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The Concept of Qi and Qigong

Qi 气 is one of the fundamental concepts in Chinese philosophy. Literally meaning air, breath, or gas, Qi refers to the imagined flow of energy or vital force. This pervasive energy is considered to exist in all things. Every human has been born with an original amount of Qi within its body. A person acquires or loses Qi from interacting with the environment, for example, acquiring Qi from the food by eating and from the sunlight by bathing in the sun, while losing Qi by overworking and excessive exposure to cold air. When the amount or type of Qi gets unbalanced, the human body gets ill or dies.

Qigong, then, describes the systems and methods to cultivate and balance this life energy known as Qi. Diverse types of trainings are involved in Qigong practice. One needs to carefully choreograph the movement, coordinate breath, and focus the mind in a dynamic type of training, and hold certain postures for a period of time, with strenuous mental efforts, in a static type. Most Qigong training involves some form of meditation in which breath awareness is sought to regulate the inner flow of Qi through the body. And external agents are also used in some systems of Qigong training, like massage, manipulation of the body, eating herbs, etc. Whatever the type and method of Qigong training, the point is to manipulate the flow of Qi.

The point of Qigong, whatever type and method of training is involved, is to manipulate the flow of Qi, a vital, pervasive life energy, through the numerous channels within the human body. Therefore, it is closely related to traditional Chinese medicine.

Functions of Qigong

Therefore, in traditional Chinese medicine, Qigong is used for preventive and curative functions. Remarkable positive effects on diverse ailments have been testified. It is good for curing of chronic medical conditions and helps achieve the feelings of calm, peace, and wellbeing. A basic premise in Chinese medicine is that Qi flows through the body along certain meridians channels and numerous smaller branches and tributaries. And to keep the flow of Qi smooth and balanced is to ensure life energy flows to various parts of the body.

Aside from medical functions, Qigong is practiced as a means to achieve self-cultivation in all three mainstream Chinese philosophies. Confucian scholars practice Qigong to improve their moral character, while the Taoists and Buddhists use Qigong as a sort of meditative practice towards self-enlightenment. Qigong stills the mind and helps the practitioner enter a state of consciousness that brings serenity, clarity and bliss.

Besides medical functions, Qigong is also practiced as a means to achieve self-cultivation in mainstream Chinese philosophies.


Qigong and Chinese Kungfu

An immediate and most impressive association of Qigong is Chinese kungfu (martial arts), where Qigong is practiced to enhance the martial abilities of the practitioner. Each of the three major schools of Chinese kungfu: Shaolin, Wudang, and Emei has developed Qigong of its own style. Taiji shadow boxing and Baguazhang (eight trigrams boxing) in Wudang kungfu are representative types of Chinese martial arts relying on the concept of Qi. As Qi is considered a source of power, focusing on it properly is supposed to gather miraculous strength. Some extraordinary feats of folk martial arts prowess are directly linked to Qigong training, for example, the ability to withstand heavy blows (popular known as 铁布衫 tie bu shan, iron shirt) and the ability to break hard objects (铁砂掌 tie sha zhang, iron palm). 

Shaolin monks performing the Qigong-based feat of Chinese kungfu - Iron Shirt. The monk withstands the pressure from the spearheads as if wearing a shirt made of iron.

Man displays strength achieved by Qigong training, lying on the ground as truck wheel runs over.



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