chi flow

Chi flow is the essence of chi kung


You have said often that most people practice gentle physical exercise and not qigong. Can you explain what is gentle physical exercise and what is qigong?

-- Li, Hong Kong


Gentle physical exercise is exercise performed in a slow and graceful manner at a physical level, whereas qigong deals with qi or energy. Gentle physical exercise is physical, whereas qigong is energy exercise.

Most people who say they practice qigong, actually practice gentle physical exercise. Usually they are unaware of it. This is because they use qigong forms, or qigong techniques. In other words, they use chi kung forms to practice their exercise at a physical level.

In qigong or energy exercise, a practitioner must involve his qi or energy. It is not the forms but the skills that are important. In other words, one may use the same forms, but he can practice the same forms as gentle physical exercise or as qigong.

A good analogy is Taijiquan, often written as Tai Chi Chuan in English. Most people use Taiji forms to practice as gentle physical exercise. They cannot defend themselves with the Taiji forms, and they have no internal force.


Why has qigong become gentle physical exercise?


“Qigong” is in Romanized Chinese, and is pronounced as /ch’i kung/. Hence the English word “chi kung” is popularly used.

There are many reasons why qigong has become gentle physical exercise. It is also useful to know that there are many types of qigong with different levels of attainment.

In the past qigong was rare, but the Chinese government wanted to popularize qigong. Hence, the government trained many qigong instructors in a short time to teach the public.

The type of qigong chosen was at a low level. Students repeated qigong forms many times to generate an energy flow. Usually the energy flow was not manifested outwardly; it flowed inside the students’ bodies.

Over time, the students lost the skills of generating an energy flow. They only performed the outward forms of the exercise. As more instructors were created, they also lost the skills, and hence what was originally qigong became gentle, physical exercise.

This loss of skills was not noticeable because most people did not differentiate between techniques and skills. They believe, which is wrong, that if they had the techniques and they practiced the techniques for some time they would have the results that practicing the art would give.

This is not so as evident in the fact that many people who practice qigong forms, but without the skills to generate energy flow, are still sickly and weak. Qigong, with the proper skills, would give practitioners good health, vitality and longevity.

Reproduced from October 2019 Part 3 in Selection of Question-Answer Series


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