Frequently Asked Questions
What's the Difference between Tai Chi and Qi Gong?
Historically Qi Gong is about 5000 years old and Tai Chi is about 800 years old. It is an ancient practice which comes from Traditional Chinese Medicine. “Qi” means life force energy, it is your aliveness. “Gong” means to work with, or to develop a skill at working with that life force energy. Qi Gong was broken down into 3 distinct styles: One was Medical Qi Gong, how to work with energy for health, wellness and vitality. The other was Spiritual Qi Gong, how to feel that connection to the divine. This often comprised meditation practises, the energy of consciousness, and working with the energy of mind and spirit. And the third was Martial arts style of Qi Gong. How do you work with energy to develop a powerful body. Tai Chi falls into that third branch of martial arts style practice. We can see from this that Qi Gong is the mother of Tai Chi, it gave birth to Tai Chi practice. Tai Chi is a very specific practice for martial application. But both of these practices have unique and similar principles. For example both practices move from the center. Both practices are water-like, they are internal arts, they both cultivate energy. The intention of both practices is to develop and cultivate that energy for health and vitality and internal power. Tia Chi moves into a martial expression. For example, every movement in Tai Chi will have a martial application, such as a block or a strike. One movement in the Tai Chi form will then go into another movement. In Tai Chi you have to learn a whole sequence of movements – a 108 movement style or a 64 movement style. There are 3 or 4 distinct styles in Tai Chi while there are 3000 styles of Qi Gong. Tai Chi would be considered one particular style of Qi Gong practice, the martial style.
Tai Chi originated from the Chen family about 800 years ago. The history books tell us that Chen family practitioners were doing Chen style Tai Chi. They had a servant named Yang. Yang would spy and watch and takes notes and practice what he was witnessing in the Chen family. Master Chen was teaching his sons, but the servant Yang was practicing. He practised very strongly and developed a high skill at the Tai Chi martial arts practice. Then Master Yang took it to his family. So now we have Yang style and Chen style, some variety of movements, a lot of them are similar but there are some distinct styles. Tai Chi became very popularised because in that Yang family lineage the martial arts practitioners became very good. They would challenge martial arts schools around the country until they became very famous for their martial skill. The Chinese Emperor and the Royal Guard learned a short style of Yang family tradition Tai Chi and it became popularised.
Mainly we practice Tai Chi for the same reasons we practice Qi Gong. We practice for health, energy cultivation, stress management and for feeling that deep connection to our energy and power.
I suggest you practise Qi Gong first, because it’s simpler, it’s more accessible. In Qi Gong you learn how to move your energy. You learn the principles of moving with relaxation, moving with water-like softness. After you have mastered those principles you can learn how to move those same principles into a Tai Chi form. Because in a Tai Chi form you are going to have to to memorise different sequences of movements. Because one movement will go right into the next. Whereas in Qi Gong one movement flows in a rhythmic pattern and repeats itself as a moving meditation and it becomes easier to practice. So for example the movement called Parting the Horses Maine, will repeat itself over and over in a Qi Gong practice. But in Tai Chi you do that movement in a walking set where you will be moving the energy into a form which makes it harder to memorise.
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