The role of qigong in a tai chi class

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Common practice

It is quite common to find tai chi people practicing qigong exercises. Qigong is usually a prominent feature in a tai chi class.

The role of qigong

A tai chi beginner is not adept with tai chi so they need to do a lot of qigong. It provides the necessary fitness benefits by serving as a stopgap pending higher level tai chi skill.

Over-emphasising qigong

Some tai chi instructors over-emphasise the role of qigong
. Why?
Qigong is easy to learn. It provides fitness benefits fairly quickly. A qigong teacher does not need to have a high level of skill with form, applications, combat, neigong or biomechanics.

Standing is for lower grades

Once the student has learned the final weapons form they can cease standing qigong altogether if they want to. Moving qigong exercises are not an impediment.
Prolonged standing may hinder higher levels of mobility with form. Static standing is optional since much greater benefits can be gained through whole-body movement.


If a student experiences diminished 'connection' in the arms, they need to continue standing every day. Standing requires muscular effort. The exercise must be performed using the least amount of effort.
Continuing to stand will encourage connection. 

Higher grades

An advanced student starts practicing the round form version of the Long Yang form. This increases the fitness benefits of form; allowing them to spend even less time training qigong.
Neigong replaces qigong as the primary source of power.


An expert is more adept with higher level taijiquan skill, so they only do a small amount of qigong. At this level, too much qigong will actively impede progress. How come?

Time, energy & concentration

Tai chi is all about the conservation of energy. A high level practitioner needs to use their time wisely.
With only so many hours in the day, they should commit their efforts to the training that yields the highest benefits for the least amount of effort.
Time spent on
simplistic training e.g. prolonged standing qigong - is pointless. It will needlessly tire the body, increase muscular tension and blunt the concentration.

Do not do anything useless.

(Miyamoto Musashi)

Invest in loss

Tai chi people who have been standing for many years are often reluctant to stop. They cling stubbornly to the familiar; afraid to let go.
Instead of shedding old methods and embracing an alternative, they fall back on opinions, comfortable habits and pride. Emotional investment kicks in.


Resisting change is not scientific, nor is it Taoist. A Taoist values change and is open minded enough to commit 12 weeks to a different approach.
Three months without standing is sufficient time to discover the answer for yourself.

Confusing tai chi and qigong

Taijiquan is a martial art. Tai chi for health is a non-martial health exercise adapted from taijiquan. Qigong is a series of standing and moving exercises designed to encourage good health.
There are no static postures in tai chi.

Worth reading

How can you tell?
The role of qigong in the internal martial arts
Types of qigong

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Page created 15 April 2007
Last updated 19 November 2018