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PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2000 3:42 pm 
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We all know that Santa Claus does not exist. Nevertheless, Santa Claus is a useful social construct, especially in our relationships with children. And the term "Santa Claus," despite his nonexistence, is defined with enough precision to make it possible for us to talk about him and feel confident that everyone involved means roughly the same thing by "Santa Claus." The term "chi" isn't like that; it's so vaguely defined that talking about it in any effective or efficient way is extremely difficult. The purpose of this topic is to try to do something about that.

The topic is the definition of "chi" (also "qi" or "ki"). We need to find out whether we _can_ define it adequately. If we can, we'll then be able to move on to discussion of chi; if we can't , we will have learned something and can move with a clear conscience to a different topic. _Until the term has been defined, whether chi exists or not is not an appropriate item for discussion_.

[One preliminary note: The term is more properly "ch'i," with a glottal stop between the "h" and the "i"; "chi" actually means "ultimate," and that has caused some definitional confusion in the martial arts literature. But since the usual practice is to write the term as "chi," let's just follow that practice.]

I've collected a sampler of definitions from martial arts literature. [If you're not interested in others' definitions, just skip this paragraph.] I don't want to use the space here for references, but I have them if you want them; just e-mail me with the numbers of the definitions that interest you and I'll send you the information.. Here's the sampler: Chi is; (1) that which gives life.... that which differentiates a corpse from a live human being; (2) protective spirit; (3) invisible life force or energy; (4) an energy or inner strength that can be directed from the 'one point' through visualization to places outside the body; (5) internal energy; (6) ultimate energy; (7) energy... vitality; (8) the underpinning for everything in existence; (9) energy (10) vital energy or spirit.... .spirit, breath, life force.... the life force that all living beings have; (11) that which animates life; (12) matter on the verge of becoming energy, or energy at the point of materializing; (13) invisible nutritive energy.... a unique energetic substance that flows from the environment into the body... an energy of both nutritive and cellular-organizational characteristics which supersedes the energetic contributions of ingested food and air... a manifestation of the life-force which animates and energizes living systems.

That sampler of definitions is the best possible explanation of why discussions of chi degenerate into shouting matches and pontification. It's a definitional swamp into which almost anything can be thrown; it's a mess.

If we were together in a seminar, I wouldn't be willing to propose a new definition myself; we would work together to construct one. But I don't see a way to do that in this medium; perhaps as time goes by a method will occur to me, but at the moment I'm stumped. I am therefore -- so that we can at last get started -- going to propose a rough draft definition for you to consider, discuss, and revise. I'm sure it is flawed; I know this term only from qigong, the only physical martial art that I practice (and practice badly); I don't speak the languages from which the term is taken. But let's use it as a "straw definition" to get the discussion going.

My rough draft definition:
"Chi is a form of internal energy that human beings can learn to bring under deliberate voluntary control."

Terms within the definition:
"Internal" -- within our bodies and minds (or within our bodyminds)
"Energy" -- the capacity to do work (that is, to lift something, carry something, hold something back, break something, and so on)

Comment on the definition:
We have a well-established precedent for bringing internal processes under deliberate voluntary control; it's called "biofeedback."

There. Please consider the definition and tell me what you perceive to be wrong with it. What's missing? What's distorted or badly stated? What needs changing? Should the definition be rejected entirely, and something else put in its place -- and if so, what do you propose? I'll be back Saturday to read your responses, comments, criticisms, thoughts....whatever you'd like to post.

Thank you for your attention, and for your courtesy.

Suzette

PS: I'll be back Saturday to read your responses, comments, criticisms. If you have time to spare (and access to the literature) there's an article you might want to look at, in the Spring 1998 issue of _Qi: The Journal of Traditional Eastern Health & Fitness_. It's titled "Why are most published works on qigong so poor?" and written by Kenneth S. Cohen.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2000 6:09 pm 
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The possibility of completing a research study on utilizing biofeedback to detect or develop chi sounds interesting. I wonder if any research has been done in this area. Maybe that could be the next step. If we can define chi, would it be possible, based on the definition, to detect it. It may be that you can only detect it through viewing it's effects (such as "detecting" subatomic particles).

Maybe that aspect could be placed into the definition we're trying to get at. How is chi manifested in the individual when they are bringing it under deliberate control? What are the physical characteristics as a result of bringing it under control (increased muscle mass, increased neuronal activity, etc.). Perhaps an epistemological stance would be prudent.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2000 3:08 am 
Wu Wei,

I know some years back there was heavy research into biofeedback vs. Uechi-ryu at the Kalamazoo dojo in the year before Sensei James Thompson acquired it. That would be about 19 years ago.

------------------
Allen, now at his new website http://www.ury2k.com/pulse/index.htm


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2000 4:47 am 
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Yes, I like the preliminary definition presented by Suzette of the term chi. It does not preclude the possibility that chi is an ultra heightened biomechanical phenomenon that can be empirically measured and understood by conventional physiological concepts. Nor, does it preclude that chi is a force that is outside the boundaries of conventional concepts that requires a shift in paradigm and conventional theory of the "bodymind".

Is this form of internal energy manifested in everyone or only in those practicing the martial arts?

How do we quantify and/or measure this internal energy? What constitutes voluntary control?

JohnC


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2000 5:02 am 
If I take the liberty to attempt a connection between two paragraphs, the implication is that chi can be developed through biofeedback techniques. Interesting thought to toss around.

------------------
Allen, now at his new website http://www.ury2k.com/pulse/index.htm


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2000 10:14 am 
Elusive Chi, like voltage or an EMP (electro-magnetic pulse), is energy and has no substance, but apparently one can measure it and feel it.

------------------
Allen, now at his new website http://www.ury2k.com/pulse/index.htm


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 26, 2000 2:44 pm 
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You're asking good questions -- but it's too soon to explore them. First we have to be certain that the definition is adequate; it's unlikely that my first try produced a perfect definition.

Let's leave another week or so for discussion of possible revisions, changes, and the like before we move on to discuss the questions you've raised.

Suzette


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 27, 2000 2:26 pm 
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Please understand that once our group accepts a definition of "chi" -- whether it is the one I proposed, a modification of that one, or an alternative one proposed by someone else -- we have also accepted the presuppositions that come with that definition. We then have to work with that material as we investigate the questions that are being asked. It's important to be _certain_ we're comfortable with the definition before we do that.

Don't hesitate to tackle the definition I proposed simply because I was the one doing the proposing. I posted it for that purpose -- for discussion and debate.

Suzette


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 27, 2000 2:40 pm 
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<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by ozarque:
My rough draft definition:
"Chi is a form of internal energy that human beings can learn to bring under deliberate voluntary control."

Terms within the definition:
"Internal" -- within our bodies and minds (or within our bodyminds)
"Energy" -- the capacity to do work (that is, to lift something, carry something, hold something back, break something, and so on)

Comment on the definition:
We have a well-established precedent for bringing internal processes under deliberate voluntary control; it's called "biofeedback."
<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I don't have a better definition off-hand, but for me Suzette's does not make a meaningful distinction between biofeedback, voluntary control, and an actual internal energy that can be affected by esternal force, or better yet, can have external effect on physical forces.

student


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 28, 2000 1:37 am 
Ozarque,

I'm afraid I am lost for a better definition then what you have given. You have most certainly done your homework before you put your thoughts to the pen.

I'm ready to read the next step.

------------------
Allen, now at his new website http://www.ury2k.com/pulse/index.htm


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 03, 2000 6:16 pm 
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Location: Sydney, NS, Canada
I have always thought of chi as the mind being realized in the body. Always considered where-ever the mind goes so goes the chi.

The supreme/universal energy as it resides in each of us.


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 11, 2000 4:56 pm 
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(1)
Since I posted my rough-draft definition I've received a number of e-mails from people who say they don't feel comfortable posting to the Forum but want to give me their input. Their messages can be summarized briefly as "I'm disturbed because your definition involves only _internal_ chi, and leaves out the external chi that permeates the entire universe." That tells me -- unless this group objects -- that the definition I proposed should be modified as follows:

Definition #2 (first revision of original):
Internal chi is a form of internal energy that human beings can learn to bring under deliberate voluntary control.

The question would then arise, I'm sure, as to whether human beings can learn to bring _external_ chi under voluntary control. (Not in the sense of simply controlling "intake" by voluntarily increasing or decreasing one's opportunities to be exposed to it, however; lying outside in the sunlight increases one's intake of the sun's energy, but that's not the kind of voluntary control we're referring to.) If we _can_ learn to voluntarily do work with and control external chi, the definition would need to be revised to: "Chi is a form of energy that human beings can learn to bring under deliberate voluntary control" -- and that would immediately make the definition vacuous. Electricity fits that definition, as does steam, and so on. My suggestion is that for the moment we stay with Definition #2 and try to accurately define only internal chi. If you have objections to that idea, please post them.


(2)
A student writes: "I don't have a better definition off-hand, but for me Suzette's does not make a meaningful distinction between biofeedback, voluntary control, and an actual internal energy that can be affected by external force, or better yet, can have external effect on physical forces."

Good response; thank you.

"Biofeedback" is already a well-defined term, and biofeedback is clearly not "chi." It may well be that biofeedback is an essential part of the voluntary control of internal chi; I would be surprised to learn that that is _not_ the case. But biofeedback is the information derived from attempted voluntary control of the set of physiological processes such as heart rate, regulation of blood pressure, generation of brain waves, delivery of neurotransmitters, and the like. At the moment we do not know whether the movement/management/etc. of internal chi falls into that set of processes or not. Even if it does, however, to try to make a distinction between biofeedback and chi is to try to make a distinction between a form of information and a form of energy; that distinction is already a given.

When you go on to object that the definition doesn't distinguish between "voluntary control" and "an actual internal energy that can be affected...," I'm sorry to say that you lose me. If clarification is provided, I'll take that up again; I may be misunderstanding you.


(3)
Allen M. suggests that we move on to the next step; I'd advise against that. Work that turns out to be based on a poor (or worse, a false) definition of terms is almost always going to be work that's wasted. Remember that the goal here was to come up with a definition of chi that would allow it to be talked about without the discussion degenerating into bombast and pontification and shouting matches. Once we have constructed such a definition -- if we succeeed in doing so -- the chances are that "the next step" will be work you do in _other_ forums at this site. (Unless you want the next step to be construction of a set of questions for discussion, to be used with the definition in other forums; we could certainly do that.) But hurrying at this point is unwise. First, a good definition. Then, the next step.


(4)
Gilbert MacIntyre proposes an alternative definition:

Alternative definition #1:

"Chi is the mind being realized in the body; it is the supreme univeral energy as it resides in each of us."

Thank you; well said. I have a few comments.

First, "mind" is an undefined term here, as is "realized." Clarification would be helpful. Second, it seems to me that "supreme universal energy" must be a reference to both external and internal chi. The discussion above should make clear why it would perhaps be wiser not to confound the two at this point.

Suzette


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 12, 2000 3:17 am 
Hello ozarque.

You are absolutely right that to move on prematurely is a mistake. I thought I already read good definitions, but your work is not done yet. But be forewarned, that even locking-in a solid definition will not prevent the negatives you mentioned, in the paragraph you addressed to me, from coming to fruition.

I won't tear anything apart because your post is educational and I like everything I read so far, but a solid definition of chi may be as elusive as the thing itself which you are trying to define.

------------------
Allen, New website http://www.ury2k.com/pulse/index.htm mirror: http://home.ici.net/~uechi/


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 12, 2000 1:12 pm 
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Ozarque:
You are right, my definition would include internal and external chi. Allow me to say however, I don't know if there is a true distinction.

With my limited knowledge on the subject I certainly bow to the more learned among us, but I see chi as being everywhere in and out of our body. In some Chi Kung excerises you are to feel the energy/chi enter your body on the inhale and the negative chi/energy leave on the exhale.

If we are to enter a discussion on chi then we must confront the issue that there are those advanced in Chi Kung that claim to influence chi both internally and externally as one.

There is a practice, I believe in Tiebetan Buddhism, called "Tonglen". Again with limited grasp of things it is my understanding that this is the practice of taking sick, negative diseased, chi from one person into your being and replacing it with your own.

Do I believe this to be possible....don't know, but I don't think my believing has anything at all to do with the validity of the practice.

I like your first definition, if I was going to change anything it would be to drop the word internal, and just deal with chi en masse.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 12, 2000 4:11 pm 
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<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by ozarque:


(2)
A student writes: "I don't have a better definition off-hand, but for me Suzette's does not make a meaningful distinction between biofeedback, voluntary control, and an actual internal energy that can be affected by external force, or better yet, can have external effect on physical forces."

Good response; thank you.

"Biofeedback" is already a well-defined term, and biofeedback is clearly not "chi." It may well be that biofeedback is an essential part of the voluntary control of internal chi; I would be surprised to learn that that is _not_ the case. But biofeedback is the information derived from attempted voluntary control of the set of physiological processes such as heart rate, regulation of blood pressure, generation of brain waves, delivery of neurotransmitters, and the like. At the moment we do not know whether the movement/management/etc. of internal chi falls into that set of processes or not. Even if it does, however, to try to make a distinction between biofeedback and chi is to try to make a distinction between a form of information and a form of energy; that distinction is already a given.

When you go on to object that the definition doesn't distinguish between "voluntary control" and "an actual internal energy that can be affected...," I'm sorry to say that you lose me. If clarification is provided, I'll take that up again; I may be misunderstanding you.

Suzette

<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

My fault; my imprecision. I was equating "voluntary control" with 'voluntary acute self-awareness;" they are, of course, not the same thing.

My point is that much of what is claimed for ch'i may simply be a function of being more aware (and in more control) of physical functions that do not require the postulate of an additinal element such as mysterious biological energy. If one (mis)uses "voluntary control" in this fashion one can see the same results without knowing the mechanism involved - ch'i? Control? Awareness? Suggestion?

I don't know.

[This message has been edited by student (edited March 12, 2000).]


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