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Topic: Chi

L. Froehlich in Gaithersburg, MD wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Several years ago, I took a class in Aikido, one of the eastern martial arts. Like its counterparts, Aikido is premised on the concept that a "force"-- in this case known as "ki or "chi"-- flows through the body and the universe and can be focused by a person to use, for example, in personal defense. Is this concept of "ki" (or "chi") inconsistent with mainstream Jewish belief? In other words, can a Jew believe in one G-d and also accept the idea that there is an unseen energy flowing in the universe and through one's body that can be tapped with proper training? (After all, there are other unseen forces and things in the universe that do not seem to conflict with Jewish belief, e.g., gravity, electromagnetic energy, cosmic rays.) Is there any analogous concept in Judaism?

Dear L. Froehlich,

I'm not an Aikido expert, but I do have a black belt in Judo-ism. Ahem.

Before I answer your question, I would like to say that I find martial arts truly amazing. I mean, people with years of training in martial arts can, using only their hands and feet, make some of the worst movies in history.

Now to your question: The idea there can exist such a force as you have described is not inconsistent with mainstream Jewish belief, as long as you believe that this force, like all forces, is created by and controlled by G-d. I think your analogy to gravity is a good one.

Is there an analogous concept in Judaism? Perhaps the analogous concept is "ruach Elokim," a Divine "wind" or spirit, which gives a person extra-human powers, strengths and abilities. This is the power to which the Bible attributes Samson's source of strength.

But Judaism also has a the concept of "ruach tumah," an impure "wind." This force also lets a person tap into powers, but is detrimental to one's spiritual state.

Another point to consider is that some Eastern disciplines involve what we consider idolatrous practices. For example, bowing to the room, bowing to the force, or "talking to" the force. We are not allowed to make requests of spiritual forces, only to G-d.

In conclusion, believing in the existence of such a force can be okay, while the way one relates to that force can border on idol worship if done incorrectly.

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