Kokyu: Although Asai Sensei broke Kihoken down into three parts (issei, nisei and sansei) it is in fact one very long formal exercise, much like Kibaken and several other Asai-ryu kata. Each part covers a return trip from, and back to, the start point on the enbusen. Asai Sensei explained to me that the first ‘return trip’ focuses on lower abdominal breathing; the second, upper abdominal breathing; and the third, alternate lower and upper abdominal breathing. The basis of this breathing is from Mrs. Asai’s qigong.
Relaxation: The relaxation aspect of the kata is to develop natural energy for martial application. This is particularly important for those who wish to incorporate Asai Sensei’s muchiken (whip fist) techniques. I'd like to expand here by saying there are actually two ways to perform Kihoken. Asai Sensei stated “There is an old man’s Kihoken and a young man’s Kihoken. Old men can do all the movements slowly like taikyoku-ken, and young men can utilize speed”.
Kihoken-dachi: The constant vertical squats from heiko dachi into kihoken dachi were considered by Sensei as a 'core basic exercise' for developing the legs specifically for karate. Asai Sensei practiced squatting into kihoken-dachi every day during his morning practice. Application-wise this also includes 'descending and rising linear body power' not unlike the other Asai style kata; for example movements one and two of Junro-shodan.
If interested in developing any of the above three points, Kihoken is a certainly a formal exercise worth practising to enhance your overall skill. It also provides a specific foundation for all of the other Asai-ryuha karate kata and techniques.
© André Bertel, Japan 2008