Dragonball, kids and chi
My son grew up watching Dragonball and Dragonball Z, which means, of course, that I watched a lot of it with him (yeah, yeah, I play video games and watch cartoons with my kid, and probably will when he leaves for college this summer). And I find that he and his friends, unlike older Western people of my generation, have no problem accepting the concepts of chi/ki/qi.
Films such as Star Wars introduced an earlier generation to “The Force”, a thinly veiled version of the concept of chi. But manga TV shows such as Dragonball, Bleach, InnuYasha, readily available on YouTube, Hulu and cable’s Adult Swim, have brought Eastern philosophies, and in some cases easier acceptance of those concepts, to our very Western kids.
The contrast between Eastern and Western perceptions used to be quite radical, as shown in this excerpt from the 1997 book The Root of Chinese Qigong by Dr. Yang, Jwing-ming:
The emphasis on the spiritual life rather than the material, is one of the major differences between Eastern and Western cultures. An example of this is in the maintenance of health, where the West emphasizes the physical body more, while the East also tends to treat the spiritual and mental health as well.
Most Westerners believe if you strengthen your physical body, you also improve your health. They emphasize the exercising and training of the physical body, but they ignore the balancing of the body’s internal energy (Qi), which is also related to the emotions and the cultivation of spiritual calmness.
Fast forward more than a decade, and the perspective is interestingly changed. The Chinese grow more Western, with Internet and technology companies, while, through exported manga books and TV shows, Western kids easily talk about internal power. I am certain the author of the aforementioned book, who is not only a highly trained martial artist but also has earned a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue, appreciates the irony.
Instead of me dragging my son to a martial arts movie, I am the one being taken to see Dragonball Evolution tomorrow. One of the preview trailers shows Chi-chi having problems opening her locker. Goku sends a ball of energy at the lockers, opening all of them. “Did you just use your ki?” she asks. “How do you know about ki?” he responds.
Granted, this is all quite hollywood-ified, with giant energy blasts from chi, and power word chants. But early age introduction provides acceptances to concepts. They may grow up and call it nothing more that cartoon entertainment.
But, when I speak to my son about doing taichichuan, I find a much higher level of acceptance and understanding as to its principals and philosophies that I find with others not initiated by the world of “kamehameha”.