Across Cultures and Centuries

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From Taoism comes that which is known regarding Far Eastern methods of using chi (meaning energy) for martial arts as well as healing. Initially, only monks in the monasteries were familiar with the concept of chi.  Their days were filled with prayers, meditations and other peaceful and simple activities, because they believed that only such an environment would help them maintain chi, and thereby facilitate contact with the Omnipotent Spirit of the Universe. Farmers from the neighbourhood provided them with food and were repaid with prayers. When robbers began attacking villages and temples some of the monks decided to sacrifice their monastic way of living and undertook active forms of defence in order to protect themselves from the unwanted attackers. During battles, these monks were hard to conquer as they used the skill of concentrating energy against their opponents. This discovery initiated the schools of martial arts, which were initially geared toward defence (1), although eventually these schools also taught the skill of using concentrated energy for offensive purposes. Another use of energy was in the healing of wounded warriors. During battle, as is well known, one often gets injured. To speed up the healing process, a new group of people was formed: the so-called chi gong masters, who were capable of using energy to heal the wounds. The ability of these legendary chi gong masters to heal physical as well as psychological distress made them famous throughout the ages. Today in China, their new official name is the people of special function. Energy emitted from their hands is used to restore a person's proper energetic balance, restoring wholeness on every level (not only on the level of the physical body).

(1) Legend has it that defence skills were developed in Shaolin Monastery following the visit of Bodhidharma, an Indian monk credited as founder of Zen, who upon his arrival at the temple noticed the poor health of the monks. To improve their health, Bodhidharma taught them a series of energy­based exercises. Over time, as the temple grew, acquiring a high level of visibility that attracted thieves, the energy-based exercises were adapted into a defence discipline, which in turn were developed into offensive skills.