The Far East of Star Wars
WALTER (RITOKU) ROBINSON
The "Force" is central to the Star Wars mythology. In A New Hope Obi-Wan Kenobi describes it as "an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together." This is an extremely good description of what is known in Chinese as "ch'i," or in Japanese as "ki."
In the Star Wars galaxy, the Jedi use the Force in their fighting arts. "A Jedi's strength flows from the Force," Yoda teaches Luke. In the martial arts of the Far East, ch'i is cultivated to give special fighting advantage over someone who relies only on physical strength. Eastern philosophy, most especially philosophical Taoism and Zen Buddhism, plays a major role in the Star Wars mythology. This is most true in relation to the martialarts philosophy of the Jedi. The historical development of this philosophy begins with a Buddhist synthesis with Taoism producing Zen and Kung-fu. This synthesis spread to Korea and Japan, and with it the knowledge of ch'i. The philosophy of the Force is thus best understood by way of understanding the nature of ch'i and the wisdom of Zen.
The origin of ch'i-oriented martial arts in China is found in the teachings from the Shaolin Temple. It was here that Bodhidarma, who came from India to China in the sixth century, founded Ch'an (known in Japanese as Zen) and Kung-fu, a discipline that cultivates and directs the flow of ch'i, applying it to fighting techniques.