A reader sent me an e-mail with a link to a video of a karate stylist vs. a “chi master”. I presume it was in response to this post. In it I make the comment that I’d like to see a chi or ki master go up against a MMA fighter. Well the video that this person sent me is close enough. I’ll post it in a second.
However, since I’m on the topic of science I came across a New York Times article that is tangentially related to all of this. For years science has hypothesized that the so-called “runner’s high” was due to the brain releasing chemicals known as endorphins. The problem is that the science of the day did not have the means to test the hypothesis.
But for years scientists have reserved judgment because no rigorous test confirmed its existence.
In essence, for all those years you have thousands of runners who have claimed to have experienced the runner’s high. In fact I ran for 17 years and am one of the claimants. Yet I also understand how science works and I know the process can be very slow. In the mean time with no hard evidence you have all sorts of outrageous counter-claims. The one that comes to mind is 15 years ago when I was taking boxing lessons at a dojo that also offered aikido, karate, and judo. One of the boxers told me that the aikido instructor said the runners high was nothing more than un-channeled ki. Basically that through running the boxers were like unrefined cavemen who were accidentally tapping into something mystical.
Well yabba-dabba do!
But now medical technology has caught up with exercise lore. Researchers in Germany, using advances in neuroscience, report in the current issue of the journal Cerebral Cortex that the folk belief is true: Running does elicit a flood of endorphins in the brain. The endorphins are associated with mood changes, and the more endorphins a runner’s body pumps out, the greater the effect.
For athletes, the study offers a sort of vindication that runner’s high is not just a New Agey excuse for their claims of feeling good after a hard workout.
So what will happen now is that other scientists will test and re-test this original experiment. If after years of testing it passes muster it will likely become a well-tested and confirmed theory. Only time will tell.
Related to running is an article on “Chi Running“. However it’s not what you think.
As Cucuzzella played around with ways to emulate what he observed, he found a technique called “chi running,” a form of running influenced by t’ai chi.
“T’ai chi is all about aligning your body and keeping it aligned for efficiency,” says Danny Dreyer…During daylong seminars, Dreyer teaches runners how to relax their bodies so they don’t have to use as much muscle power.
Cucuzzella basically wanted to develop a way to run that is not hard on the body. What this guy did was to do something that science does all the time: Observation. He first observed world-class runners and noticed that they ran differently.
If you watch world-class runners, says Cucuzzella, “They’re landing right under their center of body mass. They’re lifting their legs, not pushing off.”
Add to this a little observation from the body mechanics of T’ai chi and chi running is born. What’s neat about this is it’s an example of Eastern thought meeting Western science. I truly think both could learn from each other but you need willing parties on both sides of the fence to step back from their dogma for it to happen. And, like any good scientist, Dr. Cucuzzella knows that his new method needs to be rigorously tested.
Cucuzzella is looking for evidence that there’s something about the body mechanics of the chi running technique that he could teach his patients. He’s working with researchers at George Washington University who hope to try to measure the impact forces and injury rates of runners who try the method.
What I’m trying to say here is that some Western scientists have so much faith in their science that they outright dismiss Eastern ideas. It’s one thing to dismiss an idea after having tested it with science but it’s quite another (and wrong) to dismiss something without even having looked at it. I’m betting that if more Western scientists took a hard look at Eastern notions we’d see more things like chi running.
We also could avoid proponents who teach that chi or ki can do all sorts of outrageous things like stop a sword. For example, this video shows a Manila martial artist who thinks that he can make his body sword proof after a ritual. The ritual involves channeling mystical energies into his body which is supposed to harden his skin. Suffice to say this “iron skin” experiment goes terribly wrong. (if you don’t like blood avoid this one)
Finally, I’ll close this post with a video of a karate man who takes on a chi master. It speaks for itself.
Those hailing from karate or taekwondo will probably appreciate the control that the karate stylist exhibits. If he wanted to he could have easily killed the chi master.
I also can’t help but feel a little sorry for the guy who believed in chi. Think about it: He’s probably spent years training in this stuff, years being taught this dogma, all to the point that he convinced himself that he could take on an assailant, be protected, and win a fight for 5k. Now what do you think would have happened to him if he tried this against a mugger on the street?
That’s the part that makes me mad.