Qi Explained

wingerjim

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Greeting. Can someone explain what Qi is and how it applies to the martial arts? I have only a vague idea and really do not understand Qi very much. Thank you
 

DanT

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Greeting. Can someone explain what Qi is and how it applies to the martial arts? I have only a vague idea and really do not understand Qi very much. Thank you
I don't believe in chi, given that there's no scientific basis for it and multiple RCT's have provided no rational for belief in such a force. I don't have any reason to believe in chi. I do however meditate, but to calm the mind.
 

Transk53

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I don't believe in chi, given that there's no scientific basis for it and multiple RCT's have provided no rational for belief in such a force. I don't have any reason to believe in chi. I do however meditate, but to calm the mind.

Calm it enough, you may find you're Chi then.
 

DanT

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Calm it enough, you may find you're Chi then.
Thank you master yoda, I will continue to search for this mystical life force, until one day I can chi blast people across the room, and fix injuries just by touch so that way all hospitals close forever. I will become the supreme chi doctor.
 
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Touch Of Death

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Greeting. Can someone explain what Qi is and how it applies to the martial arts? I have only a vague idea and really do not understand Qi very much. Thank you
Chi is your basic fitness. If your chi is high, you can achieve more; if your chi is low, your motivation and ability is lower. It is very close in meaning to our word for Character, when you think of high and low character.
 

Tony Dismukes

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BS explanation: a mysterious force which allows the user to accomplish things not explainable by normal physics. Often linked to outdated ideas about anatomy and physiology from pre-scientific Chinese medicine.

Non-BS explanation: a culturally-embedded term for describing the subjective experience of the physiological effects of certain breathing methods and the physical effects of certain approaches to body mechanics.
 

gpseymour

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Greeting. Can someone explain what Qi is and how it applies to the martial arts? I have only a vague idea and really do not understand Qi very much. Thank you
You will get some differing explanations here. This is my take...

Qi (chi/ki) is a concept, not a thing. It was originally used to explain how things work, and we now know how those things work. It's actually physics, kinesiology, good body mechanics, etc. When I teach, I use "ki" (same as Qi) as a shorthand, a way for the student to get the right image or "feel". When I tell them to "extend your ki", what I'm actually getting them to do is use relaxed tension in one set of muscles and minimal input on the opposing muscles, providing proper tension to the fascia, keeping their weight properly centered, and using gravity to their benefit. It's just much easier to teach them the visualizations of "ki" and use that as an easy way to get to the right mechanics.

The short answer: "ki" is gravity, structure, and proper use of tension and inertia.
 

Transk53

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Thank you master yoda, I will continue to search for this mystical life force, until one day I can chi blast people across the room, and fix injuries just by touch so that way all hospitals close forever. I will become the supreme chi doctor.

Firstly, I am not as short as Yoda, nor do I have green skin. Secondly, light and dark are symbiotic, it is the cycle of life. Thirdly, there are no magical answers. You claim you meditate to calm the mind. Take it from somone who has a messy mind for want of a better term, meditation is useless if one does not want to listen. Meditation is for the people who can truly let go of ****. I am not one of those, nor is any Jedi or Sith!
 

oaktree

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Here lays the difficulty in translating a Chinese word into English, what is taken as a definitive answer in translation gets jumbled up into modern translating.
So taking a word or hanzi such as Qi 气, can have multiple meanings depending on context, words combined. When talking with native speakers about what the word qi 气 means most might say one of the many English definition of it. The best I have ever came up with looking over many different hanzi combined with the word and context and translate to English is energy.
After reading many religious text and Chinese and cultural text and speaking with natives the whole mysterious qi translation is really in the context of religious talking and not say a scientific explanation to put it in other words, saying god is light which is a religious context and then saying light is energy in a scientific context both have the word light but mean two different concepts.

I think the concept if qi has been one of the most problematic words for Americans and especially those in martial arts to grasp as a translated word.
 

Xue Sheng

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Here lays the difficulty in translating a Chinese word into English, what is taken as a definitive answer in translation gets jumbled up into modern translating.
So taking a word or hanzi such as Qi 气, can have multiple meanings depending on context, words combined. When talking with native speakers about what the word qi 气 means most might say one of the many English definition of it. The best I have ever came up with looking over many different hanzi combined with the word and context and translate to English is energy.
After reading many religious text and Chinese and cultural text and speaking with natives the whole mysterious qi translation is really in the context of religious talking and not say a scientific explanation to put it in other words, saying god is light which is a religious context and then saying light is energy in a scientific context both have the word light but mean two different concepts.

I think the concept if qi has been one of the most problematic words for Americans and especially those in martial arts to grasp as a translated word.

Just to clarify for others, not oaktree, he knows

That context refers to: Religion, Medicine, Martial Arts, etc

The Chinese language tends to look at things in categories, example
Cow is Niú
Buffalo is Shuǐniú
Bull is Gōngniú

All are types of cows (Niú) the Chinese. Energy or Qi is also divided into different types of energy and these are just types of Qi found in TCM

  • Yuan Qi (Original Qi, Ancestral Qi)
  • Gu Qi (Food or Nourishment Qi)
  • Zong Qi (Gathering Qi, Qi of the Chest)
  • Zhen Qi (True Qi)
  • Zhong Qi (Central Qi)
  • Zheng Qi (Upright Qi)
And there are still types of qi for religion and Martial Arts
 
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gpseymour

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Here lays the difficulty in translating a Chinese word into English, what is taken as a definitive answer in translation gets jumbled up into modern translating.
So taking a word or hanzi such as Qi 气, can have multiple meanings depending on context, words combined. When talking with native speakers about what the word qi 气 means most might say one of the many English definition of it. The best I have ever came up with looking over many different hanzi combined with the word and context and translate to English is energy.
After reading many religious text and Chinese and cultural text and speaking with natives the whole mysterious qi translation is really in the context of religious talking and not say a scientific explanation to put it in other words, saying god is light which is a religious context and then saying light is energy in a scientific context both have the word light but mean two different concepts.

I think the concept if qi has been one of the most problematic words for Americans and especially those in martial arts to grasp as a translated word.
This is in line with what I've learned (a little) about the Japanese kanji for "ki". The definitions/usages seem to be similar (as you'd expect), as are the problems with translation.
 

Kung Fu Wang

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I don't believe in chi, ...
Not everybody can feel Qi. Not everybody can see ghost.

One of my Taiji students when she practices Taiji, her soul can separate away from her body, float on top of her physical body, and look down on herself. I can't do that.

Another student of mine had only learned the first 8 moves of the Taiji forms. Today he is a famous Qi master and charges money for sending Qi into people's body. One day he touched my hand and told me that I had strong Qi. But I still feel nothing.

So what can I say?
 
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wingerjim

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Thank you all for your insight and explanation. When I read these it began to make more sense to me, so thank each and every one of you.
 

marques

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Qi is energy...... that is all
Strong Qi you're healthy
Weak Qi you're sick
No Qi you're dead
That's it, if we want to keep it simple. Qi = Energy.

But since everything is energy (Einstein said this, if you want a scientist) everything is Qi and things get more complicated. We still do not agree on a definition of energy either (We use one that is useful, as models...). Qi, a name/concept coming from a different culture with a very different language, only can get harder to understand for westerns. :)

Qi as energy (in its different forms) is a good approach. "Air Qi, "Food Qi"...
 

marques

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The ancient character Qi 气 includes sort of a start representing a rice grain, the solid energy (mass). The simplified character omits that and part of the meaning... Anyway, even Chinese people don't agree on a definition of Qi. So, don't bother too much about the details. :D
(And do not deny because of ignorance either... Eventually, things will make sense.)
 

marques

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Applied to Martial Arts... Where there is tension, Qi doesn't flow. Unbalance, stagnation of Qi. No power.
Again, seems not very logic, since most of us need tension at least at the moment of the impact to deliver power...
Different biomechanics? Different language?
 

mograph

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In my opinion:

A lot of people, mostly westerners, have misinterpreted the concept of qi.
It is a construct, a model, used when describing the functioning of living things. After observing living things, a number of cultures came up with a word to describe their functioning, and the Chinese came up with the word "Qi."

(Though this is a deeper topic, when translating, we need to be aware of the different way English and Chinese speakers might see the notion of identity ("this is that") and causality ("this describes that" is not the same as "this causes that").

As Xue Sheng noted, if you are alive, you described as having qi. If you are dead, you have none.
If you are sick, your systems or organs are described as having too much yang qi or too much yin qi relative to normal functioning. Your systems or organs are functioning more, or less, intensely than you should be in order to maintain balance.

Yin or yang qi refers to the tendency towards stronger or weaker functioning. Too much of one or the other relative to normal functioning is unhealthy. Being stressed-out or feverish is described as an example of too much yang qi, It's the same when you eat too much spicy food: we need to dial it down. The opposite is when your body (or an organ) is under-functioning: the situation is described as having too much yin qi, so we need to ramp it up. The functions of the sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous system could be described as increasing yang or yin qi within a certain context, but the concept of qi is a broader descriptor. Each organ functions well within a certain range, and yang qi and yin qi are just words used to describe when that organ is functioning outside that range.

They're just different words for something we already know and observe.

Qi is not like blood, fascia, or organs. It's not a thing we can point to, measure, see, dissect or put into a vial.
It is a model, a concept, a construct. Those who use the word properly know this to be so.
It is a mistake to:
  • believe it is a real, tangible thing
  • think that the Chinese believe it to be a real, tangible thing
"Energy of living things" is the best translation to my mind, though context is important.
If we say, "well, qi is nothing like energy! Energy is real!" We might want to ask if energy can be measured. Well, it can't. It's calculated. Only its physical manifestations can be measured: heat, light, mass, sound, pressure, height, that sort of thing. For example, a BTU is calculated from mass and temperature.
Qi is the same: only its physical manifestations can be measured or sensed: heat, tingling, and so on. When we are "sensing qi," strictly speaking, we are sensing circulation, heat, or bioelectricity.

Just as energy is a construct meant to account for changes in those measured characteristics, so is qi meant to account for changes in measured (or observed) characteristics in living beings.

As for martial arts, the practicality of the construct of qi is, well, not so much.
Aside from qi as an observation/explanation for one's health, it's meant to be used in contrast to the use of li, or muscular strength, another construct. Simply put, it is said that we use li when we use a specific muscle to perform an action. Lifting with a bicep would be using li. However, it is said that we are using qi when we use breath, coordinated muscles, tendons, bones, physics, gravity, and so on to achieve a martial end. It's sort of like saying that you're using all the tools available, and they are all animated by whatever keeps your body (as a whole) going.

In other words, since we can't pin down the cause of the effort/action to one or a few muscles, we might as well say that the driving force of a unified martial action is the driving force of the whole body: qi. However, I wouldn't do that, because I think that saying that a person is acting in a physically unified manner is better and less likely to conjure up images of lightning bolts.

It is said that the yi leads the qi leads the li.
Intention
leads the overall body energy which leads the muscles to perform the action. And I'm fine with that interpretation.

In my opinion.
 

KabutoKouji

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Whether it is just blood flow being held back then rushing in or Qi itself doesn't matter to me, when I do 6 minutes of 'Embrace Moon To Chest' I certainly feel very alive and feel a warmth in my hands that I never feel any other way. Also the 'Coiling Set' and movements such as the 'Bear Swimming' one bring this. If I do embryonic breathing when doing the first parts of the Yang Long Form, especially Pong/Lu/Ji/An, I am also starting to feel something 'more' than I normally get from patterns I have practiced in my life.
 

Nobody Important

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I don't believe in chi
Look at it this way. You run off an electric current, that current is not harvested from an external source, it is within you. It is what makes your heart beat, organs work, etc. Can it be amplified, used to heal or project into others? I don't really know, the current isn't very strong, but it is real. What uses, outside of keeping you operational, does it have? Again I don't know and scientific proof is conjecture at best. What has been scientifically proven, is that you do run on electricity, to what other uses, outside bodily function, it may have, have not been scientifically proven.

And just an FYI, anyone claiming Qi is proper use of structure, posture, muscle etc. Is incorrect, that terms are Li & Jin, and anything involving concentration, thought or the mind is Yi. Qi simply means energy.
 
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