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Seiki - A Form of Japanese Healing

by John Bourne(more info)

listed in chi energy martial arts, originally published in issue 90 - July 2003

The Origins of Seiki

Akinobu Kishi, the founder of Seiki, was born in 1949. In keeping with Japanese tradition, Kishi was taught Shiatsu by his father, completing his studies with the likes of Namikoshi, the originator of Shiatsu Therapy, and Masunaga, the founder of Zen Shiatsu.

Akinobu Kishi
Akinobu Kishi

Namikoshi's mother became quite ill with rheumatoid arthritis. By stroking and rubbing the afflicted areas, he quickly recognized the healing qualities of touch. The inflammation and swelling reduced, provoking a fascination for the human body. A growing sensitivity encouraged Namikoshi to develop his own system of healing called Shiatsu (finger pressure). Between 1925 and 1940, it gradually became accepted as one of Japan's most effective forms of natural healing.

Masunaga helped to enrich the traditions of Shiatsu by incorporating the modern Western understanding of anatomy and physiology with the traditional Eastern understanding of life and health. Kishi worked closely with Masunaga for ten years.

Aged 29, Kishi became ill – Shiatsu was not enough, so he developed his own method of healing called Seiki.

Seiki is for everyone. It does not follow a particular religion, but it certainly embraces aspects of Shinto and Zen Buddhism. Shinto has been an established part of Japanese culture for at least 2000 years. It has a reverence for nature, a belief that life energy exists in all things, both animate and inanimate. It focuses on the here and now, on the ability to grow and change, incorporating an enduring theme for spiritual purification.

Zen Buddhism constantly maintains a Beginner's Mind, an open mind with no expectations. Zen is about discipline, posture and breathing, non-duality (for example, having no comparisons/nothing to gain), emptiness (space/whole/originality), simplicity, compassion, non-attachment, trust, acceptance and mindfulness (falling awake).

Shinto and Buddhism have influenced one another for the past 1500 years, clearly showing the Japanese disposition for successfully blending elements of different spiritual and cultural traditions. Kishi's method encompasses all of this and more, looking always beyond to the very roots of our own condition.

Akinobu Kishi, Seiki Soho
Akinobu Kishi, Seiki Soho

What Is Seiki?

My understanding of Seiki continually changes, since it is about finding your own way, cultivating your own spirit, looking for something inside of yourself. There are no compromises – it makes you notice yourself. Seiki can be utilized as a gateway to realizing the expression of your originality, your whole self.

'Sei' means space and harmony, 'Ki' is life energy and movement. Energetically, Seiki can be difficult to grasp. Physiologically, it becomes easier. In its most accessible form, life energy is breath. The whole body breathes, not only in the respiratory tract, but also throughout all the cells and tissues of the body, the structure originating from a single cell, our originality.

Fundamentally, Seiki treats the breath. By following the movement of the breath, the body rediscovers its space, its originality. It is the simplest and purest form of healing I have ever experienced. But modern life often disregards simplicity. The body's innate willingness to seek balance and harmony remains obscured by everyday pressures that manifest themselves into physical and emotional problems – distortions of life energy (breath). Seiki unravels this trend. It provides the space for encouraging inner awareness and sensitivity, recognition that the body always expresses what it needs, essential for making connections and noticing the undetected – an absolute necessity for clearing stagnant energy and releasing habitual patterns.

Potential comparisons to other forms of healing end here. Seiki has nothing to do with channelling or sending energy. Its main purpose is to mirror life energy (the breath), so clients can recognize how to heal themselves. Time for treatment.

Seiki Soho

Seiki Soho means guidance/treatment. Through watching the whole body breathing (global vision) the capacity to regain balance and harmony is huge. In essence, the practitioner does nothing. The guidance has no interpretation. The practitioner clearly follows the movement of the breath, adopting the role of a mirror. As the client feels the reflection of their breath, the body's natural wisdom for recognizing the undetected (expression of its originality) is revealed. The practitioner continues reflecting, allowing the client space and time to make sense of the here and now. In a sense, the internal feeling becomes external. Connections are made; stagnant energy is released and distortions are cleared.

The here and now has an infinite quality which has great meaning in Seiki Soho. When we live in the moment there is no confusion.

So, the practitioner guides the client using quality of feeling and sensitivity of touch, and the client's body guides the practitioner, no divide, participating fully. Kishi calls this 'osmosis' or 'resonance', connection with open and complete attention. Healing can only occur with resonance in the moment.

The practitioner is satisfied with this simple role. He is just himself, a mirror for his clients. Just being, meeting with the breath, watching, observing things as they are, without preconceptions, expectations, judgements or fear. There is nothing special to achieve. The quality is already there, in our originality.

There are three aspects to Seiki Soho: doing nothing (the practitioner's role as a mirror), resonance with the client (always refining), and a 'basic trust' in the universe, three-way communication. The aim is to rediscover our originality. From the moment of conception, we are whole. It is only our minds that fragment the whole, our original self. The body is very clever at protecting itself, but if affected to its own detriment, resonance with its originality is lost. Seiki regains the resonance.

People have described Seiki Soho as a 'whole body' meditation, like a sitting meditation, but more intense as the focus is being brought back to the breath through guidance, rather than by effort. Experiences of unfolding spaces, within and without, becoming natural and empty, clearer and more compassionate, expansive with depth and openness; descriptions that have all been likened to true breathing. This has obvious benefits. For instance, when the whole body is breathing, sitting meditation becomes easier. We are more able to maintain a posture, to discover who we really are.


Another important aspect of Seiki is Katsugen. Katsugen is the name given to spontaneous movement – natural movements of the body that can occur during treatments. Adjustments within the body, eliminating and cleaning; whether it's emotional or physical, internal or visible, Katsugen is purification. It is the body's way of shifting stagnant energy and realigning its internal energy centres (rubbish out).

Gyoki and Qigong

Gyoki and Qigong are forms of movement meditation that can help develop a quality for feeling Ki (life energy). Gyoki is 'breathing by hand', the foundation of Seiki Soho. Focusing on the space between the hands is a simple method of relaxation and mind clearing. By feeling the movement between the hands (without thought or intention), body and mind become quieter, more relaxed and increasingly sensitive – preparation for Seiki Soho and Katsugen. For Kishi, Gyoki is like a light walk through the universe; from a distance he can see the earth bathed in blue.

Qigong is an ancient system of movement meditation that cultivates and harmonises qi (life energy) in the body. Using many different forms of posture, breathing and visualization, it helps to maintain health and vitality. It incorporates many influences: Taoist and Buddhist philosophy, a respect for nature, self defence, martial arts theories and yoga techniques. Kyoko, Kishi's wife, uses Qigong as preparatory exercises for Seiki.

Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony

Kishi likes to include the traditions of the Japanese Tea Ceremony in his classes because it exudes the same quality of feeling, and a respect for nature, so closely associated with Seiki. Influenced by Zen Buddhism, it involves the serving and drinking of powdered green tea, but not in a laborious way. It is graceful and stunningly beautiful. The highly refined economy of movement performed by the tea master is breathtaking. The tea ceremony represents serenity of the mind, purification, a love of simplicity and an expression of beauty, seeking always to be in harmony with the rhythm of the universe.

Seiki – A Development of Shiatsu

A Seiki treatment looks very similar to a Shiatsu treatment. It is carried out in full clothing, at floor level. As with Shiatsu, techniques like gentle stretches, palm pressure, holding, thumb and finger pressure can be used. A Shiatsu treatment often follows a form or map of the body. Seiki may be considered a development of Shiatsu in that the practitioner intuitively follows what he observes in the client's body, resulting in a free form treatment. Initially, six to eight treatments are recommended. The effects of Seiki are cumulative.

Basic Trust

Basic trust is not trusting in something, but simply trusting. We trust the breath, the heart beat, digestion, the function of internal organs. It is our very nature. We do not think about its physiological nature, we just trust. Basic trust grows from continually confronting fear and discovering that the world is a supportive place to be. In actuality, 'just being' is basic goodness, having a basic trust. It is simple and ordinary, but at the same time, very powerful. Psychologically, we can trust that the mind is everywhere, not separate from our bodies. We can trust that our originality is everywhere. It is only our fear, and modern society, that separates the mind and body (mind and heart). The body naturally includes the mind in the healing process. It is intrinsic to our existence. So, if we continue this simple approach to Seiki, every time we mention the body, it includes the mind. If we trust this process, big changes can occur. But the body remembers everything. This can seem quite daunting, so simplicity is never far away. There is nothing to do. Just be with a feeling, with no expectations – free from doubt and prejudice, trusting in whatever occurs at any given moment. We do not have to strive to clear our physical and emotional distortions (our fears), we simply feel them, touch them, own them and let them go.

What Conditions Can Seiki Help?

Seiki works from the inside out so, to a certain extent, it can help all types of ailments. At times, the level of an ailment will reflect what is experienced, during and/or after a treatment. But if 'basic trust' is applied, the body can take care of itself. It has all the answers. After all, it is self-healing, self-regulating and self-integrating. The main cause of illness, though, is the accumulation of tiredness (stagnant energy). For example, through tiredness of the brain, it takes longer for blood to reach the stomach, resulting in poor nourishment. Difficulty in breathing can be caused by tension (stagnant energy) in the diaphragm. Both can indicate a build-up of repressed emotions. We need to push out the stagnant energy and replace it afresh.

Repression – A Perpetual Disease

As a Seiki Practitioner, I continually come across repressed-related ailments. Linked with the build-up of stagnant energy, it is certainly a precursor to many diseases. It can begin in early infancy, involving intense and often complicated emotional relationships with the parents. As a defence mechanism, painful or disturbing memories become repressed, often leading to crippling detachment; isolation accompanied with repetitive and self-destructive behaviour patterns. This can involve symptoms of anxiety, depression, tiredness, irritability, a problem with 'switching off' or an inability to function efficiently. Repression is a condition of the mind. Medicine has ignored the mind as a cause of disease, but recent research has forced the medical establishment to adjust its attitudes. Psychological disease can cause physical ailments, such as dyspepsia, irritable bowel syndrome, migraine, high blood pressure, asthma, obesity, gastric ulcers, heart problems, and disturbances of the immune system.

When difficulties persist, personality, stress and mental attributes can influence many serious and widespread diseases. For example, the mind can have an effect on the origin and development of cancer; it can cause neuromuscular imbalances; it can affect arthritis and rheumatism, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and osteoporosis.

Pain can undoubtedly be painful, but adopting a lighter approach towards it can be beneficial. Pain is not suffering, it is simply stagnant/blocked energy. It brings forth the realization that our problems are our chance, the opportunity to accept every situation as it comes – inner awareness, learning about our original self.

Gaining a richer understanding of our originality helps to dissipate the negative emotions, anxieties and destructive thought processes, attached to conditions like repression.


It is inappropriate to get engrossed with summarized case studies, for it really is about finding your own way, taking ownership of your own feelings. Seiki is not about diagnosis. There are no miracles, shortcuts or quick-fixes in Seiki. But guidance is fine. If approached with non-attachment, the client will always find his own way. Full understanding is found from within. The client teaches himself. I strongly believe that we can heal only ourselves. But discipline and commitment are needed to become our 'real selves'. Only through continuous awareness and clearing can we develop the sensitivity necessary to rediscover the full creative and joyful potential of our original personality and power.

Seiki has a unique approach to life and healing. Subtle and profound, the experience is open to everyone. If allowed, Seiki can be the simplest thing in the world – with it comes great insight.

I would like to thank my Seiki teachers for their inspiration: Akinobu Kishi, Paul Lundberg, Mark Burton, and Alice Whieldon.


Cowmeadow O. The Art of Shiatsu. Element Books Limited. 1992.
Fulder S. The Handbook of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Oxford University Press. 1996.
Gregory R. The Mind. Oxford University Press. 1987.
Hayward J. Sacred World. Rider Press. 1996.
Kabat-Zinn J. Full Catastrophe Living. Judy Piatkus Publishers Limited. 2001.
Kakuzo O. The Book of Tea. Tuttle Publishing. 2001.
Scott Littleton C. Understanding Shinto. Duncan Baird Publishers. London. 2002.
Sills F. Cranio-sacral Bio-dynamics. North Atlantic Books. 2001.
Suzuki S. Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. Weatherhill Incorporated. 2001.

Photo Credit

Photos by Johnny Gray


  1. Helena sime said..

    Hi there,

    I have heard you run healing sessions on Sundays in Cardiff. Please can you send me details because I'm really interested in attending. Many thanks,

  2. owain said..

    do you do private sessions in Cardiff?

  3. Roy Lander said..

    Hi - are there any seiki practitioners in london


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About John Bourne

John Bourne was born and educated in Brighton, UK. He has been interested in self-development and complementary therapies since 1995. He trained at the Wilbury School of Natural Therapies in Hove, and the Brighton Natural Health Centre, qualifying as a Body Massage Therapist in 1997. Reflexology and Indian Head Massage followed. He developed a keen interest in Seiki throughout this period. Now registered as a Seiki Practitioner with the Guild of Complementary Practitioners, it has become the main focus of his therapeutic work. He met Kishi, Paul, Mark, and Alice at around the same time, and has worked consistently with them since 1997, which has led to teaching Seiki in both workshop and class settings. For talks/demonstrations, classes, workshops, and treatments, John can be contacted on: Tel: 01273 552832; Mob: 07989 047807;;

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