Soft Power: The Tao of Running - Chi Living

Soft Power: The Tao of Running

Posted by Danny Dreyer on Wed Dec 3rd, 2014, 11 comments

Soft Power is a skill. It's the ability to respond to any given set of circumstances in a way that creates the simplest, the most economical, and yet ironically, the most productive outcome. It is the ability to body sense, intuitively understand and respond naturally and appropriately to any situation with which you are presented. This is one of the underlying principles upon which T'ai Chi is based; it's a principle born out of the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism. 

Stephen Prothero writes in his book, God is Not One that the practice of Taoism is, "reducing one’s actions to a minimum, acting as nature does – spontaneously and effortlessly and out of the core of one’s Being... It is not contrived action. One acts in spirit of noninterference, to submit with equanimity to what is rather than resisting it in the name of what ought to be." This means getting ourselves out of the way and moving with Nature instead of thinking we know a better way… in essence, creating the conditions for energy to flow.

Chi Running is an immersion into, and an exploration of, soft power. When running up a hill, you sense that a shorter stride is needed to keep your exertion level from spiking. This response falls in line with "reducing one's actions to a minimum" and "submitting to what is." When you're feeling fatigue in your stride you can sense where you're not relaxing enough, or where you're overworking. And, when you make the right adjustments, energy can replace fatigue.

This simple way of thinking and acting is not only a recipe for becoming a better runner… but a becoming more aware, present and responsive in other areas of life. As you become familiar with working this way in your body, you begin to see how these principles can apply to everything you do. Chi Running plants the seed of ChiLiving.

Soft power makes the best use of available energy. When your partner is talking about something that's effecting them, simply being present and listening is the first thing that needs to happen.   If responding, making suggestions or reacting in defensiveness is your typical, automatic response, that might be energy wasted. If your partner feels listened to, that may be enough for him or her to meet you in resolving the issue.

By learning to live this way you bring the path of learning to a full circle. T'ai Chi was born from Taoism, a philosophy based on the movement of energy. Chi Running was born from T'ai Chi, a martial art based on creating the conditions for energy to flow. ChiLiving is eventually born from ChiRunning. It's the art of responding appropriately in the moment, without doing any more or less than is needed. And that is at the heart of living in the Tao. 


11 CommentsLeave a comment below

Nancy Wiens Dec 3rd, 2014 06:34pm

Danny, love the spiritual roots of ChiRunning made explicit here.  Brings me back to the origins in Bret Harte where you all brought it all together.  Thanks for inviting the diverse running world to flow with Nature!

Fred Jozovich Dec 3rd, 2014 06:40pm

I really identified with this article.  I have recently become much more aware of some of the aspects mentioned in the article.  Awesome.  I appreciate all I have learned from chirunning and look forward to more Chi information.


This was a excellent article explaining a change in my chi running technique and my kettle bell and aerobic workouts thank you so much. I’ve all your books and have been running since for over six years.

I attending a class in Tucson and it has really made a difference in my life and health.

Thank you

This is right on. Love how you weave it all together.

Excellent post, Danny. The applications are endless.

Stephen Hochbrunn Dec 4th, 2014 09:06am

Well said, Danny… and especially appropriate as we enter the busy holiday season. Let’s all think soft!

Well said Danny. Thank You.

Richard Compton Dec 4th, 2014 11:53pm

I feel ‘soft’ power best when I give my foot to the Earth at each contact, with my focus on the K-1 point at the front of the arch. I am offering no resistance in my body and projecting no aggressive force into the Earth. We’re a team with Earth’s gravity and my consciousness working together to align my body in its best balance so that my bones and muscles can coordinate to create the most effective stride with the least work and tension - and the softest impact on her surface. With this foundation I get better feedback and results from whatever technical focus I choose for each outing.

Just what I needed this morning.  The point of relaxing has really helped my running and cycling and of course that carries over.Thanks.

Barbara Habekotte Dec 12th, 2014 12:59pm

I just recovered Chi walking and rapidly found out that it is really working ! Very light footed walking. I am recovering from a very long term foot injuiry caused by surgery and I hope I can improve the distance I can walk with this method. I would like to mention that Hanna Somatics, a very nice method to get supple muscles without stretching, is a very nice combination with Chi walking. I learned it from

wonderful post must say

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