Taiji Qigong: The Art Of Centering Your Chi

Taiji qigong, also known as taichi chi kung or chi gung, is a breathing discipline that supports taijiquan, a movement form that combines elements of gentle exercise, meditation, healing, and self defense.

History of Taiji Qigong

These Chinese practices date back thousands of years and many variations exist. The spellings of the words vary because they are transliterations into English from different Chinese languages and dialects. The originators of taiji qigong considered physical development as part of a unified physical, mental, and spiritual process. Well-known teacher Mantak Chia compares the power of chi to “a rocket to boost the spirit…into orbit.”*

Benefits of Taiji Qigong

Most contemporary students are attracted to taiji qigong’s physical benefits, such as improved balance and flexibility, and reduced pain and stiffness. Research studies are currently investigating its effects on conditions including heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, and arthritis.

Definitions of Taiji Qigong

Qi, or chi, means breath, energy or life force. Chi is believed to be stored in the abdomen, the center of the body.

Gong, gung or kung means practice, discipline or work.

Qigong or chigung is a discipline of breathing exercises intended to develop qi or chi, providing more power to the body and the spirit.

Taiji or Taichi is a shortened form of taijiquan or t’ai chi chuan, meaning “supreme ultimate fist.” Traditional styles include quick fighting movements as well as slow, meditative movements. During the twentieth century, styles featuring the slow movement sequences became popular around the world for their perceived health benefits.

* From “Iron Shirt Chi Kung”


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  • Ken Gullette

    The author of this column is a little mistaken. Tai Chi and Chi Kung are two different practices. Tai Chi was created around 350 years ago by Chen Wangting, a retired warrior and the 9th Generation leader of the Chen family. His ancestors still practice Chen Tai Chi.

    Chen Wangting used some Traditional Chinese Medicine principles in his art, which is common in the Chinese culture, but primarily Tai Chi was created as a powerful martial art. Today, 11 generations later, the Chen family is made up of extremely tough fighters. The standard-bearer for the 19th Generation is Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang.

    Chi Kung is different, made up of exercises to help you calm the mind and body, and center yourself. You can do this with Tai Chi, but that wasn’t the main reason it was created.

    One of the Chen family’s servants, a man named Yang, learned the Chen family’s art in the early 1800’s. When he left the Chen Village, he was told he couldn’t teach Chen Tai Chi, so he developed Yang style Tai Chi. When he went to Beijing and taught the Imperial family, he found them too lazy to do the very difficult and athletic Chen style, so he watered down his art. Over time, this slower, easier, watered down version of Tai Chi became very popular around the world, including America, where people usually do it for health and meditation and believe it is a form of Chi Kung. Actually, it’s a martial art. When performing Tai Chi, you’re supposed to imagine that you are in a fight, not meditating.

    It’s a common misconception about Tai Chi that is perpetuated by poorly-trained teachers who have studied a weaker version of the art. There are many Chen style teachers around the U.S. and the world who teach the real version of Tai Chi. It’s fascinating.

    Ken Gullette