Qi Gong (pronounced “chee gong” and also written as Ch’i Kung or Chi-Gung) is one of the most substantial differences between Chinese martial arts and other styles. It is in the slow detailed movements of Qi Gong that we can develop the real power that ancient masters are famous for. If there is a secret, then it is in the diligent practice of Qi Gong, for within the practice of this moving meditation is the calm, centered mind and the strong, rooted body. And don’t let me forget – amazing body control.
But there are even more profound health reasons to practice Qi Gong. In the Chinese medical theory of health, the cause of disease is imbalance. When the Qi (aka, “life force” or “bioelectricity”) is out of balance in some way, sickness results.
Excess or deficiency, heat or cold, stagnation, dryness, dampness, and even wind are all concepts that the Chinese doctor will look for to give the clues of where to focus the use of acupuncture, herbs, massage, nutrition, and… the use of specific exercise, i.e. Qi Gong.
Tai Chi (also written as T’ai Chi or Tai Ji) has become more recognized in recent years. Doctors now recommend Tai Chi and even some insurance companies are offering reimbursements for the therapeutic use of Tai Chi.
T’ai Chi Chuan (Tai Ji Quan), which is its complete name, when taught properly is actually a proficient and even vicious Chinese martial art for fighting (actually self defense). Thing is, very few can actually use it for fighting. Knowing the application for a movement is a far cry from actually being able to use it if ever necessary.
Tai Chi is supposed to include both fast and slow training. The Tai Chi that is being practiced by the vast majority of practitioners is the slow part – which is simply – Qi Gong.
It is Qi Gong that is actually what the doctors are recommending when they say, “You should try Tai Chi.”
Hopefully, that clears some things up. So the question remaining is – why are they recommending it?
Just How Powerful Is It?
It is surprising that more people haven’t heard of the remarkable recoveries people have had from numerous diseases by diligent practice of Qi Gong.
There are accounts of people practicing from 2 to 4 hours per day and going from terminal cancer to complete remission. The western doctors, not understanding what happened, write it down in their charts as, “spontaneous remission”. Well, that is what happens when you set the mind and body straight – it heals itself. You can call it whatever you like, but it took a lot of work through the practice that changed what was happening inside these people’s bodies.
In Hoboken, NJ, there’s a Dr. Shi-Hong Loh, who tells the story of a sixty-year-old man with colon cancer that spread to his liver. After conventional treatments of chemotherapy resulted in increasing trouble with anxiety, the treatments were discontinued and he was recommended four hours of meditative Qi Gong exercises daily. Three months later CAT scans showed no signs of cancer. The kind of Qi Gong Dr. Loh practices is called “Eight Pieces of Brocade,” which is believed to be about one thousand years old.
In “Traditional Chinese Medicine World Newspaper” Dr. Loh was quoted saying, “When there is balance, the physical condition can be resolved. By regulating the emotions we can intervene. Qi Gong puts the emphasis on a peaceful mind. When the mind is peaceful, the body will follow.”
Quite a reputation
In the book, “Harnessing the Power of the Universe”, author Daniel Reid has this to say, “Since time immemorial, chi-gung has been known in China as ‘the method for preventing disease and prolonging life’. Modern medicine finally seems to have come full circle regarding human health and healing. After centuries of trying to ‘conquer’ disease with chemical drugs, radiation, radical surgery and other technological solutions, and trying to prevent disease with vaccinations, synthetic additives to ‘fortify’ food, and all-out chemical warfare against germs; medical science is beginning to realize that ‘the best offense is a good defense’. The best defense is a strong, well-balanced energy system.”
A good diet, based on “real food”, and the daily practice of Qi Gong can and does prevent virtually all states of disease, including mental / emotional disorders, ADD/ADHD, chronic degenerative conditions, the effects of stress and so on.
On a daily basis in our society, most people are in what can be called a “constant low level fight-or-flight” due to the fast-paced high-stress environment we all live in. Daily practice of Qi Gong can reverse the damaging effects of this by actually altering the brain chemistry into a mode of restoration and healing. With regular daily practice the body is given the opportunity to heal minor damage before it can accumulate and become something serious.
There have been EEG tests showing that regular Qi Gong practice stimulates the normally unused 90% or so of the brain. This can result in significant improvement in memory, learning ability, enhanced healing, and even the awakening of psychic abilities such as ESP or intuition. This can all be attributed to learning to live more in the quieter “alpha” state of mind instead of the usual busy mind state of “beta”.
Damaging hormones are released through the system when under stress which suppresses the immune system. Chronic stress is known to be a primary cause of numerous diseases, degeneration, and even cancer. Regular practice can neutralize and reverse this negative affect and greatly enhance immune function.
Benefits for the Heart
The heart and circulatory system also reap tremendous benefits from regular practice of Qi Gong. Every cell in the body requires a certain amount of oxygen and nutrients. In Chinese medicine, it is known that the “Qi leads the blood”. Qigong practice promotes the deepest circulation of energy (and blood) so that every tissue and cell of the body is reached – including the muscles, joints, nerves, bones, brain, and organs.
Proper breathing ensures that the diaphragm acts like an additional heart to support circulation and take the strain off the heart itself. In Reid’s book, he states, “Studies in China have shown that twenty to thirty minutes of chi-gung practice reduces the pulse by an average of 15 percent and that this effect continues for several hours after practice. The reduction in heart pulse is accompanied by an overall increase in circulation, proving that chi-gung shifts much of the body’s circulatory duty from the heart to the breath.”
By including leg work in the practice, such as walking and/or moving through various stances and postures, the large muscles of the legs (the thighs and calves) also become like additional hearts taking even more work away from the heart. Key point: the body is supposed to work as a team – the heart isn’t supposed to be the solitary pump for the circulatory system.
Lowers High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, seen in more than half of the population age 65 and over, is easily prevented and even cured with regular Qi Gong practice. The medication normally prescribed today actually makes the cause for the high blood pressure worse, weakens the circulation and thereby puts greater strain on the heart. Studies have shown that even five minutes of Qi Gong practice begins to lower blood pressure.
Reid’s book discusses a study by the Shanghai Research Institute for Hypertension where they had 97 out of 100 hypertensive patients permanently control their “disease” through regular Qi Gong practice. In effect, they were able to “cure” themselves.
There was a famous Beijing actress by the name of Guo Lin, who was diagnosed with advanced and inoperable uterine cancer. After an eight-year battle she was given only six months to live. She began practicing Qi Gong and six months later she was in remission! In the 1970s she was teaching Qi Gong and by 1979 there were twenty “terminal” cancer patients who attributed their remissions to the practice. Thirty years after her medical death sentence she was still practicing and teaching. Her cancer never returned.
It is estimated that there are currently more than one million cancer patients in China and other parts of Asia who are practicing what is now known as “Guo Lin Qi Gong” instead of using conventional chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.
A very popular badminton champion in China, Feng Jian, was diagnosed with lung cancer (nearly always fatal) at the age of twenty-one. Doctors recommended immediate chemo and radiation therapy, but Feng Jian refused. He began practicing Qi Gong every day for ten months, sometimes for as long as twelve hours! In addition, he paid careful attention to diet and got plenty of rest. When he went back to the doctors they were shocked to find him not only alive, but with no signs of the cancer. Twenty years later he’s still cancer free.
In 1988 and again in 1993, at the Medical Conference for Academic Exchange on Medical Qi Gong, numerous cases just like those above were presented to health professionals from all over the world. Virtually every known type of cancer was represented in the case studies where patients not only recovered from their cancer, but regained their overall health and energy. This is a far cry from the debilitated condition patients are left in (if they survive) after the usual “cut, poison, and burn” approach of conventional cancer therapy. These patients are usually left with a decimated liver, impotency, digestive problems, and a virtually destroyed immune system. In addition, rarely are real lifestyle changes part of the formula. Reoccurrence or suffering another form of cancer is common.
What kind of Qi Gong should I practice?
It is believed that there are in excess of 3600 different kinds of Qi Gong. Going through many different forms and styles may give a taste of variety, but can actually hinder any real benefits. Someone gets results with a certain kind and everyone who hears about it thinks there is some magic in that specific style. It is not the style, but the proper and consistent practice itself.
In order to be practicing Qi Gong, one needs the right kind of movement based on what result is desired; the breath must be properly coordinated; and the mind must be engaged fully in the moment. It doesn’t matter what form of Qi Gong is performed as long as you understand the principles behind it and what it is you are trying to accomplish. With the proper understanding of principles and a reason for the practice, one can prescribe the right exercise for him or herself.
If nothing is wrong, and the reason for practice is prevention, knowing the principles helps you to save time by knowing how efficiently circulate energy throughout the body.
In Ba Gua Qi Gong, the practitioner learns what the main components are and how to apply them to any goal. In essence, Ba Gua Qi Gong is complete, bringing deep and powerful circulation to all joints, bones, nerves, and organs. The three components are:
Deep breathing engages all five lobes of the lungs and greatly enhances our ability to oxygenate the blood, further removes carbon dioxide, and improves the overall efficiency of respiration. Doing this on a regular basis results in greater a volume of air with each breath and a lower rate of respiration. The body is working less but with greater results.
Breathing takes in the Qi and movement circulates it. Movement automatically increases circulation, especially in the area of the body that is involved. The kind of movement performed can be determined by whatever the problem is. If a person has breast cancer, for example, then there is a need to perform movements that will enhance the circulation and disperse energy accumulated in the chest area. In addition, there are emotional components that are automatically addressed just by the focused practice itself. Proper posture also further engages the Dan Tian, which is basically from below the naval to the perineum and includes the front and back of the lower part of the torso.
Where the mind goes the Qi will follow. Basically, you cannot move at all without intention. The more intention and focus you bring into a task will determine just how much energy will be sent there. Picking up a spoon can be done with so little intent by the average person that he can be reading or talking to someone else at the same time. Lifting a heavy object, like helping a friend move their refrigerator, requires intense focus and energy.
Proper Chi Kung practice is meditation in motion. The practitioner should be completely focused on the moment – to coordinate the movement and the breath – and to engage the mind fully so as to increase the circulation and thereby enjoy more profound results.
My martial arts teacher, Master Bok Nam Park, has said, “20 minutes with focus is better than 2 hours without.” Therefore, less time yet greater results. That’s powerful Qi Gong.
Click here for Qigong Article Part Two focusing on the martial side of Qi Gong.
Article originally published in October, 2003