Qi has many meanings in Chinese; the most common one is air. In the context of Taiji (T´ai Chi), it means the internal energy. Quan literally means a fist, when it is used after any name it becomes a martial art style. For example Taijiquan (the pinyin spelling for T´ai Chi); Bagua Quan and Xingyiquan, the later two are other famous internal martial styles.
This article will discuss Qi and Quan, their connections, and how to improve qi to enable your quan to reach a higher level.
What is Qi?
Qi (in the context of martial arts) is the life energy inside a person. This life energy comes from the combination of three things: the air breathed in through the lungs, essential Qi from the kidney, and the Qi absorbed from food and water through the digestive system. Qi circulates throughout the body, performing many functions to maintain good health.
Like other internal martial art styles, Qi is the driving force of the internal power (jin) in Taiji. The mind (yi) directs the qi, and the qi drives the jin, in practice, yi, jin and qi are inseparable. I will discuss this later.
Qigong, the exercise of qi cultivation, is one of the oldest exercises in Chinese history. Its origin dates back more than one thousand years. There are numerous types of qigong; generally speaking it is a variety of breathing, gymnastic, and meditative exercises.
Martial Art and Tai Chi Qigong
Qigong can be related to Daoism; Buddhism, Confucius, martial arts and other styles. In practical terms Qigong can be done sitting, standing or moving. There are hundreds and thousands of martial art styles in China, almost all of them have their own brand of Qigong. Generally speaking martial art style Qigong is moving, more practical and is part of the discipline. Although different styles place varying degrees of significance to its Qigong, internal styles place greater significance in Qigong. Most Taiji practitioners agree that Qigong is an integral part of Taijiquan.
Chinese culture, other martial arts, Buddhism and Confucius all have some influence in what Taiji is today, although it is well known that the Taiji Qigong derives from Dao Qigong. Taiji has also incorporated many Daoism´s philosophical understanding of nature into its forms.
Like other martial arts, Taiji Qigong is designed to serve the martial arts purpose. Because of this, cultivating Qi can be seen almost as background activity by some, especially comparing it to sitting meditative type of Qigong. This is not to say Qigong is not a vital part of Taiji, only it is almost hidden to untrained eyes. Unfortunately, some practitioners forget the Qi component in their forms.