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#1 2009-04-08 20:29:39

Lodro
Member
From: Australia
Registered: 2009-04-02
Posts: 105

Qi (Ki) and playing the Shakuhachi

If this topic is in the wrong room I apologise, please redirect it to the correct location. I think this is the right one though. I will be getting to the Shakuhachi related bit soon.

One of my huge interests is that of the concept of Ki (China –Qi). My interest comes through being a practitioner and teacher of Qigong and Tai Chi, and my more recent study of Acupressure/Tuina/Anma and other remedial techniques. I’m presuming that the majority of you know of Ki, but if not then here is a brief but incomplete explanation (I’ll use the Chinese spelling as that’s the tradition I’m coming from – belief in Qi/Ki is not the over-riding factor here either): Qi is not only the driving force surrounding all life and life processes, but it is also the energy which resides in every aspect of life itself, nature and indeed all manifestations within and including the cosmos itself. On a more physical level Qi could be expressed as a kind of bio-electricity. Qi is known in India as Prana, in Japan as Ki. Having said that most long-term practitioners of Qigong etc can noticeably feel the sensation of Qi movement within the body and particularly through the system of meridians throughout the body that ‘Traditional Chinese Medicine’ has plotted.

Now to get to the bit where the Shakuhachi enters the picture. As a fairly competent practitioner of Qigong and Tai Chi I am quite aware of the sensations of Qi movement, but what has intrigued me however is how straight away (well once I’d actually worked out how to get a tone as opposed to a rush of wind followed by dizziness) with Shakuhachi playing I can feel what the Chinese (and me) would say is Qi movement. I’m thinking that this might be because I am focusing on breathing from the belly, and that’s a very important location in the Chinese and Japanese system (Ch - dantien, Jp – tanden).    This also ties in with the Chinese saying that ‘where the mind goes the Qi will follow’.

I would be very interested to hear of other people’s experiences with Qi sensations and movement with regard to playing the Shakuhachi – I’m also thinking that it’s probably not different to that of playing any other wind instrument, and then of course that moves on to playing any instrument at all, just as long as you focus on ‘dantien’. Does anyone here deliberately utilise this function of Qi, is it simply something the whole lot of you do, is this a common and highly exploited aspect of playing the Shakuhachi, is it something that is seen to be an essential part of the path of the Shakuhachi player, etc?


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#2 2009-04-08 21:43:48

Jim Thompson
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From: Santa Monica, California
Registered: 2007-11-28
Posts: 421

Re: Qi (Ki) and playing the Shakuhachi

Would you mind a brief definition of dantien?


" Who do you trust , me or your own eyes?" - Groucho Marx

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#3 2009-04-08 22:11:33

edosan
Edomologist
From: Salt Lake City
Registered: 2005-10-09
Posts: 2185

Re: Qi (Ki) and playing the Shakuhachi

Jim Thompson wrote:

Would you mind a brief definition of dantien?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dantian

Last edited by edosan (2009-04-08 22:11:53)


Zen is not easy.
It takes effort to attain nothingness.
And then what do you have?
Bupkes.

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#4 2009-04-08 22:14:21

Tairaku 太楽
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From: Tasmania
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 3203
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Re: Qi (Ki) and playing the Shakuhachi

Ed you forgot to mention the search engine. wink

This Dantien thang sounds kinda like my "Milwaukee PBR belly".

Seriously though it sounds like the kind of thing activated by shakuhachi playing especially if you play from the diaphragm and have proper posture.


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

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#5 2009-04-08 23:00:56

Lodro
Member
From: Australia
Registered: 2009-04-02
Posts: 105

Re: Qi (Ki) and playing the Shakuhachi

Jim Thompson wrote:

Would you mind a brief definition of dantien?

Dantien could translate as ‘energy field’. It’s an important point for internal meditative techniques. The dantien is extremely important in qigong and other breathing techniques, as well as in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It’s also used throughout East Asian meditation and martial arts. The concept of dantien corresponds more or less to the concept of chakra. (Wikipedia plagiarism alert)

According to principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are three dantiens in the body: The upper dantien is in the brain just behind a point directly between the eyebrows; the middle dantien is situated at the solar plexus level; the lower dantien is located between 2 and 3 finger widths below the navel and is also known as the ‘Sea of Qi’. The lower dantien is the dantien I’m referring to and is often used interchangeably with the concept of hara. In Chinese and Japanese tradition, it is considered the physical centre of gravity of the human body and is the seat of one's qi.

Last edited by Lodro (2009-04-08 23:06:49)


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#6 2009-04-08 23:55:57

Jim Thompson
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From: Santa Monica, California
Registered: 2007-11-28
Posts: 421

Re: Qi (Ki) and playing the Shakuhachi

Lodro wrote:

I would be very interested to hear of other people’s experiences with Qi sensations and movement with regard to playing the Shakuhachi – I’m also thinking that it’s probably not different to that of playing any other wind instrument, and then of course that moves on to playing any instrument at all, just as long as you focus on ‘dantien’. Does anyone here deliberately utilise this function of Qi, is it simply something the whole lot of you do, is this a common and highly exploited aspect of playing the Shakuhachi, is it something that is seen to be an essential part of the path of the Shakuhachi player, etc?

A couple of years ago I read a book entitled" Hara" by Karlfried Graf Durckheim. It covers what your talking about using  different terms. Since then I've been trying to make "stomach breathing" an unconscious habit. I'm making progress but still have to consciously redirect my breathing. There is no question that breathing and playing from the hara gives you more physical control of the instrument as well as a much calmer mental state. I might even be tempted to say that once you reach a certain level of proficiency the concept of playing from the hara may be the most important single aspect of playing. If I find my self fighting the shakuhachi and straining to get a good sound invariably I will have stop hara playing and will be doing chest breathing. redirecting the breathing to the hara always cools everything out. It absolutely applies to all wind instruments and singers as well. Opera singers use those big old bellies to great advantage. I think this may be my most profound discovery in music as it affects your entire being and state of mind far beyond the musical realm. Great post, Lodro. You're definitely on to something. Thanks for reinforcing concepts that are highly beneficial.

                                                                 Jim


" Who do you trust , me or your own eyes?" - Groucho Marx

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#7 2009-04-09 00:39:00

Lodro
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From: Australia
Registered: 2009-04-02
Posts: 105

Re: Qi (Ki) and playing the Shakuhachi

Jim Thompson wrote:

I might even be tempted to say that once you reach a certain level of proficiency the concept of playing from the hara may be the most important single aspect of playing.

This is something that now, thanks to years of Qigong practice, comes to me quite naturally (I'm yet to further develop it on the Shakuhachi obviously as I can play only 8 notes - 1 up on my last post though). What I mean is that when I breathe from the Dantien/Hara, which I now do nearly all the time, my whole being feels 'lighter' compared to the times when I didn't. I think you find that in times of stress or panic (Shakuhachi related - I can imagine the stress surrounding a particularly hard note or phrase) you tend to lose that nice warm fuzzy dantien centre, which is an odd thing seeing as I would have thought that the body would see that as exactly the time that hara/dantien focus was necessary. That is exactly the time to focus on that centre, it helps, really.


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#8 2009-04-09 02:04:41

shaman141
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From: Montreal, QC.
Registered: 2006-02-02
Posts: 154
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Re: Qi (Ki) and playing the Shakuhachi

Thanks Lodro, this is a great topic. Are there any negative aspects to belly breathing? At the beginning should you practice doing it all the time or should you try starting off doing it a few times a day?

Thanks.

Last edited by shaman141 (2009-04-09 02:05:23)


Find your voice and express yourself, that's the point.

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#9 2009-04-09 03:12:45

Lodro
Member
From: Australia
Registered: 2009-04-02
Posts: 105

Re: Qi (Ki) and playing the Shakuhachi

shaman141 wrote:

Thanks Lodro, this is a great topic. Are there any negative aspects to belly breathing? At the beginning should you practice doing it all the time or should you try starting off doing it a few times a day?

I've never heard of any adverse effects and I do a lot of research on Qigong and related topics. It's also how we naturally breathe when we're asleep. It's pretty well stated as crucial for playing any wind instrument. It also might take a while to feel comfortable with it if you tend to be a chest breather, as most westerners tend to be. I'd start off just getting used to the feeling and then apply it straight away to your playing. It's not hard. But don't overdo it to start with or feel that you should take in lots and lots of air, that will end up giving you sore diaphragm and abdominals. If that happens don't worry either, your body will gradually learn anyway what is the right amount. Eventually with practice it will become normal and you'll more than likely find yourself one day just naturally doing abdominal breathing.


Each part of the body should be connected to every other part.

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#10 2009-04-10 11:05:46

chikuzen
Dai Shihan/Dokyoku
From: Cleveland Heights,OH 44118
Registered: 2005-10-24
Posts: 401
Website

Re: Qi (Ki) and playing the Shakuhachi

I was once told by an older lady in Japan that everyone in her generation and older always heard that shakuhachi players were notoriously shallow chest breathers. I was also advised by one of my teachers to practice breathing from the chest again to keep the muscles there active and to empty out stale oxygen in the bottom of the lungs. The word "Hara" is in everything in Japan. It's a given that you breath from the hara in many disciplines (oh no, that word again). If you don't, you are viewed as an adolescent. If you do this enough, you will stop having any chest movement when you breath and therefore will consciously need to practice chest breathing as mentioned before. I do this when walking my dog and it keeps the muscles active. I thought it would be interesting to watch everyone breathing in Australia last summer when they were playing just to see the percentage of how many players belly breathed compared to those who didn't. I was surprised to see some very famous players chests rising and falling, even some who I have heard lecture about belly breathing! But this was mostly during long tones when I'm guessing they had too much time to take a breath. Maybe they were exercising their chest muscles on purpose? There probably was a little bit of "half-n-half" thing going on. Watazumi in the Sukiyaki video mentions that to only do belly breathing is to limit oneself in terms of making a variety of sounds when playing shakuhachi. I never mention that to beginners though. Watazumi liked to stir the bottom of the riverbed a lot.


Michael Chikuzen Gould

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#11 2009-04-10 14:38:20

shaman141
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From: Montreal, QC.
Registered: 2006-02-02
Posts: 154
Website

Re: Qi (Ki) and playing the Shakuhachi

Thanks Lodro, really interesting stuff.


Find your voice and express yourself, that's the point.

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#12 2009-04-10 18:20:27

Karmajampa
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From: Aotearoa (NZ)
Registered: 2006-02-12
Posts: 574
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Re: Qi (Ki) and playing the Shakuhachi

At the 2008 shakuhachi festival in sydney there was a Master Class on quai Gon and Shakuhachi. I don't know whether the brief radio portion is still up on the station website i will see if I can find it, what I recall is beginning from the lower hole which corresponds with the low Hara point below the navel, the genital region, you move up the body as you move up the holes until the thumb hole whichcorresponds with the middle of the backopposite your sternum.
there was also mention of a shift in brain wave emission at the end of playing, that is, while playing normal brain wave pattern is observed but when the blowing ceases it immediately and dramatically shifts into alpha wave pattern. I am not academic on the technical description of this but I know what it feels like.

The second lecture of relative interest was on abdominal breathing and I was priviledged to hold my hands on the belly of the sensei while he was blowing. what I did not anticipate was how he could extend the lower half of his abdomen whuile the upper half remained flat.that is, the region from below his ribs to above his navel remained flat while the region below that extended like half a balloon.
He also used his whole abdomen but I am wondering whether the Hara referred to is actually this lower portion.
He instructed to see the muscles of the abdomen like a hard eggshell, keeping the belly extended while blowing out, and the body beneath this hard outer shell is kept soft as the breath comes and goes.
Either way,I know my own blowing energy has greatly strengthened since deliberately breathing into my deeper abdomen.

Kel.


Kia Kaha !

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#13 2009-04-10 21:13:28

edosan
Edomologist
From: Salt Lake City
Registered: 2005-10-09
Posts: 2185

Re: Qi (Ki) and playing the Shakuhachi

Karmajampa wrote:

At the 2008 shakuhachi festival in sydney there was a Master Class on quai Gon and Shakuhachi.

From Kel:

"Here is a link to an mp3 of a portion of the 2008 Shakuhachi Festival Master Class on Qigong and the Shakuhachi"

     http://www.2shared.com/file/5308762/87eb9aee/Chi.html

[Please note: when you click on this link, you'll get a page with a series of ads, which you should of course ignore. At the bottom of the panel with
the ads in it, you'll see: "Save file to your PC: click here" in very small type. You can then navigate to where you want the file to go (file is 3.1MB). This is the
best 'no strings' host I could come up with on short notice. My apologies. ~ eB]

Last edited by edosan (2009-04-10 21:24:43)


Zen is not easy.
It takes effort to attain nothingness.
And then what do you have?
Bupkes.

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#14 2009-04-11 06:58:37

Lodro
Member
From: Australia
Registered: 2009-04-02
Posts: 105

Re: Qi (Ki) and playing the Shakuhachi

With regard to the hara breathing, and this might sound a bit odd coming from the person here who is probably the least experienced player in the whole forum, but I would say that if you were to focus on the dantien (and here I'm not just talking about diaphragmatic breathing) whilst you're playing, then I believe it could make quite profound changes to your playing (please, I don't mean to judge any of your playing here either - I'm sure you're all wonderful players).

Last edited by Lodro (2009-04-11 07:10:05)


Each part of the body should be connected to every other part.

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#15 2009-04-11 07:20:13

philthefluter
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From: Dublin, Ireland
Registered: 2006-06-02
Posts: 190
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Re: Qi (Ki) and playing the Shakuhachi

Like many experiences around 'chi', words often do not do justice. Kawase-sensei's presentation at WSF08 had some useful audience participation which allowed us to experience chi with shakuhachi. He also spoke about chi sinking with meri notes and rising with kari notes. There was great chi in the auditorium that day(!) which I have found hard to recreate in my own practice.


"The bamboo and Zen are One!" Kurosawa Kinko
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#16 2009-04-11 08:18:08

Kerry
Member
From: Nashville, TN
Registered: 2005-10-10
Posts: 183

Re: Qi (Ki) and playing the Shakuhachi

philthefluter wrote:

He also spoke about chi sinking with meri notes and rising with kari notes.

I liked his pitcher yin/yang analogy. Maybe meri notes are 'change ups' and kari's are 'fast balls'. Just throw(blow) strikes, coach would yell, quite often during a game. wink


The temple bell stops, but the sound keeps coming out of the flowers. -Basho

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#17 2009-04-12 04:49:14

Lodro
Member
From: Australia
Registered: 2009-04-02
Posts: 105

Re: Qi (Ki) and playing the Shakuhachi

philthefluter wrote:

He also spoke about chi sinking with meri notes and rising with kari notes.

Do you think he was meaning the meri notes will sink your chi and the kari notes will raise your chi, or that using intent to sink your chi will assist in the better production of meri notes and so on? I think I'm not quite getting what he's trying to say, because (according to the asian discipline) it's actually better to maintain your chi in the dantien and then move it with 'intent' rather than have an external force manipulating it. To me it makes good sense to use your chi to produce meri or kari notes rather than have meri or kari notes move your chi. TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) uses chi in this way - the dantien is the main storage centre for chi and you move it (through various methods such as chi kung, intent) for various purposes such as improving general chi circulation throughout the body or to specific regions for specific purposes (producing meri or kari notes?). I could however imagine that using meri notes to sink your chi from an over-abundance of chi in the head (for example) or use kari notes to raise your chi to an area of chi stagnation above the level of dantien could be useful, but I think this might be pushing it a bit far - I don't know. How are others reading this?

Once again please excuse me if you think I'm speaking crap (maybe a 3 week old shakuhachi newbie has no right to write this stuff - please tell me if I'm over shooting my boundaries).


Each part of the body should be connected to every other part.

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#18 2009-04-12 11:47:18

Glenn Swann
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From: Central New Jersey
Registered: 2008-03-01
Posts: 151
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Re: Qi (Ki) and playing the Shakuhachi

Thanks SO MUCH for that link- i heard Kawase sensei talk about this in NYC, but it's so nice to have this to listen to.
I study with Kawase Sensei, and in okeiko he has spoken many times about qi and qigong, and the relationship of the holes to body centers, including dantian. I also teach/practice taijiiquan, so greatly value this aspect of his approach to playing.
As I understand it, the chi rising/falling is a product of visualizing- for example, on tsu no meri the chi sinking, or even a golden ball sinking down your center "pillar" the line from head top thru dantian and into the ground---- then on RO the ball/chi rising upward with the expanding outward strength of the RO (his RO, by the way, is magnificent, as is David Wheeler Sensei's...) like the intent (YI) leading the breath/chi and manifesting through a more substantial sound (in taiji it would manifest through motion)  i believe a similar process would happen in any competent player, with or without conscious direction, but the conscious aspect makes it more akin to a qigong practice, and in my opinion, more usable for cultivating chi.

Playing with the feeling of yin-yang-yin-yang  (or an-myo-an-myo) does make for nice flow in honkyoku, and is very similar to the feeling one gets practicing taiji.

I think the expanding-outward hara is quite important indeed. My playing changed 100% after being introduced to that idea. It's rather like a modified Taoist/reverse breathing. At any rate, it is essential for projecting and developing strength in the sound.
The attention to "zanshin" Kawase sensei spoke of, the reverberating silence at the end, where everything returns, also deepens practice alot. To me, this is akin to settling completely at the end of the taiji form,  letting chi settle and be conserved after circulaton.

And just one chi- related comment of my own (Kawase sensei didn't comment on this one way or the other) in taiji it is said that the qi follows the shen or spirit, which is expressed through the gaze. Thus, the gaze should always be more or less up, not down on the ground, or your body, or the energy will go downward (like a depressed person walking with head down) i feel a similar relation with shakuhachi- all too often people play looking down, with closed-in upper body (perhaps from reading sheet music?) which not only brings the chi "down", it makes it difficlt to breathe fully. giving enough space and projecting chi up and out will give a much fuller, better sound (even when playing quietly) and this is also facilitated by the previous discussion about the hara. if you need to look down at sheet music or whatnot, try to keep a stable posture and at least position yourself so that the there's some space between your body and the flute.

ok, one more comment- i've also found it useful to extend chi in a relaxed way through the fingers and into the flute- helps me keep hands relaxed, and feel the flute to be an extension of the body. Taiji weapons practice teaches the same thing
(footnote- i actually just gave a presentation on this to a a local massage school- the  idea of "michi" or way, and relationship of shodo, chado, shakuhachi and taiji(the 4 i practice) as "ways" which utilize breath and qi in similar ways- interesting coincidence)

Last edited by Glenn Swann (2009-04-12 11:55:48)


I followed rivers, I followed orders,I followed prophets, I followed leaders
I followed rivers, I followed highways,I followed conscience,
I followed dreamers... And I'm back here,
and I'm back here... At the edge of the sky       (New Model Army)

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#19 2009-04-12 21:21:05

Tairaku 太楽
Administrator/Performer
From: Tasmania
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 3203
Website

Re: Qi (Ki) and playing the Shakuhachi

chikuzen wrote:

I was once told by an older lady in Japan that everyone in her generation and older always heard that shakuhachi players were notoriously shallow chest breathers. I was also advised by one of my teachers to practice breathing from the chest again to keep the muscles there active and to empty out stale oxygen in the bottom of the lungs. The word "Hara" is in everything in Japan. It's a given that you breath from the hara in many disciplines (oh no, that word again). If you don't, you are viewed as an adolescent. If you do this enough, you will stop having any chest movement when you breath and therefore will consciously need to practice chest breathing as mentioned before. I do this when walking my dog and it keeps the muscles active. I thought it would be interesting to watch everyone breathing in Australia last summer when they were playing just to see the percentage of how many players belly breathed compared to those who didn't. I was surprised to see some very famous players chests rising and falling, even some who I have heard lecture about belly breathing! But this was mostly during long tones when I'm guessing they had too much time to take a breath. Maybe they were exercising their chest muscles on purpose? There probably was a little bit of "half-n-half" thing going on. Watazumi in the Sukiyaki video mentions that to only do belly breathing is to limit oneself in terms of making a variety of sounds when playing shakuhachi. I never mention that to beginners though. Watazumi liked to stir the bottom of the riverbed a lot.

I don't understand what you're talking about. You've seen me play plenty, what kind of breathing do I do?


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

http://www.myspace.com/tairakubrianritchie

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#20 2009-04-13 02:00:41

Lodro
Member
From: Australia
Registered: 2009-04-02
Posts: 105

Re: Qi (Ki) and playing the Shakuhachi

With qigong, taiji and the eastern tactile therapies one of the things we do is to encourage the natural flow of qi (through visualisation/tactile manipulation/movement) up the spine along the du meridian to the top of the head and then down the front of the body along the ren meridian where it joins up again with the upward motion thus creating a loop. This is one of the major circuits of qi in the body; the potential for using the Shakuhachi to stimulate the flow in this way is quite fascinating. 

The whole process appears to have a two-fold purpose or result – that of using the upward/downward (and therefore ‘orbital’ flow of qi to enhance/contribute to the quality of sound (in all its aspects) as well as to further ones internal awareness of movement (qi). In essence it can have the function to not only encourage the sound but also contribute to ones development of natural qi flow – as a qigong/taiji practitioner and teacher, and as a tactile therapist I find this makes perfect sense. With the eastern tactile modalities that I employ, such as anma, tuina, acupressure, we encourage this flow of qi in our clients through various methods such as acupoint manipulation and massage (particularly meridian massage), but we also very much encourage the flow of qi through our ‘intent’ which often involves visualisation and breath.

Before and after performing taiji (and I would suggest Shakuhachi playing too if you want) it is most beneficial that one employs the state of ‘wu’ (nothingness, potential) by simply finding in yourself what is known as a 'still-point' and remaining there for a while. That is the state that exists before movement and after movement. The tai chi symbol (yin yang symbol) represents this in that for motion to occur there must be the ‘potential’ for motion, motion doesn’t simply exist; it comes from ‘no motion’ (wu – nothing, potential) changing to ‘motion’. To consider this in relation to Shakuhachi I’m figuring could be most beneficial.

Glenn Swann wrote:

i actually just gave a presentation on this to a a local massage school- the  idea of "michi" or way, and relationship of shodo, chado, shakuhachi and taiji(the 4 i practice) as "ways" which utilize breath and qi in similar ways- interesting coincidence)

Glenn if you have a copy of your presentation I would love to see it as I'm a massage practitioner (specialising in asian modalities) and I'm forever looking for related materials. Would really appreciate if at all possible.


Each part of the body should be connected to every other part.

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#21 2009-04-13 04:51:23

Karmajampa
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From: Aotearoa (NZ)
Registered: 2006-02-12
Posts: 574
Website

Re: Qi (Ki) and playing the Shakuhachi

Your note there regarding a preparatory 'nothingness' is of interest. I regularly practice morning 'anapanasati' meditation. then blow Shakuhachi. I have noticed that if i blow shakuhachi without the preceeding meditation my energy is more 'gluggy' than if I have practiced 'anapanasati', after which it feels like my energy has been primed to blow. Yet anapanasati has involved virtually no physical activity other than bare attention to my breath.

Kel.


Kia Kaha !

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#22 2009-04-13 08:21:32

Glenn Swann
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From: Central New Jersey
Registered: 2008-03-01
Posts: 151
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Re: Qi (Ki) and playing the Shakuhachi

In Taiji,  holding the beginning and ending postures for a few breaths automatically gives you that nothingness-becomingness-nothingness.... built right in to the forms. In shakuhachi, settling with the flute in position and giving an unsounded breath before playing, then maintaining playing position without moving when finished (zanshin) for at least a breath, as you will see done at the end of pieces in any hogaku performance, will have the same effect of the sound coming from wuchi and going to it again. same feeling with every phrase in honkyoku actually, just more pronounced at the beginning and end

Lodro- i only have a basic outline as notes, but will send to you. mostly just spoke off the top of my head....


I followed rivers, I followed orders,I followed prophets, I followed leaders
I followed rivers, I followed highways,I followed conscience,
I followed dreamers... And I'm back here,
and I'm back here... At the edge of the sky       (New Model Army)

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#23 2009-04-13 11:11:40

radi0gnome
Member
From: Kingston NY
Registered: 2006-12-29
Posts: 1030
Website

Re: Qi (Ki) and playing the Shakuhachi

Tairaku wrote:

chikuzen wrote:

I was once told by an older lady in Japan that everyone in her generation and older always heard that shakuhachi players were notoriously shallow chest breathers. I was also advised by one of my teachers to practice breathing from the chest again to keep the muscles there active and to empty out stale oxygen in the bottom of the lungs. The word "Hara" is in everything in Japan. It's a given that you breath from the hara in many disciplines (oh no, that word again). If you don't, you are viewed as an adolescent. If you do this enough, you will stop having any chest movement when you breath and therefore will consciously need to practice chest breathing as mentioned before. I do this when walking my dog and it keeps the muscles active. I thought it would be interesting to watch everyone breathing in Australia last summer when they were playing just to see the percentage of how many players belly breathed compared to those who didn't. I was surprised to see some very famous players chests rising and falling, even some who I have heard lecture about belly breathing! But this was mostly during long tones when I'm guessing they had too much time to take a breath. Maybe they were exercising their chest muscles on purpose? There probably was a little bit of "half-n-half" thing going on. Watazumi in the Sukiyaki video mentions that to only do belly breathing is to limit oneself in terms of making a variety of sounds when playing shakuhachi. I never mention that to beginners though. Watazumi liked to stir the bottom of the riverbed a lot.

I don't understand what you're talking about. You've seen me play plenty, what kind of breathing do I do?

I'm curious what Chikuzen's answer to this question will be. Although it's called diaphragmatic breathing, my understanding was that for both silver flute and voice the chest cavity should be kept expanded, similar to what is being demonstrated in these videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23ctmPTwgGY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SOuN93CWJA

This is similar to what I eventually was taught as being correct, I accept as being correct, and is similar to what Brian demonstrated for me in a lesson. However, I had been taught other ways. One is that the abdominal muscles should be pushing out during the exhalation, yet that teacher also was saying that the chest should remain expanded and not deflate during the exhale. Sorry, but for me that doesn't make any sense at all because that air I inhaled is taking up space and there is no way I can see how I can breath out without some contraction going on somewhere. The teacher in this next video was apparently first taught the same thing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0Kyg0FXXD0 ... what she says makes perfect sense to me (and she's obviously a fine flute player if you take a look at some of her other videos) except that I find deliberately expanding the lower belly on the inhalation is a better way to take a quick breath as this harmonica player demonstrates: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qYigsgj68w 

I think a lot of the problem with descriptions of what is going on with proper breathing is a lack of anatomical understanding and ability to accurately describe what muscles are being engaged even when the anatomical understanding is there. Most people have to spend a lot of time just to learn how to isolate and relax or tense major muscle groups, never mind the minor muscles groups that are involved with correct breathing for an instrument.

And there could be some cultural differences too. I think Chikuzen is saying that the Japanese way of breathing for shakuhachi is to keep the chest deflated always. Could be, I'd tend to think that it would impede capacity some, but you could possibly make up for it with the yogic-like control that Karmajampa describes when he says:

Karmajampa wrote:

The second lecture of relative interest was on abdominal breathing and I was priviledged to hold my hands on the belly of the sensei while he was blowing. what I did not anticipate was how he could extend the lower half of his abdomen whuile the upper half remained flat.that is, the region from below his ribs to above his navel remained flat while the region below that extended like half a balloon.

I don't think I've ever gotten a clear answer for the type of belly breathing that I employ where I keep my chest expanded whether it's alright to let the chest collapse to squeeze the last bit of air out or not, but I have the feeling its not desireable because if you do you break your posture and refilling with chest activity quickly often negatively effects the attack of the next note after the breath (that's along the lines of what the harmonica player was pointing out). Even if not letting the chest collapse is a rule that the better players employing the "chest-expanded" belly breathing adhere to, you'll still find some chest activity going from a relaxed, non-playing state to an active, playing state. So just because you see some chest involvement does not mean that the player isn't practicing "belly" or "diaphragmatic" breathing. It could mean that it's not the same belly breathing some Japanese players use where the chest remains collapsed, but that's just speculation on my part based on what Chikuzen and Karmajampa say they learned.


"Now birds record new harmonie, And trees do whistle melodies;
Now everything that nature breeds, Doth clad itself in pleasant weeds."
~ Thomas Watson - England's Helicon ca 1580

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#24 2009-04-13 11:23:29

radi0gnome
Member
From: Kingston NY
Registered: 2006-12-29
Posts: 1030
Website

Re: Qi (Ki) and playing the Shakuhachi

Lodro wrote:

Once again please excuse me if you think I'm speaking crap (maybe a 3 week old shakuhachi newbie has no right to write this stuff - please tell me if I'm over shooting my boundaries).

No, I doubt it because others with Tai Chi experience seem to be agreeing with you, but even if it does turn out to be crap it's interesting to see how someone with a background like yours tries to make sense out of shakuhachi.


"Now birds record new harmonie, And trees do whistle melodies;
Now everything that nature breeds, Doth clad itself in pleasant weeds."
~ Thomas Watson - England's Helicon ca 1580

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#25 2009-04-13 11:34:36

Jim Thompson
Moderator
From: Santa Monica, California
Registered: 2007-11-28
Posts: 421

Re: Qi (Ki) and playing the Shakuhachi

The purpose of keeping the chest expanded is so your entire thorax works as a resonating chamber. I think this is more apparent in singing but still applies to wind instruments. Look at Opera singers. Notice how they have their entire thorax opened. I mean really open. But they are still breathing and blowing from down low. There is no disagreement here. Expanded chest does not necessarily mean chest breathing.


" Who do you trust , me or your own eyes?" - Groucho Marx

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