So Just What Is "Qi/Chi" Anyway?

"Chi" is a very versatile term.  In Martial Energetics, it is specifically defined as the sensation of flow and finesse.  It is not a substance that can be measured, or an imaginary idea to be visualized, but rather a sensation that can be felt (as well as seen and heard).  Much like electricity, chi can only be observed when it is flowing.

Chi is a principle that is only useful for guiding your practice if you are familiar with the sensation and proficient at generating it.  So, what if you can't feel your chi?  Don't worry about it.  Just focus on the physical sensations that you can feel: force, momentum, kinetic energy.  By honing your perception with the more gross forms of energy, you will eventually develop the sensitivity to detect the more subtle forms.

There is a saying that goes "First move the body to move the chi, then move the chi to move the body."  What this means is that by moving the body under the influence of the Three Regulations and the Six Qualities, you will come to stimulate and detect the sensation of chi flow.  Once you are able to attain this sensation reliably without movement, you can then use it to direct your movement, and hence be moving "under the influence" of chi.

The Gold Standard of Self Defense

In our system, we have a simple benchmark for determining whether or not you are prepared for a self-defense situation.  This benchmark has nothing to do with physical fitness, with knowing a certain number of techniques, or with holding your own in competition, and everything to do with the injurious intersection of intent, physics, and physiology.  Objective, self-evident, and brutally uncomplicated, it is simply this:

Are you confident that you can kill a person with your bare hands?

It could be put into more words, but this is the long and the short of it.

Suppose that you find yourself in a worst-case scenario where immediate, drastic action is called for in order to save lives; a situation where, if you had a firearm, you would be legally and ethically justified to empty the clip into a human threat until it stops moving, but you happen to find yourself without one.  If left to your own devices, if a need existed, would you be psychologically and physically capable of doing the dirty work of a bullet with your bare hands, wrecking the human machine through catastrophic injury so that it doesn't work any more, stripping it of consciousness, physical functionality, and perhaps the spark of life itself?

If so, then you are as prepared as anyone can be for whatever you might face.

Obviously, very few situations would call for such a response, and this type of scenario may constitute only 1% (or less) of situations involving criminal violence, but would you rather be prepared for only the bottom 99% of the threat range, or for all of it?  Especially considering that, when potentially lethal violence is called for, it is in exactly those situations where no less decisive a response would be sufficient to guarantee your survival?  If you have a concealed carry permit, you obviously know that your firearm is only to be drawn when it needs to be used, and to be used only in a situation where you have no other choice; you don't carry it around so you can mad-dog homies you see on the street, or bully someone over a parking space.  It is the same when your only weapon is your body mass.

Your own death is, of course, merely a proxy for any bad thing you would go to any length to prevent.  Maybe they're not trying to kill you specifically; maybe they're trying to abduct your kids, or rape your sister, or burn down your house with your family inside; maybe they have a gun and they're firing into a crowd, or trying to hijack an airliner with a sharpened toothbrush.  The law classifies certain felonies as "forcible and atrocious crimes", where precedent states that force is justified to prevent them from happening, up to and including lethal force.

Obviously, there is no safe and ethical way of confirming this benchmark, but that's okay.  When you have the requisite intuitive grasp of what makes things break in the human body, when you can not only see with your mind but feel in your bones how to get the work done, it is simply something you know, the same way you know that you could smash a piece of furniture with a sledgehammer, or snap firewood into kindling under your boots, and you don't need anyone to certify you.

Does the Jaw Contribute to Striking Power?

Bodyweighted striking means that you slam into the target with your entire mass in motion.  If you slam into a heavy bag this way, it can make your teeth rattle if they are not held tightly enough.  Making this observation, I had the following insight.  It takes energy to make your teeth rattle.  Therefore, if your teeth rattle, it is a source of energy loss.  Therefore, if you hold your jaw tightly enough that your teeth don't rattle, that energy will not be lost.  Where will it go then?  Into the collision.  Conversely, if the jaw is held more tightly than necessary, the excess tension will be draining the body's total store of energy.  So even this minute and insignificant part of the body has a contribution to make in adding power to a strike.  Likewise for every other muscle, joint, and nerve in the body.

Psycho-Cybernetics on Relaxation

Excerpted from Psycho-Cybernetics, by Maxwell Maltz:

'Calm mind, calm body; calm body, calm mind.'

Response means tension; lack of response means relaxation.  It has been proved, in scientific laboratory experiments, that you absolutely cannot feel angry, fearful, anxious, insecure, unsafe, as long as your muscles remain perfectly relaxed...Tension in muscles is a preparation for action, or a getting ready to respond.  Relaxing muscles brings about mental relaxation, or a peaceful, relaxed attitude.  Thus, relaxation is nature's own tranquilizer, which erects a psychic screen, or umbrella, between you and the disturbing stimulus.

Psycho-Cybernetics on Crisis Performance

Excerpted from Psycho-Cybernetics, by Maxwell Maltz:

To perform well in a crisis: 

1. We need to learn certain skills under conditions where we will not be over-motivated; we need to practice without pressure.

2. We need to learn to react to crisis with an aggressive, rather than a defensive attitude, to respond to the challenge in the situation, rather than to the menace, to keep our positive goal in mind.

3. We need to learn to evaluate so-called crisis situations in their true perspective, to avoid making mountains out of molehills, or reacting as if every small challenge were a matter of life or death.

Practice without pressure, and you will learn more efficiently, and be able to perform better in a crisis situation.

The Secrets Of Our Kung Fu # 2: "Cooperation"

Partner practice is never about competing to outdo one another, and always about cooperating with the aim of mutual skill refinement.  By continually striving to provide one another with a learnable challenge, practitioners of any skill level can train together to mutual benefit.  A learnable challenge is one that requires concentration and that allows your partner to experience success approximately 80% of the time.

The Secrets Of Our Kung Fu # 1: "Allowing", Not "Doing"

Our kung fu follows the principle of "allowing" rather than "doing".  This means that we don't force anything to happen via tension or contraction, but rather allow things to happen, via fullness and inflation.  Rather than inhaling, we allow the breath to fill the lungs.  Rather than lifting the arms, we allow them to rise.  Rather than shifting the weight, we allow it to drain from one foot into the other.  Rather than lifting the leg, we allow it to float upwards.  And so on and so forth.

This is the first secret of our kung fu.

Why Confront The Subject Of Life Or Death Violence? Part 2/2

Spiritual Matters

It could be said that awareness and acceptance of one's own mortality is the fertile substrate of all spirituality.  Contemplation of the finite and circumscribed nature of our existence can bring clarity and focus to our fundamental priorities in life, helping us to define and crystallize our unique, individual purpose for being on the planet.

Accepting our own death as natural and inevitable can free up reserves of wisdom and strength that would otherwise be tied up in deep-rooted existential dilemmas.  Witness the tale of the Zen master who, when confronted by a conquering warlord enraged at his lack of deference and yelling "Don't you realize you are standing before a man who could run you through without blinking an eye!" calmly replied with "Do you realize that you are standing before a man who can be run through without blinking an eye?"

This tale also neatly demonstrates that the mortality equation has two sides: self and other.  Just as we ourselves are mortal, so are others; and, what's more, we have the ability to end one another's mortal existence.  This allows for the contemplation of any number of hypothetical (or not so) scenarios as a potentially rich source of self-insight.  Here is one such:

You are in a cage suspended over a vat of boiling acid.  In another cage suspended over the same vat is a violent, psychopathic criminal predator.  There is a button in your cage.  When the mad scientist who designed the whole experiment says "go", you have five seconds to push the button.  If you push the button within five seconds, the other cage will drop into the acid, relegating the criminal psychopath to a swift but painful demise, and your cage will swing free, allowing you to escape.  If you don't push the button, the opposite will happen, relegating you to a swift and painful demise while allowing the criminal psychopath to go free, almost certainly to prey on future victims.  Would you push the button?

We all have both an inner Zen master and an inner warlord.  The acceptance of death when it is inevitable can, in fact, coexist alongside an implacable resolution to do whatever is necessary to avert it when it is not, even when what is necessary is injuring or killing another human.  The potent combination of acceptance and resolution makes for a powerful energetic aura that radiates self assurance and inner confidence under all circumstances.

Why Confront The Subject Of Life Or Death Violence? Part 1/2

Practical Matters

Violence exists in our Universe, and is inherently random.  If we want to protect ourselves from it, we must understand it.  If we want to understand it, we must study it.  If we want to study it, we must look at it, take it in our hands, pick it up, and examine it in minute detail from every angle.  Rather than examining it physically, we examine it mentally, by visualizing it and safely modeling the results.

Along with understanding, we must have proficiency, not in "defending" against violence, but in using violence.  Violence backed by extreme intent cannot be "defended" against, it must be stopped.  It is for the times when it can only be stopped by superior violence that our training is intended to prepare for.

In other words, we are training to prepare for our own hypothetical attempted murder.

If we take "violence" to mean not just intentionally "hurting" but intentionally causing injury, then injury is the ipso facto fruit of violence, serial injury is the result of sustained violence, and death is the inevitable endpoint of serial injury.  In other words, the line between injury and death is imaginary; it is simply a slippery downward slope from one to the other.

Therefore, there is no difference between training to injure and training to kill; they are functionally the same.  This applies whatever the particular tools or methodology applied to the task happen to be.

If you chose to carry a firearm for personal protection, it would behoove you to take a firearms safety and training course.  You would learn not just how to keep yourself and others safe, you would learn how to use it as a tool for applying violence, i.e. you would learn how to use it to intentionally injure (read: kill) people.  You would train by placing a representation of a human silhouette on a target and then repeatedly using the tool in the way it is designed to be used: draw, aim at center mass, and fire, over and over again, until there is no mystery or apprehension remaining about the process, until you can do it as comfortably and easily as tying your shoe.

We train to use our bodies in the same way and for the same reason.  All of us are walking around armed with the deadliest weapon in existence, the human brain, and a supremely effective tool for effecting its will, the human body.  We train to learn the capabilities and vulnerabilities of our tool, so that we can protect ourselves and others from injury, whether intentionally or unintentionally applied, including being able to apply it effectively ourselves when that is the only way to effect the former outcome.