The Relationship between Chinese Medicine and Chinese Martial Arts

Updated: Feb 17

The Relationship between Chinese Martial Arts and Healing Arts



The Chinese Cosmology, Wu ji to Tai Ji, to The Ten Thousand Things

Anyone who has spent some time studying sinology, or Chinese culture, will find that a common philosophy underlies all aspects of culture. Like a great reservoir that all the rivers flow from and return to. Often called the Dao, or The Way, it is an indefinable yet ever quiescent substance. The Dao becomes a unity or Tai Yi, which splits into two, Tai Ji, commonly known as Yin and Yang. Yin and Yang as a philosophy precedes Daoism by at least a millennia, appearing to be known as early as the Xia and Shang dynasties. The trigrams or Bagua, are attributed to Fu Xi, the first man in Chinese tradition, he is the teacher of writing and language as well as divination, and the legendary author of the I Ching.

Yin and Yang continue subdividing from 2, to 3, to 4, to 5 and on infinitely. As all things have their origin in Yin and Yang changes, all aspects of Chinese culture are grounded in that context. When Buddhism came to China it was also adopted into this context. The concept of Qi is a great example of the connection that exists between all aspects of Chinese culture, running through all levels of society and nature. Qi as a Chinese character appears as a pot of steaming rice. A myriad of meanings are all packed together here, one of the energy in food, one of phases changing, the process of heating, absorbing and cooking, going from subtle to dense, one about vapor and fluid being two sides of the same thing, and an underlying unity of action and inaction, the more one extrapolates the more meanings can be found, showing the influence of the Dao, and how it can generate ten thousand names for something that is all one.

Qi is known and used in both Chinese Medicine and Chinese Martial Arts. It refers to the total vitality and transformational ability in the person, like a quotient of efficiency. Qi in a person has many different forms, some are hard, some are soft, some are formed, and some are closer to the formless, they are all more dynamic then physical substances. In Chinese Medicine, pathological imbalances resulting either from the inside or outside are restored with a variety of therapies. When prescribing these therapies a Chinese Medicine doctor bases his diagnosis not on symptoms alone, but on the patients unique disposition, emotional makeup, the prevailing celestial and temporal influences (such as weather, season, time of day, and the other environmental factors), and whatever other information he can glean, whether explicit or not.


In Chinese Martial Arts the philosophy is quite similar, and both can be related to the Chinese classic, The Art of War by Sunzi. As China was an imperial society, the effects of the empire rippled down to every job and economic class in the empire, each persons health being a result and responsibility of the empire's function. In Chinese Martial Arts invaders and attackers are repelled, restrained, and defeated by the use of shapes that protect the Zang Fu, or Organs, while also delivering a response of energy to the attacker. In order for there to be a reason to attack, there must already be some vulnerability or deficiency the tactician or doctor can exploit. In this way the Yin Yang philosophy is manifesting, for the encroachment upon one set of boundaries, the enemies boundary will also be influenced. In other words any Yang influence will have a Yin reaction. The allocation of resources to one place takes them from somewhere else. The Martial Arts philosophy is not about attacking, any attack returned should be a consequence incurred by the attacker, never strike first, same as the Art of War and Chinese Medicine, don't treat what doesn't need to be fixed, win without fighting.


Martial Arts and Chinese Medicine have a lot in common, by knowing different attackers, their strategies, and the forces in Heaven and Earth which compliment or hurt them, a successful and fruitful defense can be mounted.



The components of the character for Qi


Article on Qi


The Art of War by Sunzi


Dao De Jing, chapter on the breakdown of the one, Laozi




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