A Conversation for Tai Chi Chuan
Skylion, Muse of Hockey and Comic Books and Keeper of the Corner of the Laughing Dog. Started conversation Sep 27, 2001
"Chi"1 is understood in the West to be the vital energy deep within us all, and that it can be developed and manipulated. The author does not believe this. "Chi" is a Chinese term, and loses much of its impact when removed from proper context. Many manifestations of "Chi" can be explained using quite normal vocabulary. Throughout this text, the use of the word "Chi" will be avoided.
I have made it a hobby to study Chinese culture. Thru this hobby, I have generated a pretty decent base knowledge of things. That knowlwdge is neither all encompasing, nor is it founded completely in the intellectual. About 20% comes from "pop" culture, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, etc. But in the interest of knowing more about them, I looked beyond the veil and plunged into more acedemic viewpoints. This means I have read many Tao de Jing translations, looked into several viewpoints of Feng Shui, and studied Tai Chi. Not to terrible academic by asian standards I am sure, but enough to get by and know my place.
So I have to ask. What impact does the word Chi lose when taken out of its proper context? What set of parameters are you using for the context? I have always understood chi as the breathe of life. The moving manifestation of the many 1,000 things. The steam rising of the bowl of cooked rice. Do I have proper context? That statement was not meant to be sarcastic in tone.
Understand, I am very curious about all of this. My training in Tai Chi was interrupted, and I only got about 5 movements into the form. I still look for the time and energy to make the commitment to the art, but it is far off.
Any reply would be welcome from you. Thank You.
Geoff Taylor - Life's Liver Posted Oct 3, 2001
Sorry for not replying sooner. This article is a duplicate of the one I wrote. The Editors created the duplicate so they can muck about with it prior to inclusion in the Edited Guide. As a duplicate, it's not on my home page and I wasn't aware of its existance until today.
To answer your question about Chi, and its context. My experience with the Chinese is limited to staying with Chinese martial arts teachers. Their usage of the word "chi" could mean any number of things. "Chi Training" was stamina training. "Killer Chi" was a bad attitude. Chi often meant "intent".
To me, one of the most important aspects of the context is the fact that China only recognised western medicine comparatively recently. Therefore, where we would naturally talk of posture and body alignment, it is an alien vocabulary to many Chinese. Instead they talk of chi flow.
Another "manifestation" of chi can be seen in the heightened tactile awareness that skilled Tai Chi exponents have. At my best (ie not now),I could feel exactly where unnecessary tension was in a person's body by a light contact on their upper arm. (Such tension can be addressed by a therapist or exploited by an opponent. Just depends)
This tactile sensitivity, or Awareness,is an acquired physical skill, and there is nothing mystical or supranormal about it. In fact, I could teach an average person to improve their current level of skill in about ten minutes.
When you rule out the effects of body mechanics, the benefits of postive intent and the skill of Awareness, there's not an awful lot left in "chi". I utterly dismiss the notion of "Empty Force", where someone can use their chi to move objects without touching. I have met a few people who claimed to have this skill. None would demonstrate on anyone but an acolyte.
I hope that all this helps in some way, and is of interest.
Your comment was very appreciated and very interesting. TCM and western medicine seem to be moving to opposing side across the Pacific. Thou I think that we here in the states have a whole lot more to gain with TCM. It has help out greatly in diet and stress reduction. I understand the aspect of tactile awareness on a surface level. Sounds fascintating.
Empty force and it's resultant sound like the realm of folklore. Often tales spread of martial arts practitioners performing such feats. It makes for great entertainment. And really, I believe for that it is possible, but it would most likely follow a regimine of training almost unheard of and thus, unattainable to the average student.
But the site of Jet Li jumping, light as a feather, across the heads of a gathered mob, and delivering a kick to an opponent that sends them 50 feet is cool. Just that. Cool. But thought Mr. Li has loads of martial arts talent. It's all done with wires. Smoke, mirrors, and a powerful computer program, all help us tell the old stories.
Good Chi? Yeah. Imagination that fills us with wonder is good chi.
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