Continuation of this series of articles on qigong and spontaneous qi: Part Two – Hiroki Kurihara and GENKIKO…
Genkiko (Japanese Qigong Class) and a Ki-exchange exercise
During my university years, I explored several different qigong classes in the evenings. This was an interesting time, which enabled me to meet some fascinating and experienced teachers.
One of the classes I attended was run by a Japanese teacher of qigong called Hiroki Kurihara. His type of Qigong was called ‘Gen-Kiko’, – ‘Kiko’ is the Japanese name for qigong. ‘Ki’ – meaning energy, and ‘Ko’ meaning work or practice. ‘Gen’ means ‘original qi or life’.
Hiroki’s Genkiko was of a yang dynamic nature. Although he was a banker by trade, he had a solid background in martial arts – karate and aikido. He was physically very strong and full of energy. Hiroki was a student of a famous Chjnese qigong teacher . Some of Genkiko’s exercises are modelled on Chinese system. However, several of the unique Genkiko exercises were originally created by Hiroki.
Some of Hiroki’s classes were physically demanding. His classes ran to around two hours long. These classes included some dynamic stretches and challenging stances. His classes were very popular with people of all ages and physical ability. There were many Japanese ladies attending his class and many of his attendees ranged from young, middle-aged to elderly as well as several English members, who attended every week. Despite the yang nature of his style of kiko, all the attendees were able to carry out the exercises comfortably and often felt energised after the class.
I have met many Japanese people over the years who told me they had attended Hiroki’s class at some point in the last 10 years. His classes were well known.
At its peak in London, Hiroki was running three classes in London. One was held in Euston, close to the station. Another at the Tibetan Kailash centre in St Johns Wood and a third in Chiswick, which I never attended. He did all this whilst working full-time in the City and often around business trips.
He was very passionate about his class. On one occasion, he came to run his class immediately after travelling long distance from Tokyo. He claimed that it was his regular Genkiko practice that negated the effects of jet lag. And on this occasion, I did not detect any tiredness or exhaustion in him. He seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of energy.
Hiroki put special emphasis on the importance of having a positive mind and included laughter in his classes. On one occasion, I asked him how do you deal with tiredness? I was often feeling fatigued at the time, with the stresses of exams and constant assignments. He told me that it is important to always feel positive – ‘tell yourself you feel power’. At the time, I did not understand the answer could be so simple, but now I understand that our mental state has a huge influence over our energy.
Opening up the energy channels thoroughly
Hiroki incorporated the Qigong set – the Eight Pieces of Brocade into his system. When carrying out the set, it was done with emphasis on stretching the muscles, tendons and ligaments. We really had to extend into the poses.
For example, with the exercise, which I call ‘Pushing the Sky’, you had to really stretch upwards every part of your body and stand on your toes. You also had to stretch out your hands, touch your middle fingers together and stretch your wrists into a hyper-extended position.
It was akin to yoga and differed to a lot of other qigong classes I had attended with other teachers, who tended to carry out the poses in a relaxed gentle manner. There were some similarities between Genkiko and the type of qigong I tried at the Shaolin temple in Tufnell Park. In the Shaolin class, the Eight Pieces of Brocade was also carried out more dynamically.
It seems to me that there is great benefit to stretching into these poses. For example, it is known that yoga brings many health benefits because the muscles are elongated allowing more blood, lymph and qi flow throughout the body. The same principle applies to Genkiko as with the dynamic stretching, the blood, lymph, oxygen and qi energy can be circulated far better in the body.
Another practice Hiroki incorporated was playfulness and laughter. For example, there is an exercise from the 8 pieces of brocade where you put your hand in the small of your back and rub the kidneys whilst bouncing on the spot.
However, his variation of this pose was to rub the kidneys and laugh out loudly with your mouth wide open. A polite titter was not enough, you had to really laugh out loud and everyone took it in turns to lead the exercise and laugh.
Laughter is good for you
For self-conscious English people, it feels awkward to do this, but we all did it. It is well-known that laughing has lots of health benefits. It increases endorphins and the number of white blood cells which is good for the immune system.
Laughter is good for us. For example the doctor – Norman Cousins, laughed himself to a cure for his cancer by spending every day watching reruns of comedies including the Three Stooges. He wrote about it in his book – ‘Anatomy of an Illness: As Perceived by the Patient‘.
In another exercise, Hiroki would tell us to imagine we are all drunken salarymen. We would sway from side to side walking around the room. This exercise helps to stop us taking life too seriously and also helps make us looser because drunken men are always loose and flexible. They can get knocked down but don’t feel pain. Kind of like the Jackie Chan movie – Drunken Master.
Here is the drunken walk:
Hiroki created many different types of exercises like this. Another one is the ‘stalker’ exercise, where two classmates walk pass each other, but one immediately turns around and starts following closely the other classmates in a ninja-type way.
As he studied traditional Chinese qigong, everal of the standing poses were the same as Chinese ways. However, Hiroki also incorporated several of his own variations of standing poses. He introduced various images so that standing postures can be easier and more effective. For example by imaging that you are an astronaut in the space, your arem are free from the gravity. For another example, by thinking of love from the heaven your brainwave will change and thus your muscles will be released. . The intro picture for this article shows Hiroki doing the Dragon pose, which is actually quite hard to hold for too long, yet he could do it with ease using the unique imagination method..
Hiroki had a background in Karate and Aikido. As a young child, he told me he started off with judo. Physically, he had a muscular build from years of practice.
Hiroki used this background to apply Ki-energy exercises to aikido moves. This kind of concept has been done before, such as by Koichi Tohei. However, Hiroki created and applied his own original and unique movements. Some of his more challenging standing qigong poses, had an aikido application behind them. But, he rarely ever demonstrated this. I was fortunate in that he showed me this application at his St John’s Wood classes.
Applying Ki to aikido moves
At these particular classes at the Tibetan Kailash, centre, they had padded floor mats, which could be used for martial arts. At the end of the Kiko practice, we would take out the mats and get ready for the more dynamic section of the class. We would practice aikido related wrist holds and throws. In some of his more dynamic classes, he would demonstrate applying Ki-energy to aikido throws.
This was something I could not really get the hang of as I don’t have the background in aikido that he has. However, I certainly felt the power of these Ki-throws, where I am barely being touched but feel a lot of momentum. If I had been an aikido practitioner, I would have gained a lot from Genkiko’s martial art lessons. However this was never his main teaching. Genkiko was focused more on health.
Ki-Energy exchange finale
At the end of all his classes, Hiroki would do an Ki-energy exchange exercise.
A few class members took large cushions and stood at the back of the hall. Hiroki would stand at the front. Each of the other members would then take it in turn to face Hiroki and then be instructed to carry out different types of ‘push-hand’ – type exercises with the teacher.
Here are two photos which show some some starting positions for the Ki-Energy Exchange Exercise:
Ki-energy – being thrown down the hall
One other variation was to simply touch the back of your forearm to his forearm and then gently push his arm in a circular movement. He would gently push back. Suddenly, there would be a quick flood of energy and you would feel pushed back with a lot of force. In my case, the energy was so strong, I would almost go flying down the hall and those ‘catchers’ with the cushions would stop me from flying into the wall.
He was moving people with Ki-energy
It was not just physical force. To prove this he would change the variation of arm movement so that we were not even physically touching. Instead, I would stick my palm out a half foot away and he would stick his palm out. There would be a space between us. Then we would do a rocking back and forth movement between us.
Suddenly, I would feel a flood of energy and be pushed backwards down the hall.
Ki energy movements differs from person to person
Other members manifested these reactions differently when they received Ki from Hiroki. One lady would flutter her hands like a bird and hop backwards giggling like a child when she was pushed back. One lady span round in an elegant circle. Another young lady, like myself would also get thrown back very quickly.
In other cases, Hiroki would guide the student around or make them dance or jump on the spot, as shown here with Aki, who herself was an instructor:
The important thing is that everyone had to be relaxed. If he tried to use strength to move the classmates, it would not work.
Hiroki would often demonstrate the difference between trying to move someone by keeping your body relaxed compared to moving someone using your muscles and strength. Basically, when you were relaxed, the qi would flow and a person would be moved incredibly quickly as though there was no resistance at all. If you tried to tense your muscles and use strength, the exercises would not work. It is a hard thing to make sense of.
How open are your Channels?
Some members would hardly get thrown at all. Hiroki did say that how people react, does depend on how ‘open‘ their energy Channels are.
In my case, I wondered if maybe my channels are too open, which makes me over-sensitive to the energy flow. And is why I can get thrown down the hall so quickly. On the other hand, in some of these members, who find it difficult to get thrownat all, it may be that their Channels need more opening up through physical exercise (e.g. daily stretching). Perhaps they are too narrow or stiff.
Genkiko – making a better life
Genkiko is not about ego. Nor is it about being able to fight and beat someone up. It is about being healthy and living a more positive life. We don’t wear Gi’s and there is no putting the teacher up on a pedestal. This is apparent from observing a class.
All the attendees have their own lives. We all meet to take a break from that and practice together to improve our health and to enjoy ourselves with Hiroki’s charismatic energy.
Interview with Hiroki Kurihara in 2018
Hiroki attended briefly and ran a special class in early 2018. I attended and was able to catch up with him and some other class members. It was interesting to meet with people that I first started practicing with 10 years ago. The same faces, but all getting a little older (and wiser).
How not to interview someone
On this occasion, I asked Hiroki for a short interview. He agreed. However, this was an impromptu interview and I did not fix the right circumstances to carry it out. He agreed to let me interview him in the pub after the class was finished and when all the class mates went for a drink.
The only problem was that this was a busy Camden pub and there was a World Cup football (soccer) match going on at the time. It was very noisy, and I could barely hear the footage when I got home. However, I did get a few little bits of information, which I will share:
Interview notes with Hiroki Kuihara, founder of Genkiko
Question: Why did you start learning Kiko?
Hiroki:I wanted to find a way to develop more power beyond muscle.
When I was younger, I did a lot of martial arts. I did karate and aikido, but I realised that there is always someone bigger or stronger.
I used to run every day and did 300 press-ups. But afterwards, I got a serious shoulder pain. I also suffered from hay fever.
Karate is good, but you cannot punch our boss if he upsets you. Genkiko helped me to find harmony and deal with stress.
How long have you practiced kiko (qigong)?
Since 33 years old. I am now 61, So I have been practicing for 30 years. Until then I did physical training only. At the age of 33 my life changed to the one with Ki-energy. I was reborn then.
I read the book Bushido before I started Kiko, but then I did not understand it well. After practicing Genkiko for long, I automatically came to understand the meaning of it.
In developing Genkiko, 80 percent of the postures are from China, but the other exercises are created by me.
An important purpose of Genkiko is to open up your mind and become free from stresses. .
How can we deal with life’s challenges?
Positivity is important. The purpose of kiko is to be free from stress. If you have something bad today, say ‘yokatta’ – ‘great’or “what a relief”. If you have nothing happen, just say “Great, nothing bad happened, I am lucky!”
For people who have lots of problems in life, you can still find something good. Even if you have only one good thing in your life happen 10 years ago, think of that and say ’10 years ago, I was lucky!’ You have to be positive.
Have you had any unusual experiences with practicing Genkiko?
There have been lots of coincidences or good timing of things. These things have meaning. Everything has meaning. Even bad things. I do not have any strong unusual experiences.
By doing Genkiko, I always feel positive and free from stress, even when something bad happens.
Have you had any psychic experiences?
I have felt energy in certain areas, such as Kyoto. On one occasion, I was visiting a sacred spot with my family. My children were arguing with each other in the train on the way. However, when we arrived at this place, they suddenly stopped arguing and became calm. I asked them why they were not arguing and they said they felt very comfortable and calm immediately after getting off the train at that place.
How can we be more healthy or heal illness?
Practice genkiko. Do exercise every day, one hour ideally. Or 30 minutes.
Also touch. Touch can help heal. Touch the sick area and give love energy. Smile is important. By having a smiling face, you can change the wave of energy. Have a positive feeling like you are feeling ‘very lucky’. Because by giving positive energy – lots of good things are coming to you
How can we live a better life?
There are five important qualities which we should aspire to cultivate. These are Generosity, Justice, Politeness ,Wisdom and Fidelity. These five virtues are the core of Bushido spirit.
You must have Generosity or sympathy. Even towards your enemy. In history there is a story that a famous samurai commander gave salt to his enemy. The enemy’s castle was in a mountain and lacked in salt after the long battle. Without salt they cannot live before fighting.
The commander regarded his enemy as a human being before fighting. One way this can be shown is not to celebrate when you win in a sport game. You should sympathise for the losing person. Justice means that you are fair in your life. A Samurai must not kill the enemy in the back. You must keep walking on the path of the right human being.
Politeness is very important in Japanese culture. However, Politeness is not just bowing, but respecting a person at first. By respecting a person, your behaviour becomes respectful.
Wisdom is the ability to judge what is right or wrong.
Fidelity or trust can be gained when your words, your thoughts and behaviour match, and there is no lie therein.
In the Edo period in Japan, money would be lent to only people who had the above five virtues. This was the beginning of the Japanese Trust Bank.
If you practice Genkiko, you will automatically develop these five virtues.
Also acceptance. Accepting things in life – if you cannot accept things, you cannot be positive. By accepting life, pure energy is coming to you. Accept everything, and say: ‘Yokatta!’ (that’s great) and ‘thank you very much’.
Attending GenKiko in Japan
The photos in this article were taken from a small class Hiroki held in 2018 when he returned to the UK on a business trip.
Hiroki did hold a much larger event in 2016 in Covent Garden London, which was sponsored by Muji and attended by many people. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend that event.
There are currently no classes running in the UK. Hiroki returned to Japan several years ago and concentrated on running his classes there. There are three Genkiko classes, three in Tokyo, one in the ancient capital of Kamakura, and one in Ichikawa,.
One of the classes he established was in the centre of Tokyo, in Harajuku. It is led by one of his earlier students. Harajuku is a bustling lively area with lots of shops and where young people like to gather. Other classes in Tokyo are in Roppongi and Aoyama, which also are fashionable areas in Tokyo.
If you visit Japan, it is worth contacting Hiriki and attending his classes. You will get a warm reception.
End of Part 2
Click here for the next article – Encounters with Spontaneous Qi: Part 3 – Hard Qigong Fail.