As Break’s resident Wizard, I must say I quite liked the Doctor Strange movie. Reminded me of a lot of some incidents in my own life. This month, Iron Fist came out, and I also think it’s pretty good. Both were made by Marvel, and both caused stupid controversy over whether white people should be allowed to do martial arts anymore (hint: they should, because complaining about ‘cultural appropriation’ is really stupid; ‘cultural appropriation’ is how humans interact and grow). Besides that, they also both feature Eastern-style magic powers gained from martial arts-style training.
Eastern occultism and Eastern martial arts have been connected to each other since forever; so what’s that all about, and how are these type of magic powers supposed to work?
Qi (or Chi or Ki) is the underlying force in all Asian magic and most Asian martial arts. It is sometimes translated by English-speakers and new-age bozos as “energy.” It’s not. Qi is… well, complicated. Qi is a substance. But it’s not a scientifically measurable substance. Qi is all over the place. Human beings draw in and draw out Qi through the breath; we also expel Qi through activity. But Qi can also be understood as a measure of our willpower, our potential to generate Change. And certain things, like meditation or concentration can focus our Qi.
Since Qi is in us, and in everything else, the art of manipulating Qi is a core part of both Asian magic and martial arts. Of course, some martial artists don’t pay too much attention to “qi” stuff anymore. They just focus on punching and kicking. But some styles, like Tai Chi, Baguazhang, Yiquan, Aikido and others, teach using Qi. Most say you direct Qi into your attacks, or through your opponent when tripping or grappling them; but some also claim to be able to use Qi directly, like to knock down opponents sometimes without touching them!
Warning: Most of those guys are total frauds, as this video of supposed “qi masters” facing real opponents shows.
So Qi is the basis of Asian (especially Chinese) magic, martial arts, and also healing. This is because in all three, the focus is on the body and its systems. You know that saying “your body is a temple”? Well, in Eastern magic that’s taken very literally. It’s not just a temple though, it’s a laboratory.
In the ancient Chinese mystical system, the body has a circuit around which Qi flows, the way blood flows through the body. But it’s not a visible circuit like blood vessels are. This circuit is the basis of the theories behind acupuncture.
Making sure Qi flows properly around the body is supposed to help baseline health. All kinds of things from poor diet, bad posture, lack of exercise, stress, emotional trauma, injury and of course diseases themselves can impede the flow of Qi.
For most martial arts that use Qi, the point is usually to train the body in certain ways to accumulate Qi in specific areas, to strengthen physical resistance, or strength. In Kung Fu, these techniques have names like “Iron Shirt” or “Iron Palm.” Sound familiar?
And magicians use “internal” (usually non-fighting) Qi Gong to draw in large amounts of Qi to certain areas, making their body into an alchemical oven that transforms their consciousness and is supposed to let them manipulate reality. The areas of the body in this system have colorful names like the “1st, 2nd and 3rd Furnace,” the “Jade Palace,” and the “Celestial Eye.”
Since Qi flows through the breath, all three have the same basic training: Qi Breathing. Here’s how you do it: stand or sit down, either is fine, but keep your back straight. Pay attention to your body, don’t zone out, especially pay attention the spot about 1.5 inches below the belly button (that’s the “dantian point,” where Qi is stored). Breathe from your belly, not forcefully, just breathing in and out with the belly relaxed, deep natural breaths. As you do this, if you notice any parts of your body are tense try to relax them. That’s it.
The more you Qi Breathe, the more Qi you draw into your body, and the better Qi will circulate. If you want to get healthier, do this every day, for at least 20 minutes. If you want to be a great Qi-magician or martial artist, you have to do this craploads of time, every day, until it becomes totally natural to you.
Eastern Magic: Mudras, Mantras and Sigils
Mudras are positions and movements of the hands; the hands being the main tool to manipulate and direct Qi. Used in both Indian and Asian mysticism since forever, they are ways to concentrate and direct Qi through the hands to accomplish various magical feats.
Mantra can mean chant or vibration. Sound can also be used to direct Qi in different ways, to alter reality.
Sigils are shapes and forms; these are drawn either with the hands (in a mudra) or sometimes in magical talismans/mandalas to create specific effects:
There’s one last important ingredient! How well your Qi magic will work depends on your ability to accumulate another substance: “De.”
De means “Virtue,” but it’s not just about being morally good. Virtue in the east is thought of as a kind of power, it doesn’t mean just obeying rules or niceties. It means how “real” you are. You get Virtue by two ways: “cultivation” (which is meditating, expanding your consciousness, studying nature and Truth), and by keeping it real in your actions (being truthful, staying connected to what’s real, and being morally upright).
In other words, if you’re trying a bunch of Qi-magic but you aren’t really expanding your consciousness AND helping humanity and the world, you’re as full of crap as those fake Qi-masters we saw in the video above.