If you have ever watched a martial arts competition or especially if you watch them regularly you may notice that some competitors make it seem effortless. Their form is seemingly perfect but does not look rehearsed. They seem to flow from move to another and even in the middle of a fierce battle it seems as if they are dancing.
Then there are others that seem stiff, the movements have an awkward rehearsed feeling to them and even though they are proficient and experienced it seem as if they are to put a huge amount of effort into their exhibition or match.
The difference is Chi. The competitor in the first example, knows how to use it, flows with it and as a result their performance is smooth, flawless, they are responding instantly. The second competitor only knows the physical aspect of martial arts. They have not learned the Chi aspect. This does not mean they are any less skilled by the standards used, they are however missing out on half the potential that martial arts has.
Chi is the energy of life; you could even say it is the spiritual aspect that goes with the practice of martial arts. Martial arts are more than training your body it is also about training your spirit. Learning how Chi can be manipulated is what trains the spirit. It is when both these aspects work together that martial artists reach the true potential of the art.
The best way to accomplish this is to learn both the physical and spirit aspects of martial arts at the same time. This creates a balance between the two and allows to both grow together and work together. While the best way to do this is to find a dojo that actually teaches both in some places it may be difficult to find this.
Most western Dojos do not teach this spiritual aspect through they may touch on it. There are some however or you can work on it on your own through meditation and through martial arts practices that are designed to assist in the development of the chi energy.
Chi energy must be developed slowly; the manipulation of energy also requires physical strength. The movement of energy within the body causes heat, your body must be able to take the physical manifestations of energy movement in order to use it effectively and ensure that no physical damage comes from working the energy and channeling it through the body.
The best time to start learning this is during childhood when spiritual awareness has not been dulled and tarnished by society. It already exists in all of us from birth. Of course, this is not always possible for everyone.
While it is possible it is harder to develop the process after adulthood because you must first remove expectations and the philosophy and beliefs of society in order to obtain spiritual awareness to the level of being able to manipulate chi energy into a useful form. It is however possible and something that everyone who wants to take martial arts to the next level should consider.