Heart, Mind & Qi 氣

“ Heart and mind aren’t truly separate except in the folk models. In Chinese, they can be denoted by the same character depending on context. But to use this model, the Yi is the cold decision making process….it is impartial in the way that nature is impartial; it will kill without feeling if told to do so. The heart is the wisdom that guides the operations of Yi, it is the accumulated experiences and your ‘take’ on the world. These things greatly affect what Yi will choose to do. Qi is the relationship, all of the aspects of the body/mind and how they relate to one another. Qi is not a laser that we shoot around the body, it is Relationship in the body. By placing our tongue on the roof of the mouth we call the relationship of upper and lower to mind. “Sinking the Qi” is nothing more than having that central point of body in focus as we observe the relationships created by our decisions. A connected body is properly organized in both physical structure and in time, so that the relationships are in a proper relationship with each other…… “
— Jason Deatherage (Creston BC)
Jason hit the nail right on the head, this is an excerpt from discussion in my online course regarding Xinyiliuhe questions from students. I wanted to repost it her more publicly as so much magical thinking in the martial arts and internal styles tend to stunt peoples growth.
That being said however I think it important to note the role that visualizing, imagining, metaphor and mental constructs make in martial training. Every person learns differently and as such need different teaching methods to make sense of things. Some of the best teachers I have ever come across are able to change the imagery, examples or methods of teaching skills from student to student. Unfortunately for many people this comes across as “He learned it differently than I did, Master taught me right and hid it from him.”
Not to say that’s not possible but honestly, I call bullshit. It is that kind of self centered thinking that harms the arts. Different people, different approaches. If one person is taught with a great deal of folklore in the language and magical thinking but end up with the skills and understanding of the art what is the issue? A person today may use more scientific language, physics, arcs and lines of force and anatomical language but if the skills result in the same level of adeptness which method is better than the other? Neither. Only the method that works for the student is the right method, simple as that.
But this means that two methods of training or teaching that appear completely at odds with one another can both be right. RIGHT!
The ability to hold a paradox in training and understand that both sides of the coin are true and correct is a part of why martial arts are so hard I think. Yin/Yang is not just a theory that is discussed around tea tables, it is the heart and soul of the practice!
So is Qi 氣 “The Force”? An energy that surrounds and binds us, interpenetrates us all? or is it as Jason pointed out “Relationships”? YES.
Happy New Year!
Neil Andrew Ripski

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