What is Chi?


Acupuncture meridians

For most people a Tai Chi class is their first encounter with Chi – a word which is unheard of in the West but is central to the Chinese world view.

The meaning of the word Chi

Chi or Qi (pronounced ‘chee’) is a Chinese word that does not have any direct translation into English, Chinese was not created with translation into English as a criterion so some Chinese words simply do not have English language counterparts. Chinese words are often best understood by looking at word combinations that form a set and getting the meaning by the general usage. Sometimes people talk about “Chi energy”, but Chi is never translated as “energy” in a Chinese-English dictionary. Most of the word combinations involving Chi are associated with air or breathing. My teacher Chee Soo wrote about Sheng Chi 盛气 or vitality energy and it is this idea which relates Chi in the human body to health which is the most important meaning in relation to Tai Chi and Chi Gung.

Where is Chi located in the body?

Different types of Chi are created in the body by the internal organs, the lungs produce clean air chi, and the spleen produces food chi, these are called post natal or post-Heaven types of Chi. Another type of energy is stored in the body before we are born, this pre-Heaven or pre-birth Chi is stored in the form of Jing or essence and is located in the kidneys. Each organ contributes it’s special type of Chi to the mixture which makes the Chi which flows around the body.

Chi is stored in the Dan dien or lower cauldron which is located just below the navel and is distributed throughout the body along lines called jingluo or meridians. The Chi circulates around the organs and throughout the entire body, it has two major functions: the Yin function is nourishing the body, this also includes regenerating the tissues and repairing damaged and ageing cells and body parts; the Yang function is the primary motive force of the body, it provides movement of the muscles and also the distribution of essences around the body and the blood stream, it also warms the organs and maintains the required body temperature for us to live comfortably. Chi also defends the body from attacks by external factors like cold and wind with a layer of protective energy called Wei Chi.

The history of Chinese medicine

The quantity and quality of a person’s Chi is very important for health which is why acupuncturists use needles to control the flow of Chi around the body. Chinese medicine has a history going back for more than five thousand years and texts such as the Yellow Emperor’s classic or Nei Ching originating from the Xia dynasty of 2,600 BC are still used as an important reference manual by Chinese medicine practitioners today. Although many people have heard of acupuncture in actual fact it only comprises about ten percent of Chinese medicine treatments, herbs and preventative methods account for the other ninety percent. For example many millions of people practice Tai Chi and Chi Gung or energy development exercises in the parks every morning before going to work. These exercises originate from the traditional Chinese philosophy of Taoism or roughly translated living in harmony with nature.

Is Chi real?

To the Chinese Chi is not just a concept or a metaphor, but how can it be investigated by Western scientific methods? In 1962 a Korean scientist named Kim Bonghan discovered microscopic structures in the body almost too small to be detectable. The Bonghan channels were found to surround the internal organs and also followed the pathways described in ancient Chinese medical texts and known as the Chi energy meridians or jingluo. These structures were almost invisible because they were microscopic and transparent and for years his work went unrecognised because other scientists were unable to reproduce the dye he used to make them visible. More recently scientists have discovered new types of dyes which can be used to highlight and photograph these structures.

meridian-doll-portraitOne interesting characteristic of these channels is that they can transmit light. The human body generates light known as biophotons although they are at too low a level to be seen under normal circumstances. One theory suggests that the meridian pathways act a bit like a fibre optic super highway sending DNA based information from the organs in a network that connects the entire body. Another avenue of research has found that as well as particles of DNA these channels also contain hyaluronic acid which is found in the aqueous humour in the eyes and is also linked to many important body functions such as wound healing, lubricating the joints and strengthening cartilage and brain development.

However the term ‘Chi’ has been in use by Chinese medicine practitioners and Chi Gung and Tai Chi teachers for many generations before the advent of modern western science, and the reason is that it is a very useful concept which can help people develop their health and vitality. In our Tai Chi classes we have many exercises which help people to understand how to use Chi instead of physical strength, so even without the use of microscopes and special laboratory equipment it is perfectly possible for ordinary people like you and me to develop a useful understanding of Chi, and how it can be developed and used in a variety of situations. By understanding how Chi is made and how it can be cultivated we can improve our health by changing our diet and the way we live. Although increases in our levels of health can be measured by scientists, more importantly we can learn to take responsibility for our own health and well being without relying on doctors, drugs or surgery. The key to understanding this approach to health comes from these opening paragraphs of the Nei Ching: “Do not wait until you are thirsty to start digging a well.”, or as we might say in the West “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

How can we cultivate Chi?

Chi levels in the body can go up or down, we can be full of vitality and at other times we might get run down and sick. We know that the lungs provide clean air chi to the system so deep breathing and learning to expand the breathing capacity is a traditional way of boosting the Chi. A clean natural diet avoiding toxins is another way we can increase Chi. Cultivating Chi is a bit like storing energy in a battery, we can charge it up or run it down, if we learn to charge the battery and avoid depleting the store we can always have a plentiful supply of energy even as we get older. Chi Gung and Tai Chi exercises help us to build a store of energy but also improve the circulation of Chi, think of the sap flowing around a tree in springtime, the tree flourishes and buds turn into shoots and new leaves and growth occurs every year at this time. As we get older the movement of energy around the body can get stuck and some areas become starved of energy and we get ill. Tai Chi exercises help the chi to flow in a continuous circle around the entire body so the whole system is constantly nourished and regenerated.

Excessive physical exercise burns up vital energies, so does taking drugs, drinking alcohol and excessive sexual activity. Certain foods also deplete the store of Chi such as junk foods, artificial additives, anything which is not what we might consider a natural diet. As we become more sensitive we develop an awareness of the effects of what we take into our body and how we spend our energy. Of course we all have to live in the modern world and give time and energy to our families and work so it’s not possible for us to become monks and live in a mountaintop monastery to cultivate energies. Taoism, the ancient Chinese philosophy on which Tai Chi is based gives us a clue as to how we can practically apply philosophy to increase our levels of energy and the key concept here is balance and moderation.

A new class at Heartlands


A new Tai Chi and Kung Fu club has opened at Heartlands at the Chy An Bobel Community building (on the right of the picture above). This is a continuous class and new students can enrol at any time during the term.

Heartlands is near the A30 between Camborne and Redruth.

Tai Chi is at 7:30-9pm and Kung Fu is at 6-7:30pm.

The cost is £6 per session.

The club teacher is Chris Simpson who has been teaching Tai Chi since 1985 and established the University of Warwick Tai Chi club.

Chris lives in St Just, if you have any enquiries you can contact him on 01736 785826 mobile 07730 399389.

Truro club new venue

truro high school

The Truro club has relocated to Truro High school, Kensey Hall in Daniell Court, Truro TR1 2HU.

The new class will be starting on Wednesday 1st October and will be every Wednesday evening from 7:30-9pm.

You can visit the Truro club Facebook page for more details or ring Steve on 07909 531979

Heartlands Healing Light festival

P1000222We will be doing a Tai Chi information stall and free sessions at Heartlands Healing Light Festival on Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st September 2014.

Beginners are welcome, come along and give it a try.

How to get to Heartlands


Autumn term classes starting in September


Autumn term T’ai Chi classes are starting from 1st September at Helston’s Old Cattle Market.

The St Just club starts on Thursday 4th September at the Methodist Hall in Chapel Road.

The Helston Monday evening class is from 7:30-9pm every Monday evening, the cost will be £6 per class. The daytime class has shifted from Tuesday to Wednesday morning from 10:30am – midday. Here’s some pictures from Cornwall T’ai Chi cub members summer activities in the local area.

Summer Course in St Just

The Taoist Arts Summer Course 2014 at St Just Sports Centre is three weeks of Tai Chi, Feng Shou Kung Fu and Anmo chi energy meridian massage and Chinese Medicine starting on 28th July. The course is open to everyone and is 10am – 5pm each day, lunch 1-2pm. Price £35 per day, £150 per week.

Tai Chi week 28th July – 1st August.

The T’ai Chi week is ideal for beginners, it’s a great way to work with more experienced people from the clubs around the country and also meet other beginners from the local area. The course is equivalent to six months training plus there will also be a chance to cover some of the more advanced techniques we do not always have time to go over in the evenings for example T’ai Chi weapons. The course includes Tao Yin or deep breathing exercises, Tiaowu or T’ai Chi dance, partner work like sticky hands and exercises to develop the use of chi, Kai Men or open door chi gung, and the T’ai Chi form. The weapons training is a traditional exercise which has an extended range of movement and also helps you to project energy outside the body. The Tai Chi weapons are a straight double edged sword, a staff, a silk and a fan. There are new forms to master and partners exercises too.

tai chi sword form

Feng Shou week 4th August – 8th August.

Feng Shou kung fu is a soft but very effective style of self defence training. Based on the same Taoist principles as Tai Chi but concentrating exclusively on the self defence aspects of the Art it is a practical style suitable for both men and women of any age or level of ability. We do not use physical strength but concentrate on developing the Chi or internal energy. There is no demanding physical exercise regime and we develop flexibility and agility emphasizing technique and strategy over muscle power. We will also be working on the kung fu weapons forms which include a Chinese broadsword, staff and chopsticks. There are exercises to develop your ability to defend against all kinds of attacks including strikes, kicks and grappling.

feng shou kung fu - distance laquer

Anmo health and massage week 11th – 15th August

Please note the massage week is at Boswedden House near Cape Cornwall.

Anmo is a Chinese health art involving improving the flow of the life force or chi energy by gentle massage techniques using the jingluo or chi energy meridians.

These meridians supply the essential life energy that nurtures and regenerates the entire body. They connect the organs with the rest of the body supplying chi and vital essences. This kind of massage aids recovery from a wide range of illnesses and is based on preventative medicine so it also improves your level of disease resistance. Our approach is based on five areas including massage, Chang Ming long life diet, herbs, breathing exercises and contact thermogenesis.

At the end of each week social activities include our beach party at Sennen Cove beach.

sennen beach summer Course

If you are interested you can book in to the course on our main website.

If you have any questions you can email us or chat to us on our Facebook page.


Helston Day Class on the midsummer solstice

The Helston club will be hosting a day of T’ai Chi on Saturday 21st June at the Old Cattle Market in Helston.

The course is from 10am to 5pm with lunch 1-2pm, tea will be available bring a packed lunch or there is a cafe at the boating lake nearby.

The cost is £40 for the day.

This course is suitable for beginners and advanced students and is recommended for all the students attending our clubs in West Cornwall. It’s a chance for you to go over your forms and exercises in much more depth and also meet up with some of the other students in the local area. We will be starting with some gentle warming up exercises and then some Chi Gung to open the energy meridian pathways followed by our Tiaowu 跳舞 or T’ai Chi dance which is a light and flowing sequence of movements based on the five elements or Wu Xing 五行. We will also be doing some partner exercises to teach you the difference between physical strength, chi or internal energy and Li which is external or macro-cosmic energy. We will also be practising the T’ai Chi form which is a set of moving meditation sequences. If you want to practise some of the forms at home you can copy them from the youtube videos on this link.

Trelissick Gardens Health and Wellbeing expo


Trelissick Gardens Health and Wellbeing expo
Saturday 24th May – 12noon
Sunday 25th May – 4pm
Book here now if you want to attend the free Tai Chi sessions.
Cornwall tai Chi will be holding Tai Chi taster sessions on the activities green.
You can come along and join in the free classes and have an opportunity to talk to the teachers and find out about the online training, and group courses we have on offer in West Cornwall.

Healing Light Festival at Heartlands 10th-11th May


We will be doing Tai Chi taster sessions and information stall at Heartlands at Poole in Camborne 10th-11th May weekend, you can come along and join in the free classes or talk to the teachers, look at the books we publish, or watch some of our videos of classes, online training, and courses we have on offer in Cornwall.


New Falmouth T’ai Chi club

falmouth cover

A new T’ai Chi class in Falmouth will be opening at the Core Fitness centre in the Old Post Office Building in The Moor near Killigrew Street.

The exact day and time are yet to be confirmed but there will be daytime and evening classes probably starting from Thursday 22nd May.

Although we have had Lee style T’ai Chi classes in Falmouth since 2009 when Asher Simpson was at Falmouth University he went to Exeter University for his masters degree and set up a new class which he is still running in Exeter. Now that we have been having requests from the Falmouth area for a new T’ai Chi class we have been talking to The Core fitness centre who are opening a new healthy eating Cafe and movement space on the ground floor of the Old Post Office at The Moor.


Once the refurbishment is complete we will be opening the new club which should be within the next two months, we will release details as soon as we know them.