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Reijutsu, Hand-Healing, 'New Religions' & Reiki in early 20thC Japan

Copyright 2002 James Deacon
[Updated: Marh, 2009]

A number of people seem to be under the misapprehension that Usui Sensei was somehow responsible for what has been referred to as a 'revival' of Healing-hand practices in early 20th century Japan.

However, such healing practices had been quite common in Japan for many centuries and there is no reason to believe they had fallen into decline during the Meiji era.

In fact, it is known that many and varied forms of hand-healing practices existed during Usui Sensei's lifetime.

'Teate' (hand/palm healing) systems had long existed (and continue to exist today) with in the martial disciplines, for example: the various schools of Ninpo (Ninjitsu) and traditional Bujutsu schools such as Katori Shinto Ryu, and I believe, Yagyu Ryu - the Jujutsu/Kenjutsu discipline believed to have been studied by Usui Sensei himself.

And, outside of martial arts circles, there also existed several teate practices utilising a form of vital life-force energy referred to as:'seiki'.


Various forms of seiki healing practice [not to be confused with the modern 'Seiki Soho' healing] had been around since at least the Edo period and some practitioners were certainly active around the time Usui Sensei was teaching Reiki.

For example, we know of one Seiki therapy group: the seiki ryoho kenkyu jo (Seiki Treatment Institute / Research Establishment) which was definitely active in the late 1920's.

Also, Traditional Japanese Medicine (essentially Traditional Chinese Medicine with a name-change) included 'Ki-jutsu' techniques (which would later also be referred to as 'ki-ko' techniques) - originally believed to have been derived from Qi Gung Hand Healing.

It has been said that Usui-sensei was a member of a 'group' called Reijutsu Kai, which were met near Mount Kurama.

However, during the early part of the 20th century, Reijutsu wasn't just a 'group' - rather, it was quite a large, flourishing 'movement'.

It would seem that what Usui-sensei belonged to was a local Association (Kai) of which there were apparently a great many in the Reijutsu movement.

A Shinto-related phenomenon, amongst Reijutsu's aims was the improvement of health of the nation. Reijutsu made use of a variety of healing methods including Reiki-like 'laying-on-of-hands' and healing through religious rituals.

The Reijutsu movement became quite prominent, and practitioners even travelled to Mongolia and gave lectures on their techniques to Chinese. (As a result, it is said, elements of Reijutsu found their way into Chinese Qi Gung practices.)

Then, there were (even in Usui's day) countless 'folk practitioners' - including members of the supposedly suppressed Shugendo cults, who utilised hand-healing (admittedly in conjunction with exorcism, prayer and other esoteric practices).

And a great many of the spiritual groups, often referred to as: 'new religions' (shinko shukyo) or 'new religious groups', which existed in Usui's time, were essentially 'healing sects', several of which had materialised around a charismatic 'founder' who had developed or 'received' healing powers.

Many of these new religious'/spiritual groups (- which generally tended to incorporate elements from Shinto and Buddhist teachings -) came into being as a result of their founders undergoing either mystical visionary experiences of, or indeed actual possession by, Kami (numinous beings), or sometimes, by Ancestral Spirits.

Now, while most people, it seems, view Usui Sensei's 'Reiki Experience' on Mount Kurama in terms of mystical connection with an abstract 'Spiritual Universal Energy', it may be of interest to note that, while the term 'Reiki'  essentially
implies: 'spiritual essence', 'spiritual influence', or 'the effect of spirit', some suggest the term may also be used to indicate the refer to the influence of an Ancestral Spirit.

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