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Why So Many Reiki Styles?

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Last Updated: November 26, 2007
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One of the areas of confusion for people new to Reiki is the number of Reiki styles and schools available.  It seems that since the late 1980's many new schools of Reiki have sprung up - especially outside of Japan.  And the course content is not always the same. Even for experienced Reiki practitioners this can certainly be mind boggling at times.  But at the very least the styles can be divided into 2 segments; what I call Western Reiki or Reiki styles developed outside of Japan; and Japanese Reiki including traditional styles going back to 1926, as well as more current Japanese styles.

If we look at the beginning of Reiki we can see how such diversity came about.

Origins of Reiki

Originally I thought this process of change within Reiki was just occurring outside of Japan in the modern day Reiki world.  However, as I explored more about Reiki in Japan I discovered that Reiki had branched out in other forms there, even while founder Mikao Usui Sensei was still alive.

From my training with Dave King beginning in 1996, I learned that Usui Sensei had originally been teaching a spiritual system to help others attain a similar enlightening experience as he had.  He simply called his training "My Method" and thus it was referred to by his students as "Usui-Do". 

Usui would rent his dojo (training hall) out to others so they too could present their own ideas and lectures. In 1923, his senior student Toshihiro Eguchi was presenting his own modified form of Usui-Do in the dojo.  While this was not taught by Usui Sensei, over time he did approve of the changes Eguchi made. By early 1925 Eguchi's students began to call this method "Usui Teāte". 

Outside of Japan, these methods are still available today from people who had the luxury of meeting and learning from Usui's students. Dave King teaches the Usui Teāte version he learned from a Buddhist nun known as Tenon-in (her temple name) and Chris Marsh presents the version he learned from Usui's niece, Suzuki-san, also a Buddhist nun.  Dave's version tries to emulate the system as taught inside the dojo in early 1925 and Chris' version includes some Buddhist teachings useful to non Buddhists (it is likely all Japanese students of Usui's time were raised in Buddhism and Shinto.)  The Usui-Do system is being taught in Toronto Canada by Dave's student Laurie Anne King.

In mid 1925, Usui Sensei's senior students, Eguchi and Dr. Chuujiro Hayashi, began to explore energy healing concepts and the Usui Teāte system began to change. By the end of the year the Japanese navy was taking an interest in the new classes.  2 admirals (Ushida and Taketomi) along with almost a score of their sub officers showed up and began attending classes at the Usui dojo. Ushida actually began to take over (Tenon-in said that Sensei didn't complain as all this interest was helping to pay the bills.)  Early in 1926 Eguchi's new system was based more on the healing of others using high energy Ki, perhaps an attempt to emulate the incredible ability and energy that Usui radiated automatically.  Ushida called this system "Usui Reiki Ryoho" and while Usui Sensei did not officially endorse this, it was now a popular system being taught in the dojo. It is reported that about a score of students completed this shorter style of training in less than the 3 or 4 months before Sensei's transition in March. These students attained a level they called Shinpiden (see the table of comparative levels)  and could also teach the system.  Later on, an additional level of "Shihan" (teacher) would be added.

The First Reiki Systems

In March of 1926 Usui Sensei passed away and for a time the navy people along with Dr. Hayashi and Eguchi continued to work together, although the healing and training moved to Hayashi-sensei's own clinic. Treatments were now given on beds slightly raised above the floor, with 2 practitioners per patient, and there were no formal hand positions used.  Most of the students formed a society (Gakkai) they called Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai under the leadership of Ushida.  However some of the original Shinpiden had already returned to their own areas to teach independent of the Gakkai, forming their own schools

The terms "Reiki" and Reiho were for some now becoming the short name for the methodology of applying the high energy Ki attributed to Usui.  Others still referred to it simply as Teāte.

According to Japanese Reiki teacher Doi-sensei, one noted teacher outside the URR Gakkai was Kaiji Tomita who created his Tomita Teāte (hand healing) Ryoho based in Osaka. Tomita gave Reiki seminars for 4 levels; “Sho-den”, “Chu-den”, “Oku-den”, and “Kai-den”.  Each level required 5 days (2 hours for each day) to be completed, but Kai-den required 15 days.  It is reasonable to assume that this was similar to the approach used in the Usui dojo for the new Usui Reiki Ryoho teaching.

Meanwhile the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai flourished in Tokyo. Classes were given somewhat similar to Usui Sensei's style in that they were a lecture format and the initial level of Shoden was held over 5 days, about 2 to 3 hours a day, while the Hayashi clinic was suspended. Reiju, a ceremony developed by Eguchi for introducing the Reiki energy to a student, was given each day of class so that the student could gradually attain proficiency with it. (See the article on Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai for more detail on this style of training.). The Gakkai also held weekly, meetings which began with a meditation they called Hatsurei-ho (which means proclamation or announcement) and which included a short form of Reiju given to all participants. This was part of their formula for increasing the strength of the members' ability to transmit Reiki energy.

The term "Reiki" was for some becoming the short name 
for the methodology of applying the 
high energy Ki attributed to Usui.

Then in 1927 Eguchi-sensei had a falling out and left the society to form his own school  "Eguchi Tenohira Ryoji Kenkyu-kai".  Eguchi still taught the original Usui-Do as well as his Usui Teāte. Eguchi and Hayashi were the only 2 students to achieve Shichidan (the highest level) in the original Usui-Do system, however 5 nuns, including Tenon-in, were awarded the second highest level of Rokudan (in Usui's time, woman weren't permitted the final step).  A form of Eguchi's teaching is still available in the Ittoen commune in Kyoto today.

The Hayashi System

By 1931, Dr. Hayashi had decided to further change his style of training, focusing more on the healing side of Reiki.  He left the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai and changed his own school name to "Hayashi Reiki Kenkyukai".   Until this point Hayashi had also been teaching the complete original teachings of Usui Sensei, as well as the modified approach.  He had taught at least 12 students to the original Shichidan level of Usui Sensei's method plus his own Teāte or hand healing style.  One of these students was Tatsumi-san whom Dave King met in 1995. It is quite possible that this original style still exists quietly somewhere in Japan.

Now however Dr. Hayashi focused more on his healing system, even abandoning many of the techniques the URR Gakkai was using.  He continued to experiment with ways to improve the healing of others and he would even apply some of the spiritual tools involving symbols Usui had taught. For Hayashi, the original spiritual side to the system now seemed to take a back seat. 

Dr. Hayashi continued to make changes to his system and from 1935 to 1940 on his travels he would visit a village near Osaka and teach.  One of his students, Mrs. Chiyoko Yamaguchi, went on to teach a Buddhist monk in 1997, Rev. Hyakuten Inamoto of Kyoto, along with 4 others in a simple weekly gathering in the back of her son's (Tadao) stationery store).  Inamoto-sensei began teaching this method along with other concepts and he now calls his system Komyo Reiki Kai.  In 2000, Yamaguchi-sensei was encouraged by Doi-sensei to teach in the original Hayashi style she had learned.  Her son Tadao immediately took over the school and named it Jikiden Reiki (the term refers to an old style of training where the teacher would imprint a part of himself on the student.) 

Dr. Hayashi focused more on his healing system...... he would even apply some of the spiritual tools involving 
symbols Usui had taught. 

Mrs. Yamaguchi had studied her first 2 levels with Dr. Hayashi and completed her training with her uncle, Wasaburo Sugano, a Hayashi Shinpiden student.  He had paid the 50 yen fee for her original training with Hayashi-sensei.  At the 2000 URRI conference in Kyoto, Tadao Yamaguchi explained that in 1938, 50 yen was equivalent to more than $5000 and would buy a small cottage. 

Because Dr. Hayashi traveled to other locations, it is most likely that his Hayashi Reiki Kenkyukai method still can be found in many parts of Japan.

The URR Gakkai Expands

During this time the URR Gakkai was branching out across Japan, establishing more than 60 support groups and training centres, many of which were near naval bases.  They created the level of Shihan above Shinpiden and permitted only one teacher in a branch, who was responsible for an entire city or region.  Shinpiden level became a support level for the Shihan, from which a replacement could be drawn when necessary.  At some time in the late 1900's the society simplified their approach to Reiki and they too dropped many of the healing techniques Eguchi had introduced.  However since a Shihan could run their branch their own way, some retained the old teachings.

From time to time some Shihan would leave the Gakkai in protest over policy or for other reasons, sometimes taking their complete centre with them.  These Shihan might continue to teach in the older ways and thus as the main Tokyo branch changed, they were no longer in step.  The war seemed to also sever the link between some branches and the head office.  An example was the Hiroshima branch run by Ayako Sasaki. She had lost touch with the Tokyo group but continued teaching a simple healing method, calling it Teāte. Doi-sensei learned this style from a co-worker, a Sasaki student named Hiroshi Ohta, from 1982-84 while Doi was managing a hotel in Hiroshima.  Later the URR Gakkai recognised this as Reiki.

After the war the number of branches was reduced and by 1999 there were only 5 recognized centres throughout Japan, although membership grew back to around 500. 

Reiki Leaves Japan - The Takata Systems

In 1935 Mrs. Takata was receiving healing and training at Dr. Hayashi's clinic and by 1938 she had returned to Hawaii to begin teaching her own version of Reiki calling it "Usui Shiki Ryoho" (note that on some of her certificates she used the term Usui Reiki Ryoho). Over the next 40 years she continued to change and adapt her system as she found suitable methods for those she taught and as she gained more and more experience as a healer. According to Arjava Petter's book "The Hayashi Reiki Manual"  in 1952 Mrs. Hayashi had asked her to take over the Hayashi school in Tokyo but Takata-sensei said she had changed the system too much to do so.  Some of her changes involved adding in a structure of 12 hand positions for the front and back of the body, and combing the Shinpiden and Shihan levels into what she called Reiki 3 or Reiki Master. She retained the flexibility of Dr. Hayashi in allowing some students to progress through the levels much faster - sometimes just a week apart. 

Mrs. Takata also retained Dr. Hayashi's fairly high fee structure in orderto promote a certain respect and appreciation for the training. It should be noted that the prices she paid in Japan, or their equivalent in clinic time worked, would have been much higher.  One of her Canadian students, H. K., explained that Mrs. Takata took a second mortgage on her house to pay for Shoden training in Japan, then sold her house to cover Okuden level, and when Dr. Hayashi visited her in Hawaii in 1938 to confer Shinpiden and Shihan levels on her, she was required to get 100 students for him (at the equivalent f $125 each).  While she would require cash payment for her own first 2 levels of classes, she would sometimes suggest her master level students simply get her the equivalent in Reiki 1 and 2 students to apply towards their $10,000 fee.  Both her students, Wanja Twan and Barbara Brown, paid part of their training this way.

Takata-sensei took her classes to the USA mainland in 1975 and to Canada in 1976, and soon she was teaching master level for the first time. She taught about 22 people at this level including 5 Canadians living in B.C.  After she died, several of her students formed a master level support group called the Reiki Alliance.   Over the next 2 decades the Alliance would try to standardize Reiki in the West, and would make changes from time to time as they saw fit.  They continued to charge the fees set up by Takata-sensei but they added in restrictions to space out the training and required an apprenticeship at master level.

... in 1952 Mrs. Hayashi had asked her to take over the Hayashi 
school in Tokyo but Takata-sensei said she had 
changed the system too much to do so.

Some of Takata's masters and some of the Alliance members decided to go their own way, changing things like fee structure and class composition, such as adding in new techniques and the use of crystals.  Other concepts from Western natural healing systems might also be added in.  The new variations caught on and soon more new Reiki styles were opening up, adding in Western symbols and techniques, and modifying class structure and attunement methods.

Barbara Weber Ray went her own way when other Takata masters preferred to set Phyllis Furumoto up as lineage bearer of the Takata line (she is Takata's granddaughter).  When one of Ray's students, Mieko Mitsui, returned from Japan in 1985 with knowledge of the URR Gakkai, Ray changed the name of her system to The Radiance Technique and she now had 7 levels to her training and additional symbols.

Another of Takata's students, Iris Ishikura, decided to reduce the price of classes and the teacher level now was well within the reach of many people. Her student Arthur Robertson was responsible for many changes to Western Reiki as he created Raku Kei.  2 of these changes involved adding the Taoist microcosmic orbit process to the Reiki attunement, and the additional of new symbols originally received by other Americans.  Other systems like David Jarrell's Reiki Plus began to spring up - some similar to Takata Reiki while others added techniques borrowed from other healing modalities.

Traditional Reiki Reaches the West

Aside from the additional symbols, Western Reiki was now following the same path that Japan had experienced in the early years of Reiki - that of continued variation. 

In 1996 Dave King began to teach more Traditional Japanese Reiki concepts he had learned while traveling in Japan in the 1990s.  These were based mainly on his work with a senior Hayashi student named Tatsumi who had trained and worked in the Tokyo clinic from 1927-31 . Dave and colleague Melissa Riggall had originally trained in the Usui-Do and Usui Teāte spiritual styles and the Teāte styles of Eguchi and Hayashi in 1971 in Morocco with Eguchi student Yuji Onuki. As Melissa and later Dave met more and more students of Usui, Eguchi and Hayashi, they decided in 2000 to return to the roots of the Usui teachings. Thus Dave first made the Usui-Do classes available in Edmonton Canada and then set up an Usui style dojo in Toronto - probably the first anywhere in over 70 years. As mentioned before, this was now being carried on in Toronto by Laurie Anne King while Dave taught the Usui Teāte style. Then in 2007 a decison was made to present only the Usui Teāte method as this seemed more easily acceptable to Western students.

It is important to note that these are not Reiki healing styles, and do not compete with Reiki or Usui Reiki Ryoho. However they are very effective methods of personal growth as originally presented by Mikao Usui Sensei.

Finally, in 1999, Hiroshi Doi of Japan - a URR Gakkai member - and a German named Frank Arjava Petter (who lived and taught Reiki in Japan) began to travel to other parts of the world sharing original Japanese ideas.  Some were complex while others where quite simple and intuitive. Doi-sensei also shared some of the original spiritual components retained within the URR Gakkai Reiki when he was hosted by me and several others at 5 annual Reiki conferences we called URR International, or URRI for short. His Gendai Reiki Ho or Modern Reiki Method style was eagerly received by hundreds of Western Reiki Masters at the URRI seminars and private class held in Japan. Gendai Reiki is actually a blend of modern and traditional Japanese Reiki methods and ideals, as well as Western Reiki.

... in 1999, Hiroshi Doi of Japan and ... Frank Arjava Petter 
began to travel to other parts of the world 
sharing original Japanese ideas. 

Soon others from Japan began to share their styles of Reiki in the West and the choices in training grew.  Some are Komyo Reiki, Human & Trust Kenkyo-sho and Jikiden Reiki

Takata-sensei's style of Reiki became known as Usui Reiki by many although it is not like the original method that Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai taught. However it may have been more appropriate for Westerners to learn as it had a more structured approach to Reiki, and like Hayashi Reiki, it was focused mainly on assisting healing with the self and others.

Other Western styles began to adapt and included older Japanese concepts and techniques in their training material, thus allowing students to choose from traditional and modern approaches to Reiki. My Threshold Reiki is one such style. 

Reiki Evolving Again

The 1990s saw an explosion in new systems, many with shifted Reiki energy and new symbols. Kathleen Milner's Tera-Mai system included new energies, like Patrick Ziegler's Seichim, and also symbols received by her and her students. William Rand, who already had his Centre for Reiki Training style of Reiki, borrowed 9 of these symbols to create a master level training eventually called Karuna Reiki.  The addition of new symbol energies into Reiki systems began to grow more and more as Spirit seemed to be nudging individuals to awaken their own personal energies.

For a list of some of the Western schools of Reiki go to Adonea's Reiki pages at 

When is Reiki, NOT Reiki?

One very confusing trend we are seeing is that of new styles of healing making use of the term "Reiki" as if it was a replacement word for "healing energy."  These are usually styles of energy  that an individual has received through direct connection with Spirit,  but have no energy lineage to the energy of Mikao Usui - the energy  we call "Reiki."

This is not to say that these energies are not powerful - they certainly can be, and just like any other healing energy they can be effective with a wide range of people.  They have always been around, usually without a name and usually wielded by a natural healer, spiritual worker, shaman, wicca, etc.  (click here for my understanding of these energies).

However, they confuse many if they profess to be an energy of the "Reiki" family. 

There have been several new energies that may be taught by Reiki teachers, but do not pretend to be versions of Reiki.  Some of these are Seichim, Magnified Healing, Urevia, etc.  Each is a valid and very good energy system and these may interest you if Reiki does not.  (click here for a list of Alternative Healing Energies, most that do not pretend to be Reiki.)

Personally I have worked with, and experienced some of these, as well as the naturally called-on energy of several healers, and I even learned how to do this myself in 1978.  However, sometimes these energies may lack a grounding or earth component and the healer needs to add this part in.  Reiki and a few others seems to have this grounding automatically built in. 

A more recent form of this confusion has occurred by one author advertising that you can call in your own "Reiki" energy (as he says Mikao Usui did) by just reading the author's book.  However, it is useful to understand that Usui Sensei experienced his own powerful healing energy as a side effect of his many years of spiritual training, while he was in the process of a 3 week spiritual fast on a well known mountain power spot. 

I have worked with some people who were able to duplicate Reiki once they have felt it (it's like people who can repeat music after hearing it once), but they had at least experienced original Reiki energy first.  And in each case, these people have found their Reiki substantially increased after receiving a Reiki attunement.  I've also worked with natural healers wielding their own healing energies, who upon receiving a Reiki attunement claim that their energy is much stronger now, or much higher in vibration, or always present (not having to be called on), etc.  It's certainly an interesting phenomenon.

If you are looking for a valid Reiki experience or training, ask to see the teacher's energy lineage back to Mikao Usui.  (click here for an example of several Reiki energy lineages.)

The Bottom Line

If you are still confused, please do not despair.  The nice thing about the Reiki method is that regardless of the Reiki style, the heart of Reiki is truly easy and quick to acquire, and it can be applied using very simple methods.  So I would recommend that you simply choose an initial instructor who feels OK to you and is not too far to travel to.  Afterwards, you can explore and experiment with Reiki on friends and family.  When you are ready to continue your training, you can then decide if there is a more appropriate style and teacher available to you. You  might even try distant training.

In my experience there really is no one style that is better than the next.  It is simply a personal preference and it will depend on whether you enjoy a complex or simple approach, with or without formal structure, and with or without elements of the traditional or modern methods.  Perhaps over time you will find yourself doing as I have and exploring a variety of styles out of simple curiosity. 

If you have comments or suggestions, Contact Me.     I will try to answer them all.

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