An Introduction to Qigong

By Grandmaster Shou-Yu Liang and Master Wen-Ching Wu

Qigong (Chi Kung) has been an integral part of Chinese culture since ancient China. High level qigong masters have always been respected and held in high esteem in Chinese society. They studied qigong not merely for the health and strength of the body, but as an attempt to understand human nature and its interactions with the environment and the universe as a whole. Realizing that humans are a part of nature, any attempt to understand human physiology inevitably involves the study of the universe. These qigong masters were the pillars of Chinese society and included healers, philosophers, teachers, astrologers, scientists, martial artists, and government leaders. Their study resulted in the formation of the Yin-Yang and the Five Element Theories that have guided, and still guide the development and research of all fields of study, from medicine, to government, to the understanding of our greater existence.

Today, qigong is most often referred to as any set of breathing and qi circulation techniques that are capable of improving health, preventing illness, and strengthening the body. Generally speaking, qi is a Chinese term used to refer to all types of energy. It is the intrinsic substance or the vital force behind all things in the universe. It is the medium between and within all material substances. We are all immersed in it. The term gong refers to the power to produce an effect, an attainment of, or an accomplishment that is achieved with steady practice. Loosely, qigong can be translated as the attainmentof qi. Healers and the medical society use qigong for healing and preventing illness. Martial artists used qigong for developing incredible strength and abilities. Others use qigong to attain a greater state of consciousness.

The practice of qigong aims at balancing and strengthening qi in the human body. In Medical Qigong, for example, the objective for healing illness is to build the patient's qi to counteract the pathogenic influences and to regulate the balance of yin-yang energy, thereby returning the body to a normal physiological state, thus regaining health. This way the energetic imbalance is rebalanced and the root cause of the illness is removed.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) stresses "To heal, look for the cause of the illness", and is strongly opposed to "treating only the head if the head hurts, and treating the foot if the foot hurts." The believe is that the development of illness is due to the battle between qi in the human body and pathogenic influences. That is, the causes of illnesses are due to an energetic imbalance within the body. Therefore, to treat any illness, we will either need to eliminate the pathogenic influence, and/or balance and strengthen the qi in the body.

Under normal conditions, the human body is in an energetically balanced state that is capable of maintaining the physiological functions of the body and can adjust to changes in the environment. When the pathogenic influences are above and beyond the normal functioning of the body, and the body is unable to adjust; the normal physiological functioning of the body will be destroyed, creating obstructions, which results in illness. That is to say, the occurrence of illness is not only strongly related to the pathogenic influences that attack the human body, but it is also strongly dependent on the adaptability of the human body to the changing environment.

If qi in the human body is strong, then it will be difficult for the pathogenic influences to adversely affect the body. Even if the pathogenic influence does attack the body, the abundance of qi increases the immunity of the body and prevents disease from occurring. Only when the qi is weak or deficient will the pathogenic influences be able to cause irregularities in the physiological systems and result in diseases.

The TCM approach to treating illness includes the use of herbs, acupuncture, moxibustion, and massage to counteract the effects of pathogenic influences, thereby regaining health. Another approach would be to practice qigong and/or take herbs to strengthen the qi, thus improving the immunity of the body for fighting against the pathogenic influences.

One of the ways doctors and healers can remove the physical manifestation of an illness is by balancing a patient's energy; and prescribing external assistance such as drugs, herbs, or nutritional supplements. In drastic cases, surgical removal of the manifestation of the illness. However, it is up to the individual to work on maintaining the balance of energy within the body to prevent the illness from remanifesting in a similar or other form. External assistance is not a permanent solution to problems associated with energetic imbalance. Once the external assistance is removed or stopped, the individual's body still may not have a natural response to prevent the illness. By practicing qigong, the natural response to establish balance within the body is achieved and strengthened, thus illness is prevented.

In Daoist (Taoist), Buddhist, and Wushu (martial arts) qigong training, the same approaches are also used to achieve a healthy mind and body. With a healthy mind and body, the higher levels of any achievement in any field can be accomplished because the foundation is strong enough to withstand the demands of continuous learning.