A Simple Guide In Plain English
- Chi (qi) is an ancient Chinese term, which can be translated as energy. Like energy, the word chi is used in both abstract and concrete terms, and applied to both general concepts and specific phenomena. In other words, chi is ambiguous. (People who use the term often have a specific meaning in mind.)
- In the broadest sense of the word, chi is generally understood to be pervasive, present in everyone and everything, but it is not uniformly distributed.
- Chi moves freely around the universe, assuming various forms along the way. Disciplines such as Chi Kung (Qigong) and Feng Shui purport to observe and manipulate chi, for the specific benefit of human life.
- According to this model, chi is present in the air. Therefore, it is sometimes understood to be synonymous with air. Chi circulates around the body, as do oxygen and blood; some people therefore assert that chi is breath or blood. Within the realm of martial arts, physical postures are known to affect circulation, and subsequently chi has been equated to good posture itself. All these conceptions must be seen as incomplete, if not plain wrong.
- By definition, chi is not a specific form of matter (e.g. element or molecule), nor is it a specific expression of energy (e.g. kinetic or thermal). On the contrary, these are all specific expressions of chi.
- This definition would seem to imply that matter and energy are somehow equivalent. While such a statement may offend the “common sense” of the average person, actual scientists have accepted its truth for a century. (Einstein famously expressed it as E = MC2.)
- If chi does not take one specific form, is it therefore a non-falsifiable and unscientific theory? Not exactly. As in the case of dark matter, we can look for indirect evidence of its existence. Regardless, chi-based models are useful where they provide explanations for past observations, and correct predictions for future events, e.g. medical diagnosis and treatment.
- What then is chi kung? Simply put, it is a set of exercises with reproducible results, which are most easily understood within a chi-based model, and more difficult (or sometimes impossible) to explain with other models. Chi kung is a practice, not a theory or a belief. Chi kung is not occult magic, and it is not a religion or cult affiliation.
- When performed properly, many chi kung exercises can improve the practitioner’s health. Some have no such effect, and others can result in injury. Here are instructions for a very simple and safe introductory exercise.
- Relax your body and mind. If this is your first time performing this exercise, find (or create) a distraction-free environment.
- Stand in a martial arts horse stance. Any stance will do. Remain in the stance for one minute or longer; doing so may enhance your results in the next steps. If you are extremely weak, then you may skip this step.
- Exit the horse stance, and stand up straight. Again, relax your body and mind. Physical, intellectual or emotional tension will degrade your sensitivity and impair your results in the next step. Rub your hands together for a few seconds. Close your eyes.
- Move your palms toward and away from each other, as if gently squeezing a small beach ball. Visualize the chi gathering between your hands. Move at a speed of 1-3 squeezes per second, within a distance of 6 to 24 inches. Continue this kneading for 2-4 minutes, or longer as necessary, until you notice an unexpected sensation in your hands. You may feel heat, tingling, vibrating, or strong magnetic repulsion. Many people will experience these feelings on their first attempt; others will need to repeat the exercise daily until a result is obtained.
Wong Kiew Kit
demonstrates a horse stance
- These sensations constitute the observation of a “chi-effect”, and not necessarily a direct experience of chi itself. Other exercises will produce different sensations and effects, in different parts of the body, or outside it.
- The exercise outlined above is a trivial chi kung practice; do not mistake it for anything more. Chi kung is an extremely broad and deep subject, and the ability to feel sensations via the steps above does not demonstrate mastery, or even basic competence. These results are only a hint at what can be accomplished with time, discipline and good instruction.
- Do not assume that Chinese chi, Japanese ki, Greek pneuma and Indian prana are all the same thing.
- Contrary to popular belief, martial artists are not the best source of information on chi, or chi kung, and their unsubstantiated opinions should not be taken too seriously.
Chi kung (qi gong) books and DVDs
Renli’s Chi FAQ
What Every Martial Artist Should Know About Chi and TCM