During sessions, I don’t only show the techniques, I am constantly on the move, serving as Uke to one person, as Tori to another; without blocking them, I make them feel the direction their body must take by putting myself in the situation, making ki more material, by materializing the force lines, visualizing the openings they can use, while allowing them to act and respond as they will.

Discovering the Non-doing

Seizing can be a first step on the path that leads to what Lao Tseu and Tchouang Tseu would name Wu wei, the Non-acting, and it was the basis of my master Itsuo Tsuda’s teaching. How to teach what can’t be taught, how to show the invisible, how to guide a beginner or even an experienced practitioner towards what is the essence of the practice in our School? What is difficult to explain with words is easily understood when we let sensation guide us. To do so we have to take a few steps backward. To let go of our acquiring and piling up habits, those consumer reflexes of people always ready to fill up their trolleys with various products, techniques which are more or less modern, fashionable or old style, miraculous, easy and effortless, or even tough but efficient. Advertising is today the source of many illusions, luring its clients with colorful wonders of a world that has become so virtual. When will the new Wii console enable us to practice Aïkido with enhanced reality glasses and a partner whose potentiometer can be adjusted depending on our level, our shape, or our mood? But maybe I am behind and it already exists.

Seizing with Ki

Young children know and naturally use a certain way of seizing which is extremely efficient. It is a seizure devoid of any useless contraction. When they seize a toy they put all their ki into the act and when they let go of this toy they do it with complete indifference, there is no more Ki in it. On the other hand they have an incredible capacity when they don’t want to let go of what they have seized and are holding tight in their small hand. If this is something dangerous, their parents must sometimes unfold their fingers one by one, though their hand is so small and devoid of any true muscular strength as adults mean it. They know in a manner completely unconscious how to use Ki, they don’t need to learn, unfortunately they often lose this ability for the benefit of what is reasonable and most of the time education and schooling are responsible for this.

To learn again how to seize like a small child, without tension, and thus discover natural prehension. I often give as an example the way birds alight on a branch: they have skin micro-sensors in the middle of their paws which inform receptors which, thanks to these indications, stimulate reflex functions at the level of the involuntary, and give the order to their fingers to close as soon as they touch the branch. This manner of seizing avoids contortions, failures, and enables a very subtle adequacy of the members to the place caught (they catch). A quality seizure is a seizure which uses the palm of the hand as first contact, then the fingers close up on the object, the limb, the Keïkogi. If we act in this way, seizing is faster, without any excessive tensions, and it has remarkable efficiency, allowing therefore a good quality work with a partner.

The only seizures which respect the other one’s freedom are light but powerful, like for instance that of a small child who wants to take along one of his parents to look at a small frog he’s just seen in the tall grass and is curious about, or like that of two beings, friends or lovers, bound by tenderness and respectful of each other.

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(1) Itsuo Tsuda, The Path of Less, p. 175, Yume Editions, Paris, 2015 (trans. from La Voie du dépouillement, Le Courrier du Livre, 1975)

Article by Régis Soavi published in Dragon Magazine (speciale Aikido n° 25) april 2019.





Misogi 禊 is widely practised among shintoists.
It consists of an ablution, sometimes under a waterfall, in a stream, or in the sea and allows a purification of the body at both physical and psychical levels. In a broader sense, Misogi encompasses a whole process of spiritual awakening. Misogi is also a way to relieve the being of what overwhelms him, so to allow him to wake up to life. Water has always been considered one of its essential elements.

Like water, Aîkido is a way to achieve Misogi

Founder of Aïkido O Senseï Morihei Ueshiba kept on telling his students that the practice of this Art is above all a Misogi.

Aïkido is one of the Japanese martial arts for which the main character, the very nature, is, like water, fluidity. The teaching brought by Itsuo Tsuda Senseï who was during ten years a direct student of the Founder Moriheï Ueshiba has definitely confirmed it. Although his words seem to have largely been forgotten, he kept on repeating that « in Aïkido there is no fighting, it’s just the art of uniting and separating ». However, when you watch an Aïkido session, it seems that two people are fighting each other. In fact one of them plays the role of the assaillant, but in real he is a partner, facing him there is no aggressivity, you won’t see any malicious gesture, no violence, even if the response to the attack may be impressive because of its efficiency.

Overall, the Aïkido practised in the Itsuo Tsuda School is an Art of great fluidity, an art in which sensitivity and caring for the partner have the main part, and it is always through the smoothness of a first part practised individually that an Aïkido session begins.

Far from starting with warm-up exercices, an Aïkido session begins with smooth, slow but still invigorating exercises. Breathing coordination is essential, as it allows us to harmonize with Ki, and thereby to take a step forward to discover a world with an additionnal dimension, the « World of Ki »

This world is not a revelation, it’s more what comes to light, what appears clearly when one recovers one’s sensitivity, when rigidity vanishes into thin air and that the living appears through. It is often women who first understand the importance of such a way of practising. That is why so many women practise in our school because they have experienced the bitter taste of sexist oppression in our society and they find in this art a way, a path, far beyong the simple martial art.

Ki, a driving force

Ai 合 Union, Harmony
Ki 気 Vital energy, Life
Do道 Path, Way, Tao

Ki is not a concept, a mystical energy nor a sort of mental illusion. We can feel Ki. In fact everybody knows what it is, even if, in Western countries nowadays, we don’t give it a name. Learning to feel it, to recognize it, to make the most of it, is necessary for who wants to practise a martial art, and even more if you practise Aïkido. In Aikido, if you don’t focus on Ki, only the empty form of its contents remains, this form becomes quickly a fight, a struggle in which the strongest, or the most cunning will manage to defeat his partner. We are really far away from the founder’s teaching for whom it was an art of peace, an art in which there is neither winner, nor defeated. Each movement of the partner is accompanied by a complementary movement from the other partner, like the water that marries each roughness, every nook, leaving nothing behind or separate.

Calligraphie de Itsuo Tsuda

If the beginnings are usually tough, it’s because people have lost part of their mobility
and mostly because they have become hard so to be protected from the world around. They’ve built a carapace, an armor, certainly protective, but which has become a second nature and an invisible prison. To have Ki flow in our body again, so to recover fluidity, and follow a teaching based on sensitivity enables us to understand physically the Yin and the Yang.

Bathing in a sea of Ki

Exercices and basic or advanced techniques have not only in common the breath which is nothing but the materialization or even better the visualisation of Ki, but they also allow to become aware of our body, physically and of our sphere of ki, which the Indians call the AURA, and that we have today practically forgotten almost everywhere.

What modern science and in particular neuroscience has been discovering for a few years is only a small part of what everyone can discover on his own and put into practice in his daily life simply through the practice of Aïkido as Itsuo Tsuda Senseï taught it.

He would repeat over and over again that Aïkido as presented by his Master Morihei Ueshiba is the union of Ka the inspiration, the ascending force, the square, the weft and Mi, the exhalation, the downward force, the cercle, the chain.
Ka being in Japanese a pronounciation for 火 fire (which appears for example as a radical in the word Kasaï 火災, wild fire) and Mi the first syllable of Mizu 水 water, the whole forming the word KAMI 神 which means divine in the sense of the divine nature of all things. Itsuo Tsuda would add that « In this gloss one mustn’t see a similar value to that of a scientific etymology. It comes from punning, the use of which is common among mystics ». [1]

I have never seen such fluid movements as when he wanted us to feel a technique he showed to us. Moreover, in his dojo there used to be no accidents, nobody injured, everything would be in a flow of Ki both respectfull and generous but at the same time firm and rigorous, that I can hardly find today in the sports halls where aïkidokas have their trainings.

The dojo, an essential place

Do we really need a special place to practise Aïkido? If we talk about the surface we need for falls, we could lay tatamis anywhere, from the moment we are sheltered from bad weather.
In his book Cœur de ciel pur Itsuo Tsuda gives us his extremely clear view of what should be a dojo, he who was Japanese was in the best posititon to give us a glimpse.

« The School of Respiration is materially a “dojo”, this particular space in the East, which refers less to the material place itself, than to the energy space. As I said before, a dojo is not a space divided into parts and provided for certain exercices. It’s a place where spacetime is not the same as in a secular place. The atmosphere is particularly intense. One enters and leaves the space bowing so to get sacralized and desacralized.
Spectators are admitted, provided they respect this atmosphere […]. They are not to parody the practice for free, with word or gesture. I am told that in France [or in Italy] one can come across dojos that are simply gyms or sports centers. Anyhow, as far as I am concerned, I want my dojo to be a dojo and not a sports club with a boss and its regulars, so as not to disturb the sincerity of the practitionners. This does not mean that they must keep a sullen and constipated face. On the contrary, we must maintain the spirit of peace, communion and joy. » [2]

A sacred space therefore and yet fundamentally non religious, a secular space, a space of great simplicity where the freedom to be as we are exists, beyond the social. And not what we have become with all the compromises we had to accept in order to survive in society. This freedom remains inside us, deep within us in our intimate heart, our Kokoro 心 as Japanese language talks so well about it, and is only asking for a chance to be revealed.

Notes :
1 Itsuo Tsuda The Science of the Particular, Yume Editions 2015 p. 137
2 Itsuo Tsuda (posth.) Cœur de ciel pur, ed. Le Courrier du Livre 2014 p. 113 [trans. Itsuo Tsuda School]

Yuki #3

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Hello Illness #2

Continuation of Régis Soavi Interview’s  about Katsugen Undo (or Regenerating Movement), a practice made by Haruchika Noguchi and spread in Europe by Itsuo Tsuda: article by  Monica Rossi  « Arti d’Oriente » (#4 / may 2000).

To read part 1 –>

Part #2

– How can one define Yuki ?

-Let the Ki circulate.

– How can Yuki help to activate the Movement?

– It helps, in the case where one has done the three exercises, or the exercises for Mutual Movement (activation through stimulation of the second pair of points on the head ; that is another way to activate the Movement). Yuki helps because it activates ; It’s very important for me to say that Yuki is fundamentally different from what we often hear spoken of, because when we do Yuki, we void our heads, we don’t cure anyone, we don’t look for anything. We are simply concentrated in the act. There is no intention, and that is primordial. In the statutes of the dojo, in fact, it is underlined that we practice “without a goal” ».

Lire la suite

Le ki, une dimension à part entière

Par Régis Soavi

« Le Ki appartient au domaine du sentir et non à celui du savoir ». Itsuo Tsuda

Dès qu’on parle du ki on passe pour un mystique, une espèce d’hurluberlu : « Ce n’est pas scientifique, aucun instrument, aucune machine n’est capable de prouver, de démontrer que le ki existe ». Je suis parfaitement d’accord. Effectivement si on considère le ki comme une énergie surpuissante, une sorte de magie capable de projeter des personnes à distance ou de tuer seulement grâce à un cri, comme on le croyait avec le kiai, on risque de s’attendre à des miracles et d’être très vite déçu.Ki une dimension a part entiere

Le ki une philosophie orientale ?

Quelle est cette philosophie « orientale » à laquelle nous n’aurions pas accès ? Existe-t-il un domaine spécifique réservé à quelques adeptes, à quelques disciples triés sur le volet, ou bien cette connaissance est-elle à la portée de tous, et qui plus est, sans se compliquer la vie. Je veux dire en menant une vie normale, sans faire partie d’une élite ayant eu accès à des connaissances secrètes, sans avoir des pratiques spéciales, cachées et distribuées au compte gouttes, mais plus simplement en ayant un travail, des enfants etc. Quand on pratique l’Aïkido, évidemment on est dans une recherche tant philosophique que pratique, mais c’est une recherche « exotérique » et non « ésotérique ».
Itsuo Tsuda a écrit neuf livres, créant ainsi un pont entre l’Orient et l’Occident pour nous permettre de mieux comprendre l’enseignement des maîtres japonais et chinois, pour le rendre plus concret, plus simple et accessible à tous. Il n’est pas nécessaire d’être oriental pour comprendre, sentir de quoi il s’agit. Mais il est vrai que dans le monde où nous vivons il va falloir faire un petit effort. Sortir de nos habitudes de comportement, de nos références. Avoir un autre type d’attention, un autre type de concentration. Il ne s’agit pas de repartir de zéro mais de s’orienter différemment, de conduire notre attention (notre ki) d’une autre manière.
Déjà nous devons nous débarrasser de l’idée, très cartésienne, selon laquelle le ki serait une seule et même chose, alors qu’il est multiple. Admettre aussi que notre corps est capable de sentir des choses que l’on aurait du mal à expliquer rationnellement, mais qui font partie de notre vie quotidienne, comme la sympathie, l’antipathie, l’empathie. Les sciences cognitives tentent à coup de neurones miroirs et autres procédés de décortiquer tout ça, mais cela n’explique pas tout, et même parfois ça complique les choses.
De toute façon à chaque situation il y a une réponse, mais on ne peux pas analyser tout ce que l’on fait à chaque instant en fonction du passé, du présent, du futur, de la politique ou de la météo. Les réponses surgissent indépendamment de la réflexion, elles surgissent spontanément de notre involontaire, que ces réponses soient bonnes ou mauvaises, l’analyse nous le dira après coup.

Le ki en Occident

L’Occident connaissait le ki par le passé, on l’appelait pneuma, spiritus, prana, ou tout simplement souffle vital. Aujourd’hui cela semble bien désuet. Le Japon a gardé un usage très simple de ce mot que l’on peut retrouver dans une multitude d’expressions, que je cite plus loin, en reprenant un passage d’un livre de mon Maître.
Mais dans l’Aïkido qu’est-ce que le ki ?
Si une École peut et doit parler du ki, c’est bien l’École Itsuo Tsuda, et cela évidemment sans prétendre à l’exclusivité, mais simplement peut-être parce que mon Maître avait basé tout son enseignement sur le ki, qu’il avait traduit par respiration. C’est pourquoi il parlait d’une « École de la respiration » : « Par le mot respiration, je ne parle pas d’une simple opération bio-chimique de combinaison oxygène-hémoglobine. La respiration, c’est à la fois vitalité, action, amour, esprit de communion, intuition, prémonition, mouvement. »*
L’Aïkido n’est pas un art de combat, ni même de self défense. Ce que j’ai découvert avec mon Maître, c’est l’importance de la coordination de la respiration avec mon partenaire, comme moyen de réaliser la fusion de sensibilité quelle que soit la situation. Itsuo Tsuda nous expliquait à travers ses textes ce que lui avait transmis son Maître Morihei Ueshiba. Pour nous le transmettre de manière plus concrète, pendant ce qu’il appelait « la première partie » – la pratique solitaire, qu’on appellerait aujourd’hui Taizo – au moment de l’inspiration, il prononçait KA, et à l’expiration MI. Certaines fois il nous expliquait : « KA est le radical de Feu Kasai en japonais, et MI le radical de l’Eau Mizu ». L’alternance de l’inspire et de l’expire, leur union, crée Kami que l’on peut traduire par le divin.  « Mais attention, nous disait-il, il ne s’agit pas du dieu des chrétiens ni même de celui d’une quelconque religion mais, si vous avez besoin de références, on peut dire que c’est dieu l’univers, dieu la nature, ou tout simplement la vie ».
Il y avait au dojo un dessin exécuté à l’encre de chine et tracé par Maître Ueshiba comportant quatorze formes très simples que nous appelions Futomani car O Senseï avait dit qu’il lui avait été dicté par Ame-no-Minaka-nushi : le Centre céleste. Itsuo Tsuda en donne l’explication dans son livre Le dialogue du silence*. Grâce à cela j’ai mieux compris les directions que prenait le ki lorsqu’il avait une forme.

Dessin exécuté par Maître Ueshiba
Dessin exécuté par Maître Ueshiba

Renouer, retrouver les liens avec ce qui préexiste au plus profond de nous

Le fondateur parlait de Haku no budo et de Kon no budo : kon étant l’âme essentielle qui ne doit pas être étouffée, mais disait-il, on ne doit pas négliger l’âme haku qui assure l’unité de l’être physique.
Une fois encore on parle de l’unité.
Si notre pratique s’intitule Aï ki do : « voie d’unification du ki », c’est bien que ce mot ki a un sens.
La pratique concrète nous permettra de le comprendre, mieux que les longs discours. Et pourtant il faut tenter d’expliquer, tenter de faire passer ce message si important, car sans cela notre art risque fort de devenir un combat « Que le plus fort, le plus habile ou encore le plus malin gagne », ou bien une danse ésotérique, mystique, élitiste, voire sectaire.
Et pourtant nous connaissons bien le ki, nous le sentons à distance. Par exemple quand on se promène dans une petite rue la nuit, et que tout à coup on sent une présence, on sent un regard dans notre dos et pourtant il n’y a personne ! Quant soudain on remarque, sur un toit avoisinant, un chat qui nous regarde. Un chat tout simplement, ou un rideau qui se rabat subrepticement. Le regard est porteur d’un ki très fort que tout le monde peut sentir, même de dos.

Une des pratiques de Seitai do appelée Yuki consiste à poser les mains sur le dos d’un partenaire et à faire circuler le ki. Il ne s’agit aucunement de faire l’imposition des mains pour guérir quelqu’un qui à priori n’est pas malade, mais d’accepter de visualiser la circulation du ki, cette fois comme un fluide, comme de l’eau qui coule. Au début on ne sent rien ou peu de chose de la part de l’un comme de l’autre. Mais là encore, petit à petit on découvre le monde de la sensation. On peut dire que c’est une dimension à part entière dans la plus grande simplicité. C’est simple, c’est gratuit, ce n’est lié à aucune religion, on peut le faire à tout âge et quant on commence à sentir cette circulation du ki, la pratique de l’Aïkido devient tellement plus facile. L’exercice de kokyu ho par exemple, ne peux pas se faire sans le kokyu, donc sans le ki, à moins de devenir un exercice de force musculaire, une façon de vaincre un adversaire.
Je n’aurais jamais pu découvrir l’Aïkido que mon Maître enseignait si je n’avais pas volontairement et avec opiniâtreté cherché dans cette direction. Dans la recherche sensitive, à travers tous les aspects de la vie quotidienne pour comprendre, sentir, et étendre cette compréhension sans jamais abandonner.


Le ki est aussi ambiance, par conséquent, pour pratiquer il y a besoin d’un lieu qui permette la circulation du ki entre les personnes. Ce lieu, le dojo, doit à mon avis, chaque fois que cela est possible, être « dédié » à une pratique, une École. Itsuo Tsuda considérait que en entrant dans le dojo on se sacralisait, et c’est pourquoi on saluait en montant sur les tatamis. Ce n’est pas un lieu triste où les gens « doivent garder un visage renfrogné et constipé. Au contraire, il faut y maintenir l’esprit de paix, de communion et de joie. »* L’ambiance du dojo n’a rien à voir avec celle d’un club ou avec celle d’une salle multi-sports qu’on loue quelques heures par semaine et qui est utilisée, pour cause de rentabilité, par différents groupes n’ayant rien à voir entre eux. Le genre de local, de gymnase où l’on passe, on s’entraîne, puis une douche et ciao ; au mieux une bière au bistrot du coin histoire d’échanger un peu les uns avec les autres. Quand on connaît le ki, quand on commence à le sentir et surtout quand on veut découvrir ce qui se cache derrière ce mot, un lieu comme le dojo c’est vraiment tout autre chose. Imaginez un endroit calme dans un petit passage parisien au fond du vingtième arrondissement. Vous traversez un petit jardin et au premier étage d’un bâtiment très simple s’ouvre « Le Dojo ».


Vous y venez tous les jours si vous voulez, car chaque matin il y a une séance à sept heure moins le quart : vous êtes chez vous. Vous avez votre kimono sur un cintre dans les vestiaires, la séance dure à peu près une heure, puis vous prenez un petit déjeuner avec vos partenaires dans l’espace attenant, ou vous partez précipitamment au travail. Le samedi et le dimanche grasse matinée, séances à huit heure.
Expliquer le ki est une chose difficile c’est pourquoi seule l’expérience nous le fait découvrir. Et pour cela il faut y mettre les conditions qui permettent cette découverte. Le dojo fait partie des éléments qui facilitent grandement la recherche dans cette direction. Renouer des circuits, mais aussi dénouer ces liens qui nous enserrent et obscurcissent notre vision du monde

Petit à petit le travail va se faire, les nœuds vont se dénouer, et si nous acceptons qu’ils se dénouent on peut dire que le ki recommence à circuler plus librement. Il circule à ce moment là en tant qu’énergie vitale, il est possible de le sentir, de le visualiser, de le rendre en quelque sorte conscient. Car des tensions inutiles, qui n’arrivent pas à se libérer, rigidifient notre corps. Pour rendre la chose la plus claire possible, on pourrait dire que c’est à peu près comme si un tuyau d’arrosage était bouché. Il risque d’éclater en amont. La rigidification du corps oblige celui-ci à réagir pour sa propre survie. Il se produit alors des réactions inconscientes qui agissent au niveau du système involontaire. Pour éviter ces blocages, surviennent de micro fuites de cette énergie vitale et même parfois des fuites plus importantes, par exemple dans les bras, au niveau du koshi et principalement aux articulations. La conséquence immédiate est que les personnes n’arrivent plus à pratiquer avec fluidité et c’est la force qui compense le manque, on raidit des parties du corps qui se mettent à réagir comme autant de pansements ou de plâtres pour empêcher ces déperditions de la force vitale. C’est pourquoi il est si important de travailler sur le fait de sentir le ki, de le faire circuler. Au début c’est la visualisation qui nous le permet, mais au fur et à mesure qu’on approfondit la respiration (la sensation, la sensibilité au ki), si on reste concentré sur une pratique souple, si on se vide l’esprit, on peut découvrir, voir, sentir la direction du ki, sa circulation. Cette connaissance nous permet de l’utiliser et la pratique de l’Aïkido devient facile. On peut commencer à pratiquer la non résistance : Le non faire.

La sensibilité naturelle des femmes au ki

Les femmes ont généralement plus de sensibilité par rapport au ki ou, plus exactement, elles la conservent plus, si elles ne se déforment pas trop pour se défendre dans ce monde d’hommes où tout est régi suivant les critères et les besoins de la masculinité, de l’image de la femme qui est transmise et de l’économie. Leur sensibilité vient du besoin de conserver à leur corps la souplesse pour pouvoir accoucher de façon naturelle et s’occuper des nouveaux-nés. C’est une souplesse qui ne s’acquière pas dans les salles de sport, de musculation ou de fitness, c’est plutôt une tendresse, une douceur qui saura au besoin être ferme et sans aucune mollesse quand ce sera nécessaire. Le nouveau-né a besoin de toute notre attention mais il ne parle pas encore. Il ne peut pas dire : « j’ai faim, j’ai soif ou je suis fatigué », ou encore « maman tu est trop nerveuse, calme toi, et dis à papa de parler moins fort, cela me fait peur ».2011-07-20 at 08-21-28

Grâce à leur sensibilité naturelle, elles sentent les besoins de l’enfant, elles ont l’intuition de ce qu’il faut faire et le ki passe entre la mère et l’enfant. Quant le père, toujours très rationnel, ne comprend pas, la mère sent et du coup elle sait. Même si elle n’est pas mère, même si elle est une jeune femme sans aucune expérience, c’est le corps qui réagit, c’est lui qui a cette sensibilité naturelle au ki et c’est pourquoi, je pense, il y a tant de femmes dans notre École. C’est parce que le ki est au centre de notre pratique, que rien ne saurait se faire sans lui. Nous mettons notre sensibilité dans cette direction et ainsi on peut voir le monde et les personnes non plus seulement au niveau des apparences mais bien plus loin, dans leur profondeur, ce qu’il y a derrière la forme, ce qui la structure, ou ce qui la conduit.

Voici quelques exemples que donnait Itsuo Tsuda, extraits du livre Le Non-faire :

« La chose la plus difficile à comprendre dans la langue japonaise, c’est le mot « ki ».  En effet, si les Japonais l’utilisent des centaines et des centaines de fois par jour, sans y réfléchir, il est pratiquement, et je dirais aussi théoriquement, impossible d’en trouver un équivalent dans les langues européennes.
Si le mot, pris isolément, reste intraduisible en français, il n’est toutefois pas impossible de traduire les expressions courantes dans lesquelles il se trouve incorporé. Je vais citer quelques exemples :
ki ga chiisai : mot à mot, son ki est petit. Il se fait trop de souci pour rien.
ki ga ôkii : son ki est grand. Il ne se fait pas de souci pour des petites choses.
… ki ga shinai : je n’ai pas de ki pour… Je n’en ai pas envie. Ou, cela me dépasse.
… ki ga suru : il fait du ki pour… J’ai le flair, le pressentiment, je sens intuitivement…
waru-gi wa nai : il n’a pas de mauvais ki, il n’est pas méchant, n’a pas de mauvaises intentions.
ki-mochi ga ii : l’état du ki est bon ; je me sens bien.
ki ni naru : cela attire mon ki, je n’arrive pas à dégager mon esprit de cette idée. Quelque chose de bizarre, d’anormal arrête mon attention, malgré moi.
ki ga au : notre ki coïncide, nous sommes sur la même longueur d’ondes.
ki o komeru : concentrer le ki. Pour la question de concentration, je n’ai vu nulle part ailleurs d’exemple aussi hautement porté qu’au Japon.
ki-mochi no mondai : c’est conditionné par l’état du ki. Ce n’est pas l’objet, le résultat tangible, mais c’est le geste, c’est l’intention qui compte.
On pourrait encore citer plusieurs centaines d’expressions avec le mot ki.
Si les Japonais sont pour la plupart incapables de dire ce qu’est le ki, il n’empêche qu’ils savent instinctivement à quel moment il faut le dire ou ne pas le dire. ».

Itsuo Tsuda avait commencé l’Aïkido à l’âge de quarante cinq ans, il n’avait rien d’un sportif mais sa seule présence transformait toute l’ambiance du dojo. J’aimerais vous raconter une anecdote concernant un des exercices que je faisais dans les années soixante-dix, alors que mon Maître avait déjà plus de soixante ans. Lorsque je passais le portail de la cour au fond de laquelle se trouvait le dojo, je m’arrêtais un instant, je fermais les yeux et cherchais à sentir si « il » était là. Les premiers temps cela ne marchait pas trop, c’était des coups au hasard, des coups de chance. Petit à petit j’ai compris : je ne devais pas chercher à savoir. Alors j’ai commencé à me « vider », à cesser de penser et c’est venu. Je savais chaque matin si il était arrivé ou non. Je sentais sa présence dès que je m’approchais du dojo.
A partir de ce moment quelque chose s’est transformé en moi. J’avais enfin compris un petit bout de son enseignement, et surtout, j’avais vérifié que le ki ne faisait pas partie de l’irrationnel, que c’était concret, et que sa perception était accessible à tous puisqu’elle m’avait été accessible.

Article de Régis Soavi sur le thème du ki ( ) publié dans Dragon Magazine (Spécial Aïkido n°15)  janvier 2017.

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Notes :
* Itsuo Tsuda, Le Non-faire – Ed. Le Courrier du livre, 1973, p. 25.
* Itsuo Tsuda, Le Non-faire – Ed. Le Courrier du livre, 1973, p. 14.
* Itsuo Tsuda, Le dialogue du silence – Ed. Le Courrier du livre, 1979, p. 89 et 90.
* Itsuo Tsuda, Cœur de ciel pur – Ed. Le Courrier du livre, 2014, p. 117.
* Itsuo Tsuda, Le Non-faire – Ed. Le Courrier du livre, 1973, p. 23 et 24.

# 2 Breathing, living philosophy

respiration philosophie vivante
Here the second of the Six Interviews of Itsuo Tsuda « Breathing living philosophy » by André Libioulle broadcast published on France Culture in the 1980s.

Broadcast # 2

Q: During the second week we will talk more in dept about the books published by Itsuo Tsuda. All these works published by the « Courrier du Livre » in Paris, are currently six: « The Non-Doing », « The Path of Less », « The Science of the Particular « , a book with the title « One », « The Dialogue of the Silence  » and recently « the Unstable Triangle ». They relate to breathing and the field of thought in relation to it. […]

The concepts of soul and body has always been separated into clear-cut by the west. They have often talked about the elevation of the individual’s soul as much as underestimating the body, considered as related to temptation. If for Plato, the soul is cramped in its carnal envelope, a prisoner of the body, for a man like Itsuo Tsuda  the body appears to be the captive of the soul. A soul who constantly manipulates abstractions and cuts the vital impulse.The man more and more lives in the brain. The hopes of the society is based on the intensive exploitation of intellectual capacity in which it is seen the privilege of the human being.

But this hypertrophicity of the brain creates a gap that is the source of the imbalance between the sensations, the body as life, as energy, as momentum, and the world built, conceptualized cerebrated. Breathing is unification, return to self, if you release the separation body and soul, if the soul ceases to be an abstraction, then it is everywhere, it is in the body as well as outside.

So… « ki », the concept of which we gave already a hint during the previous broadcasting, introduces us to the idea of unity. This is what we will try to understand now. So, Itsuo Tsuda, it seems that the first step,  towards the understanding of ki, it is whether we feel the sensation. That is to say not to abstract it, not to imagine about living a sensation but really and truly feeling it.

I.t.: There is a principle we recognize in Chinese medicine, it is: cold head and warm feet. Currently it is exactly the other way around: hot head and cold feet. We do not even feel our feet. And the head heats up more and more. There is quite a contributing factor to it: this is Westernization. But we can not turn back. This is a trend that has been going on since long time already. But we also have the obvious benefits that come from Westernization. But if that is only on a material level it does not helps us, it places us in a precarious state as individuals. Individuals become increasingly prisoners of well-planned structures, they can not feel alive themselves anymore.

Q: Europeans elsewhere, you write, need to understand before acting. They do not engage immediately in action.
I.t.: What I am doing here, it is not precisely the same as what we would do in Japan. Often in Japan we do not explain, we found ourselves immediately into the experience path, it’s up to everyone to learn the lesson, isn’t it. Well, in the West this does not work. We need to understand first. But understanding is not enough. I have explained those people who were listening the explanation about swimming, but this does not allow people to be able to dive into the water. If we have not felt the first touch of the water, one can fill his head with all sorts of explanations, but it is useless.

Q: But people will perhaps argue about this, « but why do I need to be able to feel? Why is that so important for me? « 

I.t.: Well, this is the concept of « Seitai » precisely that one that Noguchi created after the war. At the moment people think in a dualistic way: « here – that is good, that is bad. We must fight the evil. When we have fought the evil, we will have the good.  » But in fact, we do not search this: we nomalize the terrain. That’s what he called « Seitai »: a well harmonized body. In the West we keep on finding the cause, we try to exterminate the cause. But as soon as we finished with the cause, here there are other causes that arise. But that’s the method that complies with this mental structure. But Noguchi brought this view which is quite different, which transcends all. If your organism is normalized, the problem itself becomes less important. In the West we say: there is such a problem. That’s a way of defining it, it does not change volume, it’s still there. We must attack this way etc.

Q. So there is in fact for the West an anatomical way of understanding, discursive kind, in which we distinguish cause and effect and in order to be able to act on a particular item. The concept introduced by the Seitai is a different concept. It is the notion of sensation. But this is the notion, if I understand, in which knowledge is not excluded. But it is another type of knowledge, intuitive knowledge, qualitative I would say, in relation to the Western notion of measure or quantification.

I.t.: The same problem increases or decreases importance depending on sensation. A bottle is half empty or half full. But the quantity is exactly the same. But the sensation is different in both cases. So just a little nothing can change human behavior. If one says, « that’s it, I’m done, » from that moment on one can no longer move forward. While if I say « I have already made three steps forward, » then Iam ready to make a fourth step, isn’t it.

Q. Do you not think that there is a notion that is brought by the West, which is about the total or the global but understood as an assembly of parts? With the quality we are also in something global, but without this assembly idea.

I.t.: In Seitai, we do not look at a person as an assembly of various parts. That’s the basic idea. A person is an individual, total, isn’t it. But everyone is different, in its movement, in his breath, in his sensitivity. That’s what matters to us.

Q. You talked about Master Noguchi repeatedly. Could we try to understand what the whole is, the unit in an individual through some examples of the practice of Master Noguchi, Noguchi was a therapist, wasn’t he. He is the creator of the Seitai method. So how is his job? What enabled him to understand those concrete things, spontaneously?

I.t.: For example, each one has its own biological speed, which determines the behavior, actions, movements etc. It is viewed in a quite detached way, objective, as per minute etc., etc., but for Noguchi, well that’s something concrete. Everything comes from that biological speed that is inherent in the individual. Without this notion of speed he can do nothing. But this…

Q: … so there, the notion of speed has nothing to do with the notion of rapidity, for example …

I.t. … no, no …

Q: … as we know it, it’s something else …

I.t.: No. We need to create the contact with the biological speed of that particular person. No need to apply a general and objective speed. Well, for example, there is a kid who comes while crying, he is crying because he broke his arm. Parents say: « It is impossible to touch him, he keeps on crying and crying … ». But Noguchi has already touched him. « Ah, ah good then it is because he does not dare to cry in front of a master. » No it’s not that. He touched him at a , biological speed, the breathing speed of the child, which is peculiar to him. At that time, the kid does not feel the contact, it’s part of him, and that it’s so important.

[Read extracts from books Itsuo Tsuda]

Q. You wrote that Master Noguchi could identify the individual through observation and by touch, something like the notion of an unconscious movement.

I.t.: Yes, for him, all the movements are unconscious hundred percent. We believe precisely the opposite. We believe we are the masters of ourselves, but we can not do much, and we try to hold us, to behave in front of others, etc. And then one day the brake is released, and then we wonder where it comes from. For Noguchi everything is unconscious, we are not masters of ourselves.

Q. Did Mr. Noguchi made a distinction between the unconscious movement and posture …

I.t. … but the posture is the realization of the unconscious movement.

Q. So the posture, it is observable by everyone … from the outside, without preparation, while the unconscious movement itself, requires preparation.

I.t.: Posture, if you think about the military way, for example, « Attention! » etc., so everybody tries to do pretty much the same. But when one is at rest, everyone is different.

Q. What is the relationship there between breathing and unconscious movement?

I.t.: There are some people who are breathless, for example. So when this happen, respiration rises higher and higher. So, people breathe from the top of the lungs and then finally when their breath weakens it goes through the nose. What we do it is to go lower, right, so we can breathe with our belly, or, if one’s wants, with the feet. Without the practice it is quite difficult to explain that.

Q: The idea of ​​breathing is a concept much broader than a simple biochemical deal. Breathing is life, it is ki …, the « souffle » , the soul …

I.t.: yes …

Kokyu disclosure of the unity of being

By Régis Soavi

In one of his books Itsuo Tsuda gives us his views on kokyu:

CouvTsuda_PathOfLess_Mini“In learning a Japanese art, the question of “kokyu” always arises, strictly speaking, the equivalent of actual respiration. But the word also means to have a knack for doing something, to know the trick. When there is no “kokyu”, we cannot do a thing properly.  A cook needs “kokyu” to use his knife well, and a worker his tools. “Kokyu” cannot be explained; it is acquired.
When I was young, I saw a labourer working with his screwdriver on very rusty machinery.  I tried to unscrew a piece of the machine, but in vain; it was too rusty. For the labourer, it posed no problem; he unscrewed it with ease, not because he was stronger but because he had “kokyu”.
When we acquire “kokyu” it seems that tools, machines, materials, until then “indomitable”, suddenly become docile and obey our commands with no resistance.
Ki, kokyu, respiration, intuition are themes that are pivotal to the arts and crafts of Japan. It constitutes a professional secret, not because people want to keep it like a patent, or a recipe for earning their living, but because it cannot be passed on intellectually. Respiration is the final word, the ultimate secret of learning. Only the best disciples gain access to it, after years of sustained effort.
A martial arts master whom dogs bark at is not a good master, they say. The French know how to silence dogs by sliding a piece of sugar in their mouths. That’s the trick, that’s “the thing”, but it is not kokyu, respiration, which is something else entirely.”

Itsuo Tsuda, The Path of less, Yume Editions, Paris, 2014, p. 33-34.

I discovered kokyu with my master Itsuo Tsuda.aikido kokyu
Previously, it was to me just the name of a technique, with Itsuo Tsuda this notion became much more concrete, firstly by the orientation of his practice. He said: « To me technique is simply a test of knowing whether I’ve evolved in my breathing. » Thus our attention was brought directly to kokyu. There couldn’t be aikido and breathing. Aikido is breathing. And then, from his first books on, Itsuo Tsuda illuminates us in terms I didn’t knew; almost too simple and yet so difficult to achieve.

When I attacked him it was crystal clear, regardless the strength I put in he remained both, relaxed and powerful.
He made us use visualization to teach us kokyu. E.g. for kokyu ho he said: « It is the lotus flower opening. » Today few people have seen the lotus flower, so I speak of a daisy. Visualization should talk to us, directed to us. For it to act, it must be anchored in the concrete life of each person.

So sometimes to help someone to get beyond a partner that is holding the wrists to prevent him or her to move, I say, « You welcome a friend you haven’t seen for years, who steps out of the train, take him in your arms! » Then the person forgets the other and ki, instead of being coagulated, flows in the given direction, the person raises the arms without any effort. The power of visualization is colossal.

Sure, posture is essential, I would even say primordial. If the body stiffens to become an impeccable posture; it’s screwed. If it is too flabby; it’s screwed. If the third lumbar is wrongly positioned: it’s screwed. With the practice of aikido and katsugen undo I see that my students are gradually recovering. Ki begins to flow without blockage, without disruption, it is the discovery of unforced abdominal breathing, but clear and limpid, from the kokyu. In my view, without kokyu, all the work in aikido is only intended to strengthen the body, it is a work of hardening.kokyu ho régis soavi

With the deepening of breath little by little the needlessness disappears, we do not need to work on flexibility or strength, stiffness and our ideas of strength and weakness are leaving. So ki circulates better.
For this direction, the respiratory practice we do in the beginning of the sessions is important.
You can not teach kokyu, but you can guide individuals to discover it.
If we practice kokyu ho every morning at the end of each session, it is precisely to make people sensitive and also to improve our posture. As our posture and the way we behave refines and improves, we are able to help the normalization of the terrain of our partner. If you breathe deeply from the hara to the hara of the partner, you revitalize the channels through which ki flows, you enable these circuits to function better, and the other understands (feels) with his entire body what it is about.
It is not about looking at the demonstration and working harder and harder, but rather about being pervaded with this kokyu feeling of the other. I often say: to work on the kokyu we must start by listening. We listen to the other, not with the ears but with the whole of our body, we feel the breathing, the ki, of the other. It’s like a perfume. We listen to the inner movement, so the feeling becomes more accurate and we can guide him or her to a better posture, towards a release of tension.

It is also the work of senior practitioners to encourage this discovery. By bathing the other in breath, they help them to feel it, by dint of being soaked with « something ».

In the practice of katsugen undo Tsuda Sensei introduced in Europe, first comes the awareness  by the breathing, by the movement of ki. Tsuda wrote: « In the regenerating movement (katsugen undo), we do the opposite of the tradition: we begin with the supreme secret, straight off1. »

Kokyu is no more magical than ki is an energy. As soon as we launch ourselves into an explanation, even if  we let know that it will be approximately, big chance we blow it.
The ancient tales, such as those recorded by the Brothers Grimm, can show us an aspect of kokyu powers. As in fairy tales, it can transform toads into a prince or princess and grow people more beautiful by the simple fact of transforming their posture. This posture, the result of many years of contraction, weakness, or attempts of correction. When the posture finds back something natural, it is the return to the source, to the root of being.regis soavi aikido

The discovery of kokyu leads us to different behaviors in everyday life. This respiration, far from being seen as in “New Age”, awakens in the individuals’ daily life forgotten qualities, lost simplicity, and intuition finally found. It is what can be admirable in the work of a craftsman and an artist, but it is also what surprises those who do not know it. Because we did not understand nor felt what is behind this entirety in the performed act: kokyu is a revelation of the unity of being.

Itsuo Tsuda has guided us in that direction, leaving us free to go further or stay put. This freedom was fundamental in his teaching.

It is said that sometimes when the posture, the breathing, the coordination was perfect, Ueshiba O Sensei exclaimed “Kami Wasa”. God-technique? Supreme realization? Couldn’t we talk about kokyu or Non-Doing in the greatest simplicity? Like a child who drops a toy to take another, in the same way as he aspires us to take him in our arms for protection.
A small child has kokyu. “The baby is as big as the universe, but treated poorly fades quickly”2, Tsuda Sensei wrote in his last book. Isn’t it our duty to enable him to preserve it? And to us  adults, it to regain?

Aikido is not made for fighting, but to allow a better harmony between people.
I breathe deeply, I listen to the body of the other, in his or her body I visualize the flow of ki, I hear and clearly understand it, so I let ki passing into the body of the other. This circulation brings us fullness, the feeling of being fully alive, everything disappears, there is nothing but the present moment with its sensations, its colors, its music.

Article written by Régis Soavi on the subject of kokyu, published in Dragon Magazine(Special Aikido No. 10) in October 2015.

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1) Itsuo Tsuda, The Path of less, Yume Editions, Paris, 2014, p. 33
2) Itsuo Tsuda, Face à la science, Éditions Le Courrier du livre, Paris, 1983, p. 152.