Common steps and sub-activities

Seika Tanden Kokyu-ho

Kokyu-ho is a breathing technique that is part of the overall Japanese martial arts practises of Aikido.  It is also called 'lower dan tien' breathing.  There is an equivalent technique used in Ninjutsu, Shinto and Reiki.

Dr Masaaki Hatsumi  - The Way of the Ninja – Secret techniques.
Ninja practise breathing through the nose, through the mouth and not at all

All these systems employ various controlled breathing techniques – rapid breathing, reduced breathing and holding your breath.  All these were derived through Buddhism and have their origins in the Yoga techniques.  This particular technique is based on controlling the breathing rate.

There has been a great deal of sharing of martial arts practises over the years between China and Japan and the breathing exercises used in Qi-gong are also to be found in Japanese martial arts.

I found the following very helpful description of this technique on a website, first, however, a warning from a contributor to the site.

2003 James Deacon
Over the years of working with various forms of energy therapeutics - primarily Tenchi Seiki Te-Ate, Qi Gung Healing, SHEN, and Therapeutic Touch - the most frequent causes of severe energetic imbalance I have come across tend, in one form or another, to relate to what is commonly referred to as the 'kundalini crisis' - i.e are a result of improper use of yogic breathing practices.
Second on the list - yes, you've probably guessed it - improper use of chi/ki-breathing exercises ( maybe it should get its own name: 'qi-gung crisis'?) - in particular the basic process of 'lower tan tien' breathing (Seika Tanden Kokyu in Japanese terminology)

Method

The following has been extracted from a reputable website, but clearly this is no guarantee of efficacy or 'safeness'.

What follows is an example of the formal, standard beginner-level 'seika tanden kokyu' (tan tien breathing) instruction. There several more complex levels which should only be practiced under direct supervision of a qualified teacher.
Seika Tanden Kokyu should be practised in a pleasantly warm, quiet, well-ventilated place, preferably where the practitioner will not be disturbed or interrupted for the duration of practice. (6 -12 minutes should be sufficient for initial practice - over time this will increase intuitively.)

Do not practice Seika Tanden Kokyu in the cold or where there is a draught.

Ones clothing should be loose-fitting - especially around the chest and abdomen - and footwear should be removed.

Seika Tanden Kokyu is to be carried out in a relaxed way - gently, lightly, without straining - without force. At first attempt, practice might feel a little awkward, especially to those with no experience of breathwork or 'attention-exercises' - do not be concerned.
Approach your practice in an attitude of 'carefree play'. Treat it as a game, if you will - be at ease - and take enjoyment from the playing of this game for its own sake - without undue concern for outcomes...

If you are doing this standing up, begin by standing with your feet about shoulder-with apart, arms by your sides.
If seated, sit up straight (comfortably so - no need for rigid military-style posture - this will only impede the technique.)

Rest your hands, palms down, on your legs.
In Japanese forms of practice, you would normally sit in 'Seiza' ( - the term for the traditional Japanese kneeling/'sitting on your heels' posture.) However, for those less-supple students unaccustomed to 'sitting on heels' - who find the task of sitting in seiza uncomfortable (& therefore a distraction) - practice be undertaken in other, more comfortably familiar postures.
Chinese forms of the seated practice are generally carried out in the 'half-lotus' cross-legged position or the 'Emperors position' i.e. seated upright on a chair- feet flat on the floor.

Begin by gently closing your eyes.
Settle yourself - get comfortable.
Now gently, and I emphasise g e n t l y, tense all your muscles - just slowly and smoothly squeeze - clench your fists, your jaw, your shoulders, back, chest, abdomen, hips, arms, legs, feet - everything.
Hold for a few seconds, and just as smoothly and gently, release.
Repeat the process four more times. Tense-hold-release. Tense-hold-release. Tense-hold-release. Tense-hold-release.

With mouth loosely closed (- jaw relaxed, lips softly touching) place the tip of your tongue lightly against your palate (: touch the roof of your mouth, not the point just above your teeth).

With your tongue in this position you may find you produce more saliva than usual. Simply swallow gently as you feel the need to.

Begin by 'hara-centering' - gently directing your attention to the area of the seika tanden.
Become loosely focussed on the natural rhythms of your breathing. The term used is 'watching the breath' - this implies non-interference with the natural process of respiration.

Do not seek to consciously breathe - merely be aware that you are breathing effortlessly.

After a few moments, begin to consciously intervene in your respiratory process.
Without straining, inhale a long, slow breath through your nose, (gently extending your lower abdomen as you do so) until the lungs are almost (yet not quite) full.
As you inhale, in your minds-eye perceive your breath as a stream of light pouring into your seika tanden.

Pausing momentarily, be aware that the breath-light fills your seika tanden; then - keeping the image of light at the seika tanden - smoothly begin to exhale at the same slow rate, letting the excess breath slip out through your mouth - continuing until the lungs are almost (yet not quite) empty.

Immediately begin the process again:
Without straining, inhale a long, slow breath through your nose, (gently extending your lower abdomen as you do so) until the lungs are almost (yet not quite) full.
As you inhale, in your minds-eye perceive your breath as a stream of light pouring into your seika tanden.
Pausing momentarily, be aware that the breath-light fills your seika tanden; then - keeping the image of light at the seika tanden - smoothly begin to exhale at the same slow rate, letting the excess breath slip out through your mouth (keep your tongue in contact with your palate)- continuing until the lungs are almost (yet not quite) empty...

Continue in this way - the light pouring into seika tanden, filling it, being held there while the breath escapes, more light flowing in on the next breath, and so on - so that you create a reservoir of light in your seika tanden that grows stronger and brighter with every in-breath.

REMEMBER - you are building up LIGHT in your Seika Tanden, not PRESSURE

Maintaining a steady rhythm - continue this cycle of breathing, focussing on quality, pace, and smoothness of respiration, for as long as you feel comfortable with the process.

While this pattern involves controlled breathing, the aim is for this process to become an almost subconscious, effortless one.

The 'secret' of Seika Tanden breathing is not to get 'hung up' on the breath.

[At no time should there be even the slightest degree of strain or forcing involved in the practice of this breathing pattern, and if at any time there is any sense of even the mildest discomfort, you should simply relax into your natural breathing rhythms once more.]
To conclude practice, let your body resume its natural breathing rhythms.

Bow to the Light that is within you; then turn your attention outward to the world around you once more.