The Chi in Shang-Chi

2 min read

You know what they say… everybody loves kung-fu fighting. With Marvel churning out its first Asian lead,  I was very much excited to watch the many martial arts scenes in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Oh, the control, the precision, the power. We can only imagine the amount of practice and training that went into the flawless executions. 

In the comics, Shang-Chi is known to be a master of Kung Fu and hand-to-hand combat. He is also portrayed to be much in tune with his chi, what ancient Chinese refer to as the ‘life force’ within living beings that permeates and connects everything. Of course, some do not see this as ‘actual science’. According to main star Simu Liu, the fight scenes that we see on screen incorporates chi and other martial arts like Tai Chi and Wing Chun.

If you are like me, you would have also scratched your head at the mention of Tai Chi. Is it not that slow-moving exercise old people do under the HDB blocks? Well… yes. It is an exercise that lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, boosts balance and flexibility, and balances hormones – all for good health. But that is not all there is to it! The fluid, relaxed, ‘softness’ of Tai Chi actually develops the body mechanics and structure to give iron-like strength. This involves focusing on the chi that circulates the body. With training, masters of the art would know how to apply, absorb, redirect, and control chi – a true disadvantage to any opponent. 

Wing Chun, although more combative, also keeps ‘softness’ at its fundamentals. It is a true paradox when it uses fast-moving and readily placed blows to vital points in a person’s body, that when executed, looks effortless and thus ‘soft’. Like Tai Chi, it also focuses on the chi to maintain body equilibrium. One of its famous moves is a ‘simple’ strike to the base of the neck, also known as the brachial stun. A sharp downward move will hit the vagus nerve, a long cranial nerve responsible for carrying lots of information from the brain to the rest of the body. It can result in dizziness, disorientation, or unconsciousness. The feeling is apparently similar to hitting your funny bone, where your arm goes numb. This time however, your entire body falls victim. In such a case, being soft definitely does not mean being weak. 

I guess such arts maintain the stereotypical image of a Master in Martial Arts  — you know.. the ones who always look like the frail, unassuming janitor? Little do we know how powerful they can actually be. Well, I am never underestimating the old Tai Chi uncles ever again.

Written by Lydia Yasmin
Illustrations by Lim Daphne


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