T'ai Chi and Qigong are traditional Chinese practices.
Like all Asian practices, they are firmly based in a Bodymind world-view.
"Qigong" (pronounced "chee goong", and sometimes written "Ch'i Kung") is a broad term which means "work on the Life Energy".
"Qi" (pronounced "chee") is not really translatable into English, but in this
context it means both breath and the life energy.
A more precise translation might be "feeling" or "sensation": when we feel
the flow of aliveness in our bodies, this is the Qi.
The Chinese view the flow of Qi as the foundation of mental and physical
The meditations and movement practices of Qigong unblock obstructed Qi
and strengthen insufficient Qi so as to restore balance and harmony to body
The practices of Qigong involve posture, movement, breathing,
visualization, and intention, all together at the same time. Modern
neurological research validates these as the best way of changing
the activity of the autonomic nervous system, which is in charge of
basic life functions in the body.
Traditional Qigong comes in many flavors. There are many forms of Qigong:
to increase general health;
to cure specific illnesses;
to greatly prolong life;
for spiritual practice;
and for developing martial skill and power.
T'ai Chi Ch'uan is a martial form of Qigong: the name itself means "Yin-Yang Principle Fist", indicating that it is a fighting method ("fist") based of the fundamental principle of Yin and Yang. (Note that the word "Chi" here is not the same as the "Qi" referred to above. Chi means "principle"; "T'ai Chi" means "fundamental principle, and refers to the principle of Yin and Yang. "T'ai Chi Ch'uan" is also transliterated as "Taijiquan".)
T'ai Chi is the best known of the family of
"Internal" martial arts, which also includes
Pa Kua Chang, Hsing-I Ch'uan, Liou He Ba Fa,
and others. (My teaching draws on all these, but
for simplicity's sake I refer mainly to T'ai Chi).
As a martial art, T'ai Chi is supremely effective;
however, for most Vermonters self-defense
is not a prime motivation.
The martial aspect is nevertheless very important,
even for those unconcerned with physical combat:
it teaches us how to handle difficult relationships.
No, not by punching out your partner (or your boss)!
T'ai Chi teaches
All these combat tactics translate directly into a "felt-sense" of how to handle verbal/emotional confrontations!
Emotional safety is, for most of us, more
of an immediate issue than physical safety;
the postures and movements of T'ai Chi and
Qigong help us shape our energy fields so we
feel secure inside our boundaries without being
confined or trapped.
This can help develop the inner strength we need
to confront the after-effects of trauma.
However, for dealing with serious trauma, such as severe injury, war, early physical, sexual or emotional abuse, or natural disaster, the Bodymind method called Somatic Experiencing is more appropriate.