Chi, Ki, and the Holy Spirit




I Corinthians 3:16

“Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?”


Many years ago, more years than I like to think about, I was much involved in Tae Kwon Do, which is a Korean Martial art. I still remember the first time I entered the Dojang, which is a place where Tae Kwon Do is taught. I was wearing a brand-new white Dobok (uniform) and I had a white belt, a white belt is the first belt in karate. It signifies the beginner, the noob. White of the color of innocence. A white belt means you are innocent of any knowledge or ability in karate.

Tae Kwon Do is probably the most popular martial art in the world. It is the national sport of Korea. It is taught in most Korean high schools. Around the world, it is popular with people of both genders and of all ages. TKD develops strength, speed, balance, flexibility, and stamina. It does this by exercises, sparring, teaching self-defence techniques. We learned throwing techniques, and falling techniques. We did a lot of pushups on our knuckles. We did jumping jacks and static stretches. About every 3 months we had a test and if we passed we advanced in rank. The exercises were sometimes hard and sometimes boring, and the instructor emphasized that we needed discipline and commitment to succeed in TKD--or anything else.

There was also an emphasis on respect for others. I remember the instructor saying, your sparring partner is your best friend because he or she is helping you to learn TKD. That is kind of hard to keep in mind sometimes when your sparring partner is trying to kick you or punch you.

Then there were the forms. In Korean they are called Hyung or Poomse. They are a set series of attacking and defensive movements. Each Hyung must be memorized and performed on the test for the next belt rank. To attain a first Dan black belt, the student generally learns about 10 Hyungs. By the way, I attained the rank of second Dan black belt.

The first few months in TKD are so taken up with basic exercises and learning basic techniques that there just is not time for anything else. We did strength exercises and stretching exercises. The rest of the time we learned the blocks and kicks and punches of TKD. Then after that we sparred with each other, or learned self-defense or forms.

It was much tougher than any physical training I did in the AF. In some ways it reminded me of High School football training camp. But then as time went on I began to hear other stories about mysterious powers beyond the physical--the unbreakable block, the immovable stance, power that went beyond ordinary muscle and bone.

The following story carried by AP illustrates the type of story I heard. Angela Cavallo still lives in Lawrenceville, Georgia, where this incident happened on April 9, 1982. (An Associated Press account did not appear till April 14.) Angel's teenage son Tony had a 1964 Chevy Impala jacked up in the driveway. He removed a rear tire and was working on the suspension. A neighbor kid came running to the kitchen door to tell Angela there had been an accident. She rushed out to find Tony pinned under the car. Apparently something had been stuck and in trying to loosen it he had rocked the car off the jack. Now he was caught under the car, and all his mother could see of him was from the waist down.

Telling the neighbor kid to get help, Angela grabbed the side of the car with both hands and pulled up with all her strength. The AP account said she raised the car four inches; she doubts it was that much but believes it was enough to take the pressure off. She recalls nothing about the rescue, but the AP story said two neighbors reinserted the jack and dragged the boy out (Tony recovered OK.). Now Angela was then in her late 50s. She is about 5 foot eight inches tall. She lifted that car and held it off her son for 5 minutes. How was she able to do that? (

I know that you can say that her adrenaline kicked in and she absolutely focused every ounce of energy on that one task and that was why she was able to be supermom for those few minutes. Perhaps so. But among TKD practitioners I heard a somewhat different explanation. In her extremity, she connected with Ki and that empowered her for that task.

It is called Ki in Korea and Japan. It is called Chi in China. In India it is called prana. Ki or Chi is the life force or the vital energy of life. It is an invisible inner power. The nature of this universal and fundamental energy is such that it penetrates everywhere, uniting all the manifestations of life. It is a creative energy, the divine ‘breath’ in every being. Ki flows through all things. It is the essence of life. It is everything and it is nothing. It is everything because it is an energy that permeates all living things. It is nothing because it has no substance, no form. It is very real but it is intangible. It cannot be touched, only experienced.

Legends in the martial arts tell how in ancient times the master would reveal the knowledge of this inner energy to only a few selected disciples. I was intrigued when I heard about these legends and begin to read more about Ki. Unfortunately what I discovered is that there are almost as many different opinions about Ki among martial artists as there are martial artists. Some do not believe in Ki at all. They say just train hard in your particular martial art and develop strength and agility and there is nothing else. Others believe that Ki is a physical force just like any other physical force. They would say that just as you have gravity or electricity, you also have a life force which is called Ki or Chi and you may tap into this force and become a super martial artist. They usually teach that the connection to the life-force is made through the abdomen (the hara) where it is controlled by the breath. Thus, the proper use of the Ki is one of the reasons why correct breathing is fundamental to the proper exercise of the martial arts. Ki is the essential force that unites all living things. In this way, it is more than just personal energy. It is the energy of all life that each person can tap into and It can make a person more powerful than physical strength alone.

A third group of martial artists say that Ki is a spiritual force much like the HS. In fact, some say that the real purpose of martial arts training is to focus our Ki. Doug Cook author of Traditional Taekwondo Core Techniques, History and Philosophy and holder of a fourth Dan black belt in Taekwondo explains: “The practise of traditional taekwondo requires the student to become proficient in a multitude of blocks, kicks, strikes and sweeps. However, in order to support these techniques far beyond the limitations of the physical body, one must introduce an element not easily definable in common terms. This element is referred to as Ki in Korean and Qi or Chi in Chinese”(Cook, p47). Cook continues, and clarifies how the physical and spiritual elements are intertwined by using an apt illustration to demonstrate the importance of Ki in Taekwondo writing, “Ki development is an essential component of martial arts training that is often overlooked in all likelihood due to the metaphysical issues it raises. Nevertheless, teaching traditional taekwondo without offering the practitioner exercises in Ki development is tantamount to sitting someone behind the steering wheel of a car, but telling them nothing of the fuel that powers its engine. Ki is the elixir that amplifies technique and great strength. It is the force that shields the body from harm while maintaining health and a sense of well being” (Cook, p47-48).

The most startling demonstration that I have ever seen of Ki or Chi power was an old Bill Moyers program called “Healing and the Mind,” which aired on PBS back in 1993. One episode was entitled “The Power of Chi. “ It showed a Chinese Qiqong master tossing people around like dolls without using physical strength at all. He could touch someone and that person would be thrown on his back. Now frankly, I watched that episode, and it could have been all fake. The people who were being thrown could have been pretending. But I have to tell you it reminded me of a demonstration of the HS I also saw of a televised faith healing service at a Penecostal revival. The evangelist would walk up to a person and touch them on the forehead, and they would just fall down. And he would say that the HS knocked them down. Now I am a pretty skeptical person. Did the spirit knock them down? Or did they cooperate with the evangelist and fall down. Did the Qiqong master toss people around or did they toss themselves? That kind of thing may be impossible to prove.

But the question I want to ask today is this: is the Ki life force the same as the HS? I have met a number of Christians in TKD who maintain that it is. They identify Ki with the HS. Their reasoning goes something like this.

As Christians, we believe Colossians when it says of Jesus, “All things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17). The HS is that which holds all things together in Christ. Therefore the HS is this same universal life force that is the basis of philosophy throughout eastern Asia from China to India, the force that is called Ki or Chi.

I remember discussing Samson in TKD class. What was the source of his super strength? His hair? That has got to be symbolic. There is no strength in hair. His strength lay in his connection with Ki, and that connection was symbolically broken when his hair was cut, and he lost his strength. Later on in the Philistine temple, he prayed to God and his connection with the life force was restored and he brought down the temple on himself and his Philistine captors.

I am not saying I entirely agree with this, but this is what I have heard from Christian martial artists. They would say, Jesus did miraculous and wonderful things. He walked on water. How did he do that? He was perfectly connected with the life-force, with Ki, or if you prefer with the HS.

In Luke chapter 8, there is an incident where Jesus accidentally healed a woman with a bleeding disorder. This poor woman had suffered from this problem for 12 years. She had been to doctors. No one could help her. She also seems to have been a very shy person. She could not bring herself to ask Jesus directly for healing, but as Jesus was passing through a crowd of people, she came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment. She was immediately healed, and Jesus knew she was healed. He said, "Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me" (Luke 8:46). Obviously then Jesus healed with a certain power, and the power could be depleted. What is this power? If we follow the explanation of my friends in the martial arts, it is the power of Ki or the HS.

Now let us talk about the HS a bit. I said that there are different opinions in the martial arts about Ki. You probably know that there are different opinions in the church about the HS. If we brought a Pentecostal preacher here today, he might say that the spirit is primarily manifested by speaking in unknown tongues. If we brought forth a Roman Catholic priest, he might say that the spirit is primarly found in the celebration of the Mass. Well, what do Presbyterians say about the HS? We say that every believer has the HS and it is a real power that permeates our lives and gives meaning and motivation to our lives so that we can become the children of God that our father in heaven intended us to be.

So let us get back to our question. Is the HS the same as Ki or Chi? As I said earlier that probably depends upon whom you listen to. What the Pentecostal preacher was doing in that TV revival service I saw and what the Qiqong master was doing in that Bill Moyers TV episode looked pretty much the same. But the real HS is not something that you can see on TV. The real HS is the gift of God to every believer. And maybe the more important question we ought to be asking is how can I use this real power right now in my life. Maybe it does not matter what name we give the power. You do not care whether Samson used the power of Ki or the power of the HS to tear down the pillars of the temple, but he used a power and we are assured that through our faith in Jesus that same power is available to us.

In the verse I read from 1 Corinthians, 3:16, we are introduced to two radical ideas. The first idea is that you are the temple of God. The verse is addressed to the church at Corinth, to God's people. God's people are the temple of God. In the OT, they had Solomon's Temple, an actual physical structure in Jerusalem. In the NT, we no longer need physical structures in which to worship God. We do not need holy places, or holy cities. Wherever God's people gather that is a holy place. Wherever God's people gather, that is where God can be worshiped. That is the first idea. The second idea is that the HS dwells in the believer. If you have faith in Christ, you have divine power dwelling in you. So what use are you making of this divine power? To say you have it is not the same as saying that you are using it. What are you and the HS doing together? What ought you to be doing together?


If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant

HOME About YARPC Sermons Prayer Center

Copyright 2013 York Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church

Last Modified: 05/02/13