The internet gives us the ability to find out things that we just didn’t know about before. One of those is the fabulous fantasy of internal power. To be clear, before this goes any further, I’m referring to the no-touch chi/ki/qi blasts that knock people out. I’m sure you’ve seen them because they’re all over the internet.
I completely understand why this stuff exists. Somebody sold people the myth of the all powerful martial artist that can defeat armies with a gaze or knockout foes without ever having to see them. It’s a wonderful image, superb marketing. But that’s all it is: marketing.
What is internal power?
In aikido there are two generally acknowledged types of internal power. One of them is real, the other is not. The legitimate version involves how you use your body to generate physical power. To me, this version is nothing more than biomechanics. It’s understanding and using certain basic principles of physics and biology to move in such a way that you produce remarkable results.
The fabulous fantasy version makes you think you can knock people out without ever touching them. I even saw a recent video where the ‘master’ was in India, and the ‘victim’ was in South Africa. There are many terms for this such as no-touch knockouts, ki blasts, ki power, or the derogatory bullshito.
The prevalence of the word ki should provide a clue to what people believe they are doing here. The ability to deliver a no-touch knockout relies on harnessing your ki power. Unfortunately, ki is a very divisive topic in aikido and nobody agrees on what it is. Many aikidoka think it’s an all pervasive energy force that we can harness, control, strengthen, and wield like a weapon.
I have seen a staggering number of these no-touch knockout demonstrations through social media (e.g. TheRealBaffle). There is something subtle about these demonstrations that should raise red flags. If you know to look for it though then it’s obvious.
The technical flaw
Throughout my aikido training, many people have told me that you have to keep your extension to let the ki flow. For instance, if you bend an arm, the ki stops at the elbow. While some of them were using this to explain the biomechanics involved in the techniques, most were referring to ki energy. If the ki energy version is true there is an issue here. The masters performing these demonstrations of internal power shouldn’t be able to. It’s about the biomechanics on display.
Let’s assume we accept the fabulous fantasy of ki power as malleable energy, and that you need extension to let it flow. Then the masters who demonstrate it prove themselves to be fake. The proponents of the energy source lack a fundamental component that those who practice the legitimate version do not. They are missing superior biomechanics.
If you recall from the post about structure and how important it is in aikido, it should become apparent that these ki masters do not have it. They are uniformly hunched over, with arm extension that a T-Rex would laugh at. None of them display the form, structure, posture, or extension that many proponents state as a requirement to harness ki energy.
This is a serious problem for them. What we see are people breaking some of the fundamental rules of how this works, yet are still able to do it. If good structure is a requirement, but people can do it without it, this is the equivalent of driving a car with a broken fuel line.
You don’t even need the energy
There is a tragic irony to this. The aikidoka that work on building the legitimate internal power are learning, developing, and ingraining the superior biomechanics that the energy masters claim is essential. This leads to a somewhat interesting situation.
I never work on ki power. Ask any of my students and they can tell you I consider it be mystical mumbo-jumbo. I do work on my structure. Constantly. The mug on my desk is set at a distance where I can pick it up without compromising the structure in my arm. Not on purpose, it’s just more comfortable and natural to me at that distance. I have spent years developing the physical biomechanics of my body to ingrain a structure that maximises my aikido. As a result, without harnessing any ki energy at all, I can pass every ‘ki test’. I don’t even try. I simply keep my structure. Just like Shimamoto Shihan did to me several years ago. My ability to pass these tests amazes firm believers in ki energy.
If ki as a form of energy does not exist, then why are people getting knocked out from ki blasts? To me, this is where things start to get really murky. There are very few answers to that question, and I find them to be morally grey at best.
This is the one that I prefer to believe because an intrinsic part of my nature is to give people the benefit of the doubt. I like to think that everybody involved in the no-touch knockout stuff genuinely believes it. They are so convinced of it that they are actually affected by something that doesn’t exist. To misapply some terms think of things like hypnosis. People desperately want the lie to be true, so they make it true. It’s very easy to suck someone into this fabulous fantasy if they want it to be real. The students have been convinced this works and so it does. They become powerful energy masters themselves and pass on this knowledge to other susceptible people.
Despite my desire to find the best in people at least some of those involved in the no-touch world must be operating under this answer.
Whereas the first option absolves the teacher of responsibility (because they were lied to), some of the teachers must know that this is a lie. I rather suspect that the vast majority of them know they are taking peoples money and selling them garbage. I think these charlatans fall into two categories. Those that know they are doing it on a conscious level, and those that do it subconsciously. The second set I can almost forgive. In the depths of their minds they probably know but never look into the dark corners to find out. They are able to shout down their doubts and convince themselves it’s fine.
A lot of these ‘masters’ though, have to know that they’re lying to people. They’re taking the money and selling them smoke and mirrors. These teachers have managed to delude people into thinking they have an amazing power and that they can teach it. They are completely aware they are fraudulent and are very careful to only display their ‘powers’ on selected individuals.
The famous ones that have a large following never really demonstrate on anyone other than their long time students. They very rarely expose themselves to potential failure by performing on unprepared individuals. The reasoning is simple, they know they will not succeed because it doesn’t work on the uninitiated.
Cross Them Up
There is another interesting aspect of the no-touch knockout that should raise red flags in everybody, regardless of how much you want to believe this fabulous fantasy. It’s the waking people up part. Every time a ki blast is delivered to knock someone out, there follows a completely standard process that is seen in almost all of these demonstrations. The assistants and the master will run forward to the now unconscious person, lift them to a sitting position, cross their legs, and then slap them on the back just below the neck. The willing victim will then wake up. Every. Single. Time. How this hasn’t revolutionised medical treatments I don’t know.
Why would this be the thing to do though? Well, one answer is that it unblocks the ki and therefore the person wakes up. Another, slightly more sinister but much more likely, is that it’s part of the programming. People get knocked out because they’ve been programmed to believe that they should be. They’ve also been programmed to believe that in that position they will wake up. It’s all part of the process.
Ki as an energy source
A final observation is that there are some problems with the interpretation of ki as an energy force. The most staggering of which is that physics says, “Nope.” It’s worth taking a moment to explain that because people often respond by disparaging scientists with claims about scientific inaccuracy. Let’s look briefly at why science says ki energy does not exist. To do that, I’ll let renowned physicist Professor Brian Cox explain as he does it far more eloquently than I could.
You will notice that while Professor Cox was speaking in response to a question about a soul, everything he says applies to ‘ki energy’. People claim to be able to manipulate it, or move it, or feel it, which means it interacts with their body. As noted by Professor Cox, scientists have looked for just such an interaction, and it’s simply not there. It would seem that this should close the door on the debate. It won’t, but it should.
Ultimately, the idea of the no-touch knockout is not going to go away. There’s too much desire for it to be true, and too many people selling it for it to fade. It has been publicly disproven over and over, on film as well. Scientists are unable to find the claimed source of its power. Yet still it persists because, let’s be honest, it’s a totally awesome concept. If it were possible I’d be right there trying to learn it. Who wouldn’t? Sadly, it’s not real, it’s a fiction. When we see it, we should call it out, if only for the sake of the students who are being parted from their cash to purchase a lie.
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