Tai Chi & Qigong
What is Taiji*? Taiji is martial art that is better known as an exercise. More precisely, an exercise for the elderly in park. But in reality, Taiji is actually a very sophisticated school of martial arts. Taiji was created by a Daoist monk called Zhang San Feng (14th Century) on Wudang Mountain. Zhang San Feng was inspired after watching a snake and crane fight. But the origins of Taiji go much deeper and further than that. Taiji combines the Daoist martials and health exercises going back thousands of years. Zhang San Feng was a Shaolin monk before he converted to Daoism, so he already had experience in martial arts. Taiji is an internal martial arts that focuses on softness and the training of internal power, as opposed to hard external (muscular) power. Whilst there has been many masters over the ages, Zhang San Feng is widely credited to be the founder and Wudang Mountain is the spiritual home of internal martial arts. Long term practice of Taiji can help relieve symptoms associated with mental health, cardiac and musculoskeletal conditions. These include, but not limited to stress, blood pressure and back pain. Other benefits include improved balance, flexibility and mindfulness.
* The correct pinyin spelling is Taijiquan, but it's better known as Tai Chi or Tai Chi Ch'uan in the West.
What is Qigong? Qigong** is a family of soft gentle exercises that can be done standing, moving or sitting. Qi normally means air, but in this context it means the essence of life that flows within us. Gong means effort or work (this is also the same gong as in gongfu, better known as kung fu), so Qigong means the cultivation of qi. There are numerous types and styles all over China and Qigong has the similar health benefits as Taiji. Taiji and Qigong appear similar and are normally treated as two different, yet complementary disciplines. However, they are in fact the different ends of the same piece of string. Qigong as it is known today is actually a modern term that groups various practices together, much like the term wushu (which means martial art) covers various styles, both internal and external. These practices have been around for centuries and different styles had their own methods. Qigong has seen an increasing number of practitioners in recent years. Like with Taiji, many do it as a form of exercise or recreation. However, with practice comes a deeper level of understanding.
** Qigong is pronounced “chee-gong”. However, some sources spell it as Chi-Gong, but qigong is the more modern Mandarin pronunciation. The “chi” here is not the same in meaning as the “chi” in Tai Chi.
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