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What is Usui-Do (or Usui-no-Michi)?

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Last Updated: April 10, 2008
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"Unity of self through harmony and balance"
(Usui dojo motto)

In Memorium

We regret to announce the transition of Tenon-in on September 30, 2005.  She was 107 years old. 

Affectionately known as Mariko to Usui Sensei, and later as Mariko-Obaasan (Grandmother Mariko) to her friends, she passed away in the afternoon at a small house on the Pacific coast of Shikoku, Japan where she had spent the last few years.  She had been moved there once Reiki people began to seek her out in spite of her request for privacy. 

Tenon-in (her temple name) along with other surviving students of Usui Sensei first met Melissa Riggall and Dave King in 1995.  She and the others were happy to meet these non-Japanese doka of the older paths of Usui-Do and Usui Teāte taught them by students of Eguchi-sensei and Hayashi-sensei.  Because of Dave and Melissa's interest in reviving the original teachings of Mikao Usui Sensei, they were pleased to offer additional information and guidance. 

While the original teachings are not in conflict or competition with Reiki, they are none-the-less the foundation of what later became Usui Reiki Ryoho and the Reiki we know today.  Our deepest gratitude is extended to Mariko-Obaasan and her fellow doka for sharing with us from their Hearts.

The system of Reiki we now practice in the West actually comes out of 3 Japanese sources, all of which were influenced heavily by the spiritual system taught by Mikao Usui from 1920 to 1926. These sources are Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai, Hayashi Reiki Kenkyukai and Tenohira Ryoji Kenkyukai.

In the final years of his life, O-Sensei (Usui Sensei) was teaching his personal spiritual system, which he called simply "My Method" and his students referred to as "Usui-Do" or more correctly "Usui-no-michi".  It did not contain the teaching of a hands-on healing system as we originally thought, but rather taught spiritual concepts that Usui Sensei had researched and practiced; concepts that inadvertently led to his own acquisition of a very power Ki or energy during a traditional Japanese fast. 

By this time the system, which originally had no divisions, now included several levels of achievement.  The naming convention was influenced by O-Sensei's friend Jigoro Kano, the founder of Japanese Judo. 

The levels were rokyu, gokyu, yonkyu, sankyu, nikyu (#1 symbol), ikyu (#2), shodan (#3), nidan (#4), sandan, yondan, godan, rokudan, shichidan (nanadan). 


Changes to the Usui System over the years
Usui Teāte
URR Gakkai
URR Gakkai
6th grade rokyu shoden gata shoden dai roku to shoden first 
5th grade gokyu dai go tou
4th grade yonkyu dai yon tou
3rd grade sankyu chuuden gata chuuden dai san tou
2nd grade nikyu
okuden gata okuden zenki okuden 
1st grade Ikyu
1st dan shodan
2nd dan nidan
kaiden gata okuden koki shinpiden third degree/ master
shinpiden  shihan  
3rd dan sandan menkyo kaiden 
Note: This table is from
URRI 2002 & 2003 
handouts given by 
Usui-Do Eidan
#1-4 are what we now call the symbols
4th dan yondan
5th dan godan
6th dan rokudan soke
7th dan shichidan

Another influence in O-Sensei's life was his friend Toshihiro Eguchi, reportedly a natural healer, and a school teacher who had his own hand healing method.  He often taught some of these ideas in the Usui-dojo (Usui training hall) beginning in 1923.  O-Sensei would allow this use of his dojo in order to support his income.  While O-Sensei did not take part in the system, it was still called Usui Teāte by the students, no doubt out of respect for the dojo founder. And it still retained the founder's spiritual philosophy, but in an altered presentation in some cases.  Eguchi-sensei later created his own school called Eguchi Tenohira Ryoji Kenkyu-kai.

Eguchi-sensei and Hayashi-sensei (founder of Hayashi Reiki Kenkyukai) were the only 2 students to complete the original Usui-Do training (to Shichidan level) and for many years they continued to offer this system to some students along with their own Reiki systems. 

There were also 2 nuns who worked closely with Usui Sensei in Kyoto and Tokyo, from 1920 to 1926.   They were awarded the 2nd highest level of Rokudan in January, 1925.  While they were most likely the most experienced doka (students) they did not receive the final level, possibly due to personal reasons relating to their temple life or the fact they were women. One of these nuns is Tenon-in (aka Mariko-Obaasan) who in 2005 was  107 years old.  Tenon-in said that O-Sensei did encourage her and her friend Yuri-in, to observe the Usui Teāte proceedings.  By late 1925 these began to include free treatments to some non doka (non students)  who approached the dojo. Eguchi and Dr. Hayashi began to explore these during Eguchi's time slots. 

When 2 navy admirals (Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai founders Ushida-sensei and Taketomi-sensei) heard of this, they joined the dojo (along with 18 other navy officers) in December 1925.  Suddenly there was a shift in the Usui Teāte class structure as Ushida took charge.  Perhaps due to his military and social standing he was allowed more sway in the dojo.  But Tenon-in also re-marked that now the navy members' membership was helping to pay Sensei's bills (she said he was always in debt). 

It was at this time that a new system of personal energy work began to emerge alongside Usui-Do. 

Changes to original Usui-Do system
This table is modified from a URRI 2002 handout given by the 
Usui-Do Eidan  Please see www.usui-do.org for a more complete version.

The new system included Eguchi-sensei's hand healing concepts and his energy transfer ceremony (which O-Sensei found to be of a religious tone and had to partly censor, else confront the emperor's officials.)  The admirals were calling this system Usui Reiki Ryoho (a phrase from the original Usui concepts or precepts). 

After Usui Sensei's passing in 1926, Usui-Do and Usui Teāte seemed to slowly slip from the limelight as the new society, Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai, began to grow in numbers. The spiritual concepts were retained to some degree, but mainly taught to the advanced members, with personal healing through "Reiki" being encouraged to the novice. The Gakkai also began it's meetings with some Meiji Emperor poetry (gyosei) - possibly to make the meetings more loyalist and not seem religious (which was outlawed at the time of the Taisho emperor.)  They added a healing guide for beginner students (created by Hayashi-sensei) to their material, as well as a number of Anma (press and rub) and Kikou (Qi-gong) techniques that Eguchi-sensei had introduced from a booklet he had produced.

Click Here for more detail about 

After 1931, Hayashi-sensei, who had by then left the URR Gakkai, no longer seemed to teach the original inner system of Usui-Do, although he had conferred Shichidan status on at least 12 students, including Tatsumi-san (1927-31).  By 1935, the system that Hawayo Takata-sensei learned from Hayashi-sensei (1935-38) was a much revised version and he seemed to continue to make revisions even to the time he taught Ms. Chiyoku Yamaguchi in 1938 in her home town near Osaka.  When Dr. Hayashi created his new system, called Hayashi Reiki Kenkyukai (in 1931) some of his leading students including Tatsumi-san, left his clinic.  Tatsumi-san returned home to the family miso business and taught only the lower levels of the Usui-Do and Hayashi healing systems until 1996 when he met Dave King and Melissa Riggall during one of their many trips to Japan. 

Eguchi-sensei also left the URR Gakkai (in 1927) but he continued to teach both systems.  One of his Shichidan graduates was a lay monk named Yuji Onuki-san (1926-30).  Around 1970 Onuki-san traveled across Russia and down Europe to Morocco, teaching Eguchi and Usui concepts to those interested, including Dave and .Melissa in 1971.  In 1994 Dave and Melissa went to Japan to meet Onuki-san's grandson, and subsequently were introduced to a number of surviving students of Usui, Eguchi and Hayashi, including the 2 nuns, Yuri-in and Tenon-in, who by this time were now around the age of 100.

Click Here for some
Frequently Asked Questions About  Usui-Do
(at www.usui-do.org)

Dave King and Melissa Riggall of the Usui-Do Eidan received Rokudan  (2nd highest level) from Onuki-san in 1971, Shichidan  (highest level) from Tatsumi-san in 1996 and Godan (3rd highest level) from Tenon-in in October 2002, the latter giving them a direct spiritual connection to Usui Sensei through her. Some of their personal adventures with these Usui students can be found at the Usui-Do Eidan web site.

In the spring of 2000, thanks to much research on the Tatsumi material by Melissa, plus the  observations of fellow Onuki student, George Mullen, combined with a growing amount of information being shared by Tenon-in, Dave and Melissa changed the focus of their school (Traditional Japanese Reiki)  from the older hand healing Reiki methods to the spiritual origins of Usui-Do. 

In 2003 Tenon-in expressed her belief that perhaps the Usui Teāte system may also have a use for those in the West unable to grasp Usui-Do, and so Dave changed his focus to sharing these teachings as well (through guidance by Tenon-in). 

If we look at some modern day Reiki energy lineages we can see how some of the teachings evolved or were changed. For example, take a look at some of the training history of a few of my own teachers, Mr. Hiroshi Doi, Rev. Hyakuten Inamato, Dave King and Melissa Riggall.

Click on chart for larger image

I have found that some Japanese have difficulty accepting that outsiders could be taught an original Japanese system while there does not appear to be any publicly known teachers within Japan.  Very few (if any) of those who are living students of Usui, Eguchi and Hayashi seemed to be willing to publicly claim their inheritance and knowledge over the years - and now that they are all over 100 years of age, who can blame their desire for peace and solitude?  It is interesting that those people require proof of the existence of the old Usui students, may willingly accept that there is a URR Gakkai still in existence even though very few can claim membership, or have even seen proof it is indeed the original society.  I can only hope that this situation will improve.

Most of the world is a bit more used to relying on Trust in these circumstances and so I suspect Usui-Do or Usui Teāte will continue to be received by others. In any case, they do not compete with any reiki system and thus can exist alongside them.  It may take time for them, but then when Takata-sensei introduced Reiki outside Japan, it had to grow and flourish for over 45 years there before it was re-introduced to Japan from the West.

Finally, I would like to offer some caution to those who are experienced in Reiki, but who would like to investigate the Usui-Do training.  I suggest that you leave all your thoughts and experiences with Reiki, outside the Usui-Do training hall.  When you enter into the training, do so with a fresh mind, and the understanding that your teachers are trying to present the process of Mikao Usui Sensei in as close a way as to how he did this.  This means that you will learn the original Japanese procedure in entering and leaving the dojo, and in interacting with your teacher (sensei) and other students (doka). 

Try to set all your questions aside until you are outside of class.  Then do discuss these with your sensei, but more important, take the time to practice what you have learned.  This may require several repetitions of the class, as was the norm in O-Sensei's time. 

And finally, do not expect automatic advancement in the system.  This is conferred upon the student when the teacher feels the student has grasped the concepts and that more experience is now beneficial to the doka. 

I feel Usui-Do is a very good path to finding your spiritual self, and it blends very well with concepts taught in our own era.

Sources: Dave King, George Mullen (who also received Godan from Onuki-san in 1971).

Take an Usui-Do journey -- View Dave and Laurie Anne's 2001 Japan trip travel log

Melissa Riggall made her transition on March 12, 2003. She and her 
contributions to Reiki will be greatly missed. Click here for a memorial page. 

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

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