Chi and the Martial Arts
by Rich Robson
Almost everybody has heard that martial arts practice is good for improving one's health. Indeed, in most ads promoting a martial arts studio, health is given as the reason right after self-defense for studying the martial arts. Most of us believe this claim without thought. All that fast moving gives the martial artist an excellent aerobic workout, the stretching makes the practitioner flexible, and the various muscle-building exercises promotes lean, healthy body tissue.
While all of that is true, there is an area of health benefits, more powerful than those mentioned above, that is virtually unknown by the non-martial artist and, unfortunately, too often little understood by martial art instructors themselves! The most beneficial health gains offered from the martial arts, when practiced correctly, come in the form of chi development.
While the study of chi has been part of Oriental culture for thousands of years, it was unknown in the West until only a few years ago when Nixon opened the doors to China in the 1970s. The word chi is a generic term used by the Orientals for energy or anything that has the ability to demonstrate power. Electricity is a type of chi. Magnetism is another type of energy that the Orientals would classify as chi. A chemical reaction produced in a chemical test tube would be a type of chi. Still another form of chi would be heat. The list could go on.
It is axiomatic that the human body requires energy, or chi, to run efficiently. It is this type of chi to which the Oriental culture has devoted most of its study. They have found that chi development in the body is a highly effective way to improve health and to cure a wide array of illness. More importantly, they found that it could help achieve and maintain a high level of mental calmness or peace. Since its introduction to the West, it has been shown scientifically that chi development can cure a wide range of diseases that are difficult to treat with Western methods.
When it comes to human chi, there are two basic types of chi: pre-birth chi and post-birth chi. The post-birth chi comes from the food we eat and the air we breathe. The digestive, respiratory, and circulatory system all function to carry these chemical substances to every cell in the body. When a cell receives these substances, it can produce chemical reactions that result in a release of energy. Chemical reactions, known as metabolism, are but one of the many forms of energy or chi.
However, the chi produced by the metabolic process is not that which actually makes a person "alive." If all the chemical reactions produced by cellular metabolism were duplicated in a test tube, it would not produce a live human. Also, the chemical reactions occurring in a body do not cease the minute a person becomes "dead," and yet the person is no longer "alive." Therefore, to be "alive" must mean more than having an array of chemical reactions manifesting in the bodies.
The chi that actually makes a person "alive" is called pre-birth chi. It is far more powerful than any chemical reaction, including the reactions used to produce nuclear bombs! We receive an ample supply, more than enough for one lifetime, of this pre-birth chi from our parents. Specifically, the pre-birth chi comes from the parent's own pre-birth chi and is implanted in the embryo at the time of conception. It becomes manifested or active with the child's first breath and remains active until that person's final breath.
Pre-birth chi is responsible for turning our thoughts and intentions into action. It is the bridge between our mind and our physical bodies. When our mind decides to move a finger, then pre-birth chi is sent to that finger where it causes post-birth chi to produce the necessary chemical reactions involved in firing the proper muscles used to actually move the finger. Thus, these two types of chi work in close conjunction with each other. For the body to function at peak efficiency, it is necessary to promote post-birth chi by eating a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. However, that alone is not enough. It also is necessary to promote pre-birth chi by keeping the mind calm and centered as well as developing proper breathing patterns.
From the above discussion, you can see that thoughts and breath are the two key elements with which pre-birth chi is concerned. It is for this reason that chi development is practiced through meditation and breathing techniques. Any true martial art system will include training in such practices. When martial artists are versed in meditation and breathing, practitioners can continue to improve their fighting ability well into their 70s and beyond. The same could not be said for the vast majority of martial artists who neglect chi development as part of their training.
The true health benefit from the martial arts comes as a result of chi development specifically pre-birth chi development. Not only will the physical body be honed, but the mind and spirit will be developed to such an extent that, by the mere act of thinking, the person will be able to perform seemingly impossible exploits including healing themselves from injury or sickness. True health comes as a result of a harmonious union of mind and body.
Rich Robson is a second degree black belt and owner/chief instructor at the Kung Fu San Soo Club, 3388 30th Street, San Diego, CA 92104. For more information on Kung Fu San Soo, call Master Rich Robson at (619) 297-0424.
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