Reiki, kiko and qigong


I HAVE often been asked about the similarities and differences between the various energy-healing disciplines, and having mastered several of them, I am able to share my knowledge about them. The easiest energy-healing discipline to learn is reiki. 


The history of reiki 

Reiki is in fact a generic term for a group of healing methods practised in Japan that use universal energy ( “rei” for universal, and “ki” for energy). However, it has now become synonymous with the method developed by Dr Mikao Usui, which is called usui reiki. 

Dr Usui was a Buddhist monk who had studied kiko (Japanese qigong) at a Buddhist temple on Mount Kurama, north of Kyoto. He was not satisfied with the kiko healing method that uses, and therefore depletes, one’s own ki (qi) when healing others. 

Sometime in 1922, he claimed that he received divine initiation as the universal energy flowed into him, and that he could channel it to others in a way that did not require giving up his own ki. He developed a system based on symbols that open the gates for the practitioner to receive and channel ki. 

He formed the Usui Reiki Kyoho Gakkai (Usui Reiki Healing Society ) and practised and taught his healing method until his death in 1926. 

Reiki is a simple yet effective healing skill that can be used for self-healing or to heal others.

Among his more famous students was Chujiro Hayashi. Although Hayashi later broke ranks and developed his own reiki method, his student Hawayo Takata was the one responsible for bringing and popularising usui reiki to the West, and now it is the Westerners who have revived reiki in Japan! 

Takata learned Reiki from Hayashi in 1936, and in 1937, returned with him to Hawaii, her birthplace, to begin teaching this healing method. She continued doing so for a long time since she was blessed with a long life. She died in 1980, at the age of 80. 

Through her efforts, and that of her students (and their students), reiki is now the most popular healing technique in the world and, I think, in Malaysia too. Many Malaysians are currently learning reiki from the many masters that are teaching it here. There are also teaching masters coming from abroad. 

Over the years, reiki masters have added to or modified the teachings of classical usui reiki. So we now have many variations like karuna reiki, osho neo-reiki, sufi reiki, angelic reiki, etc. 


Reiki is simple 

Reiki is popular since it is so simple to learn and apply. Entry-level reiki (Level 1) can be learnt in one or two days. After Level 1, one is already able to start doing simple healing. There are also no complicated physical exercises to learn, only symbols to remember. 

Most of the people learning reiki here are young to middle-aged adults, mostly women. Many are fascinated at the opportunity of learning a healing art that is so simple to learn and so easy to practise and apply. They can even start healing their friends and relatives soon after learning the basics. And they can learn the higher levels and become reiki healers/practitioners within a relatively short time. 

Reiki is remarkable in that it is a simple yet effective healing skill that can be used for self-healing or to heal others, even by distant-healing. And as you heal others, you always benefit from the healing energy too. 

Just like tai chi and qigong, reiki is more than just a healing art. It has a rich philosophy-based on power, love and light; on peace and wisdom; on beauty and grace; on giving and sharing; on caring and compassion; and on oneness of the divine (or universe) and humanity. 

Thus good reiki practitioners also become better human beings because the reiki philosophy dictates that you can become a good reiki healer only if you have a passion to heal, and compassion for others. 

I have a friend who is a reiki healer and I marvel at her passion, patience, and perseverance. She can even practise healing on pets and, by the accounts so far, has been very effective. She is so caring and empathetic; it is no wonder that the compassionate universal healing energy just flows through her! 


Learning reiki 

Anyone can learn reiki. All you need is an open mind, a good heart and the ability to understand simple theory. 

The basic level (Level 1) usually takes two days to learn (some masters teach it in one day, others in three days). During the class each student is initiated by the teaching master so that he/she can become the channel for the universal ki. After the initiation and a little bit of coaching, the student is ready to practise reiki healing. 

In Level 2, which takes the same duration to learn, more symbols and healing exercises are taught. Distant-healing is introduced, and if the student has been practising the art for some time, the healing energy (usually a feeling of warmth) can be obviously felt by the recipients. 

Level 3A is the master practitioner or reiki healer level whereby the practitioner is now adept and experienced in reiki healing. He/she is competent to treat others and may charge for the healing services. The good reiki healer can choose to make it a fulltime vocation. Duration of training is also the same. 

To teach, the master must undergo Level 3B (master teacher) training and be certified as competent to teach. The training usually lasts two or more days (up to a week). 

There are even higher master levels set by famous masters, for those who wish to acquire the special skills or wisdom that they have gathered. These may include professional, metaphysical and spiritual training. 

Most teaching masters require that the students have sufficient practise and experience before being allowed to take the next level. For example, some teachers require a minimum duration of six month’s practise before the student is deemed ready to proceed. 

Some masters require students to undertake an “apprenticeship” (six months to one year) under their supervision as part of the requirements for the master levels. However, there are no standard rules. The reiki chapter of the Malaysian Society for Complementary Therapies, which is the body that will govern reiki practitioners here, has standardised the training requirements, but these are yet to be enforced. 


Reiki and qigong 

Usui reiki has its roots in qigong (kiko) and the difference is how the qi, or ki, is harnessed, and how it is channelled. Qigong healing is usually more active and intense, but if the healer uses his own qi, then it will be at the expense of his own health. 

It is actually not necessary for the qigong healer to use his own qi, as it is more beneficial to tap on the universal qi, as in reiki healing. 

Reiki healing is more passive (less movements by the healer) and more gentle. The response by patients is also more passive. 

In comparison, patients undergoing qigong treatment usually experience involuntary movements as the qi flows. There are advantages for both methods depending on the problem at hand. 

I encourage the learning of both disciplines. From my experience, doing qigong exercises is excellent for maintaining one’s own health, and combining qigong and reiki facilitates the healing of others, while benefiting from it as well. 

I have been privileged to have learned reiki (usui and karuna) from several masters, and to have observed several others at work. I recommend reiki to everyone. 


  • Dr Amir Farid Isahak is a medical specialist who practises holistic medicine and has been teaching qi gong for more than 10 years. He is the former president of the Guolin Qi Gong Association, Malaysia. You can e-mail him at The views expressed are those of the writer and readers are advised to always consult expert advice before undertaking any changes to their lifestyles. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information. 

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