Reiki is a mind-body healing method developed by Mikao Usui sensei in the 1920s in Japan.
In spite of various historical events and obstacles, the traditional Japanese way of Reiki practice and teaching has been preserved in Japan in the Yamaguchi family, through the Hayashi-sensei lineage (Mikao Usui -> Chujiro Hayashi -> Chiyoko Yamaguchi -> Tadao Yamaguchi). Reiki in this lineage has been directly passed on from teacher to student, and it is known as Jikiden Reiki (“directly taught”), with the Jikiden Reiki Institute in Kyoto, Japan, carefully maintaining the tradition.
The origins of the other Reiki styles also stem from the Hayashi-sensei lineage, which was brought to Hawaii (Mikao Usui -> Chujiro Hayashi -> Hawayo Takata -> her students), eventually giving rise to various ‘westernized’ styles of Reiki.
If you are interested in learning Reiki, I would highly recommend going to the source and learning Reiki the way it was originally practiced. The only place that exists in the world today that teaches Reiki in its traditional form, is the Jikiden Reiki Institute in Kyoto, Japan. I would highly recommend learning directly from Tadao Yamaguchi sensei, the president of the Institute. Tadao sensei not only teaches Reiki in Kyoto, but he also travels around the world, sharing his unique knowledge of Reiki in its original form. If you are not able to join Tadao sensei's Reiki seminar, consider taking a class from a Jikiden Reiki Certified Teacher.
There are numerous Reiki styles that exist today, and of course, you can learn any style of Reiki from any teacher, but please keep in mind, that all of the Reiki styles (other than Jikiden Reiki) have been passed on outside Japan, changing overtime, with new forms created through various modifications, by adding concepts from other healing modalities, and by simply being invented by different Reiki practitioners.
In part, this has happened simply because a lot has been literally lost in translation, as Reiki was first popularized in the United States, from where it eventually spread to the world. Overtime, more and more bits and pieces of this traditional Japanese healing art have become naturally ‘watered down’ to adjust to the western mindset, making it perhaps more comprehensible to westerners, but unfortunately less authentic.
A good example of that is the different levels of training that exist in various Reiki styles. In most westernized Reiki forms, you will see the levels of training numbered (such as Level 1, Level 2, etc.). This is not the Japanese way. Traditionally, each of the levels of Reiki training had a name with a specific meaning, not just a basic number. This is just an example, but there many other parts of the actual Reiki training that have also been simplified and adjusted, pushing many Reiki styles further and further away from the traditional healing art created by Mikao Usui sensei.
Some Reiki teachers even offer online Reiki courses. You can certainly learn history of Reiki and certain Reiki concepts online, but there is absolutely no way to learn Reiki without being a part of a class.
Regardless of which Reiki style you choose, Reiki is Reiki. You will be able to know that it is something very special as soon as you start applying what you’ve learned.
Jikiden Reiki happens to be the purest, most traditional form that you can find, since it was literally preserved unmodified in Japan, without any external influences, and without any concepts being lost or dropped because of the language barrier. Other styles of Reiki that haven’t ventured too far from the original, may also be great to learn.
If you are curious about the differences between Jikiden Reiki vs. Western Reiki, consider reading “Reiki and Japan”, a great book by Masaki Nishina, who is both a Western and a Jikiden Reiki Master. (The book may make more sense after you learn Reiki, since there are some references that may not be clear to a non-practitioner.)
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Dr. Maria Danilychev, MD is a hospice doctor, clinical research physician, and a Jikiden Reiki Shihan (master/teacher).