Shenfa, or the Efficiency of the ‘Living Body’ in Chinese Martial Arts

May 2021 | In book: Expériences du corps vivant | Publisher: L’Harmattan


In spite of their inexhaustible variety, martial practices and energy medicines from China (wushu, taiji quan, qi gong, etc.) share at least one common element: they all stress the importance of shenfa (身法), an operative concept for which symptomatically we cannot give a satisfactory account with any direct translation. As an ability to link body parts together, shenfa presents itself as the master cog of body mechanics; but more importantly, it represents the cognitive condition of those activities, whether aimed at caring for health or seeking martial efficacy. Shenfa, as a non-mediated determinism of the uninhibited “living body,” free(d) from the grasp of consciousness or will, acts sponte sua, far from the stiffness and inflexibility of models, and the arbitrariness of representations. In the Chinese context, shenfa imposes itself as a legitimate and natural operationalization of principles inherited from Taoism (« 無為 », « 道法自然 », etc.), which are among the primary foundations of the Chinese civilisation. What about elsewhere? Untranslatable in itself into western languages, do we have the tools to at least understand the expression? And what about Japan? The two characters forming the word shenfa (身法) do exist in Japanese, but are never associated. How can the Japanese neighbours understand it nevertheless? In short, we will pursue the exploration of the living body’s potentialities through a minute investigation of the conditions under which we can really understand this ‘simple’ notion of shenfa.

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About the Author:

Alexandre Legendre is a PhD student employed as a teaching and research assistant at Paris Descartes University (Sport sciences, Techniques et Enjeux du Corps Laboratory). His current research focuses on Chinese martial arts, scrutinized through the lens of anthropology, sinology and philosophy.

Tai Chi for Health and Well-being: A bibliometric analysis of published clinical studies between 2010 and 2020

Complementary Therapies in Medicine


Volume 60, August 2021, 102748

by Guo-YanYangAngeloSabagWen-LiHaoaLi-NingZhangcMing-XianJiadNingDaiHanZhangZahraAyatiaYan-JunChengChen-HaoZhangXiao-WenZhangFan-LongBuMinWenaXianZhouJian-PingLiuPeter M.WayneCarolynEeDennisChangHosenKiatmJenniferHunterAlanBensoussana

NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University, Penrith, NSW 2751, Australia
Public Health School, Inner Mongolia Medical University, Hohht, Inner Mongolia 010000, China
Graduate Research School, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, Beijing 100029, China
China Resources Sanjiu Medical and Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., Shenzhen, Guangdong 518110, China
Centre for Evidence-based Chinese Medicine, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, Beijing 100029, China
School of Acupuncture and Massage, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, Beijing 100029, China
Department of Traditional Pharmacy, School of Pharmacy, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad, Iran
Nanshan Maternal and Child Healthcare Hospital, Shenzhen, Guangdong 518000, China
Faculty of Chinese Medicine, Macau University of Science and Technology, Macau 999078, China
Beijing Children’s Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing 100045, China
School of Ethnic Medicine, Yunnan Minzu University, Kunming, Yunnan 650504, China
Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215, USA
Cardiac Health Institute, Sydney, NSW 2122, Australia
Faculty of Medicine, Human and Health Sciences, Macquarie University, NSW 2109, Australia


The objective of this bibliometric review was to identify the volume, breadth, and characteristics of clinical studies evaluating Tai Chi published between January 2010 and January 2020. Five English and four Chinese language databases were searched. Following independent screening, 1018 eligible publications representing 987 studies were identified, which was a three-fold increase from the previous decade. Most common were randomized controlled trials (548/987, 55.5 %), followed by systematic reviews (157/987, 15.9 %), non-randomized controlled clinical studies (152/987, 15.4 %), case series (127/987, 12.9 %) and case reports (3/987, 0.3 %) that were conducted in China (730/987, 74.0 %), followed by the United States of America (123/987, 12.5 %) and South Korea (20/987, 2.0 %). Study participants were mostly in the adult (55.2 %) and/or older adult (72.0 %) age groups. The top ten diseases/conditions were hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, knee osteoarthritis, heart failure, depression, osteoporosis/osteopenia, breast cancer, coronary heart disease and insomnia. A quarter of the studies enrolled healthy participants to evaluate the effects of Tai Chi on health promotion/preservation, balance/falls, and physiological/biomechanical outcomes. Yang style Tai Chi was the most popular, followed by Chen and Sun style. Tai Chi was mostly commonly delivered face-to-face by a Tai Chi instructor in group settings for 60 min, three times a week, for 12 weeks. Most studies (93.8 %) reported at least one outcome in favor of Tai Chi. Adverse events were underreported (7.2 %). Over half fell short of expected intervention reporting standards, signalling the need for Tai Chi extensions to existing guidelines.

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Application of Virtual Reality Technology in Wushu Education

by Wenbo Li, Liangbin Yang, Xinke Leng, Weikun Liu

 The International Journal of Electrical Engineering & Education, July 2020
With the theoretical and technical progress of Wushu education, the traditional teaching method of oral instruction and demonstration can no longer satisfy the needs of current Wushu education. To address this issue, the concept and basic characteristics of virtual reality technology were interpreted, and the effective path and challenges of applying virtual reality technology in Wushu education. The results of this study show that virtual reality technology contributes to the concrete presentation of implicit knowledge in Wushu, the construction of virtual scenes in Wushu education and the realization of a simulated self-learning system in Wushu. In the meanwhile, the application of virtual reality technology in Wushu education faces the challenges of high virtual reality equipment investment, three-dimensional modeling difficulties, huge data volume of Wushu movements and side effects after the experience of Wushu, etc.

Tai Chi for Chronic Illness Management: Synthesizing Current Evidence from Meta-Analyses of Randomized Controlled Trials

The American Journal of Medicine, February 2021

by Liye Zou, PhD , Tao Xiao, PhD , Chao Cao, MPH, Ulf Ekelund, PhD, Yikyung Park, ScD, Lin Yang, PhD ,





An umbrella review of systematic reviews and meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) was conducted to evaluate the existing evidence of Tai Chi as a mind-body exercise for chronic illness management. MEDLINE/PubMed and Embase databases were searched from inception until March 31, 2019, for meta-analyses of at least two RCTs that investigated health outcomes associated with Tai Chi intervention. Evidence of significant outcomes (P value < 0.05) was assessed using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) system.
This review identified 45 meta-analyses of RCTs and calculated 142 summary estimates among adults living with 16 types of chronic illnesses. Statistically significant results (P value < 0.05) were identified for 81 of the 142 outcomes (57.0%), of which 45 estimates presenting 30 unique outcomes across 14 chronic illnesses were supported by high (n = 1) or moderate (n = 44) evidence. Moderate evidence suggests that Tai Chi intervention improved physical functions and disease-specific outcomes compared with nonactive controls and improved cardiorespiratory fitness compared with active controls among adults with diverse chronic illnesses. Between-study heterogeneity and publication bias were observed in some meta-analyses.
Clinical Significance
  • This review synthesized evidence from more than 200 meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials with 142 unique health outcomes.
  • Moderate evidence supports that Tai Chi improves physical and mental health among adults with cancer, neurological disorders, metabolic diseases, cardiopulmonary diseases, musculoskeletal diseases, and cognitive-psychological disorders.
  • Future research should investigate the biological pathways and accelerate the application of Tai Chi as a viable and low-impact method of exercise for managing comorbidity.


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