Understanding qigong

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Qigong is thought to be at least 4,000 years old.  Historically, qigong methods incorporated 'neigong' qualities.
In addition to releasing tension and making you feel energised, a significant degree of strength developed. Specifically: whole-body strength.
This was particularly important for martial arts training.

Tai chi and chi kung

People believe that the 'chi' in tai chi is the same chi as chi kung (qigong). This is incorrect. Tai chi refers to the yin/yang principle whereas the chi (qi) in chi kung is about qi.

Confusing tai chi and qigong

Tai chi is a martial art. Tai chi for health & fitness is a non-martial health exercise adapted from tai chi.
Qigong is a series of standing and moving exercises designed to make you feel energised. There are no static postures in tai chi.

At first, even this simplest of all things - just standing still for a few minutes - may seem impossible when you try it. Thirty seconds may seem like an eternity; five minutes may be agony. The boredom may drive you crazy. These reactions are simply the evidence of the constant tension in your nervous system and proof that you need this exercise.

(Lam Kam Chuen)

Influential qigong book

In 1991, Lam Kam Chuen released The Way of Energy; a popular book that taught ba duan jin and a series of standing qigong postures.
The sequel book The Way of Power was published in 2003 revealing that the exercises taught in the first book were the foundation stage for the martial art of da cheng chuan.
Da cheng chuan is a xingyiquan off-shoot which utilises standing qigong postures in lieu of forms.
The qigong exercises taught by Lam were great if you wanted to get good at da cheng chuan or just want to train qigong as qigong.
However, by tai chi standards the exercises were performed in an 'external' fashion - too extended - and so of no use to tai chi practice.
Besides, tai chi is a moving art not a standing art.

Beware of amateurs...

Qigong is great providing it is taught with skill and integrity. It is a sad truth that most qigong teachers are not professionals.
They are often well-meaning amateurs potentially doing more harm than good. Be cautious.
Find out more about the art for yourself. Gain some measure of understanding before attending a class. Ask the teacher about the style being taught, the methodology behind their teaching.
Ask to see their syllabus.

What kind of qigong is being taught in a given class?

Qigong is a very diverse area of study. It can mean different things to different people. Approaches can vary wildly from class to class and teacher to teacher:

(i) Strength building classes

The emphasis is upon good body mechanics, balance, breathing, lengthening the muscles and relaxation. If all of these factors are taught well, the body will become notably stronger.
Expect a gently challenging workout.

(ii) Hippy classes

A 'feel good' qigong class may have all manner of so-called qi-enhancing practices... but are these bona fide or bogus? Does the student feel stronger?
Is their body stronger, more balanced, their emotions settled and the mind calm? Would your time be better spent walking the dog around the park?

Spend your time wisely

Qigong should ideally be infused with neigong (whole-body strength), and this will prepare the student for martial training and physical activities in every day life.
A clear, tangible, scientific attitude is much necessary. Focus on how you use the body.
Gain strength, ease of movement and mental clarity. Get the postural muscles to do most of the work rather than your localised limbs.

10 repetitions per arm

For the highest yield, each qigong exercise needs to be done 10 times. If you do an exercise with the right hand and then the left, the overall count will be 20.

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Page created 3 March 1994
Last updated 16 June 2023