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To qi or not to qi?

Our Yiquan class had just done our force-testing exercises, one of which involves raising one arm and lowering the other, palms down, while standing. One of the students approached me after the exercise and asked me to interpret what she felt during the exercise: a feeling as if she were gently pulling rubber with her hands.

I thought I’d give it a shot, at least until I could ask for a translation through Master Chau. Here’s my take on it:

Our body has a memory of things it has done. We’ve all pulled stretchy things at some point or another, so we have a memory of what that feels like. I believe that the student was connected enough, using the right degree of muscles and tendons in concert to ¬†reproduce the feeling of pulling something stretchy. In fact, the visualization for this exercise is either to pull rubber bands or move in molasses. In other words, I believe she was doing the exercise well enough to get the sensation of connection.

Now … she had to leave, so there wasn’t time to determine if she was asking about qi (ch’i, or energy). Was she pulling energy from heaven and earth? Was she connected to the qi in the room and manipulating it? I don’t know, and it would have been irresponsible of me to say so, since I’d only be guessing. So I gave her the best explanation I could.

I won’t discount the existence of an energy flowing outside of our bodies, but I haven’t yet experienced the subtle sensations of that outside energy. I also am wary of interpreting internal signals passed through the fascia as a sensation of something outside. If I feel the air as I move my hands, I feel it at the skin, not in the fascia.

However, if I feel something inside my arms as I move, my current level of experience leads me to interpret it as connective signals through the fascia rather than pushing against flowing energy that’s outside my body. So are the internal signals actually qi? Well, I believe that qi, or just “energy” drives our bodily functions, and we sense that in many ways, such as heat, tingling and so on.

But do I believe that we can sense energy directly? I don’t think I can, yet. I can sense energy through my body from time to time, but I believe I’m experiencing physical sensations, since I’m experiencing them through my body. But since those sensations are driven by energy, I believe I’m sensing energy indirectly.

And that’s the best I can do right now. More practice? More practice.

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