The difference between Tai Chi and Qi Gong

Students often ask me what is the difference between Tai Chi and Qi Gong. In the beginning my answer was Qi Gong is purely medicinal and TaiChi is an internal martial art. To this the reaction was oftentimes: Oh, then I prefer Qi Gong. The answer was very simple but missed certain points and I had to go into long explanations. Looking for a simple but more adequate response, I liked the explanation my teacher uses:

Qi Gong is the alphabet and Tai Chi represents the sentences of internal martial arts.

Now some people might object that the movements of Qi Gong are purely medicinal and have nothing to do with martial arts and they are mostly right. In Qi Gong simple movements are repeated over and over again to treat different organs/meridians to restore the energetic equilibrium of that meridian/organ. Legend tells us that Qi Gong was developped for the military to keep the fighting men in good health.

On the other hand, legend tells us also that Tai Chi was invented by aging masters to enhance the agility and flexibility of their muscles, so they could do Gong Fu until old age. Indeed practicing external martial arts uses force and with time the muscles become shortened and tend to rupture if they are not stretched and get back to their full length. So they did the movements of their usual training in a relaxed way not using external force. In doing so they did not only stretch the muscles used in Gong Fu to but also trained the longer muscles used for stability and equilibrium.

Now there are different ways to work Tai Chi,

  • you can do it without force and relaxed but rapidly , very martial and it will be beneficial for your muscles.
  • or you work more slowly taking the time to feel the energies, develop your internal force, let the Chi flow. This brings Tai Chi closer to Qi Gong and it has all the benefits of Qi Gong and some more that I will discuss separately.

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