An Article by Erle Montaigue

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The Chinese healing art of 'QI-GONG' has very quickly become quite a fashionable practice in the west and this series of movements with breathing techniques is gaining popularity in much the same way that T'ai chi did in the seventies and eighties, at a rapid pace. An ancient healing art, Qi-gong along with the moving Qi-gong of T'ai Chi is an ideal internal movement for all NEW AGE PRACTITIONERS as it deals not only with physical bodily functions but also with spiritual and energy flows.

T'AI CHI is a form of moving QIGONG, the word QIGONG or Ch'i KUNG literally means 'internal work'. In fact, any series of movements or 'thought movements', those movements that cause an internal flow of energy just by the thought, and when combined with a certain breathing technique can be considered to be Qi-gong.

There are over two thousand different types of Qigong including those postures from the T'ai chi forms etc. But don't be alarmed and think that if you wish to pursue this type of therapy you will have to spend your whole life learning so many techniques. The reason for so many differences is simply that the different provinces in China did things in a slightly different way to gain the same effect. Most provinces have their own, 'folk Qigong' and all claim that theirs is the best, (of course, aren't we just the same). There are even Qigong tournaments held in China each year where practitioners see how many bricks they are able to smash over their respective heads etc. But we are not concerned with this theatrical area of Qigong.

Standing Qi Gong

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It is the job of the 'STANDING QI-GONG' (see PHOTO NO.1 for the basic stance) to build up our 'PRENATAL' CH'I or QI while it is the job of the T'AI CHI FORM (see PHOTO NO.2 and 3 for two of the T'AI CHI postures called 'stork spreads wings', and snake creeps down' to cause this extra energy to flow freely to all parts of the body.

The whole of the Qi-gong techniques can be split up into three main groups. Those for self-healing, those for medical and those for the martial arts. Usually, it is the self-healing and the martial arts area that we in the T'ai chi area are concerned.
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Self-Healing Qi Gong

Using the self-healing Qi-gong we learn to help our own body and mind to heal ourselves of disease. When we practice the martial arts Qigong, we make use of the internal work to gain power and speed and timing for the purpose of self-defence. The more difficult, 'medical' Qi-gong comes when a doctor of Qigong actually treats people himself with Qigong to heal those people of some disease which is perhaps a little too advanced for our own system to cope with. This Qigong is a very advanced technique and not only involves the patient learning his/her own self healing Qigong but also the doctor attempts to either put in or pull out Ch'i to add to the healing process. I am told that many doctors in China are having a success rate with breast cancers and other deadly diseases.

When T'ai chi is performed using the 'three main breathing techniques', it also becomes quite a potent Qigong practice hence it's excellent name in the self-healing area. We are told through ancient Chinese texts that whatever the external body does, so too does the internal flow of Ch'i try to emulate. So it stands to reason that if we are performing harsh, unnatural movements that go against the natural bodily flow, so too will the internal flow of Ch'i be impeded by this external show. If however, we try to perform natural, flowing movements we have an enhancement of a natural flow of Ch'i to all parts of the body internally.

Can Qigong Be Harmful

Yes and no. If one practices Qi-gong to excess there can be a harmful effect but if one only practices the basic Qi-gong stances and movements and never over does it, there can be no danger. If for instance one is told not to practice a certain Qi-gong stance because it is an advanced practice then one must simply not practice that stance. Many students are eager to learn and so they try to practice certain Qigong stances long before they are ready any so they are open to a certain amount of harm. This is where your teacher must guide you through the basics and slowly up to the advanced forms.

The danger lies in the fact that once a certain flow has been established by practising a certain method, we are sometimes fooled into believing that we are able to take much more than our physical body is able to at that given time. Slowly, the Qi takes over our body and we are literally held in place by the flow of Qi, our muscles having given up long ago. If that flow is suddenly interrupted, perhaps by a telephone call, our physical mind takes over again and the great flow of energy slows to the normal rate and we go back to using our physical muscles again.

But our muscles have become useless because they have been over used and we fall onto the ground. This phenomenon happened to myself in my initial training and has since happened to three of my students, because we all did something that our teachers told us not to. But then what inquiring mind can resist doing something that someone tells us not to because it is too powerful! This is the only danger that I have ever found in the practice of Qigong. The only other danger comes if a person has certain ailments such as blood clots or kidney stones etc, the Qigong tries to release these blockages and this can cause great pain and sometimes immobility.

T'ai Chi And Medical Qigong

Qigong is also used as a total healing method. That is, the 'doctor' of Qigong is able to use the Qigong stances to not only heal but also to diagnose any problems. Firstly on a large scale whereby he/she places the disease into one large area of the body and whether it is a 'yin deficient' disease or a yang deficient' disease. The way that this is established is, (and his is on a very basic level), the doctor takes note of the position of the palms after some minutes of the patient practising his/her own Qigong stance. (The position of all of the limbs is also taken into account but for this article I will only deal with the simpler palm positions). If for instance the right palm has fallen to a lower level than the left palm then this indicates that there is a yang deficiency in the right side of the body. One has also to take into account the position of the other limbs to establish if upper of lower body is effected. To further pin point the problem, the patient is placed into a series of other postures including some of the T'ai chi postures to find out which ones cause pain or are extremely more difficult than any of the others. If for instance the posture of 'brush knee twist step' causes some pain around the chest area and is grossly difficult (more so than normal for a beginner) to perform then this would indicate a heart problem of the yang deficient variety. Further diagnosis including tongue, face and kin condition would further confirm the problem. The Qigong doctor has then to decide how to heal the ailment. He may decide to use acupuncture to heal the immediate effect of the pain and then use some Qigong postures to put some yang energy into the heart. He may also practice his own Qi-gong for either twenty minutes for a minor ailment or for ten days and fast on only fruit for that time for a more serious disease. He will then place his palms around the affected area or over the relevant acupuncture points and put his own yang energy into these points to further help the cure. There is a point on the palm called 'laogung' point, which is a pericardium 8 point; this point is said to be the point where the Qi is sent from one body into another. If you close your fist and see where the longest finger points to, then this is the point to which I am referring.

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The doctor will also decide upon a certain Qi-gong posture to cure the disease. This will sometimes be a posture from the T'ai chi form and is usually the exact same posture which was used to diagnose the disease. The posture can be a static posture used with certain breathing techniques, either a cleansing or a tonic breathing technique using a prenatal or postnatal breath, reverse or natural. It can also be a moving posture. For instance to heal something to do with the joints, the posture of 'single whip' seen in PHOTO No.4, may be used as a static posture. However, to heal the digestive tract, the same posture is used. The only difference is that it is moved into from the posture of 'press forward', Then 'SIT BACK READY', and then into 'SINGLE WHIP' as it does in the T'ai chi form and then held for a few minutes, then repeated. If one is practising T'ai chi using the correct breathing technique for each movement then you are already practising Qigong. There are some postures that are simpler and therefore easier to use than the T'ai chi postures and these have been invented for this very reason.

The postures of T'ai chi have been based upon the movements of the martial arts simply because China's history is steeped in the 'war arts' (Wushu) and that is their heritage. If however T'ai chi was invented in the U.S. or Australia we could have a form of self healing based upon football or cricket or upon tennis! The movements have to have some meaning for the Qi to travel to certain parts of the body to perform certain work and it just so happens that the Chinese chose the martial arts upon which to base their 'work'. In order to turn T'ai chi into a self defence art, as opposed to a martial art and there is a great difference, one must have 'the key'. That key comes at a later stage with the practice of 'Long Har Ch'uan' which is an exercise that enables one to turn one's martial training or 'tool' into a self defence art. An art whereby we have no art, technique or set movement, we only use our initial training as our tool to gain such a high degree of self-defence. Used as it is, the martial art of T'ai chi is just as good or bad as any other martial system but given the 'key', T'ai chi becomes a truly great self defence art relying upon only motor movements and reacting only to what is being thrown at you, no system, no technique, no postures, only subconscious reaction where the mind is totally innocent of such aggression, the body does it, the mind is free.

Around every one's body there are twelve main and eight extra acupuncture meridians or channels. It is said that through these channels an electrical force called Ch'i flows freely to all of our internal organs bathing each organ in life giving Ch'i or life force. Ch'i to us is as water is to fish. They don't know it's there until they are taken out of it and they soon die.

It's the same with us. Block the flow of energy and we soon become sick and die. T'ai chi is a way to bring that flow back to normal and to open the meridians so that the flow will be unimpeded.

T'ai chi is closely related to acupuncture whereby acupuncture is said to cure the immediate aliment but T'ai chi heals the root cause and stops it from returning. Every posture from T'ai chi sends the Ch'i to the organ associated with that particular organ. Some of the movements are repeated because these belong to the most important organs.

There is an old saying in China: "Every Journey of One Thousand Miles Must Begin With the First Step". The slow movements of T'ai Chi are our first steps back to good health and calmness.

For further information on Qi gong, please click the links to your right.