Prompted by various answers over an fitness.stackexchange.com where I put into doubt the existence of Chi, I was prompted to provide references for this assertion.

Issues with the burden of proof aside, have there ever been systematic studies regarding Chi as an alleged energy flowing through our body?

Note: This question is not aimed at practices that explain their effectiveness by invoking Chi. Whether or not, for example, acupuncture works is unrelated to Chi existing or not existing. It might very well work for reasons completely unrelated to Chi.

Note 2: I believe this question is different from the question "Does Chi exist?" posted on this site, because that post doesn't bother to define what is meant by Chi and also makes no assertions regarding the properties of Chi.

EDIT: Well, here's one example of someone making a claim that I think goes beyond the metaphysical:

Both your physical body and chi generate sensations you can feel. The sensation of chi is just as concrete as the physical body, only slightly more subtle, with a feeling that is lighter but nonetheless very real. Some compare it to bioelectricity. Some of the standard sensations of chi are heat, cold, pressure, wind, light, electricity, numbness, and mist. For example, in a platonic relationship, a touching of hands or a peck on the cheek is usually a fairly physical experience. In a sexual context however, a touch or kiss can send an energy wave within and throughout one or both of the participant's bodies. This wave is chi.

from Energy Arts

  • 4
    In order for this question to be acceptable on this site you would need a notable claim that it is. Currently you have a notable belief that it is which would count as a metaphysical claim that we do not address. At which point your question becomes a dupicate of Does Chi exist.
    – Chad
    Mar 14, 2012 at 21:00
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    saying that Chi exists is roughly equivalent to saying it doesn't exist
    – Uwat
    Mar 14, 2012 at 23:23
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    @Lagerbaer - No it is a belief until you put a quote of someone saying this is what happened a did b causing c. Then it is a claim. Find a claim that Chi is an actual energy flowing through the body that can be measured(which is what you are asking) and not a metaphysical energy. Skeptics is not a investigate my pet theory site.
    – Chad
    Mar 15, 2012 at 12:49
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    @KonradRudolph The two statements are truth-agnostic until we define the term "chi", which has not been done. All the Energy Arts "definition" is doing is grouping an ad-hoc set of amorphous phenomena. It's reducing the problem to semantics until we have a factual claim about a physical occurrence.
    – Dave
    Apr 19, 2012 at 18:32
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    @Dave My statement wasn’t about numbers. Logic (as in, the mathematical / philosophical set of definitions of logical reasoning) works regardless of what it’s applied to. It always works. Apr 19, 2012 at 19:56

1 Answer 1


The answer to this is really going to depend heavily upon what you are defining "chi" (or "qi" or "ki") as and what the context is. To take things from a slightly different angle, aikido relies heavily upon the concept of "ki" which relates to the Chinese concept of "chi" but is very overloaded in that it doesn't really have a well defined definition of what it means and if you talk to some aikido-ka they will tell you it means one thing, other's well tell you another thing, and still others will say it's bunk. However, the truth of the matter seems to be somewhere in the middle as you can watch an aikido demostration and see that they are in fact doing effective techniques regardless of the language in which it is taught.

Shihan Bernie Mulligan 1 described the concept of "chi" in aikido loosely as follows (quoted from article):

All Aikido techniques use a circular motion around a balanced core or center. The student directs his/her weight to their lower abdomen, and must maintain a calm but alert mind. The centering of weight and clarity of thought contributes to a state of “ki,” or a strong spiritual energy. Students also learn how to capture energy from the opponent and redirect it.

Along with some comments about how there is nothing magical about it, just that you don't understand it until you have trained yourself to understand it subconsciously in the same way that muscle memory works for anything else you continuously practice. Thus, when it comes to aikido, "chi" is less about a single poorly defined "energy" and more about the sum of your sense of balance coupled with a better awareness of your own momentum in your movement. Likewise, the redirection of your opponents "chi" is nothing more than taking that same understanding of momentum and coupling it with a mild understanding of the bodies pressure points 2 and basic mechanics of the human body.

So with that in mind, is "chi" an energy flowing through the body, well, maybe if you are very liberal with your definitions; however, it does become less of a "magical" concept and more of one grounded in reality. Just with very vague language wrapped around it which does make it easier to explain things to students at times.

  1. "Shihan" is effectively the highest rank you can make in aikido and isn't given out very often. The current list of aikido-ka at this level is very short.
  2. Pressure points is poorly defined at times and in this context I mean weak points in the body that you can manipulate via joint locks or just the application of pain to encourage someone to move differently.
  • Is there an explanation for the down vote?
    – rjzii
    Apr 16, 2012 at 13:15
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    I'd like to note that any skeptical viewing of an aikido demonstration should take into account the fact that A) the winner of each attack is predetermined and B) the person taking the falls is an almost entirely cooperative senior student with a great number of reasons to make the techniques look effective. Skeptical analysis of martial art requires pressure testing with an uncooperative opponent, for instance, sparring or competition.
    – Dave
    Apr 19, 2012 at 18:28
  • @Dave - While true, demonstrations are just that, demonstrations. You aren't going to randomly grab someone and throw them around for fun without the other person having a vague idea of what they are doing. As we all know, gravity is more than just a good idea and even if the aikido-ka is trying to ensure that an actual attacker is not hurt too badly, if they don't know how to break fall you can get a fairly serious injury if you are dropped to the ground unexpectedly.
    – rjzii
    Apr 19, 2012 at 18:45
  • I agree, though I'd say that the counterfactual is not grabbing a random person, but rather judo randori or a wrestling match. And to further agree, many proponents of those disciplines would totally that it's very helpful to refer to an "energy" consisting of balance/momentum, just as you say.
    – Dave
    Apr 19, 2012 at 18:50
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    @Dave - Right, but even then, I'm not sure how many aikido-ka would be up for kumite or a bit more open-ended randori simply due to their philosophy when it comes to martial arts. A karate-ka would be up for it with most people so they can test their skills and strength, but an aikido-ka may not be as they don't see martial arts as a form of combat per se.
    – rjzii
    Apr 19, 2012 at 18:56

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