The history of Reiki begins with its founder, Dr. Mikao Usui, born in 1865. Dr. Usui loved learning. He studied in a Buddhist monastery as a child. There, he learned martial arts, swordplay and Kiko (a Japanese form of Chi Kung). Over the years, he studied medicine, psychology, divination and theology. As an adult, he held many professions: reporter, secretary, missionary, guard, etc. Later he lived in a Buddhist monastery and became a monk spending many days meditating.
The inscription on his memorial says that on Mount Kurama, during meditation, he received the knowledge of the Reiki symbols and their use. With prior knowledge of Chinese Medicine, Kiko (the Japanese equivalent of Chi Gong), acupuncture and others, Mikao Usui was able to develop Reiki as a beautiful system of healing using subtle energies.
In the 1920s he opened his first healing school in Tokyo and wrote a small manual "The Original Reiki Manual of Dr. Mikao Usui". Word spread throughout Japan of Mikao Usui's success in healing a variety of ailments through Reiki. He became especially popular among the elderly who valued his efforts to bring back ancient forms of healing. With a large poor population in Japan, Reiki students often learned Reiki for free or at minimal cost and then provided it to the poor for free or almost no cost as a fair exchange of energy and effort.
In just a few years, the demand for Reiki became so popular that Mikao Usui had to open a new, larger school and began traveling to introduce Reiki to other parts of the world. His original teachings of self-healing and charity continue in the Mikao Usui Reiki teaching lineage. Since its origins, several new schools of Reiki have developed over the years.