On Chi- Chi in the Martial Arts

Published by Walker on


When discussing chi in the martial arts training we are no longer referring to the technical, medical usages. Rather, in the martial arts we speak more plainly: breathing is a chi; the energy flowing within the body is a chi; and the life energy is a chi.

Our bodies function at a certain level in daily life. But during martial arts practice the body attains a higher level of functioning. Through inner hearing and inner seeing, being deeply aware of your inner bodily state, you sense your energy (chi). You also become very aware of your Will or Spirit. Eventually you can use your Will to control and move your energy.

During Tai Chi training we begin by listening to the chi flowing with our movements, flowing inside our bodies. Later we are able to use our Will together with our movements to alter the flow of the internal chi. When we are able to direct the movement of the inner chi, imbalanced energy flow can be made to be balanced. It also becomes possible to do physical movements we might have formerly thought impossible. From this perspective the martial arts conception of chi appears simpler than the medical one.

However, in the very refined context of highly developed Tai Chi Chuan practice there is more to the physical aspect of the energy flowing. A deeper subtlety of the chi can be experienced.

You are able to feel the actual process of the refined food essence combining with the inhaled air to form the zong qi, Source Chi; and you can control the spread and movement of this Source Chi. That you can send out your chi within your body the way you want to also means that there is a certain energy which you can send outside yourself. Speaking in what may seem to be a more spiritual or mystical sense, you are able to send the Chi to reach another person even though you are not physically touching him. You can send out the chi to reach another person and merge with him, to control his chi.

The application of this in combat, is that without doing any physical fighting, you may just look at the person and send your chi to him, or you may send your chi to him by making a vocal sound, sending it within your voice. In either case the other person will do what you want because you control his chi.

A different application is sending chi to harmonize or contain the chi of another. This is sometimes done in teaching to help students learn about their own energy. It is also sometimes done when treating an individual who is sick or injured; by sending chi to harmonize or contain that person’s energy flow you can improve his or her health.

Also at this very refined level there is complete improvement in your own physical condition. This is the meaning of the saying, “Changing the tendons and washing the marrow.”

So in a way, chi, energy or function, is one word. Yet there are many different levels of chi, and many ways it moves; in this sense there are many different kinds of chi. Chi also interacts complexly.

In chigung (breath control) training we often say that the chi and the jing cannot be separated. The jing is “refined essence,” basic to all life. Jing is chi on a static physical level, not moving yet; when moving it is the “chi.”

In a certain sense it is difficult to divide jing and chi. Without Jing, refined essence, there is no chi, because you cannot have any function without the jing. It is rather like energy and gas; something very refined (jing) is transformed into energy (chi).

Your shen, Spirit or Will, guides the chi. Thus we can say that jing, chi, and shen all have to be together, that is, in the martial arts practice “the Essence, the energy, and the Spirit” must all work together in harmony.

Seen from this higher level of practice and understanding, chi in the martial arts is subtle, refined and deep. In Tai Chi training you first learn to harmonize yourself inside, next you become able to harmonize with other people, and with outside situations. Finally, there is the highest levels: you are in harmony with the whole universe– you and the universe are one.

Close Reading:

Level 1: Paraphrasing-

State in your own words the meaning of each sentence.

Chi in the martial arts is very simple. Your chi is the power generated by your breathing, your movement inside your body, and by being alive.

When you practice martial arts your body performs at a higher level than it does in your daily life. When you intensely look and listen to what’s going on inside your body, you become aware of your energy (chi) and your intention. With repeated practice over time, you begin to use your heart and soul to move your energy.

When you practice Tai Chi you listen to the rhythm of the chi moving inside as you move outside. With repeated practice you can use your intention and movement to change how your chi moves internally. You change from unequal movement of energy to equal movement of energy. Eventually you are able to begin moving in new ways you could never have imagined. The martial arts point of view of chi is simple compared to the medical point of view.

Yet, in the pure connection of very advanced Tai Chi Chuan practice, there is more than physical energy flowing. Tai Chi becomes a delicious exquisite experience.

You can feel your food as it processes through your body. You clean your food, through the air you inhale, to create Source Chi. You can control how your Source Chi moves and grows. You can control how your Source Chi moves and increases inside and outside of your body. In what may seem woo woo, you can send Chi to another person without physical contact. Your chi merges with the other person’s chi. The merged chi is in your control.

You can look at another person, or make a sounds toward them, to control their chi. You can use your Chi to fight someone without physically contacting them.

You can also use your Chi to connect to another’s chi through understanding. You can send your chi into the another person to control their energy and help them get better.

By practicing Tai Chi, at a subtle level, there is improvement in your physical being. This means you are, “Changing the tendons and washing the marrow.”

Chi (energy or function), is one word with many different intricate levels, movements, and connections. There are many different forms of chi.

By learning to control your breath (chigung) you learn that chi is jing. They are one. You must have Jing (refined essence) to be alive. Chi is jing when you are still, not moving. When you move jing becomes chi. Jing is refined essence that is still. Chi is refined essence that is moving.

Separating jing and chi is like separating energy from gas. There must jing (refined essence) for anything to work. No jing. No chi. This process is similar to how gasoline (jing) is distilled into energy (chi) to run your car. You are the car.

Your shen (Spirit, Will, Heart) directs the chi. Jing, chi, and shen must be one. In martial arts practice, the Essence (Jing), the energy (Chi), and the Spirit (Heart) must connect as one.

Through practice,Tai Chi becomes delicate, delicious and profound. When you practice Tai Chi you first learn to tune into yourself, then into other people, and finally into what’s going on outside of yourself. When you are in tune Tai Chi becomes delicate, delicious and profound.

Level 2: Explicating-

  1. State the main point.
    1. The pure connection of Tai Chi Chuan practice is a delicious, exquisite, experience that has many different intricate levels, movements, and connections.
  2. In other words….
    1. Practice Tai Chi to tune in to what’s is going on inside and outside of yourself.
  3. For example…
    1. When you are able to practice Tai Chi at a higher level of understanding, Tai Chi becomes delicate, delicious and profound.


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