Table of Content
- What is Qigong?
- The Origins of Qigong
- What is Tai Chi?
- The Origins of Tai Chi
- Differences Between Tai Chi and Qigong
- Health Benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi
- Mental and Emotional Benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi
- World Tai Chi and Qigong Day (WTCQD)
What is Qigong?
Qigong, a systematic practice or a singular form of exercise either in form of movement or simply with tranquility centered with Chi. This Qigong is a millennia-old system that has coordinated body posture. Qigong technique is mainly used for the improvement of health, spirituality, and martial arts training. A question may come to your mind – What is Chi or Qi? Qi is a very important term for Chinese culture, for traditional Chinese medicine, particularly for Daoist medicine as the saying goes – “Rénhuó yïkoŭ Qì.” A human being essentially lives on Qi. It is thought that human beings come from Qi and they go back to Qi. Our physical body is actually not that important because our vitality is chiefly about the inner Qi. So to practice Qigong means to enhance Qi, to strengthen qi, to better qi to circulate to people’s bodies. In a special situation, we need a certain medicine very much. We should have a very good diet or follow the guidance of diet therapy or nutrition therapy but in the long run, fundamentally enhancing Qi is the priority. Click here if you want to know more about diet therapy and Nutritional therapy.
Photo: Qigong Practice
The Origins of Qigong
Qigong is more than a set of exercises. Qigong is an attitude that helps to work on restructuring one perspective on life leading to balance and harmony with the world around us. The actual word Qigong was only coined in 1962 but the principles upon which it is based are found in records thousands of years old in an ancient tomb. These items are buried in hopes that our deceased wealthy nobleman would have good health in the afterlife. This total shell has survived nearly three thousand years to tell us through its ancient inscriptions. People of that time believed deep breathing and specific stretching exercises would infuse them with the energy of Qi and keep them healthy. These drawings dated to be about 2500 years’ old show ancient Darian movements. They are a part of a stylized tribal dance to help alleviate aches and pains presumably from atrophic arthritis. It was common with workers in the rice paddies and other damp conditions. These dances were eventually weakened into specific moves that are prescribed for various ailments.
Another way, that the principles of deep breathing and mobilizing internal energy were applied within the world of military warfare. Systems like Muji Qigong traced their origins to secret techniques and exercises covered by warriors to make them better soldiers. Qi Gong styles developed over the millennia. Some are evolving into formalized routines that have become known as Tai Chi. Qigong is considered the core of both Tai Chi and the martial arts. The fundamental of Qigong is to use the breath to focus and mobilize energy throughout the body. The result of regular Qigong practice is a peaceful mind, a healthy invigorated body in a calm spirit that is more capable of dealing with daily stresses and disease.
What is Tai Chi?
Tai Chi Chuan originated from China. Nowadays, it is becoming a form of exercise popular all over the world. Why do people like Tai Chi Chuan? Because, this is not merely a form of sport it is something very well reflected in a Taoist idea to cultivate both physically and spiritually. It is very true that in Tai Chi Chuan, It is a very good combination of physical movement and inner peace and tranquility.
Photo: Tai Chi Chuan
Tai Chi can mean a supreme and a great principle. From this, we can perceive a kind of exercise within our body moving and with our ability. It is not merely a form of physical movement. In doing this, it is like a practice. So this is something combined internally and externally, a good balance of the body in the mind. In doing Tai Chi practice; we have the balance of yin and yang. In Tai Chi Chuan, It is always about something in the best situation. When we say best or perfect, it means a good balance of yin and yang. It is required here grounding solidity but at the same time, it should be emphasized through relaxation. So on the basis of solidity, the whole body should keep relaxed. The body movement may rise and go down, go backward and forwards. The movements may have a defense-attack, inhale-exhale, full-empty, left-right, up-down, internal-external style. By using imbalance, we can strengthen our health physically and spiritually. Taijiquan was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists in 2020 for China.
The Origins of Tai Chi
Zhang san-Feng is the founder of Tai Chi Chuan or Tai Chi boxing and an internal martial arts star. Zhang san-Feng, the man himself was claimed to have written that in every movement, every part of the body must be light a gel and connected in a sequence. The postures continuous the movement rooted within the feet and released through the legs. Then the next movement was focused on the waist, and expressed with the fingers. A story is very common in Tai Chi learners that Zhang saw a bird of prey attacking a snake. He noticed how the snake defended itself by keeping still an alert before counter-attacking and killing the bird. Zhang was an expert of Taoism and Shaolin Kung fu. Taoism and Shaolin Kung fu are external or hard fighting styles. Zhang used his expertise and he was also inspired to create new martial art that is based on softness and yielding. Many details of Chang’s life remain unclear; much of what has been written about him varies according to different sources.
Photo: Zhang san-Feng
Zhang was the legendary Chinese Taoist priest believed to have lived for about 200 years. Although the date of his death is unclear, it is said that he lived from 1247 to 1447 AD. According to one tradition Zhang was born near lungfish or Dragon Tiger Mountain in southeast China’s Shanxi province which is considered as one of the four sacred mountains of Taoism. There is a story that Zhang had a childhood illness and lost his eyesight. Zhang’s father took him to the nearby Taoist temple and Zhang regained his eyesight. The Taoist priest then took Zhang as a lover and taught him writing and martial arts. Zhang’s father hoped that his son would sit for the state examination for a career in government but Zhang wasn’t interested. Zhang took the decision to turn down an official position and gave away his property to his family. Then he started traveling around China. He went to leave Mount Hua before settling at Wudang Mountains where there are many Taoist monasteries. Huge stone tablets erected on Wudang Mountains was ordered by two Ming Dynasty Emperors. The owner Tong was a Taoist Saint. Zhang was believed to be a Xian a Taoist word for for an immortal or an enlightened person.
Zhang’s boxing art was passed down through the generations, most notably in a Chen village where it evolved into the changing style of Tai Chi. The martial artists who learned from the Masters in a Chen village then created their own systems and the art split into five family systems – Chen, Yang, Wu (Hao), Wu, and Sun. These styles plus a variety of modern styles and now practiced by millions around the world. Yet the first movements and theories of Zhang’s boxing art are now lost.
Differences between Tai Chi and Qigong
Tai Chi and Qigong both have differences and similarities. Historically qigong is about 5 000 years old. It is an ancient practice coming from Chinese medicine. Chi means life force energy. It means the aliveness of the body and gong means to work with or to develop a skill at working with that life force energy. Now qigong was broken down into three distinct styles.
- Medical Qigong
- Spiritual Qigong
- Martial art style of Qigong
- Intellectual Qigong
- Life Nourishing Qigong
Medical qigong describes how to work with energy for health wellness and vitality. The other one, Spiritual qigong was how to feel that connection to the divine, meditation practices, energy of consciousness and the mind and spirit, and the third one is the martial art style of qigong, how to work with energy to develop a powerful body.
Now, Tai Chi falls into that third branch of martial arts style of qigong practice. So, you can say that Qigong was the mother of Tai Chi. It gave birth to Tai Chi practice and Tai Chi is a very specific practice for martial application but both of these practices have unique and similar principles. For example, both practices move from the center, both practices are water-like. They are considered internal arts. They both cultivate energy. Now the intention of both practices is to develop and cultivate that energy for health and vitality and internal power and then Tai Chi which moves into a martial expression. For example, every movement of Tai Chi is going to have a martial application, a block, and a strike, and one movement in the Tai Chi form will then go into another movement. So in Tai Chi, you have to learn a whole sequence of movements 108 styles or a 64 movement style.
Now there are three or four distinct styles in Tai Chi, maybe there are a few more and there are 3000 styles of Qigong. So Tai Chi would be considered one particular style of Qigong practice, The Marshall style that originated from the Chen family that is the story in the history of Tai Chi. About 800 years ago, Chen family practitioners were doing Chen-style Tai Chi and they had a servant as the story goes named Yang and Yang would spy and watch and take notes and practice what he was witnessing in the Chen family. So, Master Chen was teaching his sons but the servant Yang was practicing and he practiced very strongly and developed a high skill at the Tai Chi martial arts practice and then Master Yang took it to his family.
At this point, we now have two styles of Tai Chi – Yang style and Chen style. Some varieties of movements but a lot of them are similar.
Tai Chi became very popularized because in that Yang family lineage, the martial arts practitioners became very good and they would challenge martial arts schools around the country until they became very famous for their martial skill and the Chinese emperor and the royal guard learned a short style of Yang family traditional Tai Chi and became popularized.
Now mainly we practice Tai Chi for the same reasons, we practice Qigong. We practice health, energy cultivation, stress management, and feeling that deep connection to our internal energy and power.
Experts recommend that people should practice Qigong first because it is simpler and more accessible to learn how to move energy and about the principles of moving with relaxation. Then start to move those same principles into a Tai Chi form. Tai Chi is harder than Qigong because, learners have to memorize different sequences of movements. Movements in Qigong flows in a rhythmic pattern and repeats themselves as a moving meditation. But the same movements in Tai Chi work differently.
Health Benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi
Qigong and Tai Chi practiced self-cultivation and meditation as part of various spiritual and philosophical traditions. If you want to learn and use Qigong as meditation, it will help to still the mind and enter a state of consciousness that brings bliss, clarity, and serenity. Many practitioners said that they found Qigong more accessible than seated meditation for gentle focused movement.
Tai chi and Qigong’s gentle movements have been shown to improve: blood circulation, pressure, strength, cardiac Function, flexibility, bone strength, immune function, metabolic syndrome, muscle strength, respiration, lymphatic fluid circulation.
Photo: Benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi
Tai Chi (taiji) has a meaning and that is “Supreme Ultimate”. That is a significant statement to make about anything. Even in China where millions of people practice it every day, Tai Chi is not very well understood. Tai Chi brings everything back into balance. Tai Chi helps anyone to unite some virtue like quickness and slowness, hardness and softness, and stillness and motion. It helps to increase awareness and improves focus. Tai Chi has soft and gentle movements but it also has movements like kicks, punches, jumps, and many explosive movements.
Mental and Emotional Benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi
According to many studies, it is found that there are some significant mental and emotional benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi. These kinds of meditations help to improve mode and physical energy. Since it involves physical exertion, it will help to make your sleep more comfortable and better and reduce anxiety, stress, and depression.
World Tai Chi and Qigong Day (WTCQD)
World Tai Chi and Qigong Day is celebrated as an annual event on the last Saturday of April every year. The main purpose of celebrating the day is to acknowledge and promote various disciplines of Qigong and Tai Chi Chuan. The day has been celebrated in nearly eighty countries since 1999. WTCQD also acts as a source of information on medical research and finding guidance in those disciplines.
Photo: WTCQD World Tai-chi and Qigong Day have some important goals to fulfill. They have a target to spread their knowledge about Chinese culture, traditional Chinese medicine, healthcare, and health benefits that Tai Chi and Qigong offer. Click here if you want to know more about Traditional Chinese Medicine. The annual and main event is normally open for all. The first event of WTCQD was held in Kansas City, Missouri in 1998. Local Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong groups, schools, and associations organize local events. The format of events is nearly the same and it may change slightly depending on the area.
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