QI – part 1

Qi – often spelled ”Chi” – is a term used across the full range

of chinese culture including philosophy, medicine, painting,

calligraphy and martial arts. It has a variety of menanings

from the mundane to the esoteric, depending on the context

and the user’s intention.

In a martial arts context Qi can be used in four ways.

First, it can be a kind of life force; second, a kind of biomechanical

efficiency; third, anything about martial arts that the speaker

doesn’t understand or can’t put into more concrete terms;

or four, some combination of the previous three.

Each of these different ways establishes a framweork

within which the martial art is taught.

Qi as ”life force”

Defining Qi as some type of life force has its basis in chinese philosophy,

metaphysics and medicine and it is an ancientand very important

concept in the chinese culture. In english was often defined as ”material force”

or ”a psycho-physiological power associated with blood and breath”,

but perhaps the closest western philosophical concept

would be Bergson’s elan vital – the vital force or impulse of life.

In the classical use of the term, Qi is both a ”thing” (matter)

and energy and it is a continuum, it is always viewed as live and animated.

In traditional chinese medicine, the term defines

a living energy of a certain quality. Patients are diagnosticated

as having strong or weak Qi,  ”firm” or ”wavering”etc.

Traditional chinese medical texts list more than forty major forms of Qi.

Much of the martial arts view of Qi comes from the traditionalmedicine.

In the past it was common for martial artists to have some training

in traditional medicine and the martial arts were explained

using medical concepts in much the same way the modern kinesiology

explains movement in refference to western medical anatomy.

Qi in this framework gives an overall mental image of being a sort

of bioenergy. According to the ”generic” chinese philosophy,

Qi is the moving or animating force of the universe. It is everywhere:

the earth has its qi, the heavens have theirs and the man has his.

For humans, when Qi is present, there is life. When it has been

depleted or unbalanced, there is sickness. And when it has been

completely exhausted, death occurs. In this model, there are natural laws

that govern how human Qi functions.

Western philosophers classify this view of Qi as a type of vitalism.

Vitalism is a doctrine that states that the functions of a living organism

are due to a vital principle distinct from physico-chemical forces.

Another way of defining vitalism is as a doctrine in which the processes

of life are not explicable by the laws of physics and chemistry alone.

 – to be continued –


~ by pinoro on June 1, 2012.

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