Tai Chi, also known as "Taiji," and Qi Gong, also known as "chi kung or qigong," is an ancient Chinese discipline for the cultivation of health through mastery of qi, the internal energy essential to both Chinese medical theory and to all life.
While the Tai Chi and Qi Gong have much in common, they are distinct practices with distinct applications.
Kinds of Qi Gong
According to UnspeakableTruth.net, an encyclopedia of Taoism and related Chinese arts, Qi Gong practices can take four different forms. Static Qi Gong requires the practitioner to hold specific postures in much the same way yogis do.
The focus of mind required to hold the posture helps channel the mind and consequently the breath and energy.
Meditative Qi Gong involves visualization, focus on "specific ideas, sounds, images, concepts or breathing patterns."
Qi Gong with external aids uses herbs, massage, or some other form of external modality to achieve refinement of the energy flow. Dynamic Qi Gong involves special movements or exercises, again to foster proper energy flow.
Tai Chi as Qi Gong
Tai Chi is a form of dynamic Qi Gong. In other words, all Tai Chi is Qi Gong, but not all Qi Gong is Tai Chi.
According to Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming in his book "Essence of Taiji Qigong," the purpose of Tai Chi training is to first help beginners to feel their qi.
Once they have that ability they can learn to regulate the body, breathing, and yi, which is the mind or intent.
Beyond that point, all the possibilities of Qi Gong are possible: health, preservation of youth, strength, and even spiritual awareness.
Tai Chi vs. Martial Qi Gong
The difference between Tai Chi and Qi Gong lies in their martial applications. One could say that Tai Chi is a martial art and Qi Gong isn't, but that wouldn't be strictly true.
The movements of Tai Chi have martial roots and applications, whereas the movements of other forms of Qi Gong don't.
But martial Qi Gong, the practice of building inner strength for the purpose of power and endurance in battle, is definitely a martial art.
The difference between the two is that Tai Chi builds fighting ability and capacity while martial Qi Gong builds just fighting capacity.
What Qi Gong has that Tai Chi doesn't
Qi Gong, however, has applications that Tai Chi doesn't.
For example, one branch of Qi Gong is called medical Qi Gong.
According to the Medical Qi Gong Web site, this form of Qi Gong is a part of traditional Chinese medicine, a complement to acupuncture and Chinese medicinal herbs.
Medical Qi Gong involves adjusting the balance of a patient's energy through the various meridians.
This can be done by teaching the patient specific Qi Gong movements or it can be done externally using massage and other modalities.
What Tai Chi has that Qi Gong Doesn't
Tai Chi, on the other hand, has practices not found in other forms of Qi Gong.
One of these practices is called push hands. Push hands is a two-person, contact that involves giving and receiving force in the form of pushes.
Arieh Lev Breslow in his book "Beyond the Closed Door" describes push-hands as "a complex art based on T'ai Chi principles," a "spontaneous expression of natural movement."
Pushing and yielding become far more--and far less--than pushing and yielding.
They became a quest for perfect naturalness and harmony.
About the Author
Susan Peterson has been a professional writer since 1990. She has authored five books, including "Western Herbs for Martial Artists and Contact Athletes." Peterson has studied the martial arts since 1990 and teaches karate and self-defense. She holds a Doctor of Philosophy in text theory from the University of Texas at Arlington.