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Martial Energy Drills: Mumbo Jumbo or Fire Behind the Smoke

Cards on the table, I am a card-carrying skeptic, well, former card-carrier. I allowed my actual membership in “The Skeptic’s Society” to lapse as, true to form, I am skeptical of organized groups, even those who hold many tenets that strike me true or true-ish. In my old age I’m more of a “love ya from afar,” skip the meetings and team-jerseys to simply live whatever eternally roiling credo seems on point at the time.

With that skeptical throat-clearing out of the way, let’s address chi, ki, prana, qui, puha or any of the other labels that have been given to a purported “life energy” or intangible “life-force.”

Many esoteric martial arts and mystical traditions have suppositions for an energy force that has gone by the aforementioned names (and many more besides.) I will not mention these arts by name as the purpose here is not to point fingers but to test hypotheses.

The validity of these “forces” have not survived controlled testing conditions thus far. These poor results at best, or zero results in most are attributed by the practitioners/believers as “bad days,” or negative impacts due to the testers skeptical energy, or more circularly “it is a force that cannot be measured.”

In order…

One – We can all have off days. Apparently, no day has been good in these tests.

Two – If a martial “life energy,” one presumably used for personal protection and combative power, can be thwarted by someone who doesn’t buy it, well, what’s the use of that?

A good bust in the chops seems to work whether one believes in said chop-buster or not.

Three – If a force cannot be tested, measured, felt or observed is it a force at all? If the answer is “yes” perhaps “force” is a poor descriptor as one would assume that a “force” can have tangible impact on a physical world.

Thus far, I wager that you may find me dismissive of these forces. Good eye.

But… there may be (maybe) an aspect of this force has been misinterpreted and cast in metaphysical terms and we can use a bit of tangible self-testing to play around a bit with our own abilities as “energy force” detectors.

Now, for the misinterpreted bit. In the American Indian tradition, there are many tribal references to observational power that seemingly surpasses standard abilities. To many Western eyes these are interpreted as quasi-mystical extra-sensory abilities.

I wager the observers are witnessing not some reach into the unknown but some standard weaving of practical wisdom that the gobsmacked observer is not attuned to, and never will be if the reach for extraordinary explanations is the cognitive go-to.

Historical Example to Personal Example:

The historical record is rife with indigenous tribes that have departed low-ground areas and trekked to higher ground days before floods, surging seas, or tsunamis.

When you read of these instances in the record they are cloaked in such language as “the penetrating inner-eye of the unknowable Red Man pierces the veil to know what is to come.”

Sentences like that are meant to astonish or cause us to marvel at the unknowable hermetic abilities of these mysterious peoples.

That being said, the sentence is partially true: “the penetrating inner-eye [that] pierces the veil to know what is to come.”

A bit of work can give us all a more penetrating eye and a bit of foreknowledge in certain areas rendering the “unknowable” a bit knowable.

Personal Example

I have a creek running though my front yard — Hickory Creek which empties a few miles away into Melton Hill Lake.

Amongst the many critters that den along this creek are a pair of opossums that reside along the west bank.

Opossums are generally nocturnal; they can exit in the daytime for extra foraging in cold weather, but I have noticed that if they exit and meander toward the north of our property (high ground) we will likely have hard rain in a few hours.

There can be not a cloud in the sky and yet if I see this daytime meandering exit to the north I can declare, “It’s gonna rain hard in a few hours” and nail it and appear all-knowing to my listeners if they stick around long enough for the cloudburst several hours later.

So, how did I get to be an honorary “Red Man”?

High pressure systems (good weather) as their name states, increase the pressure of what lies beneath it, that means increased pressure on me, you, and Hickory Creek itself.

High pressure’s effect on water is to push-down on it causing the water-level to decrease. This water does not just disappear it is “pushed” by the high-pressure and wicks into the soil surrounding the body of water itself, meaning during high pressure we have a slightly lower creek water level, and slightly soppier soil conditions right along the edges of the body of water. (BTW -These hydromechanics hold for all bodies of water, hence the “precognition” in the historical examples.)

Now, I am not out there measuring water levels and taking soil samples daily but, I do trust the wisdom of an animal that lives along the banks of the creek to intuitively do these water-level checks and soil samples for me. Thusly, when my meteorologist opossums head for higher ground on clear days, I don’t take the sailboat out.

They make me look good and… nothing mystical about it.

It is with this in mind we train an eye on penetrating the mystical smoke to see if there is any truth to truthy embers.

Testing for Life-Force

A standard exercise from “life-force” or “energy-traditions” follows.

  • Stand in a relaxed position.
  • Take a few slow deep relaxing breaths.
  • Close your eyes and hold your hands open approximately two feet apart, palms facing one another.
  • Slowly bring them together and, while remaining relaxed, see if you can sense when they are closing in on one another.
  • This will be an easy exercise as proprioception will allow you to “cheat” and always know where your own hands are, just as you automatically “know” where your left leg is in relation to your body as soon as you read this sentence.

Testing for “Feeling a Partner’s Energy”

  • This time don a blindfold, take your relaxing breaths, hold your hands in the spread position and have a partner move one of their hands slowly closer to one of yours. Your job is to “feel” if/when you can detect the approach, if so, call which hand and approximate distance.
  • If you find that you are garnering fairly accurate results take it outdoors or conduct it in front of a fan as more often than not, we are “reading” ambient heat. Outdoors and/or before-a-fan reduces these “false-reads” where there is less chance for ambient heat to conduct from hand to hand.
  • If you find you still have positive results, try having your partner move inanimate objects slowly closer to the extended hands.

Be careful to not mistake initial positive results for “unknown” energy. Many tests and varying conditions will let you know if you are reading ambient heat, subtle variations in wind swirls and currents around an object, deviations in sound waves diffracted etc.

But… if we discover that by merely paying attention or awakening ourselves to reading these subtle variations in known energy, I must say, to my eye, that that ability is just as good if not better than the mystical ability and more practical if brought into the day-to-day game of warrior awareness and awake diligence.

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