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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Qigong Confusion

Qi Magazine | Issue 73 | December 2004 
By Adam Wallace


As Qigong becomes more well known you would naturally assume that the level of understanding would also increase. However, there are still too many misconceptions among the general public regarding Qigong.

Qigong is not a martial art. Traditionally it was linked with Chinese martial arts because it enhances physical performance and mental focus, and heals the body, but it is a health exercise. Qi relates to energy and gong means work.

Qigong is not Taijiquan. With the Pinyin romanisation of Chinese you have Qi, Qigong, and Taijiquan; and with Wade Gilles you have Chi, Chi Kung and Tai Chi Chuan. The word Chi ( Ji, meaning ‘limited’ or ‘ending’) in Tai Chi Chuan is written the same as Chi (Qi, meaning energy) in Chi Kung, and therein lies the confusion. The ‘soft’ watered-down Taijiquan for health promoted today has, in essence, become similar to Qigong, but it is not quite in the same league for health.

Qigong is not a warmup exercise. Many Taijiquan teachers include basic Qigong as a warm-up to their practise but it is no substitute for deep stretching. Qigong is not a ‘quick-fix’. I once overheard two ladies discussing classes they had taken and one said to the other, “I did Qigong last Monday and it set me up for the entire week”. The effect may be immediate but it does not last indefinitely; good results only come from cumulative efforts. A‘Grandmaster’ in New York guarantees that results can be achieved from mere minutes of practising his Qigong every day, and brandishes scores of written student testimonials as ‘proof’. But, it is really simple common sense - the more you put in the more you get out!

Qigong is a Chinese skill. This may sound painfully obvious but people are currently creating (trademarking) and promoting their own Western versions. Syner Chi Sculpt (a combination of Qigong, Yoga, and weightlifting) and Aqua Chi Kung (performed in chlorinated indoor swimming pools), among others, are continually emerging.

Traditional Qigong was designed as a total balanced system of training the body and mind. When teachers must combine their Qigong with other exercise either their own studies are incomplete or else their Qigong is deficient. Mixing up disciplines without internal knowledge and experience can be hazardous to health.

Qigong is not a religion. It is based on the principles of Daoism (following nature) and Buddhism (enlightenment); the philosophy is an education in morality and does not cause conflict with any religious faith. Qigong is not a political movement.When Qigong is combined with activism here is a dichotomy as the student cannot relax, let go, and forget when so passionately involved in a cause.

Qigong is not a self empowerment/goal-achievement method. It was created for health, vitality, and longevity by Daoists and Buddhists, and not by 21st Century self-help gurus. Certain people are actually marketing Qigong as the means to cultivate financial success, land a dream job, or find one’s ‘soul-mate’.

Qigong is not a substitute for psychotherapy. As a mind-body exercise practice, it balances emotions, far better than merely talking endlessly about oneself and being ‘medicated’, but certain ‘masters’ promise a lifetime of anger or depression can be eliminated in one or two ‘treatments’.

A doctorate in Traditional Chinese Medicine is not indicative of Qigong skill. Knowledge of herbs and acupuncture does not replace experience with internal training, i.e. Chinese movement and deep meditation. Surprisingly, most Western TCM doctors today do not actually practice Qigong (despite having learned elementary skill as a course requirement), or have any active interest whatsoever.

Qigong has nothing to do with feeling Qi. This is no more indicative of good health than not feeling Qi being indicative of illness. Certain teachers so impress the need to feel the energy that students either begin to imagine this or else are left feeling inferior to those who can (or claim to) feel Qi sensations.

What accounts for all this confusion? Unqualified low-level teachers not fully comprehending Qigong’s capabilities who remain confused themselves, and authors writing on the subject in complete ignorance with zero experience. For example, NewYork’s Time Out magazine featured an article on Qigong in July 2004. The author recommended a “yoga-qigong hybrid class” (that she had attended) as an “easier entry point” over “Qigong in its purest form (as in Wallace’s Dayan class)” where “postures are often excruciatingly slow and it can be a challenge to stay focused”. Dayan Qigong is nothing like this! Mistaken perception or deliberate deception? The author wrote these comments even visiting the class!