Author: Shihan Graeme

Sai Ki Hou means "The Art of gathering Ki". The Sai Ki Hou exercise described here uses Taoist (reverse breathing) technique. Ki, (Chi in Chinese) surrounds us in all living things, and fills the air we breathe. At an advanced level, the martial artist consciously gathers and expends Ki in the execution of techniques. Abundant levels of Ki are required by the martial artist to perform at maximum potential, and to maintain good health.

This article does not address the technical nature of Ki, it’s benefits and uses. These exercises will also work for people who do not subscribe to the concept of Ki. It is not necessary to believe in something if it is the truth.

There are three primary occasions where martial artists consciously acquire and store Ki.

Firstly, as an everyday health concept. Gathering and storing Ki first thing in the morning will energise you for the day ahead. Secondly, prior to strenuous martial arts practice, storing Ki will provide the martial artist with an enlarged store of energy to accomplish the training, and thirdly, after a strenuous training session, gathering and storing Ki will rebalance the body’s energy systems and assist rapid recovery. Abundant Ki energy makes the body more Yang.

Ki can be gathered and stored using any form of relaxed and deep breathing exercises, including the Precious eight Exercises, and TaiChi forms. The following set of exercises, taught to me by my master, Kenshu Hideo Watanabe are extremely efficient, and unlike most other exercises, include a strong visualisation element which will strongly appeal to those practitioners who can see Ki in the air.

The exercise take some 10 to 15 minutes, and should be performed with a relaxed body and mind. They should also be performed in clean, fresh air, preferably outdoors, under or near trees or at least in a natural or healthy environment.

To enhance the visualisation or meditative aspects, practice with closed eyes. If using open eyes, consciously see and gather the Ki in the air. If you have trees or other living things in your field of vision, you will be able to see aura.

All breathing is deep, long, slow and silent, using reverse breathing. On each inward breath, withdraw the stomach, with the intention of touching the back of the body with the front of the body. On breathing out, breath downwards, keeping the stomach retracted until the last moment when it moves outwards, at the moment of "locking" the Ki into the lower Dantien.

All exercises are performed in a relaxed standing position, with the feet shoulder width apart. Each exercise should be performed four times, every single day of your life.

Exercise #1

Stand with the arms held loosely to the sides, with the palms facing forward. Breathe in, and visualise the Ki entering the body through the middle of the palms, whilst breathing in through the nose. On breathing in, lightly touch the tongue to the roof of the mouth slightly behind the front teeth. As you breathe inwards, draw the Ki upwards along the arms to meet at a point between the shoulder blades at the base of the neck. At this point you should have completed the inward breath, the stomach should be completely withdrawn, and the chest fully expanded to it’s maximum. Now breathe outward, slowly releasing the breath through slightly parted lips, with the tongue released from the roof of the mouth. As you breathe outwards, visualise the Ki travelling downwards through the centre of the body to the lower Dantien. At the last moment, when the breath is virtually all exhaled, the Ki should arrive at the lower dantien. At this moment, clench the stomach muscles outwards, and "pack" the Ki into place. This will coincide with the stomach pushing outwards. This method of breathing out and storing the Ki applies to all the exercises. At the beginning, draw the Ki in a straight path up through the arms. Later, when you are able, you can draw the Ki upwards in a spiral motion, which will have the effect of nourishing and strengthening the bones. This is referred to as "Bone and Marrow Washing".

Exercise #2

With the arms held loosely at the sides, breathe in through the soles of the feet. Raise the Ki up through the legs, meeting between the legs, and then upwards through the spine to the point between the shoulder blades. Now breath out and pack the Ki into the lower dantien.

Exercise #3

In this exercise breath through the point in the lower back which is exactly opposite the navel. Lift the Ki to between the shoulder blades and breathe out. This exercise is similar to #2, but does not travel through the legs.

Exercise #4

Stand with the arms extended in front of the body in a circle with the finger tips about 1" or so apart. Relax the shoulders and drop the elbows. Breath in through the point which is the midpoint of the upper chest area. This point lies midway between the solar plexus and the notch in the collar bone at the base of the throat. It can also be located at the top point of the sternum. As you breath in and your lungs fill with air, your arms will move apart dramatically and come back to the original position on the breath out. This time, on the inward breath lift the Ki upwards to the throat, out to the tip of the jaw and upwards to the top of the head tracing a line upwards through the centre of the face. Keep breathing inwards and take the Ki over the top of the head and down the back of the head to the point between the shoulder blades. Now breath out.

Exercise #5

Hold the arms relaxed by the side. Breath inwards through your "Third Eye", up to the top of the head, down the back to the point between the shoulder blades, and breath out.

At the conclusion of these exercises, look at your hands, and you will see that your palms are covered in white spots. It is said that this is evidence that abundant levels of Ki have been stored in your body. Similarly, look downwards at your feet, and you will see that they have become engorged with blood and turned pinkish. They will also feel very warm.

At this time is also a good time to see Ki in the air as your senses have become heightened, and you have practiced seeing with your "Third Eye", or "Physic Eye".

You will now feel energised, and ready for action. If you have previously depleted your energy reserves through hard work such as training, you will now have recovered your strength. Don’t forget that Ki is also present in the food and drink we take into our body, so it is good to also eat and drink wisely for energising and re-energising our body.