Tai Chi – Qi Gong

PlayingHarpForTaiChiThe Chinese characters for Tai Chi Chuan can be translated as the ‘Supreme Ultimate Force’. The notion of ‘supreme ultimate’ is often associated with the Chinese concept of yin-yang, the notion that one can see a dynamic duality (male/female, active/passive, dark/light, forceful/yielding, etc.) in all things. ‘Force’ (or, more literally, ‘fist’) can be thought of here as the means or way of achieving this ying-yang, or ‘supreme-ultimate’ discipline.

Tai Chi, as it is practiced in the west today, can perhaps best be thought of as a moving form of yoga and meditation combined. There are a number of so- called forms (sometimes also called ‘sets’) which consist of a sequence of movements. Many of these movements are originally derived from the martial arts (and perhaps even more ancestrally than that, from the natural movements of animals and birds) although the way they are performed in Tai Chi is slowly, softly and gracefully with smooth and even transitions between them.

For many practicioners the focus in doing them is not, first and foremost, martial, but as a meditative exercise for the body. For others the combat aspects of Tai Chi are of considerable interest. In Chinese philosophy and medicine there exists the concept of ‘chi’, a vital force that animates the body. One of the avowed aims of Tai Chi is to foster the circulation of this ‘chi’ within the body, the belief being that by doing so the health and vitality of the person are enhanced. This ‘chi’ circulates in patterns that are close related to the nervous and vascular system and thus the notion is closely connected with that of the practice of acupuncture and other oriental healing arts.

PlayingHarpForTaiChi1Another aim of Tai Chi is to foster a calm and tranquil mind, focused on the precise execution of these exercises. Learning to do them correctly provides a practical avenue for learning about such things as balance, alignment, fine-scale motor control, rhythm of movement, the genesis of movement from the body’s vital center, and so on. Thus the practice of Tai Chi can in some measure contribute to being able to better stand, walk, move, run, etc. in other spheres of life as well. Many practitioners notice benefits in terms of correcting poor postural, alignment or movement patterns which can contribute to tension or injury. Furthermore the meditative nature of the exercises is calming and relaxing in and of itself.

The practical exercises of Tai Chi are also situated in a wider philosophical context of Taoism. This is a reflective, mystical Chinese tradition first associated with the scholar and mystic Lao Tsu, an older contemporary of Confucius. He wrote and taught in the province of Honan in the 6th century B.C. and authored the seminal work of Taoism, the Tao Te Ching. As a philosophy, Taoism has many elements but fundamentally it espouses a calm, reflective and mystic view of the world steeped in the beauty and tranquillity of nature.     For more information LINK

 Qi Gong

The effectiveness of qigong has been proven in China by its beneficial impact on the health of millions of people over thousands of years. Developing the life force, or chi, is the focus of Taoism, China’s original religion/philosophy. The Taoists are the same people who brought acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, bone setting, and the yin/yang concept to the world.

For most people, the first and foremost benefit of qigong lies in the relief or prevention of chronic health problems. The range of maladies that have been helped by qigong in China include cancer, internal organ ailments, poor circulation, nerve pain, back and joint problems and general physical disease.

Many physical problems are at least partially due to, or aggravated by, mental or emotional stress, so the importance of the inner tranquility developed through chi gung cannot be overestimated. The practice of qigong helps manage the stress, anger, depression, morbid thoughts, and general confusion that prey on your mind when your chi is not regulated and balanced. Strengthening and balancing the energy of your mind enhances your ability to detect subtle nuances and to perceive the world and its patterns at ever-increasing levels of complexity. 

PlayingHarpforQiGongQigong is also useful on the spiritual level. The ultimate aim of all inner Taoist practices is the alchemical transformation of the body, mind, and spirit, leading to union with the Tao. Feeling the energy of your body makes it possible for you to understand the energy of your thoughts and emotions, and this leads to comprehending the energy of the spirit. From here it is possible to fully understand the energy of meditation or emptiness, and through emptiness it is possible to become one with the Tao.

According to Taoism, every human being contains “the three treasures”—jing (sperm/ovary energy, or the essence of the physical body), chi (energy, including the thoughts and emotions), and shen (spirit or spiritual power). Wu (emptiness) gives birth to and integrates the three treasures.

The Taoists use the all-pervasive life energy as the basis of spiritual investigation. The ultimate goal, becoming one with the Tao, has been called many things, such as “enlightenment,” “meeting with the Father in Heaven,” “reaching Nirvana,” and “ultimate understanding.” Taoists feel that it is best for one to begin with the energy of the body, then progress through emotions and thoughts to spiritual power, before going for the ultimate.

 

What is the difference between tai chi and qigong?

Each answer gives a progressively more complete answer. All are only partial truths, but at least they are the most accurate answers that can be given without going into excessive detail.

This is the most common answer.  For more subtle answers and information please visit:

The accurate part of the statement is this: the invisible chi or internal power aspects included within the tai chi part of tai chi chuan derive directly from one branch of the 3,000-year-old Taoist qigong tradition, whereas Taoist qigong does not come from tai chi. However, the statement is misleading because it omits Buddhist or Confucian qigong, which have little in common with tai chi’s roots in Taoist qigong or Taoism. 

This answer also involves a common error in logic: since to the Western ear it sounds as if the word energy is contained in both words, they must mean the same thing. Right? Wrong! The qi or chi of qigong means energy, the chi of tai chi does not. In tai chi the chi means ‘ultimate’.

To add to the confusion, the chi in tai chi and qigong are almost universally pronounced by Westerners as “chee,” which is accurate for qigong and inaccurate for tai chi (“gee”) chuan. Those who commonly both see and mispronounce tai chi as chee also tend to assume both mean the same thing, which they do not.

Confusion escalates and gets reinforced when you find out both tai chi and qigong work with chi-energy (however often in different ways) and have similar benefits. Adding to the potential confusion, although many people may have heard the name, most in the West have only seen tai chi or qigong in still photos, on television, or at the cinema.

When shown visually, if these arts are even named, usually narrators inaccurately call both tai chi, because they don’t know the difference. This commonly leaves the impression that qigong is tai chi or vice versa. The public subsequently has an association that slow-motion movements + Chinese something-or-other = tai chi. Consequently, the public and the media are more familiar with the name tai chi than qigong, and commonly do not make much distinction between them.

Check out this for more subtle nuances on the differences