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Qi is pronounced 'chee'. The Wade-Giles spelling is 'chi'. The Pinyin spelling is qi.

What is qi

Qi is a problematic topic... In The Tai Chi Classics it usually refers to breath. Unfortunately, people disagree upon the meaning. Some people see it as being about breath, others energy.
A precise definition of qi is difficult (akin to 'Tao').


Historically, the word qi was often applied as an explanation in lieu of a more scientific understanding. This has led to qigong and tai chi teachers applying the word liberally.


Breathing provides oxygen for our heart, blood and our cells.


Breathing helps our lymphatic system to flush out toxins and carrying away waste from our immune system.


Deep breathing calms the nervous system and helps us to relax.


When in pain, there is often a temptation/habit of holding our breath... Don't. Breathe normally.


A lot of meditation exercises/methods are concerned with focusing upon the breath. Breathing is real, tangible and physical.
Instead of getting caught up with thinking, worrying, speculation and opinions... anchor the attention on the process of breathing.


Qigong moves are timed to synchronise with the breath. Breath slowly, deeply and comfortably. Breathe in as the hands raise, breath out as they lower.
Breathe in as the hands come towards the body, breath out as they move away.

Deep breathing makes you feel energised

A committed regime of on-going training transforms your health. Your body becomes stronger, more mobile, balanced, flexible and supple.
Stamina and awareness improve significantly. Energy levels are boosted - you feel less fatigued.


Never try to synchronise breathing with any form. A traditional form has a 'broken rhythm' - with long and short movements - making it impossible to breathe as you would in qigong.
Breathe naturally and easily.

Martial power?

Some people think that breath is the source of great martial power. It isn't. Breathing is just breathing...
The reason for the confusion is simple: it is the physical mechanism of reverse breathing that generates extra power; not the breath itself.

Wu treatise

u Yu-hsiang wrote:

Throughout the body, the intention relies on the shen, not on the qi.
If it relied on the qi, it would become stagnant.

If there is qi, there is no external strength.

If there is no qi, there is tension.


What does this mean?
Tai chi requires shen most of all, rather than breath. Breath alone would lead to stagnancy and a lack of vigour. To rely purely upon breath means floppiness, limpness and no substance.
However, without some attention to breath, the exponent would simply be tense.

Worth reading

Myths & magic
Qi myths
Qi power?
Qigong practice

Page created 3 March 1994
Last updated 31 July 1997