At Northwest Tai Chi, our Chi Kung develops from simple, standing meditation postures to basic, slow, relaxed, easy to follow movements, such as Ba Duan Jin and Marriage of Heaven and Earth. Progression goes on to more complex practices, such as:
- Threading the Nine Crooked Pearls
- Coiling Incense Skill
- Tian Xiao
Movements of Chi Kung are usually simple and repetitive practices, designed to teach you: ideas; awareness; mechanics and physical integration, in order to aid or further your development towards a defined outcome or goal.
Chi Kung practice has been performed for longer than the country of China has existed. In fact, its practice probably goes back to the Stone Age. That being said, the term Chi Kung (Qi Gong) is a relatively modern umbrella term to categorise the myriad Chinese health exercises.
“Chi”, on its own, is often translated as simply “breath” or more exactly “subtle breath”, meaning energy – an all pervasive, ‘mystical’ life-force. “Kung” means devoting time and effort to attain skill. The term Chi Kung is often translated nowadays simply just as “breath skill”.
Before the use of this term, Chi Kung was called by the name of the practice and or school of thought it belonged to: Taoist, Buddhist, Confucianist, etc., or we have names like Five Animal Frolics, Eight Pieces of Fine Silk, Coiling Incense Skill and many more.
Tai Chi could be categorised as a type of Chi Kung, as could yoga or simple meditation, as Chi Kung is a difficult term to pin down. For instance, we use the term sport to mean many types of physical games but sport can be broken down into many forms: football, rugby, tennis, etc. It’s not exact enough simply to tell someone that you practise sport.
So with Chi Kung, just saying you practise Chi Kung is like saying you practise sport. Due to the broad scope of Chi Kung, we can see it as a form of mind/body conditioning. There are Buddhist-influenced, as well as Taoist and Confucianist, schools of Chi Kung practice. There are also martial Chi Kung and Chi Kung for health and well being. There are moving forms of Chi Kung and static forms; Chi Kung that improves tendons and muscles; Chi Kung that balances and organises the mind and body; Chi Kung that releases patterns of emotional and physical blockages… the list goes on.
Chi Kung has many branches and methods and those methods would or should depend on your individual focus or goal. My point is that if you practise Chi Kung, know what and why you are practising it. Is it helping to improve your skill levels, aiding and helping you towards better health and wellbeing? It’s important to have an instructor with experience, who understands these concepts because, as my Teacher said, “If you misunderstand at the beginning, five years down the line you will have missed by a mile.”
© Bryan Nuttall 18.2.23