What is Chi and how to develope it

Discussion in 'Internal Martial Arts' started by Mr_Grumpy, Aug 8, 2004.

  1. Kinjiro Tsukasa

    Kinjiro Tsukasa I'm hungry; got troll? Supporter

    Can everyone here take a chill pill, and please stop insulting each other? Thank you.
  2. Capt Ann

    Capt Ann Valued Member

    Can I step in here, please? (Preferably without getting hit??)

    Something I've noticed in this thread: Most of the time, the two sides are speaking two different languages. If your goal is (genuinely) to understand what the other side is saying, and to help the other side to understand your points (and not just prove how much you 'know'), then I'd like to suggest that it is very important to state your points in the language the other side is using.

    I *might* be able to help here, since I speak both Geek and Touchy-Feely. :)

    ZB, Gyaku, and MASnob: I've noticed that you repeatedly refer to Chi as an energy, and sometimes as a force. These words (energy, force) have very specific meanings. I know you mentioned that language is inadequate to describe chi or Tao, but an inadequate word will at least give a partial picture of what you're trying to describe. An incorrect word will give a false picture of what you're trying to describe. If you try to use the words 'energy' or 'force' to mean something other than what they already mean, you will be working against yourself.

    As an example, 'energy' in science refers to the ability to do work. In other words, it is part of the definition of the word that, if there is energy, it will do something. If it does something, we should be able to observe, or measure what it does. This is why LBR and PB keep asking, 'What does chi do?' I think it would be very useful to this and other threads for you gentlemen to put together a list of the things you believe chi can 'do'. This will help PB and LBR understand what you are saying, and it can tell them if chi should be important for them to investigate (i.e., if chi development guarantees better muscle strength or faster reflexes, they might be interested, but if chi just makes you feel nice, they probably won't).

    In past discussions on the forum regarding chi, the number one hindrance to any useful discourse has been the lack of agreement on a single definition or description of what chi is or what it does.

    For Gyaku: I've noticed that you refer to science and Chinese philosophy as describing two different paradigms (forgive me for using a grossly overused word :(, I think you refered to it as 'apples and pears' ), and that you can't use scientific reasoning to describe chi, or vice versa. I would have to disagree. If any approach is correct (science, religion, Chinese philosophy, etc.), then it should serve as a model for areas where these disciplines overlap. PB and LBR (and me, for that matter) really like to include the scientific approach, even in understanding martial arts, because of the benefits it provides. In the scientific method, the goal is to build a model that describes reality well enough for you to predict what will happen next, and improve your results. You don't have to know everything exactly (how gravity works, whether space/time is warped or not, or if the universe is expanding or contracting). If I have a scientific model for my martial art that says that 'body mechanics and gross gravitational effects are the dominant factors', then I can use that theory to improve my martial art performance--this theory predicts that I should improve core muscle strength (abs, lower back, hips) for better balance and stability, should twist and use my hips/torso to improve power in my punches, and emphasize speed over muscle mass for kinetic energy delivery. Didn't mean to get boring, but I hope I made my point: a truly scientific theory will allow me to predict how to improve. If increased chi flow is critical to martial arts performance, then you need a theory of what exactly will increase chi flow to specific areas of the body, to improve a specific aspect of MA. This goes back to the original question of "What does chi do?"

    To LBR and PB: Please consider that intuition may be as valid an approach to achieving knowledge of a subject as rational thinking (it's that left-brain/right-brain thing). Both methods provide valuable insight. I think you are correct in using logic and rationality to evaluate the claims of the other side, but please make sure you are not dismissing their claims out-of-hand because they were not arrived at through a rigorous logical process. Also, please don't expect a non-scientific crowd to use rigorous definitions for scientific terms. Give the guys some grace, if they use 'energy' or 'force' incorrectly, but make sure you let them know what it is you heard when they used those terms....then ask for clarification of what they mean. I'd stick to asking what does chi do, as I think that might be the central issue.

    Also, please beware of dismissing the subject out-of-hand because of exposure to a caricature of it. This would be like a kindergartener drawing a stick-figure-and-scribble drawing, and having another lean over and ask, "What's that?" When the first says, "It's a picture of my Mommy,", the other responds, "Boy, she sure is ugly!" Obviously, you can't tell what "Mom" really looks like from a crayon drawing--first, get a real picture before you decide if she's ugly or not. In the same way, it is easy to dismiss any discussion of chi that includes throwing fireballs at people, levitation, telekinesis, and other things that can easily be verified (or not). Please don't assume ZB, et al., have nothing worth saying because some others have thrown up this caricature drawing of 'chi'.

    For PB: I am especially sensitive to the above concern about caricatures because of my religious beliefs. I have seen many (including some of your) posts disparage faith by dismissing a caricature drawing of it, and not the real thing. If my religious beliefs were as you described (using god as a crutch to fill in the blanks for things not otherwise understood, or as a salve for fear), then quite frankly I would reject them, too.

    For All: I *highly* recommend that the chi-believers put together two things: first, a list of those things that you believe chi does, and second, a description you can all more-or-less agree on, as to what chi is. This would be a tremendous benefit to all future discussions. And interestingly, there are already active threads on this forum to discuss both of these topics.

    If anyone's interested in my views on the 'Great Chi Debate', I've written scads of posts elsewhere.

    Thanks for listening

    (Capt Ann runs and ducks for cover)
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2004
  3. Kinjiro Tsukasa

    Kinjiro Tsukasa I'm hungry; got troll? Supporter

    No need to run, Capt Ann, I think you made a good post, here!

    I'd like to make one more comment about religious beliefs. Everyone here is free to believe/not believe as he or she sees fit. To imply, however, that people having a particular form of religious belief are "deluded", or using a "crutch" is quite rude and offensive, in my opinion. No one person here holds a monopoly on what is "real" and "correct". We all have our own beliefs; we don't have to share the beliefs of others, but we have to respect their right to have them.

    And now, back on topic!
  4. Smee

    Smee Evil kung fu genius

    Here is an interesting post that I've copied from another poster on another forum. Hope they don't mind but I thought it was a good post.

    "I think sometimes subjective experience is more relevant than objective evidence. Quantum physics tells us there's no such thing as objective observations anyway, since the instrument of measurement always comes into play. I think we humans have pretty darn good instruments in our senses, and even though seeing is not necessarily believing (esp. if all you do is watch demonstrations), we do have the ability to tell authentic from fake if we take up a practice and experience for ourselves. Of course, we have to choose our criteria for evaluation wisely. Qi cultivation is for health and increased vitality to live our lives. If we have an idle goal of lighting up a newspaper from distance just to impress people and win a million dollars, we'll likely get the wrong answers about qi and about life.

    I believe our experience of qi (or anything for that matter) is somewhat limited by our linguistic upbringing. For example, certain cultures cannot tell the difference among shades of colors and experience them as all the same because they don't have separate words for them. The concept of "qi" came from oriental cultures, and has been roughly translated as "life force" in western literature, but people here in the west do not grow up with this world view, so they end up regarding qi practices like tai chi as mysterious or even mystical, something that requires a leap of faith. On the other hand, for the millions of Chinese practitioners who go to the park every morning for tai chi, the experience of qi is as self-evident as char siu bao." (roast pork)

  5. LilBunnyRabbit

    LilBunnyRabbit Old One

    Just as a favour, please don't try and bring quantum physics into this. It has nothing to do with chi, and the misuse of science is part of what caused this whole thing in the first place.
  6. Smee

    Smee Evil kung fu genius

    BTW - Dr Yang Jwing Ming attempts to give a scientific "Modern Definition of Qi Gong" in his book "The Essence of Shaolin White Crane" on pages 48-61.

    There's too much to type and would not want to paraphrase so you are free to go and search out the book.

  7. Smee

    Smee Evil kung fu genius


    I didn't bring quantum physics into it. It's a copy of someone elses post.

  8. Smee

    Smee Evil kung fu genius

    And - if you read it properly - he wasn't suggesting quantum physics had anything to do with Qi. Don't twist the post to your own agenda.

  9. LilBunnyRabbit

    LilBunnyRabbit Old One

    The edit button allows you to edit previous posts, rather than making multiple short posts.

    And by mentioning quantum physics along with chi, and telling us that it 'teaches us there are no objective measurements' (not exactly true) he's misusing science to try and give his argument validity. If he didn't want to suggest quantum physics had anything to do with chi, then why bring it into the post in the first place?
  10. Smee

    Smee Evil kung fu genius

    no more from me....lil bunny wabbit.
  11. Capt Ann

    Capt Ann Valued Member


    Knock it off. LBR's point is valid: the quickest way to alienate anyone with any scientific background is to misuse science or scientific theory to support a non-scientific proposition. Don't blame LBR for stating this obvious fact.

    As to your post, I think the essence of it is that personal experience can give valid insight and provide useful information, just like science can. I agree with this statement.

    Please exclude the derogatory comments and personal insults.

    -Ann R.
  12. Smee

    Smee Evil kung fu genius

    Excuse me......where exactly did I make any personal insult to LBR?

    I felt she twisted the last post about Quantum Physics. How is that a personal insult?

    However, quote one and I'll freely apologise.

    I actually signed off this thread in my last post because I felt it was becoming about personalities rather than anything else.

    I don't think there is anything to "knock off". As I said, quote me and I'll apologise.

  13. Kinjiro Tsukasa

    Kinjiro Tsukasa I'm hungry; got troll? Supporter

    It's chill-pill time, everybody...

    Capt Ann: PaulS hasn't insulted LBR in this thread (well, OK, he did refer to LBR and Polar Bear as "nasty little mammals" in an earlier post; I assume that was meant as a joke -- should have used a smiley).

    Paul: Please calm down; you'll feel better (by the way, LBR is a guy).
  14. Capt Ann

    Capt Ann Valued Member

    Here, for one.

    As for the QM reference, yes, you just quoted someone else. But the point LBR was making is that the person you quoted did *not* understand QM theory, and their reference to it was incorrect. When people make claims that I *know* are wrong (like no such thing as objective observations), it makes it harder for me to accept claims that I don't know about (chi does/doesn't exist).

    It is a sore spot for many scientific types. I have seen people try to use relativity to justify moral relativism, and QM to support everything from abortion to Zen. Grr!


    PS, please don't give up on posting. I'm hoping we can all make a conscious decision to put past thread transgressions aside, and be willing to assume the best about each others' motives in posting.
  15. Smee

    Smee Evil kung fu genius

    Ok - this is my last post as it will go round in circles for evermore.

    "no more for me" was intended to show that I wasn't going to post any more as it wasn't constructive. Maybe I should have expanded - but how can you say that this is a personal insult? What is personal or derogatory about that statement?

    As I say - no malice intended - but don't flame me unnecessarily.

    And thanks KT, I'm not stressed - just disappointed.

  16. Gyaku

    Gyaku Valued Member

    Capt Ann:

    First of all a well thought out post. I enjoyed reading it.

    Depends on what you mean by paradigns. Do you mean this in a Khunian sense?

    Good point. Although I think this is the problem when you use Newtonian physics to explain Taoist philosophy. Part of the 'apples and pears' problem I suppose.

    However a similar point can be made about the research designs of some posters, rather flawed for exactly the same reason.

    I think several of us have already done that.

    This true for certain strains of science and would be valid from say a realist scientific point of view (Vygosky et al).

    However previous posters were attempting to use positivist experimental science to evaluate the existnce of chi. They were not refering to usefullness/predictive abillity etc. In fact if you have a look at my previous posts you will see that I argue for further study, precisely because certain (predictable) outcomes have been scientifically shown as being beneficial to MA performance. So we agree there!

    I should perhaps reiterate that I don't actually believe or disbelieve in chi. I just don't believe it is possible to prove or disprove the existance of chi from a scientifically valid point of view.

    In fact I would love for anyone out there to reference an independantly verified piece of research that scientifically and validly proves or disproves the existance of chi!

    To sweeten this up, I will give up alcohol for a month if anyone can do it! :)

    Capt Ann, once again, a really good post! You tempted me back.
  17. daftyman

    daftyman A 4oz can of whoop-ass!

    At the same time they could maybe prove the existence of God and the Easter Bunny (not Santa, 'cos he's real!)

    To quote the famous poet Homer:

  18. Capt Ann

    Capt Ann Valued Member

    Hi, Gyaku! Thanks for taking the time to respond, and for your kind words.

    I agree it would be impossible to prove or disprove the existence of chi, but I think we can prove or disprove some of the individual claims regarding chi. For instance, if you told me that chi can be transmitted through the ether by concentrating, and can be used to accelerate or decelerate inanimate moving objects, we could design an experiment, to check out this specific claim. If the results of the experiment were negative, it would NOT disprove the existence of chi, but it would show that this particular claim about chi was incorrect.

    I would think this type of experiment would be very interesting to chi-believers and non-believers alike. To the believers, it could show which specific claims about chi might be false, and thus give them a clearer picture of what ch is (by eliminating the things it is not). It would also give 'food for thought' to the non-believers, if any of the experiments give a positive result, indicating that either chi exists, or there is something else at work, that *could* benefit their MA practice.

    So, again, you can see why I am extremely interested in what different individuals claim chi can do. I have put together a short list of things that I have read people on this forum claim chi can do. Individual MAP members may or may not agree with any/all of them, but as best as I have been able to tell from the posts here, others believe chi can do all the following: (I am re-posting this from an earlier thread, but it seems appropriate to bring it up here--I hope no one minds)

    From reading MAP posts, some people believe chi can:

    1. "Flow" from one part of your body to another in a natural circuit, just like your blood flow, from/to all parts of your body. In theory, if this flow is disrupted, it's like cutting off circulation of blood to a part of your body: part gets stagnant and may get sick or die.

    2. "Root" you to the ground, to enhance the effects of gravity, provide more stability, increase power, and appear to increase your weight so an opponent cannot knock you over as easily.

    3. "Channel" in a controlled fashion from one part of your body to another, so the power and effectiveness of a strike can be increased by incorporating the power/strength/muscles of other parts of your body. Also, you could make the chi move, by power of your will and your ability to control it, into all parts of your body, to improve and maintain your own health.

    4. "Transmit" from a person with positive chi energy to another individual, so that their chi energy is helped or their chi flow is improved or balanced. Reiki practitioners believe chi can do this in a controlled way.

    5. Be "harnessed", so you could use chi energy external to your own body (in the ether/air/ground/universe around you) so that your strikes/blocks/kicks (or even just your own physical/mental health) benefit from this external chi energy.

    6. Be "thrown", as a weapon, at an adversary with or without any physical contact.

    To all chi-believers and/or practitioners of chi-cultivation watching this thread:Your comments, please? I am honestly trying to understand what you do/don't believe about chi, and what it can do. I do not want to put words in someone else's mouth, or create a false view of someone else's belief. How does this list compare to your personal belief in chi? Are there other things you would add to this list, or things you would delete?

    Thanks in advance, and I sincerely hope this thread can maintain this cordial tone.
  19. rosietai

    rosietai New Member

    traditional perspective


    I have read the entire post and come late to the discussion and I come from a different background - I'm not a martial artist - can't fight and I'm not a scientist - in the context of physics or maths.

    On the east vs west debates in science and medecine I would suggest that both are based on observation.

    The chinese for thousands of years observed the effects of their actions and drew conclusions from them. Refinement of those beliefs are reflected in a set of common practices such as qigong and a more holostic approach to life and living.

    Western science is also based on observation - a lot is based on reductionism - isolating components and seeing what they do. Within the western community many scientists view this as unworkable and view that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. And there is the 'other' batch of scientists many in the social fields that believe you can only extract general principles by observing real life - without trying to control the variables.

    Given these two different approaches I am not sure what benefit the thread gains from arguing about the merits of the differing scientific systems.

    My understanding of what differentiates external from internal is that external is biomechanical:- it uses physical mucles and strength to achieve its aims. I assume that this includes advanced observational skills to detect intentional attack - speaking as a non-fighter it seems sensible.

    My only caveat is that physical prowess is also dependent on what the mind believes is possible. Mostly our mind (consciousness) steps in to stop us doing things that we believe are not possible. Runners hit fatigue barriers when in fact their muscles still have all the chemical components that they need -( a recent thought is that interval training allows the mind to form a new set of beliefs about capabilities )

    Internal training would suggest that there is more than just muscles.

    Several people have asked what chi is. Traditionally the chinese characters for qi are made up from the symbols for steam and rice (the growing plant). The story is that when rice is placed is water and is heated - stream is created and qi is word used to describe the energy process involved. It is also said to be the analogy for how chi feels in the body and the story goes that by tracking these feelings in the body the chinese discovered the energy channel (meridians) in the body.

    In modern terms you can use a hand held device to actually pinpoint the energy points on your body. Western doctors use these devices for pain relief - its called electro acupressure.

    And other western devices have identified the location of most of the 600+ know acupressure points.

    The problem for western scientists is that they energy channels do not have a physical presence within the body - they leave no trace - like viens and muscle clumps in dead bodies.!!

    Rather than use the electricity analogy - because you need wires it might help to think about radio - no wires but things still happen.

    More on the measurement front. The heart sends out a strom signal which can be measured up to 2 metres aweay - using the right equipment.

    And lastly the brain - it uses a host of frequencies. Many mooons ago - about 50 years- scientists thought that the brain worked on one frequency at a time in the range al[pha to delta. If you look closely you can see that the frequencies do not look to be in sequence - until you realise that the first instruments could only find the first 2 frequencies. Nowadays we know that the brain uses all the frequencies at the same time - just broadcast more loudly on some!

    And finally we have auras - no I am not getting spooky - you can actually photograph the bioelectrical field that surrouns the body - noticably absent in dead bodies!

    So here we have 3 bio energetic fields that western scientists can now detect and measure - are these what eastern science describes as chi???

    I don't know. What I suggesting is that western science is still making discoveries about the mind and the body (latest discovery neuropeptides in the gut and heart the implication yes you really can think with these organs!) and these discoveries are changing our practices - more doctors are using the holostic method of treating the body rather than the standard allopathic method of just treating the symptom.

    And before we start which is better debate I would suggest that each has its place. Long term pain and fatigue might be better treated as a whole body thing since there are probably lots of different emotional and physical factors contributing to the pain. Instant trauma like car crashes does require instant treatment for the symptoms.

    If you accept that these bio energitic fields exist it raises the potential for humans to influence them for ourselves - this leads on to the potential that if we become expert we can influence the fields of others.

    This is perhaps the fighting application of chi - to anticipate and then to drain or deflect energy long enough to gain advantage.

    Having said that - if this is indeed what chi is usiing it at this skill level would surely acquire much training and practice - perhaps the equivalent of an olympic gold athlete. Who knows?

    So if it exists how do you cultivate it? And the answer to that is qigong exercises - not just the mechanical lift arms, breath in stuff but the intentional direction of internal energy flows.

    Can it be done - who knows. I can sitting still and concentrating improve my circulation making my hands and feet warmer. Does this count - perhaps it is just the first step in a long journey. Perhaps it is a parlour trick - but my husband says that for the first time in 27 years I go to bed with warm feet!

    For western minds it is possible to think of qigong as a visualisation and biofeedback technique for improving health and quality of life.

    Wester cancer doctors now encourage patients to visualise their tumours and see them shrink - for many people it has positive effects.

    As for dancing being qigong - it can be - if you dance with intent and awareness - otherwise it is just exercise.

    As for tai chi - its just exercise - unless you use your mind to channel your energy.

    In traditional qi theory we all have qi whether we acknowledge it or not. You might even experience something tingling hands or feet - whether you believe it or not. But I am not sure you can work with it if you don't believe - your conscious mind is unlikely to put much effort into it.

    And yes it may be the classic chicken and egg.

    Food for thought ?
  20. daftyman

    daftyman A 4oz can of whoop-ass!

    Great post from rosietai.

    I guess the problem is the fact that chi is a spiritual matter, and as such open to a lot of debate from the sublime to the rediculous.

    If I do a round of form where I pay particular awareness to the energy, then there is a real difference in feeling. Even such a simple exercise as breathing imagining the energy entering with the in-breath and settling into the dan tien on the out-breath can give results. But a lot of this does require an amount of faith.

    If you choose not to believe, then you may not feel anything at all. Maybe you will feel the tingling sensations here and there and if you do you may choose to view these sensations as being manifestations of chi.

    If you close the 'door' to the existence of chi, then you could be missing out. I am not saying that you must believe, but instead allow for the possibility of its existence in your heart.

    After all what harm can it do?

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