Concept of Chi


Alexander Liss






     The Concept of Chi is broadly used in Eastern thought, medicine, martial arts, etc. It is known in Western thinking and used on its fringes, under terms as “energy” or alike, but it is not a part of Western scientific thinking. Acupuncture and achievements of martial artists and monks are attributed by practitioners to mysterious Chi. Western scientists studied phenomena, but found neither a matching set of concepts, which could explain phenomena scientifically, nor the way to fit this foreign concept into the building of Western scientific knowledge.

     This is unfortunate, because there are useful arts of treatment of illnesses, control of own body etc. which are taught with extensive use of this concept. Practitioners of Eastern arts can reproduce remarkable phenomena at will, hence this is something that could be and should be a part of scientific study. The Concept of Chi should be interpreted according to traditions of Western thought in such study.

     Absence of consistent Western conceptual basis in this area is detrimental to development of Western thought.

     A remarkable example one could find in a popular television show “Dog Whisperer”, where a dog psychologist Cesar Millan has to resort to use of term “energy”, for the lack of a better term, to describe interactions between dogs and humans. One could sense that using a term Chi, he could explain his ideas better, but it is understandable why he does not want to use it – this would pull him into endless discussions, when he simply wants to organize relationships between pets and their owners and make a good show on the way.

     Following is dedicated to explanation of Chi in terms of Western thought. This should open the door to use of this Concept in Western culture.


Flow of Chi


     When one describes effects of Chi, one uses images of Flow - Chi is flowing. However this flow is different from flow of energy; this is similar to flow of information. It is a kind of “conversation”.

     In a human body there is perpetual conversation between the brain, muscles, organs, etc. via nerves and hormones.

     Some patterns of this conversation are healthy other patterns are manifestation of a disorder.

Some patterns of this conversation allow focusing of activity of muscles; some allow proper automatic reaction of the body in a situation, which changes too quickly for a mind to make proper decisions, etc.

     Classification of patterns of this conversation (Flow of Chi) according to tasks at hand provides tools to its understanding and control.

     Flow of Chi in one’s body is not perceived consciously. Also, there are no models in biology yet, which consistently measure electrical and chemical signals in the body as a part of information processing system. Hence, it is difficult to study and master the control of Flow of Chi.

     However, even a superficial analysis of an information system could detect simplest patterns as positive feedback, cycle, etc.

In a positive feedback pattern, a small external signal leads to growth of activity in some subsystem driven exclusively by the nature of the system.

In the cycle pattern, there is perpetual flow of information in some subsystem, when there is practically no external signal and there is no need for such flow to support functioning of the system.

These patterns of Flow of Chi often manifest themselves as important phenomena.  


Extended Concept


     There is one other not conscious perpetual communication, which fits neatly into the Concept of Chi - communication between living things.

     Even between conscious beings, the vast majority of communication is done via poses and movements of the body, and poses and movements of the face. Between animals or between humans and animals, this not conscious communication is the main form of communication.

     Generally, there is perpetual communication between all living beings, to some degree.

     Even more, a living creature is a complex symbiosis of creatures of different type (for example bacteria in the person’s intestine is in symbiosis with the person’s body). There is perpetual exchange of information between these symbiotic creatures.

     Hence we arrived to an obvious, but unusual in Western thought idea, of a Concept of Chi as a system of perpetual information exchange between living beings, where we study and control patterns of such exchange.


Stable Patterns and Flips


     For practical uses, one wants to know stable patterns of the information flow and how to flip the system from one pattern into another.

     In treatment, one wants to flip from a sick pattern into a healthy one.

     A martial artist wants to flip:

·        own body pattern from a standard one into a focused and alert one

·        body of an opponent from a healthy one into a disabled one

·        the pattern of interaction between warring members of the group from a chaotic into one with predictable outcome, where opponents are disabled

     The concept could be used to guide various useful transformations:

·        to flip a group of pets and their owners from a pattern, where there are problems for pets and humans into a pattern where behavior of pets and owners is safe, healthy and satisfying

·        to improve the group dynamics in family, or at work

·        to enhance the rapport between a performer and spectators




     The Concept of Chi allows for a concise and simple description in many seemingly unrelated areas.


Treatment of Depression


     Elsewhere on this site, Depression is described as a result of a particular vicious cycle in a body, which involves brain, muscles, nerves and hormonal system. With the Concept of Chi, explaining of the main idea of treatment is easy – there is a sick pattern of information flow in the body, which is not caused by external events, but by deficiency of the system. To treat it, one needs to flip from this pattern of flow into a stable healthy one. In this case, flipping is done with a particular form of exercise. This exercise is easy and could be done at any moment one detects a sick patter of Flow of Chi.


Dealing with Dogs


     Cesar Millan defined a healthy pattern of Flow of Chi in a group of human owners and pet dogs, where owners play a “calm assertive” role of a “pack leader” and dogs play a “calm submissive” role of “pack followers”. He is confronted with a bad pattern and he has to classify it and find a transition from the bad pattern to a healthy one.

     He eliminates main obstacles to such transition and teaches owners how to flip into a healthy pattern of Flow of Chi.




     Long time ago, most likely in China, an amazing discovery was made that Flow of Chi could be changed from one stable pattern to another through insertion of a set of needles in special areas of skin.

     This is used for treatment. Still the diagnosis (detection of the class of the bad pattern) and deciding on the type of transition is art, which is difficult to learn (training takes 20 years).