By examining the history of various peoples around the world, we often stumble upon the concept of energy which resides in the body and is explained in a similar way and is called by similar names. Examples include the breath of life, vital or life energy or, oftentimes, inner energy. According to numerous legends and writings, the idea refers to a specific energy which is stored inside us, as well as in other living creatures, i.e. animals and plants, and is considered to be of vital importance. This is the reason why it is often called vital or life energy (bioenergy, bios = life + energy).
That vital, i.e. life energy is considered to be such for more than 5000 years. In many countries, people have examined and explained its significance for the human body and so it had its powerful implication of various philosophical, religious, astrological, medical, cultural, scientific and other areas of human learning and study. From the very beginnings of the emergence of martial arts, such life energy, which is stored in the human body, has been mentioned and, hence, we have called it inner energy.
The knowledge about inner energy is known to be cultivated in the Eastern martial arts from China, Korea, Japan, Mongolia and India exclusively, and there are popular names by which life energy is recognized, such as C’hi, Ki, Prana and sometimes the Greek term Pneuma. This knowledge about inner energy is often incomplete and does not correspond to its actual state.
In order to find out more about the interpretation of life energy, we need to return to ancient history.
Ancient Egyptians were aware of the phenomenon of certain energy in the human body and they considered it to be a gift from god and called it KA. Statues of that deity held its arms towards the Sun because of the belief that that very human energy was delivered by the Sun. Various ancient peoples called that same life energy SEKHEM. The ancient Greek used the popular term PNEUMA (breath or spirit). The Jews use the term RUAH (breath of life). In northern parts of Africa different shamans called that energy NUM. In Polynesia and on Hawaii the name MANA is used. Old Germans and Celts called that energy DO according to their god Donar (Thor). In Gallia, Druids used the term TARAN according to one of their gods. The Native Americans had several names for it – MANITU, ORENDA, WAKAN TANKA. In Australia, the ancient Aborigines also knew about this phenomenon as well as many other peoples.
In order to denote it, martial arts usually use the following terms: Chinese C’HI (QI), Japanese KI, Korean GI, Vietnamese KHI, in Tibet LUNG (Budism), in India PRANA (Sanskrit, Hinduism, pra + ana = before + breath), as well as the Greek word PNEUMA.
In traditional Chinese culture, QI or CHI is considered to be the basis of life. Also, in Japanese culture, the KI signifies the term for vital (life) energy or breath (the breath of life or spiritual energy) that flows through the body and the environment and is a part of everything that exists.
The term CHI has been mentioned in Chinese philosophy and astrology since its earliest days. The ideogram for CHI was made by combining the symbol for steam (气) which rises over rice (米) that is being cooked. That Chinese ideogram (symbol), as well as its very name, was differently interpreted by various philosophers, astrologists, monks, doctors and martial arts masters.
The basic question about which various Chinese philosophers (and not just them) have pondered about is whether CHI exists independently from matter, i.e. whether CHI (life energy) exists thanks to matter or if matter exists thanks to life energy. One group of philosophers believed in matter, however, others thought that all matter was an illusion. According to some Confucius’s philosophical theories, most recent Chinese philosophers think that life energy, i.e. CHI is an extension of matter.
Even the ideogram for CHI is questionable for many and, so, it is interpreted in different ways. Among other things, a connection with other well- known learnings in the Chinese culture (e.g. Feng Shui) and its understanding of basic life elements (a term for different energetic transformations vital for creating life) is established. These are the five elements which are crucial for creating life- wood, fire, metal, water and soil. However, these elements are a connection to certain seasons of the year, as well as to a famous philosophical thesis – the principal of duality – yin and yang (male – female, light – dark, hot – cold etc.).
It is interesting that even in ancient Greece philosophers thought that the five elements were necessary to create life. However, the difference was that they included ether (air) instead of wood, and wind instead of metal. There is a possibility that both cultures were wrong. It is clear that the ideogram CHI shows how you must have wood in order to make fire, you must put a pot (metal) on that fire and there must be water inside the pot. The water will also contain rice (as a product of the soil) and above it, as a result of heat, i.e. cooking the rice, emits steam (ether). When all of this adds up, a simple answer to the number of basic life elements is revealed- there are six.
The knowledge about CHI – life energy has been used in Chinese traditional medicine since its very beginnings, and it is believed that this knowledge is connected to certain learnings from the Indian culture and medicine. According to them, ancient Chinese doctors believed that life energy, i.e. CHI moves through the human body by passing twelve basic channels – meridians. This is how, with the help of Indian medicine ajurveda and Tibetan medicine, one of the main medical methods of Chinese medicine was created – acupuncture (lat. Acus – needle, pungere – sting, poke). It is a therapeutic technique which uses a needle to poke into specific points on the patient’s skin in order to establish a balance of vital (life) energy CHI which flows through the organism.
The term CHI (QI, KI, KHI) is closely connected to martial arts and is considered to be one of the main learnings needed to practice various styles of Eastern martial arts. In all Eastern martial arts, the existence of life (vital) energy CHI is not put into question. The knowledge and the usage of CHI life energy in practicing certain martial arts has one of the most important roles, especially in those martial arts that have a so – called “inner” system of fighting (nei chia), for example, Tai chi chuan, QI gong or in Japan KI – aikido.
The very term of CHI (QI, KI, KHI) energy which is used in martial arts is often presented in the wrong way and often mystified and connected with something unnatural or, better to say, supernatural. Many books or articles often assign the CHI energy adjectives such as secret, mysterious, unexplored, unexplained, super powerful or even deadly energy.
A logical question arrises. Can we really call something mysterious, unexplored, unexplained or secret in the 21st century? Nowadays, we can say that we know a lot about CHI energy, although not everything.
In order to understand this energy, we first need to have some basic knowledge about energy in general. One learning teaches us how one form of energy can turn into another form and so chemical, electrical, heat, mechanic, radiation and nuclear energy exist.
It is certain that men drain an amount of energy from the Sun, as well as from the environment that they are surrounded by. However, only a billionth of the energy emitted from the Sun reaches the Earth. Solar energy is emitted to the Earth in a form of electromagnetic waves or radiation which includes forms of ultraviolet, infrared, X – ray, gamma and radio waves. Heat radiation is an electromagnetic radiation of the body which exists on a temperature below absolute zero. Such as all matter, the human body radiates electromagnetic radiation, but mainly in the area of infrared radiation. So, if we observe the human body with infrared devices, they need to be sensitive in the area of 7000 to 14000 nm. The total energy by which a man radiates in a day is around 9 mj or around 2000 kcal.
In order to function, a person needs to compensate this lost energy with food. Food is a source of energy which is needed for the human organism – for the muscles to work, the glands to excrete, the nerve and muscle fibers to maintain membrane potential, the cells to build substances and the digestion to absorb food. The basic source of energy in the body is ATP (Adenosine triphosphate). Chemically speaking, it is a molecule made up of adenine, ribose and three phosphatic residues. When the ATP molecule falls apart, one of the phosphatic radicals separates, which is how energy is made. This energy is used by our muscles.
In order to understand CHI (QI, KI, KHI), i.e. life energy better, we need to know the following:
“All chemical processes in the body, up to the DNA level, are led by energy, i.e. electromagnetic fields which result from the flow of charged ions.“ ~ British biophysicist – P.E. Rapp, 1979
“Every cell in our body emits electromagnetic radiation. Those radiations are of different frequencies and they mutually communicate by enabling normal functions of the body. Illness occurs when something weakens and distorts that radiation. If we want to cure the illness, the radiation needs to be returned into its normal state.“ ~ Russian scientist and engineer – G. Lakhovsky, 1930
In 1939, a Russian couple S.D. Kirlian and V. Kirlian accidentally discovered how to photograph an energetic field which can be seen as a reflection around the body. It is still not entirely known whether those photos show bio plasma (energetic body) or a corona, i.e. the reflection of the electric field on the edges of the body, a combination of the two or something else. Kirlian’s photograph shows a life energy, i.e. the creature’s CHI (QI, KI, KHI) or the energetic matrix of a body.
In 1990, Dr Kilner photographed a human energetic field and called it “Aura“. Dr Reich called that human energetic field “Orgon“. Dr De La War and Dr Drown invented an instrument by which one can detect energetic radiation of living tissue.
Discoveries of ancient philosophers, doctors and even martial arts masters are equal to the conclusions of today’s scientists and doctors – in order to cure a disease we need to balance the energetic life power, i.e. the CHI. Well – known cures and methods that work in attaining such goals are: homeopathy, acupuncture, shiatsu massage, bioenergy, reiki, color and sound therapy, feng shui, certain branches of psychology and even spiritual practice – prayer, meditation etc.
In order to understand the CHI life energy better, we need to know some discoveries in the area of quantum physics. Ancient philosophers desired to know some of the information and insights that we have today.
If we take a look at the body with an electronic microscope, we will see that it is comprised of cells. Cells are further divided into molecules, molecules into atoms, atoms into protones, neutrons and electrons and they are comprised of so – called particles – quarks which are built – up of threads of vibrating energy, i.e. waves. In other words, everything that exists is composed of energetic waves. Their movement and vibration causes things to be seen as solid.
Although, some problems were explained with this discovery, there are still a lot of uncertainties thanks to which the CHI life energy is hard to explain and define completely. For example, the average human brain weighs around 1.4 kilograms, has 100 billion neurons and produces 10 to 23 W of energy which is enough to turn on a light bulb. Also, it is explored by more than 2 million scientists around the world and it’s still one of the biggest mysteries of all time.
The knowledge of controlling bodily life energy still represents a great mystery to the world, and it is so even in the world of martial arts. Although we know which are the so – called soft, i.e. internal martial arts styles today, the sole practicing is not entirely explained.
What we know for certain is the fact that, if taught correctly, those styles seek great calm and patience from the athlete. If we want to overcome the mastery of the skill in certain styles such as Nei chi (internal system of fighting), Nei gong (inner energy), Noi cun or Noi chung (patience in practice – iron shirt), Dim mak (iron fist), Nei kung or Noi kung (inner strength), Qigong or Chi kung (inner energy practice), An C’hi (hidden weapon), Iron palm skill or Bak siu lum (iron strength skill – iron palm or iron shirt) long – lasting patience is needed. People of a weaker will, impatient and those who want to succeed without working or practicing hard will not master those styles. It is a bit easier to overcome styles such as T’ hai Chi chu’ an, Bagua quan, Pa qua,Yi guan and Hsing I.
The greatest level of mastering the skill of inner energy can be found in very rare examples of masters who overcame the iron palm, iron shirt or Noi cun skills and techniques. Noi cun is a skill of accumulating CHI energy (inner energy) in such an amount that the opponent can be knocked down without really touching him. As much as it sounds unbelievable, many older masters claim that such a skill exists. This skill is practiced among an extremely small number of people (masters) because many cannot master it even if they have been practicing it their whole lives.
Certain knowledge about life energy were used by many other peoples from which some can be mentioned: Native Americans used to attack their enemies early in the morning between 3 and 6 o’clock because they knew about the information that said our life energy CHI is at its lowest degree right at that time. Later in history, that information was proved by scientific data. Also, in some parts of the world such as Hawaii, the basis to lead wars was the desire to conquer a part of the land which was, according to them, better for life, i.e. an area of land that had more positive energy. Today we know for certain that some areas of the Earth emit negative and other emit positive radiation and, hence, have a better effect on plants, animals and people.
It is less known that in some parts of the world the term of life energy is connected to a frightening phenomenon – cannibalism. In some countries and on some continents such as Brasil, Africa and on some islands of Polynesia, there was a custom that the winner in a war should eat some part of an organ (heart, brain, liver) of his enemy. The idea was that, by doing so, he would take over his life energy, i.e. his strength, courage, some knowledge or skills.
In order to understand CHI (QI, KI, KHI) life energy better, we need to know the following.
The human body emits an certain amount of light – a visible light in extremely small quantities. It is at its weakest emission around 10 a.m. and its most powerful emission around 4 p.m. which can today be recorded in various ways.
A Russian scientist Konstantin Korotkov recorded a body of an athlete before and during deep meditation. When looking at the tape, it is clearly visible that a significant increase of the energetic field happened while the man was in the process of deep meditation.
That notion goes in favour to a large number of various martial arts masters who have claimed for some while that the CHI life energy can be improved, i.e. increased by a specific way of practicing.
Although various instruments for measuring human warmth, light, energetic field etc. exist today, and it is, in theory, possible to measure the amount of CHI energy of every individual human body, it is almost impossible to do so in practice. One of the reasons is that scientists need to use a very precise and sensitive instrument which is very expensive and seeks a special kind of knowledge and training in its handling.
Also, the reason is the fact that even 70% of non – fat mass of the human body comes down to water. This is exactly why the human body is a good conductor of any kind of energy. So it is difficult (almost impossible) to precisely calculate the amount of energy which the environment in which a body is placed has, the amount of energy that the body receives and conducts from that environment and the very amount of CHI energy of each individual body.
Various bioenergetics as well as some martial arts masters emit the CHI energy from their body to another body through certain electromagnetic waves and radiations.
In order to succeed in that notion, some of the conditions need to be met. For example, they need to have peace for total concentration; if they are outside, it shouldn’t be windy or too cold etc.
Because of that, it is extremely difficult to perform the Noi cun skill of accumulating CHI energy (inner energy) in such an amount that would knock down the opponent without actually touching him. However, it is not impossible.
This is how we are able to understand the CHI (QI,KI,KHI) internal human energy better and use it in martial arts practice.