For many people, the terms qi and Chinese martial arts are closely related. With myths and legends, old documents and pop culture, one would think that the two terms had a common origin. But Qi was most likely introduced to martial arts at a much later date. Because the fighting method existed before the theory was added. Let's go back a little bit.
There is a widespread belief that the origins of Chinese martial arts were actually health-promoting movements. Why I do not share this assumption, I explain in another post. If you look at the history of Chinese martial arts without the myths and legends, it becomes clear what purpose the martial art had primarily: it was used to fight.
In an actual struggle, there is no place for metaphysical concepts, both then and now. And yet, in Chinese martial arts training, people like to say that you should feel or cultivate the "Qi" so that you get seemingly unthinkable powers. So why is Chinese martial arts constantly pursued by this term?
As I have already explained, martial arts were primarily used for fighting. In order to be efficient in it, constant training is required, which can be achieved through drills, strength exercises, conditioning training, etc. But just as important are sensitivity training (sensitivity for power transmission), body awareness and above all the mental attitude.
For the last points, it can make sense to use "Qi" as a metaphor. Good body awareness is essential for martial artists. The traditional martial arts have different exercises to train this. A variant is to keep a certain movement or a stance static for a long time. Because only in a calm state is it possible to develop sensitivity to your own body and to actively feel it.
On the other hand, "Qi" could also be interpreted as a tool. It's supposed to help someone visualize something. In martial arts, the right “intention” is important, for example a strike can only be effective if it is carried out with the right intention. In order to train this intention and in the broader sense the mental attitude, it may help to use the concept of "Qi" and to visualize an "energy flow".
However, I just want to show with the above two examples that "Qi" can be better interpreted as a metaphor than an actually provable, invisible energy. Often, bottomless or even pointless statements about "Qi" are made. This inevitably leads to misinterpretation, and people think of an actual, usable energy with which one can fight. And here the martial art then moves to a risky limit.