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Martial Arts Chi

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One of the most unique and fascinating aspects of oriental martial arts such as kung fu is the use of a mysterious 'internal' energy called chi, or qi. Amazing claims are made by practitioners of these martial arts about what can be accomplished using chi energy. Examples of what can be done using martial arts chi include: more powerful strikes, the ability to fight for extended periods of time without fatigue, the ability to withstand attacks, even from blunt weapons like bats / sticks without injury, and many more things as well. And it is, at least in part, the mystique of 'chi' energy that drives the popularity of kung fu in movies and popular culture. But despite the mass appeal of chi very few people have any real idea about what is it or how it can be cultivated and used, which is why I decided to write this article and try to help shed some light on the subject.

Chi itself is the vital life force which we all posses. It flows through and around the body along pathways which are known as meridians. According to traditional Chinese medicine blockages in these channels which impede the flow of chi are the cause of many illnesses. Treatments such as acupuncture, herbal remedies and massage are used to free these blockages and reinstate the normal flow of chi around the body, thus healing the illness. The exact nature of this energy flow is not known for certain in terms of modern science, but many practitioners believe it to be electromagnetic.
using a combination of gentle physical stretching and exercise, special breath control techniques, and the meditative control of the mind. Increasing levels of chi will improve your health and vitality, slow the aging process, and give you a feeling of joy and optimism. This abundant chi is also used in some higher mystical meditative practices, and chi can be drawn from this storage reservoir for specific purposes, as is the case in martial arts.

The classic exercise for martial arts chi is called 'One Finger Shooting Zen' (see supporting links). This exercise teaches you to draw chi from the dan tien and channel it through the arms and to the hands for use in strikes. It is an exercise that originally comes from the Shaolin temple teaching syllabus.

Beyond this the various types of martial arts chi kung can be classified using two main divisions containing two categories each, with one category corresponding to yin, and the other corresponding to yang. The first division is between moving and still chi kung. The one finger shooting zen exercise is an example of moving chi kung, which is considered to be yang. Still martial arts chi kung usually involves holding a kung fu stance whilst performing the abdominal breathing technique and entering a still, meditative state of mind. The most widely practiced martial arts application of this is 'rooting', which teaches practitioners how to establish a very stable stance so that they cannot be moved even by ten people pushing against them.

The other main division is between hard and soft chi kung. Hard chi kung often combines breathing techniques with tense body movements. It can be used to strengthen the muscles, tendons and sinews, and increase the density and strength of the bones. It is also used in techniques such as 'iron palm', or 'iron short', where chi is lead to the outside to the body to form a hard barrier. This kind of chi is called guardian chi. If you are interested in learning some hard chi kung practices then please take a look at the supporting links where you will find some useful videos and articles.

Soft chi kung usually uses very relaxed and expansive movements, which look very soft and gentle but actually contain a great deal of power which can, in some techniques, be expressed suddenly in an explosive burst. The ability to sense the flow of energy (either chi or subtly movements) in your opponent and use this to control them and redirect the force of any attack they make also comes into the category. tai chi is almost entirely based on this soft kind of chi kung.
There are many different styles of martial art which incorporate some element of using chi into their system, and they all have a different approach and a different set of techniques, so what I have said here is by no means comprehensive, but I hope that it has at least made an interesting read, and perhaps stimulated your curiosity enough for you to want to learn more.

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