How to differentiate Tai Chi from Qigong
True Taijiquan should have a martial arts aspect to it. Taiji evolved as a martial arts branch of Qigong after all. Remove the self-defense applications
from it, and you may be practicing Qigong, but certainly not Taijiquan.
Unfortunately, many Taiji teachers are lacking the knowledge of how to apply this art properly. This doesn’t mean you won’t benefit from practicing a popular Tai Chi form. There are many health benefits that can be gained from practicing any Tai Chi form, but keep in mind that most styles of Tai Chi taught nowadays have been stripped of the martial power they once possessed.
To be considered Qigong there are 3 things that must be present. Breathing, intention, and movement. If you are not doing all of these things you are not practicing Qigong.
So if you are just meditating you are not practicing Qigong. If you are just breathing you are not practicing Qigong. If you are just moving you are not practicing Qigong. All 3 things must be present. Allow me to explain a bit further.
Any one of the 3 elements can be big or small, internal or external. If we are doing a movement form such as the 8 Pieces it is easy to spot the fact that we are moving. We should also be mindful to breathe naturally whether the breath is coordinated with the movement or not.
An intention must be present in Qigong practice. Our intention can be as simple as “I am practicing Qigong”. Every time our mind is distracted we remind ourselves that we are just practicing Qigong and nothing else. This keeps the monkey mind from wandering and keeps us present in the moment. We can also use our intention to benefit our organs as we learn the form more.
We can also practice meditation or standing post and make it Qigong. First, we can have a focus on our breathing. Focus can be light or strong depending on our intention. If we have the intention of starting a fire in our lower belly, we will need to have a strong intention and strong wind (breath). Strong wind is created through
very relaxed breathing though, not forced breathing.
Finally we need to have movement. When we are standing or sitting the movement will occur more internally than externally. Externally we may still have the movement of our lower belly, but we will have internal movement as well as the Qi flows between our lower dan tian and mingmen.
No matter what you practice just try to make sure that breathing, intention and movement are present. Try to find the movement in your stillness and the stillness in your movement.