In Aikido we often speak of the centre. You hear, Move from your centre; take the breath down to your centre; control your partner’s centre. What does this mean?

The Japanese term for centre in this context is tanden. In Chinese it is dantien. The ideographs
mean elixir field. In traditional Chinese medicine, adopted by the Koreans and Japanese centuries ago,
this is a point a little inside the abdomen about three fingers below the navel. This point is viewed as the
centre of gravity in the body and the seat of health, longevity, and wisdom. The energy that is believed to
flow through the body along a system of meridians collects and disperses from the centre or centrum.

The presence of the centrum and meridians cannot be demonstrated scientifically. Dissection can show
bones, muscles, and even nerves but the mystical elements remain just that: a matter of speculation. At
the same time, no one can show the physics of falling in love or the biology of musical appreciation.

What can be experienced is how your life can change for the better by shifting your focus from your mind
or shoulders to your abdomen. The ancient Indians practiced this first in some of the meditative exercises
of yoga. The Chinese, probably borrowing from the older Indian civilization, developed the idea
extensively in what we know now as Qi Gong (Chi Kung).
The fact that samurai chose to commit suicide by seppuku or hara kiri, i.e., ritual cutting open of
the abdomen (hara), is a prime example of the importance of the tanden is ancient Japanese culture.

Aikido is a very sophisticated set of body mechanics, but without mastering the accompanying skills of
breath and energy direction it is lacking in vital elements. The term Ki is the Japanese pronunciation
of the Chinese term Qi. Ki is at the centre of the martial path that we follow.


Aikido: The Co-ordination of Mind and Body for Self-Defence, Koichi Tohei, 1966
ISBN 0 285 63357 0

Hara: The Vital Centre of Man, Karlfried Durkheim, 1956
ISBN 0-87728-243-9

The Way of Qigong: The Art and Science of Chinese Energy Healing, K. S. Cohen, 1997
ISBN 0-345-42109-4

Leave a Comment