Differences Between Qigong and Tai Chi

Tai Chi is Qigong but Qigong is not Tai Chi. Tai Chi is one of the 3000 kinds of documented Qigong. Original Tai Chi fits within the Taoist branch of martial Qigong

Qigong dates back over 5000 years according to many historians while Tai Chi dates back to over 700 years — others argue even 1500 years.

There are debates within China as to where the original Tai Chi was created. Wudang teachers claim they have the original Tai Chi while many historians say Chen family style Tai Chi was the first. Yang style is the most well-known style of Tai Chi in the west as it is easier to learn and has a very slow pace in general.

On the other hand, Qigong has thousands of styles with different principles, different styles of Tai Chi have their own unique principles.

For example, White Tiger Qigong’s 5 Animal Qigong has principles of pulsing different meridians, acupuncture points, and organ systems for the purposes of detoxification, Yang Style Tai Chi has principles of complete relaxation in movement. Contrast this Tai Chi principle to 5 Element Qigong where the principles are maximum extension and maximum breath — this would not be in alignment with Tai Chi principles.

Simply applying principles of different styles of Qigong to Tai Chi doesn’t work and vice versa.

For example in our Medical Qigong system, we are always trying to gradually and gently expand the range of motion, squeeze out toxins from the organs and wring out meridians like a towel. These principles aid in the detoxification process and also the balancing of emotions.

Most Tai Chi that I see commonly practiced these days has no relationship to Qigong whatsoever. A lot I see in parks or even some classes that look more like a dance. They throw on some music and do a dance. It is beautiful to watch and some have some real skill, but most of them do not know what is the relationship to Qigong.

In researching different articles I see many people comparing Tai Chi and Qigong but making a fundamental mistake — that is they lump all Qigong into one category neglecting the fact that there are over 3000 kinds! How can one compare Tai Chi to all of Qigong? It is impossible, therefore we must put it into context.

One article I read said Tai Chi power is dense while Qigong power is light. How can anyone make that claim when there are so many different kinds of Qigong? I have seen some Qigong that is extremely dense and heavy while others are light. Beware of any articles or teachers who categorize or speak of all Qigong the same. They are coming from a limited perspective or very little exposure/experience.

Here are the 10 principles of Tai Chi and I will explain how they are different from Qigong principles of different forms.

  1. Feel your head suspended by the crown point from the sky

Qigong: In many forms of Qigong we do not use this principle as we are bending in multiple directions such as Leopard Qigong or Snake Qigong. When we do standing Qigong though, we generally use this principle.

  1. Keep the chest hollow while stretching up the back.

Qigong: This can work in some instances such as standing Qigong, but in forms like Tiger Qigong we do the opposite where we open up the chest and then hollow it out to create a pump.

  1. Relax the shoulders and sink the elbows.

Qigong: Sometimes we pulse through tension in the shoulders to generate circulation and flow-breaking through stagnation such as in Crane Qigong or many of the 5 Animal Qigong forms.

  1. Relax the waist.

We relax the waist in many standing Qigong forms, but in forms like Tiger Qigong and many of the 8 Trigram Organ Qigong movements, we move the pelvis back and forth so that there is tension followed by relaxation.

  1. Differentiate between the empty leg (leg with no weight) and the supporting leg.

Qigong: This is one principle that I actually do see in most Qigong forms so this may be a more universal principle, at least within the White Tiger Qigong system.

  1. Use the mind, not strength, as well as Yi to lead the Qi. Yi is the intention.

Qigong: This is a general principle of most Taoist Qigong. We do have intense hard Qigong sets to drive the Qi into the bone marrow, but this is the full tension of the fascia, not muscles like in bodybuilding.

  1. Unite the upper and lower body.

Qigong: This is a universal principle of all of White Tiger Qigong and most that I have seen in Taoist Qigong.

  1. Unite the internal and external.

Qigong: This again is a universal Taoist Qigong principle, but many Buddhist Qigong principles do not follow this methodology.

  1. Continuity without interruption.

Qigong: We have some forms that have stop and go to create flow such as the 5 Element Qigong while others like the 8 Trigram Organ Qigong follow this continuous flow principle. Each has their own purposes but we cannot say it is a universal Qigong principle.

  1. Seeking stillness in movement.

This means finding tranquillity within the movement. We can say this is a general universal principle of Taoist Qigong.

Here are some basic principles of different White Tiger Qigong forms:

5 Element Qigong:

    1. Maximum Extension/twist
    1. Complete relaxation
    1. Alternating between tension to relaxation
    1. Maximum inhalation/exhalations
    1. Minimized breath
  1. Breath matches the movements

8 Trigram Organ Qigong Principles:

    1. Continuous motion/breath
    1. Tension to relaxation
    1. Rhythm
  1. Breath matches the movements

5 Animal Qigong Principles:

    1. Pulsing at meridians, acupuncture points and organs
    1. Breath matches the movements
  1. Spirit of the animals

As you can see, there are principles within Tai Chi that can be applied to many styles of Qigong, but some principles which simply cannot. Each type of Qigong has a special purpose. You should try to clearly define the principles of each style of Qigong before going deeply into it so you can understand if it fits your objective. It is not one size fits all.

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