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Why do so many martial artists with various backgrounds and careers practice Chi Kung?

Chi Kung and the underlying theories and origins of belief is a controversial topic among martial artists. In my experience many martial artists from varying backgrounds in education and careers in technical and academic fields study and practice Chi Kung. Examples from my own kung fu school and community are; a dentist, a Phd. Professor at the University, an IT Technician, a mechanical engineer, and of course the traditional chinese medicine practioners. I practice Chi Kung for the supplementary training benefits and don’t care about or concern myself with the energy work theories because I was told by my sifu to do the workout and the benefits will manifest naturally whether I try to understand them or not.
Within this category alone there are TC’s that practice Chi Kung (or related other cultural equivalent) who are skeptics and don’t buy into things that don’t work, who experiment and require results to pursue training, and are generally well educated and experienced individuals.
Why, in spite of the controversy regarding empirical evidence regarding “Chi” do so many people practice Chi Kung? And why do those who disregard Chi not consider all the relevant evidence of respected martial artists who do practice it?
Just some questions to consider.
@J – When you note my use of “empirical” and wonder where my personal belief lies you’re just noticing my intentionally ambivalent statements to avoid overtly biasing my rhetoric. I don’t often take strong positions of personal belief in public forums. I do on some things, on others that are essentially unsupportable by argument I feel it’s pointless to take a public stand regarding those issues. I’m a big fan of the socratic method (elenchus).
By the way, I believe Socrates practiced standing meditation. I’ve read several texts in which his contemporaries have been quoted as saying Socrates often stood motionless under a tree for long periods of time contemplating some thing or another.
Also, Socrates was described as a pretty formidable soldier in the Athenian army, very handy with a spear in battle and a veteran of several combat arenas.
@ Kajukat – See, I think if senior Kajukenbo people are studying internal martial arts and Chi Kung then people should pay attention. That group of MA’s are not known for playing around with stuff that doesn’t work in a fight.


  1. All styles of Kung Fu has its own Chi Kung whether its Hard Chi Kung or Soft Chi Kung. Most External styles teach it in their higher levels. Internal Styles teach Chi Kung early on in the training.
    Most people are hipocrits or are just ignorant. Its like how people use electricity without thinking about how its generated or how it gets to their houes.

  2. teacher say…student do. i’ve seen no evidence from anyone to make me think its real. if there are benefits to chi kung, they’re physical most likely.
    according to Yang Jwing Ming…chi is simply “any kind of energy that produces force” even the weather and steam are referred to as chi.

  3. I tend to think of this way. Regardless of whether or not Qi exists or Qi gong works the way the Chinese say it does, it’s a type of meditation. Meditation is medically documented to be good for health; both mental and physical.
    It’s also worth remembering that mind controls the body. If you meditate, you may be able to convince yourself that you can do things that you may otherwise believe you cannot. For example, brick breaking, throwing nails through panes of glass, spear in the throat (all of which I’ve seen demonstrated). They’re demonstrations, but it shows what the human body is really capable of if we convince the mind that it is.
    There are western, common sense explanations for why Qi Gong makes sense without requiring a supernatural belief in life force.

  4. I’m sorry, I don’t know anything about Chi Kung. But I know something of Chi, and I don’t subscribe to its explanations. The concept to me seems like a neat wrapping for a complex subject that does, in fact, exist. I prefer the more scientific explanations of what others refer to as “chi” or any of its forms.
    And just because educated folks practice it does not mean they’re mistaken, or that they’re wasting their time. I just think it’s more like acupressure and acupuncture, which have been around for thousands of years. I think the explanations are way off, but the effects are undeniable.
    Perhaps that is why the educated, who like me, don’t subscribe to the “chi” theory, but do subscribe to the “chi” effects.

  5. Ki exists in some state or form to everyone, even to skeptics who claim it doesn’t exist. This is how that works: Ki is seen as a microcosmic force/supernatural energy, referring to the breath and the blood, or just as a phrase to imply the will of movement. In this manner Ki does exist to some extend to everybody. Just not every one takes it as far as others.
    By exercising what you believe to be ki is still beneficial. The body can be made healthy with movement and physical driven will (that’s long way to “exercise”), oxygen brings in alkalized air thus ridding the body of acidic toxins, and meditation can help with reflection in ones own religious/spiritual decisions in life.
    The concept of qigong isn’t a martial one. It was figured out based on health principles and that of Ayurvedic medicine from India, then moved into Taoist medicine which adapted itself into traditional Chinese medicine. It wasn’t until at the Shaolin temple did the concentration of the breath and focus of will ever make it’s way into martial arts.
    From a martial arts stand point, regardless of how you view it, qigong is the general focus of the will. No matter where you take it, that’s what it is. But it was and always will be, first and foremost, as a health principle. Martial arts should always be applied into ones own philosophy of life (i.e. religion or spirituality) in order to better yourself as a person.
    I think everyone actually realizes just how important the ideology of Qi is. Perhaps no one want to admit it, but I think everyone deep down knows there’s more than just this physical outer crust that we see on a daily basis.
    I’m curious as to what you means as “empirical evidence”. I can’t tell if you’re implying that Qi (as it stands in the traditional Chinese meaning and term) doesn’t exist (in any of the examples I mentioned above). If anyone believes the concept of Yin and Yang, that is: two equal opposites that constructs our very universe, then it’s needless to say that there’s both a physical world and a spiritual world. Like the two sides of a coin. Night/Day, Female/Male, Down/Up, Right/Left, Dead/Living, Asleep/Awake, Pepper/Salt, Sour/Bland, etc., etc….
    Science is the study of the natural world. In other words, everything physical. Qi, as it stands in both traditional and contemporary meaning, is spiritual. Science can never prove the existence of Qi because it’s not physical.
    Remember in Science class, that very first lesson you got as a kid? What was the first thing you were ever taught: “Science is an enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the natural world.” The word ‘natural’ means physical.
    I think to most people the concept of Ki is a very scary thought and one they don’t wish to be real. This is a physical world we live in. The thought of something meta-physical disturbing/altering the physical coarse of reality is something that first: they can’t comprehend, and second: are afraid of.
    Those of use who embrace another reality in life can easily work it in favor of us whether it be health or martial arts, which goes hand in hand with each other. Anyone who takes the times and opens themselves up to never go back because they discover it’s truth. It’s universal. Ki exists. And those who take the time to find out for themselves realize just how valuable a study it really is.
    I see what you’re saying. I actually mis wrote that line. I meant as though (in asking) you believe any one of the examples I mentioned. I wont change it since I’m writing a correction here.
    I think you should write what you believe. It may be pointless, but it can look like your avoiding the subject. It looks stranger when it’s your own subject. Know what I mean? Besides, it’s not actually arguing. Anyone who tries to argue has long since lost the point. Open debate and opinion is good. Everyone already has their side so it doesn’t hurt anything and can only stand to gain. Only poeple with weak constitutions and biased beliefs that they can’t back up with genuine knowledge are the only ones who should avoid things like this. And it goes to show them how important it is to know what you believe to back it up. Less bark more bite.

  6. In my opinion, those who practice the chi kung of their respected martial art, without any firm belief; do so, with an unknown level of doubt, and possibly a desire for it to actually be real. I also believe that people who voice their disbelief the most, could be doing so out of fear (of the unknown), or just plain ignorance (both stupidity, and lack of knowledge definitions, and not always in the same sentence). (Chi kung is not the only place in which people behave this way…)
    (NOTE: The majority of people who lay claim to the improbable superhuman feats are generally frauds, or have not properly practiced chi kung. Those that practice chi kung properly, and as they should do not bring themselves into the limelight. They are not after fame and fortune, but are after a better quality life. I will also add that certain practices, in chi kung, martial arts, and religious orders, not always connected, will take one down a very solitary path. It’s a tough life for any social human being; and why so few ever make it to some extraordinary place.)
    I also think that it could be that those who practice without any firm belief in chi, do so giving the benefit of the doubt. Why set ones self against possibilities? Things which we know to be true are occasionally disproved as fact. (IE: Einstein’s declaration of the universe and it’s rate of expansion… proved wrong two years ago.)
    Me, I practice it, because I believe in it. I’ve experienced its benefits, and some of the capabilities of chi kung, and nei kung. I don’t spout off about it because I don’t feel the desire or need, to argue, or try and waste my time convincing people who will not listen to another point of view or personal experience without being absolute in a predetermined thought. I’ve done too much of that already in life. I am also a person who enjoys science, and history; was a mechanical engineer, was an industrial hygienist, was in the military, and an investigator. I have a practical mindset, but I am also open to possibilities, new experiences, and ideas.

    It’s funny what you mentioned of your Sifu; about you not needing to worry about the theories, etc. This is also something that I express. There are a lot of times with practicing martial arts and any kung where the mind gets in the way. Being overly academic no longer helps in these cases, but instead becomes the barrier one must overcome. What’s that saying?… “Don’t think. Feel.”

  7. Being trained in some Asian healing modalities, I do believe that Chi exists, even though I cannot prove it. Having met with Kajukenbo people who are crossed trained in Internal Gung Fu, I felt the difference between the strikes of those who are trained in Internal Arts and those who are not trained in Internal Arts. Those trained in Internal Arts can hit a lot harder with minimal effort. The effects of being hit are not the same, there is a difference between a strong person hitting you and person sending their energy into you. It feels a lot more disturbing.
    I have previously experimented with Chi Gung on my own with questionable results. This summer, I asked one of the Assistant Instructors ( 5th Degree Black Belt ) who is crossed trained in Internal Arts to teach me Chi Gung before class. I am rigorously following his training regiment on my own at home. I have noticed a big difference in my ability to absorb hits. The other students tell me I am a lot stronger. I am a small guy. I need all the help that I can get. Yes, some of the teachings are a bit esoterical. But, they are working so far.
    Chi Gung is difficult to explain. I am even going to try to explain it. I know that I noticed a difference. I encourage the beginners to ask the Assistant Instructor to show them the Chi Gung. But again, it sounds so unbelievable. I am far from being a Chi Gung expert, but I am faithfully doing the exercises, looking forward to getting to the next level of development.

  8. I almost missed this one…
    Some people just don’t like to admit they believe even when they try to convince themselves they don’t or don’t want to. Others are just ignorant.
    The Master I studied Yi Chuan under send me flying through the air slamming onto his sofa – I trained privately in his home. My feet did not touch the floor and the time from when I was standing in front of him to me landing sitting on the sofa was very fast. Next thing I knew I was sitting.
    If you want to know what the after affects were an hour after when I was sitting at home waiting for my supper, tune in to Fat Cobra’s latest Question.
    That was Master Dong Yuan Pei.


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