Traditional and Non-Traditional Reiki – Compare and Contrast

by Anne Reith, Ph.D.
Reiki Practitioner's hands held a few inches above eyes of reclining woman in Traditional Reiki session
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Reiki Practitioner's hands held a few inches above eyes of reclining woman in Traditional Reiki session

What is meant by the terms traditional and non-traditional forms of Reiki?

The terms traditional and non-traditional Reiki are used to describe 2 different but related “branches,” “strands,” or “sides” of Reiki. Traditional Reiki is sometimes referred to as Eastern or Japanese Reiki, while non-traditional Reiki is sometimes called Western Reiki.

How did traditional and non-traditional forms of Reiki come about?

This article is not meant to provided a history of Reiki. However, in order to explain the differences between traditional and non-traditional Reiki, some historical information will need to be provided in this section.

Usui Reiki is believed to have originated in Japan with Dr. Mikao Usui.  Before he transitioned, he passed on his knowledge to Dr. Churjiro Hayashi, who then attuned Mrs. Hawayo Takata. Mrs. Takata is the person credited with bringing Reiki out of Japan and into the Western world (via Hawaii). 

Mrs. Takata was trained traditionally by Dr. Hayashi. Over the course of her lifetime, she attuned 22 Reiki Masters using traditional methods.

A few of Mrs. Takata’s Reiki Masters broke away from her and developed the branch of Reiki that is now referred to as non-traditional Reiki. They took this action because they felt that the traditional approach to teaching Reiki was not amenable to those in the Western world. They were concerned that traditional training requirements would limit the number of people who would be interested in being attuned to the Reiki energy (e.g., financial costs, time required). 

What is taught today in the Western world is almost exclusively non-traditional Reiki. It is how I teach Reik through IMPART.

Those of us who choose to teach non-traditional Reiki classes do so because we believe that Reiki should be an ever-evolving treatment modality that changes as the needs of society evolved. We also feel that (a) society needs as many Reiki Practitioners as possible in order to help heal the Earth and its inhabitants and (b) we need skilled and dedicated Reiki Masters who are willing to attune those Reiki Practitioners.

The remaining sections of this article are provided in order for the reader to gain a clearer understanding about the similarities and differences between traditional and non-traditional Reiki. They include descriptions of the following:

  • Traditional Reiki training
  • Traditional Reiki healing sessions
  • Non-traditional Reiki training
  • Non-traditional Reiki healing sessions

RELATED ARTICLE: Reiki Lineage – Is This Still Important or Relevant?

Traditional Reiki training

Traditional Reiki classes are primarily found in Japan and the Far East. However, a smaller number of traditional classes are offered in countries throughout the world, including the Unites States.

The teaching methods within traditional Reiki are largely kept secret. However, over the years, I’ve been blessed to have several students complete my non-traditional Reiki Master class who had previously become Reiki Masters in Japan. Based on their reports regarding their traditional classes, they each confirmed that the following information is a fairly accurate description:

  • Tuition: The cost of traditional Reiki Master training can vary but tends to be much higher than non-traditional Reiki Master classes. For example, some traditional Reiki Master classes in the United States charge as much as $10,000 to $20,000. The tuition for lower level classes (e.g., Reiki I, Reiki II) are also higher than typical non-traditional Reiki classes.  The high price tag is meant to represent the student’s level of dedication and commitment to Reiki. 
  • Levels of Reiki: The completion of training at each level requires that the student take a series of classes.  Only when the Reiki Master believes that the student is ready will an attunement be given. 
  • Manuals: Because all training is to be kept secret, all learning is done orally and no written material is given to the students (e.g., manuals, pictures of symbols).
  • Information Shared with Students: Although traditionally-trained Reiki Masters acknowledge this to be true, Reiki students are not told any of the following:
    • Experiencing cleansing symptoms is normal after an attunement.
    • They will receive a Reiki guide(s).
    • Psychic or mediumship abilities may begin to manifest or expand.   
  • Reiki Master Classes:
    • A Reiki student is not allowed to ask to become a Reiki Master.  The Reiki Master will only offer this level of training if the Master believes that the student is ready to receive it. 
    • Only those agreeing to teach are allowed to take Reiki Master classes. It is believed that only those who will be teaching should be shown the sacred “attunement” process.
    • Reiki Master classes are only offered to those who are willing and able to dedicate their lives to Reiki.  For example, (a) training as a Reiki Master can take several years with students being carefully monitored, supervised, and observed by the Reiki Master before being allowed to work independently and (b) any fees that are collected by the Reiki Practitioner for healings performed are given to the Reiki Master as additional compensation for the training received.

Traditional Reiki healing sessions

Traditional Reiki healing sessions with clients typically include the following:

  • Lighting: The room is to be dim.
  • Hand Placements: A limited number of hand positions are used by the Practitioners (i.e., typically 4 locations spread out over the body).
  • Practitioner’s Hands: When conducting healing sessions, Practitioners are required to hold their hands in a very exact position (i.e., a slightly cupped hand that is inside an imaginary mitten with no thumb). 
  • Client’s Eyes: Clients are told to close their eyes and keep them closed throughout the session.
  • Client’s Body Position: Clients are told to not cross their arms or legs during the session.
  • Speaking During or After Sessions: The Practitioner is not to speak during the healing session. Conversation after the healing is to be very limited (e.g., no feedback is provided to the client).

Non-traditional Reiki training

After reading the description provided above of traditional Reiki training, you probably can see why a group of Mrs. Takata’s students broke away from traditional Reiki and created non-traditional training approaches. Very few people in Western society would be willing to pay such high tuition rates and/or to commit the time needed for traditional training.

I personally believe that the traditional system should be honored. Out of respect, I have done as much research as possible about traditional training methods. Based on this, I have made changes in order to integrate some traditional approaches into my classes, whenever possible (e.g., adjustments to the attunement process compared to how I was trained). 

Even with these additions/adjustments, I do not claim to teach traditional Reiki. I definitely am committed to making Reiki as accessible as possible to anyone who is interested. Therefore, I only offer non-traditional Reiki classes.

However, because there is no agency or organization that oversees how non-traditional Reiki classes are taught, there is a great deal of diversity in non-traditional Reiki classes. Because of this, there are differences in how healings are conducted, how the Reiki symbols are drawn, what steps are included during a Reiki attunement, and much more.

Because there are so many different non-traditional Reiki approaches, all I can do is provide a description of some of the ways in which my non-traditional Reiki classes differ from traditional Reiki classes:

  • Tuition: Tuition is consistent with other non-traditional Reiki classes in my geographic area, with the amounts being much lower than traditional Reiki classes.
  • Levels of Reiki: Each level of Reiki is taught in one single class that meets for several hours. Attunements are provided in each class, and a Certificate of completion is provided.
  • Manuals: All students are given an extensive manual at each level of Reiki. This includes detailed information, written directions, and pictures of all Reiki symbols taught at that level.
  • Information Shared with Students: The following topics are explained before the student receives the Reiki attunement:
    • While the attunement is being performed, it’s very common to experience physical sensations, emotional releases, and even psychic experiences (e.g., seeing colors, hearing sounds, sensing the presence of guides or deceased loved ones).
    • Before, during, or after the attunement process, cleansing symptoms are possible (e.g., feeling achy, rashes, fatigue, digestive issues).
    • They will be receiving a Reiki guide or guides.
    • It is possible that their psychic or mediumship skills will begin or be enhanced.
  • Gatekeeper: I do not serve as a “gatekeeper” at each level of training. I believe it is up to the student to determine if they are ready to advance to the next training level. I may advise a student one way or another, but they do not need my permission to advance.
  • Class Content: I include training in a variety of non-traditional techniques that can be used (a) during healings (e.g., raking the aura, balancing chakras) or (b) outside of healing sessions (e.g., using Reiki to empower or bless objects).
  • Reiki Master Classes: I believe there are many valid reasons for someone to want to take Reiki Master level training, even if they are not planning to teach Reiki.

NOTE: Non-traditional training is typically not recognized by those who have been traditionally-trained.  If you plan to work professionally at a business that specializes in offering clients traditional Usui Reiki, then you should pursue traditional Usui Reiki classes.

Non-traditional Reiki healing sessions

As mentioned above, non-traditional Reiki approaches to training is extremely diverse. Because of this, non-traditional Reiki healing session can also vary greatly.

Therefore, all I can do is use myself as an example. Here are some of the things I have found to be effective when performing non-traditional Reiki sessions:

  • Lighting: I believe that any lighting is fine as long as it makes the client comfortable. Sometimes it’s not possible to darken a room (e.g., treatment provided in ICU/hospital settings), and occasionally a client prefers to have the room fully illuminated (e.g., often due to trauma history or severe anxiety).
  • Hand Placements: I use more than the traditional 4 hand placements over the body. These include hand positions over the arms and legs, which are not included in traditional Reiki treatments.
  • Practitioner’s Hands: I believe that the life force energy will flow more powerfully if the Practitioner’s hands are held in whatever position is comfortable and natural for them.
  • Client’s Eyes: I believe that God/Source/Spirit will make sure that the energy is available to the client regardless of whether their eyes are open or closed during a session.
  • Client’s Body Position: I believe that God/Source/Spirit will make sure that the energy goes where it is needed regardless of the client’s body position (e.g., arms or legs crossed).
  • Speaking During or After Sessions: Although I train my students that being quiet is fine, I often do speak during healing sessions. However, I always talk to my clients before the session to make sure that this is acceptable to them. I also strongly believe that it’s important to provide feedback to clients after sessions. My goal is to empower my clients to take control of their own healing journey.
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