The Power of Chi, the movie, and a response

A new YouTube video landed a day or so ago that has caused something of a sensation. It’s a trailer for a movie called The Power of Chi and has some well known UFC fighters and professional athletes in it, all experiencing the power of a Tai Chi master’s “chi”. And there’s a voice over by Morgan Freeman. I kid you not! Yes, the Morgan Freeman!

From the trailer, this mysterious chi is presented as a force that can be produced by the master and defies all explanation. To be honest, this tai chi master has been producing very similar YouTube videos for years now, but he’s usually demonstrating on no-name seminar attendees, this time however it’s a big budget production with well known fighters like Fabricio Werdum and Lyoto Machida being demonstrated on.

You can see the trailer here:

Now I haven’t seen the full film, and frankly, I’m not going to pay to download it, but colour me unimpressed with that. It all seems a bit silly to me.

Friend of the Notebook, Rob Poyton (who I recorded a podcast with recently) has produced his own video response to the trailer and I think it’s hard to argue with his conclusions, but feel free to make your own mind up:

I like Rob’s point at the end, that if you’re going to demonstrate things like this, then what are the functional uses of it? That’s what you should be demonstrating.

8 thoughts on “The Power of Chi, the movie, and a response

  1. People who do not understand how the chi is acquired will always remain skeptical about it. People who have acquired it tend to make things too secretive so that others who “do not understand” are shown all the “moves” but are not explained the process, reason, the “how it is achieved” and finally the true goal and purpose of it. That’s the mentally of the world we live in unfortunately and so my question what is the point of having it?

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  2. Some interesting and predictable comments. I had some similar on my YT channel, though 95% of responses were positive. I’m not sure the other 5% even really watched my clip.

    “You’ve never met any of the top taiji practitioners” But I have met them
    ” and refuse to meet them before publishing negative theories about the limits of the art”
    I don’t refuse to meet anyone.
    ” Kind of strange to have such strong opinions on something you have no experience in….”
    I have plenty of experience in it, and so does Graham. Try again

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  3. Why do you have a website about Taiji (that’s the correct pinyin spelling btw) when you’ve never met any of the top taiji practitioners – and refuse to meet them before publishing negative theories about the limits of the art? So the best explanation to you is that the top practitioners in the world who have trained thousands of students are merely liars with fake reviews from professional athletes and professional teachers?
    I’m starting to think Taiji is just so hard that it insults the character of people who have no ability to overcome their own shortcomings in the art – so they claim everyone who has accomplished the basics of the art (where you haven’t) is just lying about how far the art can be taken.

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  4. So you did not see the move, or met anyone in the movie to experience this skill/ attribute first hand. Kind of strange to have such strong opinions on something you have no experience in….

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  5. An interesting find. I have not seen the film, Power of Chi, and I am neither endorsing it nor criticizing it or the featured teacher. This is a general response to the topic and controversy.

    I have commented on qi in past Tai Chi Notebook posts. From my perspective, “what we have here is a failure to communicate.” Of course, Westerners who misunderstood the name of Chinese martial art was kungfu, led also to images of qi balls shooting out their hands, and force fields, and laser beams, and so on. Others thought qi was just life force or breath.

    When a Chinese traditional teacher answered, How is this done? with the answer, “qi.” He was essentially saying biomechanics, or physics, or motor control, or sports psychology, or some other subject he couldn’t fully explain. Or more specifically, by qi, he was saying, “I can’t explain the details of why, but it falls in the category of qi.”

    Most people who dismiss these techniques by saying, “It’s just biomechanics,” if pressed for the exact biomechanical or anatomical mechanism, would not know. They are essentially doing the same thing as the traditional teacher answering qi. It just sounds science-y, which is an explanation modern people accept. The fact is, many have yet to be fully explained by biomechanics or anatomy. We intuit there’s probably a good biomechanical explanation, but the academic field has little interest in pursuing such a topic.

    Further, when a modern teacher “structure tests” a student’s posture, and identifies, “That’s strong structure,” he or she is doing the exact same thing as a traditional teacher who “structure tests” a student’s posture and identifies, “That’s strong qi.” Both are affirming that this is the anatomical alignment the student needs to perform this movement, and this is what it feels like.

    I typically do not use the concept of qi when teaching. I think it is confusing to students without a background in Chinese culture. But, there are teachers who do, some well intentioned and some charlatans.

    The question I asked myself was, should I dismiss these techniques as “tricks,” or can I capitalize on them to apply them to push hands, sport fighting, or self-defense? For example, what good would being able to easily knock someone off-balance who has tensed his muscles, powered up, and engaged his structure? When might that happen? The answer for those not familiar with fighting is virtually every attack an opponent makes is made this way. And, once off-balance, one could counterattack relentlessly, never giving him another opening, until the opponent was subdued.

    I have taught a number of these “tricks”, appropriate to their sport to athletes of various contact sports, football (American), rugby, wrestling, MMA, basketball, soccer (football), and a few others, as an empirical proving ground. My observations is they do not take the place of good basics; they can only enhance them and open new possibilities to give the athletes an edge. But, like magic tricks, one can learn the secret to the trick in a minute, but mastering the trick takes many hours, sometimes years, of practice.

    This experience also brought home the idea that we don’t necessarily have to throw an opponent 20 feet across the room, although that can happen, we just need to delay him a few milliseconds, or disrupt her balance or structure a little to nullify an attack or defense. There is a lot to be learned if we do not miss the mark.

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  6. You obviously didn’t saw the movie but you’re talking, and blablabla … What’s the point here, maybe your ego is shocked because you passed your life unable to develop any skill. Lol

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