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Chi/Ki: Transcendent Energy

Nearly every culture, past and present, shares the concept of a transcendent energy that we have in common with everything else--a collective force that identifies and distinguishes humanity's place in the web of cosmic events.

"All things and beings are the effects of a ubiquitous power out of which they rise, which supports and fills them during the period of their manifestation, and back into which they must ultimately dissolve. This is the power known to science as energy, to the Melanesian as mana, to the Sioux as wakonda, the Hindus as shakti."--Joseph Campbell.

There are as many names for this power as there are cultures. Mencius described "chi" (the Japanese word "ki" is used interchangeably with "chi" in this work) as an omnipresent energy, the source of matter, in support of life, which dissolves into the void and reappears transformed as humanity.

"Our lives are a part of the universal ki enclosed in the flesh of our bodies. Though we say that this is 'I,' viewed with the eyes of the mind, it is actually the ki of the universal. Even though that ki is encased in flesh, it is in conflux with and active as a part of the universal."--Koichi Tohei, Ki in Daily Life.

Chi is the energy of the cosmos, composed of body, manifest and immenent in every atom, binding every cell in our bodies, motivated and organized to shape the physical world. Embedded within and functioning as a causal agent of the transcendent reality is an individual's personal, internal power that it accessible because we are an active part of it.

Ki is relationship. Similar to the way the brain reinforces neural activity when learning takes place, a proper martial artist, through ki exercise, strengthens his connections within the web of nature, and when personal unity is realized (when mind, body, chi, and spirit are integrated) one's intimate relationship with the univers is revealed.

Tohei speaks of ki in relation to others and in harmony with the "universal." Ki binds all things together, so in a sense relationship is ki, and since ki is universal, we can't avoid relating to anything (not even the unpleasant things). Avoidance of relationship confuses and weakens one's ki.

Ki links the domains of self within a self, leading to wisdom that can only exist as a relative of nature. "To excite the chi means not only to stimulate one's own chi but to join one's chi to the chi of Nature so as to reinforce each other."--Cheng Man Ching, 13 Treatises.

You can't excite or stimulate your chi in isolation from the chi of nature, and the chi of nature expresses itself most clearly through humanity.

Whatever separates us from nature isn't external. It's our own chi made stagnant by avoidance of relationship. By exciting (extending outward) personal chi to reinforce nature, the whole human comes together, relating to his world, and as that work is accomplisehd a proper martial artist recognizes that his ki is also active "out there." Chi brings you to yourself, and a proper martial artist known that is also the way to know others.

On the deepest level a martial artist recognizes unity as the highest aim of nature, and so he establishes an energetic relationship between his chi and the chi of nature.

Copyright 2004 by Jack Livingston


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