By Erle Montaigue: December 28, 1989
What is Qi Energy?
Such a small word and yet so many people have so many meanings for it, so many translations, some mystical, some simple physical explanations. Many have tried to explain the word Qi through examples of super human strength, which can be called upon at any time by the practitioner. Others have claimed such feats like being able to withstand a sharp knife cut or taking a spear to the throat etc, etc, we have all heard of such feats. But how many have actually witnessed these feats and have been able to poke the spear themselves or slice the knife?
Qi energy exists; there's no doubt in my mind at all. There must be some force, some inherent power, which the body uses to exist. How does the body heal itself of disease, how does the skin heal itself without outside intervention etc. But all of these things are motor, subconscious actions, which we have no control over, any immediate control that is.
What is Qi: Directing the Flow
Some people are able to in a small way direct the flow of energy to a certain point to enhance the healing process but for the most part it is a subconscious act for which we have no physical control and I am told is quite a difficult task. So how much more difficult is it to cause the Qi move outside of one's body to attack another person!
What is Qi: Martial Arts
So what about the use of Qi energy in the martial arts. It is my belief that in the same way that the healing Qi is subconscious and for the most part unable to b have happened. It is my belief that the Qi will only ever display when it is absolutely necessary and that we are unable to control such manifestations. For this reason I am the world's greatest sceptic when it comes to demonstrations of so called Qi power etc.
Not so sceptical however about the existence of Qi or it's manifestation when necessary. Like in a life or death situation when our only hope is for some other power other than that produced by our own muscles and sinews. Not many people have been placed into these situations and so not many are able to feel the nothing power that the Qi produces. I call it nothing power because it feels as if you have done nothing and yet some great effect has been the result of that nothing. There is a sort of blank feeling when the Qi is produced for self-defence. One split second is all it takes for the subconscious mind to realize that a life-threatening situation exists and to react upon the physical body to cause it to defend itself in just the same way that it would against internal attack by micro-organisms. So what does all of this have to do with T'ai Qi? T'ai Qi is one tool that we are able to use to allow this subconscious Qi manifestation to work for us.
What is Qi: Tai Chi
There are other methods and other tools but I believe that T'ai Chi is the easiest tool which will give us the greatest gain. To train in T'ai Chi is enough. We do not need any special training methods whereby we are able to direct the Qi energy at any given time. I think that this is impossible. All we need is the whole of the T'ai Chi exercises and when and if it ever becomes necessary for us to need this internal power, it will just be there and add to our already full itinerary of fighting or healing methods gained from the practice of T'ai Chi. And we do need these techniques when confronted by a physical fighting situation, we cannot just rely upon the build up of Qi as would be gained by the practice of qigong alone, we need the techniques necessary, physically to defend ourselves. But if we need only ever defend ourselves against internal attack then we need only ever take T'ai Chi to it's basic level of form/qigong and perhaps a little push hands which is the exercise we use to turn the Qi into Jing. Qi into jing is a little like water into steam, we are able to use water to do work when it is either flowing greatly or when it turns into steam. By the same token, we are able to use the Qi to heal others only when it has turned into jing and is stored in the backbone. The form and qigong will build up one's own stash of Qi and begin to have it flow to all parts of the body for self healing but it is the push hands which turns this Qi energy into a usable form for healing others, or for self-defence.