I read this in a blog post today:
“I remember one time when a student was showing a qigong posture she was taught from another teacher and spoke about how qi circulated through it. He adjusted her posture slightly and said “now you have qi circulation”. “
When you read something like this I think it reinforces the incorrect idea that Qi is some type of etheric, mystical energy that rises in our bodies like steam and can be directed by the mind… (in fact, that’s what the article goes on to talk about)
Well, frankly, it isn’t. At least in the context of martial arts, it isn’t. Acupuncturists probably have a different opinion on that, but I’m not talking about acupuncture.
But at the same time, if you know what is meant by “Qi” (through your practical understanding) then that original sentence I quoted above does make sense. Let me explain.
You’ve got to remember that when a Chinese teacher talks about Qi in terms of martial arts, what they are talking about is related to your physical structure. The stuff that makes you up. Skin, bones, tissue, muscles, etc…
If you have “strong Qi” then it means you are physically strong. So, for example, a strong athletic young guy or gal would be described as somebody with “strong chi”. Usually, the posture is good, the eyes bright, the hair shiny, etc… These are all aspects of “strong Qi”.
A weak slumped, tired, or sick-looking person would be described as having “weak Qi”.
So, an old person could have either “strong chi” or “weak chi” depending on how they presented themselves. If you’re bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, you’re doing well. Your Qi is strong.
In Tai Chi your Qi refers to your physical structure in a movement, as well as a special type of conditioning of the body’s structures that takes place through exercises like Standing Post and Silk Reeling. Through these exercises, you can strengthen the felt connection from your fingers to your toes – a kind of all-over body suit. It’s the strengthening of this ‘body suit’ that explains the circus-style feats of strength you see martial arts groups demonstrating. Things like throwing a needle through glass, bending a spear on your neck, being resistant to blades and breaking rocks with your hands.
I would not suggest trying these things at home! Sure, there are often ways to fake feats like the ones above, but there are also ways to do it correctly, utilising the conditioning of the body’s Qi.
Martial arts techniques in Tai Chi require two things – Qi and Jin. Here we’re only talking about Qi. I’ve talked about Jin before.
Qi (Chi) relates to structure. So, if you adopt a Tai Chi posture that’s relaxed, sunk, stable and strong (i.e. your structure is good), then you are “using your Qi well”. And it could be said the “Qi is circulating well”. (Actually, nothing is circulating in the sense of water in a pipe). If your structure is off in some way then it could be said that your “chi is not circulating well”.
So, if we read that quote again, with the new knowledge that it is to do with posture and structure:
“He adjusted her posture slightly and said, “now you have qi circulation”.
Could equally be written:
“He adjusted her posture slightly and said, “now you have better structure”.
So, to me that means, he corrected some defect in her posture (say an overly tense lower back, or tense shoulders, for example), so that her “Qi” started to circulate – i.e. the posture regained its natural strength.
Sorry guys, but none of this has anything to do with steam or heat or a mystical energy in the body. But it’s so easy to assume that this is what is meant when you read quotes like the one above.
Especially once you add to that the fact that people can feel pretty much anything they can imagine.