There's been some spirited discussion in Systema: "Beyond the physical" force generation about "relaxed energy generation" and what parts of the system consider "non-physical" (presumably metaphysical or paraphysical) aspects of it. Most of the answers basically boil down to disparaging the presence of anything past physical mechanics and trickery and there's been a request to remove the two paragraphs where the querent indicates that they are indeed looking for a more mystical answer, and why, on account of them not helping the question.

I think that those paragraphs could be made more clear, but I also think that many martial arts do include some degree of metaphysicality, whether it's a belief in qi, concepts of meditation or enlightenment, or even explicit religious aspects, and I think that that should be on-topic as it relates to a given martial art.

While I don't really believe in qi myself, I feel that the general tenor of the answers is needlessly confrontational, equivalent to responding to a question on Christianity SE about the handling of transubstantiated host with a paragraph about how no one could really believe that the bread and wine are turned to flesh and blood in any sense.

5 Answers 5


Sardathrion and sirdank have already left good answers but I want to expand on these in a more conversational way.

We have no policy against asking those questions, but they still have to meet other minimum requirements like:

  • being answerable
  • not being argumentative or promoting extended discussion
  • can't be a garbage question in general

Personally I like to see questions like that because mysticism is deeply embedded in the structure of the arts. But I do like to see answers that are academically sound and possibly even explore the origins of the myths and beliefs. I dislike the answers that say little more than "It's magic, fool! Don't believe in magic! Fool!" as they do little to actually improve the value of the site.

Due to the nature of the question and peoples' psychological need to believe in mystical things there is bound to be confrontation from time to time. In cases like that don't be afraid of using the down vote and maybe leaving a comment as to why you found the answer unhelpful.*

Of course we also see another phenomena: people claiming that you can't write an answer that says chi is only superstition and magic because you can't prove that something doesn't exist - the old absence of evidence is not evidence of absence (1, 2) argument as alluded to in sirdank's answer. Without a doubt people have seen or experienced things that they attribute to chi because they don't have a alternate explanation that is satisfactory.** How else do you explain a selective break? How else do you explain that time that guy fell over when all you did was point a finger at him?

When it comes to questions like this, I think the rules are simple:

  • if you want to assert the existence of chi, then bring the evidence
  • if you want to deny the existence of chi, bring the evidence
  • remember that correlation doesn't imply causation
  • be polite and respectful of other members, just like you are in the dojo
  • extended chat needs to go to the chat room

*obligatory Moderator note: don't be tempted to flag it just because you don't like it - we already have mechanisms in place for that. Just down vote, possibly comment, and move on. Only flag stuff that needs mod attention.

**think about it - maybe I just gave you a clue as to what chi is right there in that sentence?!

  • Just to be clear, although I do think there is an absence of evidence against the literal existence of qi, I do not think the only evidence supporting its literal existence is ambiguous. However, if we are really concerned about excluding discussion-encouraging material from questions, can we really say I should talk about how my arms and legs vibrate while doing tai chi or I can feel qi flowing like water down the three meridians in my arms? I've tried that and, as far as methods for discouraging extended discussion go, I do not endorse it.
    – sirdank
    Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 13:14
  • Perhaps this is too far off topic, if it is just tell me, but the evidence for something supra-physical is literally overwhelming and very accessible and I don't hardly read non-Christian spiritual literature. I agree the books at the thrift store book sale I browsed last week with titles like "God's Deadliest Warrior: Power of Praying Teens" are inadmissible evidence. I agree the multitude of new age books on Amazon are unhelpful. However, I'm talking about literature like The Way of a Pilgrim, Sayings of the Desert Fathers, or the Philokalia, even The Bible. All those are free online.
    – sirdank
    Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 13:29
  • 1
    @sirdank Like anything academic, the evidence will have a certain amount of credibility. I believe that based on the balance of probabilities that there are aliens, however I wouldn't cite "Chariots of the Gods" as a reference. With regards to chi, you can present the evidence you feel is worthy, however you must be prepared for someone to challenge that and take an opposing view, based either on debunking or discrediting your evidence or by providing contradictory evidence.....
    – slugster Mod
    Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 23:27
  • 3
    ...I actually encourage this type of academic "discussion" and I fully expect supplementary questions to be raised as a result. One type of "proof" that you need to avoid using is the "feeling of chi running down my meridians" - this is subjective and not proof of the existence of chi. You also cannot use mass belief as evidence of existence - many people throughout history have reported statues of the Virgin Mary starting to bleed, but common sense tells us this phenomena cannot possibly happen without humans utilising trickery (statues do not have blood and do not spontaneously bleed!).
    – slugster Mod
    Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 23:28
  • I think we all agree evidence must have some degree of credibility :) The question is "what degree?" It seems many here will consider a proposition only if it is supported by some kind of western, scientific study. While I must keep in my mind my own foolishness and unfair bias against this notion, I truly believe this to be no more than a personal preference. Double-blind studies are a recent invention that humanity has done fine without for thousands of years. Let no one say I think we should blindly and uncritically accept everything we see online. However, there are so many valid...
    – sirdank
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 12:59
  • ...explanations of our inability to apply the scientific method to a spiritual reality that I am willing to accept less credible proof. Although the Orthodox Church does not decorate using statues, I'll try to avoid sidetracking this into a discussion of weeping icons :)
    – sirdank
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 12:59

It doesn't matter if there is a real, physically measurable power/energy/whatever or not.

Placebos work. Very simply, human psychology has an enormous influence on everything we do. Our brains have amazing control of our bodies. Therefore anything which influences psychology will influence performance. This is an accepted fact within medical circles and is heavily leveraged within sports and sports medicine. The entire area of sports psychology exists solely for this reason. When making use of sports psychology techniques (like visualisation), there are real and measurable differences in performance of the sportsmen involved. This is well documented, and I'll provide citations if you like.

It's my contention that these mystical methods are in reality psychological placebos. Mind games which cause the practitioner to perform better by getting their conscious control out of the way.

Therefore anything which any martial arts have historically used or currently use to effect practitioner psychology are valid, relevant and useful to the Martial Arts exchange, whether or not it has been found to be an independently real physical phenomenon.

  • :) The power of placebo is more limited than most people realize (past psychological effects, the only real cure it can provide is the areas of pain and nausea), but I will agree that it has its uses. And, of course, nocebo effects can be even more powerful, which can be useful if your opponent believes in what you can do. Commented Apr 22, 2016 at 10:12

I think there's really only two types of questions that can be usefully asked on this site with regards to mysticism:

  1. What is the theories/beliefs of (this given style) about (mystic thing)?
  2. What are the methods of the practices/exercises that are supposed to give (mystic ability) under this (style's theory)?

I emphasize that the style context is important, because different systems, or even different teachers within a system may have contradictory advice ("Hold your breath to develop power" "Never hold your breath, it's bad for you" etc.). The theories might be interesting in terms of tracking history and lineage, or they might also be useful in understanding some movements, outside of the mystical part as well.

So if you want to ask about your breathing technique, or what to do about maintaining stance work, or whatever, that's something people can answer and is relatively quick and easy to test and prove - regardless of whether mystical power is involved or not. ("After 3 weeks, my endurance for the stance improved. Thanks!").


Here is why I think it's a good question: there is no way to assert that anything "beyond the physical" does not exist. Users making such an assertion provide no evidence to support their claims. And who can blame them? Providing evidence to support a negative assertion is very difficult no matter the situation but is particularly hard here. My personal preference (and the reason I included the unnecessary paragraphs at the end of my question) is that users wishing to saying "This is silly" might reduce the "noise" on this site by keeping their opinions to themselves.

Of course there is no way to support a negative claim but is there any evidence to support the hokum? In fact, there is an abundance of evidence on the internet supporting claims of mysticism and hokum whether it is in the context of religion, martial arts, or other things. Some people, such as myself, choose to acknowledge some of this evidence as being a valid indication of truth. Other people, for their reasons that I do not begrudge them, do not. However, this does produce a tough situation.

@Sardathrion knows that chi does not exist literally and admirably fulfills his obligation to answer questions truthfully. On the other hand, I know that chi exists literally and do not feel obligated not to avoid topics dubbed 'hokum' or 'mysticism' although I do hate to cause such a commotion. Which of us is right? I think it comes back to the discussion of what evidence is admissible for supporting a claim.

I say my practice results and those of my classmates as well as the abundant literature on the topic to be found online constitute valid evidence for supporting the claim of something "beyond the physical". Other users here do not agree and, as prior discussions have proven unfruitful, I do not know how to resolve this. However, I don't think we can conclusively dismiss the evidence available online nor should discount personal experiences. If we have reasons to believe something is legitimate, I think questions on that belief are valid.

  • Your question specifically asks for answers only supporting your believes. It is one sided. It is biased. It is wrong. 'nuff said. Commented Apr 13, 2016 at 15:42
  • The only thing I know is that all rigorous scientific experiments ever devised to prove mystical powers have failed to show anything. Commented Apr 13, 2016 at 15:44
  • @Sardathrion They turn out to be the same thing so perhaps it is a moot point but I am not asking only for answers supporting my beliefs but positive answers backed by evidence, preferably from a Systema master. About your second point, I apologize if I've offended you. I thought that was a fair assessment of your view and was only using you as an example because I didn't think you'd mind. Also, if I may be permitted some good-natured ribbing, because I think Steve Weigand would wanted to argue with me about what 'literally exists' means.
    – sirdank
    Commented Apr 13, 2016 at 15:53

Several points make the question a bad one.

First, the last part of the question:

  1. Explains OP's believes which are irrelevant to the question at hand.
  2. Hints that only answers acquiescing with Systema having some supernatural aspect will be accepted. The last sentence of the second paragraph states as much. So, the question Does systema have a “Beyond the physical” force generation? would only accept answers that confirm said “Beyond the physical” explanation.
  3. Invite discussion and argumentation. This, on its own, is ground to close the question as SE does not do discussions.

Second, we are not Christianity SE and their rules do not apply here. Any such analogy is weak at best.

Thirdly, Anyone is more than welcome to believe whatever hokus pokus they chose to. They should be free to proclaim such believes in whatever form they chose -- this is what free speech is all about.

However, if they ask a question whether a martial art has some mystical "beyond the physical" techniques or aspect associated with it, they should be prepared to be told that it does not and that said mythical powers are 100% pure manure. If some believes cannot withstand the battery of the market place of ideas, then those believes are worthless.

Finally, asking questions about mystical features, urban legends, and religion of martial arts is on-topic. Just do not expect the answers to pander to your believes.

  • So is your beef solely with the last part of the question? It's already failed to serve its purpose as a "noise" filter so I might as well remove it. Also, I'm not sure I understand your second paragraph under Thirdly,. If it contains criticism toward the question, I will have to ask you to make it more blunt.
    – sirdank
    Commented Apr 13, 2016 at 15:59
  • {nods} I guess my question to that would be, if they are specifically asking whether that style practices said "hokum" and what the beliefs are, is the right answer really "That doesn't work in real life, so your answer is no"? And I will freely admit that I am horrible with analogies. Hmm... maybe some physical aspect of a martial art that is dubious in practicality, but which a style practices? Commented Apr 13, 2016 at 16:34
  • @sirdank: Correct. Without the latter part, it is a good question. With them, it is not. Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 7:28
  • @sirdank: Just a point that I was in no way, shape, or form criticising you for holding said believes. Nor was I saying that you should not be able to state such believes. I value free speech, stand against any form of censorships, and will defend your right to hold whatever believes you chose. Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 7:33
  • @SeanDuggan That is my objection. I do not think those claims have any supporting evidence while the hokum claims do (even if much of it is spurious).
    – sirdank
    Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 12:54
  • @Sardathrion I have removed the offending parts of the question. For the record, I did not receive the impression you think I shouldn't be able to state such beliefs. In the interest of openness, I did receive (and have on past questions as well) the impression that you think I am incompetent to an extreme degree which, of course, is part of your right to free speech. I do not mind personally and wouldn't mention it except that I would feel unfair to leave you thinking I too clearly understood you were not criticizing me. Best regards,
    – sirdank
    Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 13:03
  • @sirdank: I pass no judgement whatsoever on yourself. I do not know you. Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 13:20

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