Q. What is Chi Kung (Qi Gong)?
A. Chi Kung (sometimes written "Qi Gong" or "Qigong"), is an integral component of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) with over 60 million people in China practising it daily. The term "Chi Kung" is an accepted English equivalent of the Chinese word translated to Qigong, where "Qi" or "Chi" means the human body energy, or life force - and "Kung" means "working with, "achievement", or "skill".
Chi Kung belongs to the soft martial arts and combines a set of slow precise movements with breathing and mind focus, to gradually develop and improve an individuals state of health, and to achieve relaxation and quietness of mind. The aim is to be as one with nature. Chi Kung is often incorporated by practitioners of other therapies, and many who are engaged in hard martial art forms, e.g. Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Jeet Kune Do, practise Chi Kung as part of the development of their adopted form.
Relaxation, quietness, as one with nature, combining a set of slow precise movements, breathing and mind focus, gradual development and practicing to improve an individual's state of health, is the important aim of Chi Kung. A qigong 10 minute evening session can produce a noticeable improvement.
Q. Where does Chi Kung come from?
A. Chi Kung's history dates back thousands of years. According to the TCM community, the origin of Chi Kung is commonly attributed to the legendary Yellow Emperor (2696-2898 BCE) and the classic Huangdi Neijing book of internal Medicine. Archaeological evidence suggests Chi Kung was known to shamans as long as 7000 years back.
The Zhen Dynasty (11th Century BC-771 BCE) records on Chi Kung were inscribed on bronze objects. In the Warring States Period (770 BCE-221 BCE) the "Jade Pendant Inscription on Chi Kung" recorded its training methods and theory. Other 3rd century BC relics are the silk book "On Abandoning Food and Living On Chi" and a silk painting "Dao Yin Illustrations", showing Chi Kung training exercises. They were found at the Number Three Han Tomb at Mawangdui, Chang Sha, Hunan Province (dating 206 BC - 220 AD).
The theory and practice of Chi Kung continues to this day. Previously Chi Kung was referred to by various names, such as Tu-Na, Dao Yin and Neigong. In 1953 Liu Guizheng from Beidaihe Chi Kung Hospital wrote and published "Practice on Chi Kung Therapy", formally naming Chi Kung (Qigong).
Chi Kung has regained popularity in China from around the mid 1980's. It is now the most popular health exercise, and is suitable for all ages and most fitness levels. In the mornings in China, people can be seen in parks and other areas practicing Chi Kung.
Q. What are the health benefits of practicing Chi Kung?
A. The learning and regular practice of Chi Kung can:
• Reduce stress and promote a sense of well-being through calming the mind and deepening the respiration
• Improve digestion, respiration, cardiovascular and nervous systems
• Improve sleep quality and relieve fatigue
• Improve health and resistance to illness
• Strengthen the practitioner both physically and mentally
Medical Chi Kung forms, e.g. Guigen, have been documented in recent decades at research institutes and TCM hospitals. The findings are much improved patient outcomes - even those diagnosed with cancer.
Q. What is the difference between Chi Kung (Qigong) and Taiji (Tai Chi)?
A. Both belong to the Chinese Healing Arts, but within different subcategories, and work with the body's life force.
Chi Kung (pronounced Chee) describes the life force, or energy, that flows through all living things. Kung (pronounced Goong) means to work with. Although the two words combined are back to front for English language they mean to work with the life force. Tai Chi – also written as Taiji, in context translates to highest or greatest energy – therefore the meaning of both titles may be seen as similar. Tai Chi describes the Yin/Yang symbol:
Also used in the concept of Chi Kung, the symbol represents two opposing forces that balance each other. One cannot exist without the other, although there is a little of the opposing qualities in each - as represented by the small white and black circle. The Yang energy may be expressed as flowing upwards, male, external, hot and brightness. Yin energy can be said to be in the opposing characteristics flowing down, female, internal, cold and dark. So it is with the Chi flowing within the human body via the various meridians or paths. If there is an imbalance of Chi then some sort of ailment is either present or can result. Good health means the Chi is in balance.
Q. Why is Chi Kung used for relaxation and stress management?
A. The "Three Essentials of Chi Kung" are posture, mind and breathing. Because of the emphasis on these essentials, relaxation benefits are most often felt in the very first lesson. Where gentle movement, attention to posture and the deepening of the breath leads, a calm mind follows.
Q. How hard is Chi Kung to learn.
A. For a beginner it is better to start off with the theory. Because there are many related topics try and concentrate on the basics at first, and combine with learning a simple form. Forms vary greatly in complexity, therefore the more intricate forms of more than six sections are harder to master. Perhaps look at it this way - learning is a degree of challenge, however we are here to learn from each other.
Generally you would start with one of the easier forms like Taiji Hunyuan Zhuang - translates to Longevity, gradually progressing to other forms like Ma Wang Dui, Guigen and Liu He Gong, that are somewhat more complex and take longer to learn.
You don't need to be at a high level of fitness to learn Chi Kung. As practise develops over time an increase in well being, health, flexibility, and body strength should be noticed.
Uniforms of the martial art type are not required, and individual choice applies. If you would feel more comfortable wearing one then that is fine.
For reasons of comfort and the least restrictions of movement it is suggested that the following be worn:
• Loose track suit type pants
• Loose fitting shirt/blouse
• Sport or walking type shoes with a non slip sole - see comment below
Comment: Shoes should be a good fit, not tight. To check if the sole is suitable find a polished board floor, or other surface offering little grip. Stand with the feet about 1 meter apart, and shift the weight from one foot to the other, while noticing the sole grip, i.e. less slip the better. Sport or walking type shoes offer better foot and ankle support than everyday shoes.
Slip on shoes made for practising Chi Kung of the type used by Chi Kung Masters, Teachers and Practitioners in China can be found on web sites like Ali Baba:
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