One week has not gone by when, upon finding out I teach Qi Gong, I am asked “Is that like Tai Chi?” The answer is- yes, kind of. Here’s the scoop folks:
Qi Gong literally translates to “energy work”. It is the ancient Asian practice of energy cultivation and breath work. Known as a form of yoga, the practice of Qi Gong comes in many forms- some seated, some in deep stances, and others looking more like self massage. There are literally thousands of traditions practicing different forms of Qi Gong out there. Many of them come from health and healing practices while others from martial arts lineages. Why martial arts? Easy- let’s cultivate your internal energy, strengthen your vital flow, refine your focus, and teach you to project that power out of your palms and into that guy. Yeah- you see it in the Kung Fu movies all the time.
What else are these Qi Gong people doing?Well, a major branch comes from the Alchemical traditions of Asia. These guys (usually monks up in mountains) work on refining their internal energy, tapping into the Ultimate Source, and waking up to their Immortal selves. This is the Light Body practice. There are a bunch of them- working away at waking up and turning on the internal lights.
Are there any other forms? Sure. There are practitioners who work on psychic development as well as people who practice Feng Shui (or geomancy). How is this Qi Gong? Simple- they understand the dynamics of Qi flow in the natural environment around them and they work to manipulate and balance that flow on a more macro scale. What are Time and Space anyhow? Long story short- anybody who is working to cultivate internal energy flow and understanding of the living matrix of life all around us is practicing Qi Gong in some way.
So then what is Tai Chi?
Tai Chi Chuan is a very sophisticated martial art that uses many Qi Gong principles. It was created by a Chinese master named Chang San-Feng who was born in the year 1247. This master took the system of Shaolin Kung Fu and added principles from the I Ching (Chinese book of Changes) and Qi Gong (Taoist breathing techniques) to create this system which translates as “The Grand Ultimate Fist”. A martial art? But it looks so pretty…
Yes. It does look pretty because it is. We tend to spiritualize things in the West a lot and Tai Chi has been somehow relegated into the wild world of trance dance. It is a powerful martial art and a master of this practice is a force to be reckoned with. So what about all of the claims of health benefits and relaxation that people report?
They are all there and are all valid. Tai Chi activates the Qi flow through sophisticated movements coordinated with breath work. It becomes the living practice of embodying Yin and Yang energies within the body and learning about the dynamics of their flow. The slow and subtle movements help develop fine motor skills and help lubricate the joints. The focused attention really helps calm the mind and develop willpower. In short, Tai Chi is awesome and is an excellent martial arts practice that embeds Qi Gong practice within it. Why do you think it has gotten so popular?
People always ask me that, since I have so many good things to say about Tai Chi, why is it that I say I teach Qi Gong? Simple- it is because that’s what I do! I teach the Qi Gong practices from within the Tai Chi system to students all of the time and I find them quite useful. There are a number of excellent Tai Chi teachers out there that are teaching the forms and I applaud them. What I’ve seen missing oftentimes is the “secret sauce” of the underlying Qi Gong training that many teachers don’t bother with. I teach what I feel is missing out there. Now, are there teachers who teach it all? Absolutely! There are a number of wonderful masters all over the place- I’m just another guy trying to show people what they’re missing.
To sum it up: Qi Gong is the system of ENERGY CULTIVATION from Asia and Tai Chi is a “soft style” MARTIAL ART that uses Qi Gong principles within it.
I hope this helps!