Thursday, March 5, 2009
Review: "Chi Gong" By Paul Dong and A. Esser
This review has been a long time coming, because I wanted to read this book carefully and understand the concepts and various investigations explored by the authors.
In this book, Paul Dong and Aristide Esser have come the closest to explaining the phenomenon of "Chi" that I have read yet. As Martial Artists, we are all familiar with the notion of "chi". However, not suprisingly the mysterious concept is avoided or even mocked by some, especially reality-based and fight-sport practitioners. Coincedently, those practitioners tend to be young, in very good condition and without concern for integrating meditative health practice into the fight-sport they participate in.
With this in mind, Dong and Esser explore the roots of Chi Gong (Chi enhancement) from ancient shamanism and the early theories of Chinese medicine. I found it very interesting that they fault the rise of Communism for supression of aspects of this study. For instance, for political reasons Chi research was rolled into Psychic (ESP) research. While this marginalized aspects of Chi research, it increased the pool of researchers in general. The authors do not shy away from discussion of "Empty force" (aka no-touch knockouts etc.) and openly suggest that nearly anyone that practices Chi Gong regularly will increase their psychic ability.
The good thing about this book is that it's focus is on the science of Chi research, and not heavy on the multitude of postures and training methods available. The authors present just a few simple techniques, such as the "standing stake/pole" practice, some visualization, but it is not overloaded with postures.
Instead, this book offers comparitive Chinese and western studies, including those reviewed by skeptical researchers. Modern testing equipment has been used to record the bioenergetic forces in the human body, such as infrared radiation, electromagnetic and static discharges, etc.
Yet there are certain things that remain unexplained. For instance, if Chi healing is psychosomatic or self induced, why does it also work on animals, which have no such human thinking process?
Dong and Esser go into detail about healing success with Chi Gong. They do admit there may be an element of self-hypnosis involved, but none-the-less, measurable changes in body chemistry (endocrine system, blood oxygen levels etc.) are apparent.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this study is the finding that transmission of Chi may involve "transfer of information", which may explain claims of enhanced psychic ability. A study of Chi by the Chinese Academy of Sciences concluded with this:
"It appears to us that qi (chi) is a much more complicated matter than we originally supposed it to be. Qi is probably a complicated organic combination of substance, energy and message. At present, substance, energy and message are studied seperately in science. Scientists are very unfamiliar both in theory and in experiments with what conditions will occur when these three produce effects at the same time".
And this from another group of researchers:
"We believe it is possible to conclude from all these findings that chi as a substance/force/messenger could well be hypothesized to exert it's function via the autonomous nervous system and the release of neuropeptides, following the meridian system or the previously mentioned psychosomatic network".
For skeptics, Dong and Esser's "Chi Gong" will provide food for thought with explanations in western medical terms. For those who already subscribe to the concept of Chi and Chi Gong healing, this book will offer clear and uplifting examples of how one's health, mental state and life in general can be improved by the practice of Chi Gong.
This book, and hundreds of other martial art-related titles can be found at this link for BLUE SNAKE BOOKS.