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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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9 thoughts on “Martial Energy Drills: Mumbo Jumbo or Fire Behind the Smoke”

  1. Yes Intuition, gut feeling etc. is very real and has saved my butt several times. Before I stopped drinking, there were times when sitting in a bar, I would get a feeling to leave, even though I still had a full beer. I would leave. Once I heard on the police scanner that there was a shooting at the bar I had just left, another time the bar was fire bombed minutes after I left. So do I trust my gut feeling, you bet. If i get a bad feeling, I leave, period.

  2. I think your oppossums would be good farmers! Not the joke you may think. I grew up on a farm and there were many similar, simple and to city people, miraculous weather predictions. Cows lying down, gonna rain. Back side of the leaves showing, gonna rain!
    As for the human side, being observant and aware goes a long way. I’m 6’2″ 220lb and sneak up on people without trying all the time. Scares the hell out of people!
    The usefulness of this is that crooks are generally not stupid. Bad guy looking for someone to rob or worse is very likely to move to someone who looks like his head is up his ass than someone aware of his surroundings.
    Try to be more aware and you will be. Look, listen, doesn’t take long for it to be automatic.
    To me that’s a great 1st step! Obviously there’s lots more on this site to help.
    Eyes and ears open.

  3. I also believe that you can draw bad situations to you. Most people never get into a fight, or only a few during their lifetime. But as with most of your fighters, they have been in many times hundreds of fights. I knew a person many years ago that was a bouncer at a bar I frequented. I would come to work with visual damage, like a black eye, split lip, broken wrist, etc. It seemed that he got into a fight outside being a bouncer at least once a week. I kidded him about it, but it didn’t change him. Finally after he didn’t show up for work for over a week, when he came in, I asked and he told me, that he had gotten into a fight, and as he was fighting one guy, he felt a couple punched in this back, When he turned he saw the man had a knife. He cold cocked him and only then did he feel the blood on his back. He had spent the week in the hospital getting his kidney repaired. He said I learned my lesson. No more fighting for me. He quit his job as a bouncer.

  4. I’m very interested in pressure points. Do you have any one that can show me how to effectively use them. I would greatly appreciate any resources on this.

  5. As a practitioner of Aikido for a number of years, I have witnessed and experienced the effects of the extension of Ki. whether it is an actual force or a matter of increased personal focus is not something I can determine. How ever, it is a part of most of the Eastern martial arts, and whatever it is, it seems to work. Aikido actually means “the way of harmony with Ki”. Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, did some amazing things with it, including fighting bandits and duels with opponents in the pre WWII military who thought his pacifism was bad for Japan. I think it would be instructive to have a discussion of this topic with famous martial artists such as Jackie Chan and Jet Li.

  6. I have a very strong unseen energy , its called projecting yourself, it can win a fight without contact, but give you explosive energy and speed whilst in it , you should try it .