Martial Arts and the Manipulation of Chi

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2012
The martial arts are traditionally tied to the regulation and manipulation of mystical energies such as chi (Chinese) and ki (Japanese).

Martial Arts and the Manipulation of Chi

Mystical Energies

The martial arts are traditionally tied to the regulation and manipulation of mystical energies such as chi (Chinese) and ki (Japanese).

Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical and Paranormal Experience points out:

Regardless of style the key to all martial arts is skillful use of the universal life force (ch’i in Chinese and ki in Japanese), which permeates all things and can be directed throughout the body…. The force is controlled by uniting it with mind and body in physical movement, breathing techniques, and meditation.[1]

In the martial arts, physical movement alone, whether the gentle, harmonious exercises of Tai Chi, or the powerful defensive maneuvers of Kung Fu, can be a meditation in itself and, with proper training, intended to stimulate mystical energy. It is this supposed universal life energy which many hold to be so valuable to martial arts performance, training, meditation, and enlightenment.

The following statements and descriptions will show that the manipulation of this energy in the martial arts is frequently indistinguishable from its use in the world of the occult in general. For example, it can be developed by certain techniques such as meditation and yogic breathing; it can be directed outward by the will in order to perform difficult or even miraculous feats; it is said to be a divine force.[2] One book on Kenpo observes that, “Mind development of ‘ki’ or ‘chi’ is an excellent martial art technique.”[3]

Obviously, since chi is a mystical force or power that can be generated and controlled by the martial artist through meditation and breathing exercises, the connection between chi development, breath control, and the powerful physical feats of martial arts displays is evident.[4]

A book on Ninjutsu explains that the inner strength developed through the cultivating of chi energy is far more powerful than any “outer” physical strength. “The Chi is a force within all people that can be forged to perform the will. But not one in ten thousand will ever know the true Chi. This cannot be explained, but it can be experienced. The practice is known as Kuji Kiri.[5]

An article on Tai Chi explains, “Without chi development,” tai chi would be merely an external martial arts exercise. Chi development comes from “passive meditation and stance training.” Thus:

Students practiced special standing meditation postures and breathing exercises before learning anything else. Each training session began with an hour of standing meditation to build up chi (often written qi).

Only when their chi was sufficiently developed did they start learning tai chi’s martial art stances. As they progressed, they eventually combined their training sessions to include meditation, breathing and martial art stances…. Each posture developed jing (energy) in different parts of the body, while externally strengthening their arms and legs.[6]

Martial arts master Koichi Tohei claims that chi, or ki, is ultimately part of the energy of God: “This is Ki. Christians call it ‘God’.”[7]

Aikido, like many martial arts, places great emphasis upon developing ki. Westbrook and Ratti in Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere discuss the nature of Id and its historic centrality to almost all the martial arts:

This power has been called by many names, but the one that appears most often in these accounts, especially in Japan, is ki and the seat of that power is said to be the hara, or [psychic] Centre.

Almost all of the martial arts at some point in their development mention this power and the various means by which it may be developed. It is held to be “Intrinsic Energy” or “Inner Energy” and possessed by everyone although developed consciously by only a few…. Many scholars and practitioners of the martial arts, as well as monks and medical men have spoken of and demonstrated this Inner Energy and the oft-times almost unbelievable results of its development and use. One frequently mentioned method of developing this Inner Energy is by the regular practice of deep or abdominal breathing…. Every beginner who steps on the mat in an Aikido Dojo soon encounters examples of Inner Energy.[8]

This energy is said to be the power behind the dramatic feats of martial arts practitioners:

Most martial arts have feats of incredible power, such as power-breaking, which is the breaking of thick pieces of wood, layers of tile or bricks, and so on with the hand, foot, elbow, head, or even fingertips. In Kung Fu the “iron palm” is a single blow with the hand that kills.

Other amazing feats are immunity to fire, cuts, severe blows, and the like. The purpose of these feats is to make the student aware of the power within. The feats are accomplished by directing the ch’i or ki to various parts of the body. When the body is full of ch’i, it is exceptionally strong.

Ueshiba often demonstrated his command of ki. He was five feet tall and weighed only 120 pounds, yet by directing his ki down to the ground could remain rooted to the spot and resist the efforts of several men to pick him up. Like-wise, he used ki to send several assailants flying, while barely moving himself.[9]

In Aikido in Daily Life, Koichi Tohei explains that ki is ultimately the divine, universal energy which can be manipulated at will. He reports that most people do not recognize that the “everyday” ki is connected with the universal ki. Nevertheless, the very name of “aikido” literally means “to unite with ki”:

Aikido is literally the road (do) to a union (ai) with ki, particularly with the ki of the universal. It is the way to the enlightenment that is our nature to be one with the universal. The entire reason for all of the techniques in our daily training is to refine our ki. For this reason we use such expressions as, “to send forth ki,” “to lead ki,” “to put ki into,” “to repress our opponent with ki.” Apart from ki, Aikido cannot exist.[10]

Tohei again describes ki in divine terms:

Ki has no beginning and no end; its absolute value neither increases nor decreases. We are one with the universal, and our lives are part of the life of the universal…. The Christian Church calls the universal essence “God.” … Our lives were born of ki, to which they must some day return….

In Aikido we always practice sending forth ki, because when we do so the ki of the universal can enter our bodies and improve the conflux between the two. If we stop the flow of ki, new ki cannot enter, and the flow becomes poor. For this reason, practice in Aikido emphasizing the sending forth of kiaims [not] only at improvement in the Aikido techniques, but also at facilitating the conflux of our ki with that of the universal [>ki]….

If the basic essence of the body is ki, so is the basic essence of the spirit…. Aikido is a discipline that helps us unite the spirit and the body and become one body with the ki of the universal. In other words, Aikido is, as its name implies, the way to union with ki.[11]

Another text describes the results of the martial arts as “the emergence of a new dimension, a new kind of energy, a new principle, symbolized by the ‘Centre,’ which is a generating force in itself.”[12] And it describes this energy as follows:

Internal energy is stored centrally and can be directed to wherever it is required. It is flexible and changeable, and it integrates the body into one coordinated unit…. Internal energy is also the primary factor in maintaining good general health…. Internal energy is developed in many ways. It cannot be acquired mechanically.[13]

In essence, in those martial arts stressing a religious program we are dealing with the manipulation of chi, or ki, which is the same old mystical energy of traditional occult practice as well as the modern New Age Movement. For example, a standard text on the martial arts and Oriental methods of health relates the channeling of chi to the Hindu prana.[14] A practitioner of Tai Chi connects chi to several related mystical energies, such as ki, prana, and Wilhelm Reich’s orgone.[15]

Another standard text also discusses how ki is related to a variety of occult energy concepts, such as the Hindu prana, Polynesian mana, shamanistic n/um, orgone, od, and magnetic fluid:

The word for kiin different cultures usually carries implications of both “breath” and “spirit” linking the material and the immaterial…. In Sanskrit [it is], prana, in Chinese, chi; in Polynesian,mana,… in bushmen [tribes]n/um…. Anton Mesmer’s “Magnetic Fluid,” Von Reichenbach’s “Odic Force,” and Wilhelm Reich’s “Orgone Energy” all deal with ki.

Ki is an energy which is inherently linked with life and consciousness, and which can produce direct effects on physical energies and matter…. Ki can be directed by conscious intention…. The ki is developed through conscious linking of physical movement, breathing and focused attention…. The ki thus developed, may be stored, usually in the hara [psychic center], or lower abdomen and pelvis, and may be directed at will to whatever task is undertaken. Many healing methods use the direction of ki to the effected part [of the body]…. Ki comes in different “currents” and “voltages.”… So as well as the task of accumulating the ki there is also the process of “refining” it, raising its “voltage” and establishing connections to more expanded penetrative levels of consciousness.[16]

In conclusion, there appears to be little difference between the mystical energy used in the martial arts and the psychic energy used by the occultist, whether shaman, witch doctor, medium, spiritistic channeler, or psychic healer. This use of mystical energy brings us to a fuller discussion of the occult aspects of the martial ways.


  1. Rosemary Ellen Guiley, Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical and Paranormal Experience (San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins, 1991), p. 344.
  2. Erwin de Castro, B. J. Oropeza, Ron Rhodes, “Enter the Dragon?”, Part One, Christian Research Journal, Fall 1993, p. 28; cf. Erwin de Castro, et al, “Enter the Dragon?”, Part Two, prepublication copy, Christian Research Journal, 1994.
  3. Ed Parker, Ed Parker’s Infinite Insights into Kenpo, Volume 1: Mental Stimulation (Los Angeles, CA: Delsby Publication, 1984), p. 3.
  4. de Castro, et al, “Enter the Dragon?”, Part 2.
  5. Ashida Kim, Secrets of the Ninja (Secaucus, NJ: Citadel Press, 1981), p. 5.
  6. Doc-Fai Wong, Jane Hallander, “Tai Chi’s Internal Secrets,” Inside Kung Fu, October 1991, pp. 30, 34.
  7. Koichi Tohei, Book of Ki: Coordinating Mind and Body in Daily Life (Tokyo, Japan: Publications, Inc., 1978), p. 10.
  8. A. Westbrook and O. Ratti, Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere (Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1974), pp. 21, 23.
  9. Guiley, Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical and Paranormal Experience, pp. 344-45.
  10. Koichi Tohei, Aikido in Daily Life (Tokyo, Japan: Rikugei Publishing, 1973), p. 86.
  11. Ibid., pp. 86-89, 98, emphasis added.
  12. Karlis Osis, Edwin Bokert, “ESP and Meditation,” Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, January 1971, p. 8.
  13. Peter Payne, Martial Arts: The Spiritual Dimension (NY: Crossroad, 1981), p. 11.
  14. Pierre Huard, Ming Wong, Oriental Methods of Mental and Physical Fitness: The Complete Book of Meditation, Kinesitherapy, and Martial Arts in China, India, and Japan, (Trans. Donald N. Smith) (NY: Funk & Wagnalls, 1977), p. 55.
  15. Jerry Mogul, “Tai Chi Chuan: A Taoist Art of Healing, Part One,” Somatics: The Magazine-Journal of the Bodily Arts and Sciences, Spring, 1980, p. 44.
  16. Payne, Martial Arts, pp. 44-45.

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