Because almost every traditional medical, martial, religious, physical, and, in many cases, scholarly disciplines in China have a tradition of qi gong (JK^ft) practice, it is very difficult to strictly define the "hows and whys" of qi gong without putting it in the context of the discipline in which it is practiced. Each discipline, and each of the various schools within those disciplines, practice qi gong with different goals in mind and thus each has a different criteria and method for practice. There are literally hundreds of qi gong methods in China, each traditional method having its own fairly unique systematic approach to practice. Additionally, terms such as nei gong (fa $]) and nei dan (fa are also used frequently to describe exercises and methods which some might also call qi gong and vice-versa. Thus qi gong methods can really only be defined within the discipline they are to be practiced and in the context of each individual's personal practice.
While most martial arts schools will have their own definitions for terms such as qi gong and nei gong and will probably have separate training methods which they place under these categories of practice, each school's definition tends to be slightly different. While some schools might call one thing qi gong, another school might call that same thing nei gong. Also, some schools will call all of their internal practices qi gong while others will call all of their internal practices nei gong. Some people will say that "traditionally" all internal practices were called nei gong and that qi gong is a fairly modern term. However, there are others who will say the exact opposite. In this article I will not argue semantics, nor will I provide my own view about how the terms qi gong and nei gong are defined or how their methods might differ. For the purpose of this article, it will suffice to say that, in most cases, the practices which are grouped under these terms are so similar that the terms can be used synonymously. In this article, we will group all "internal" practices involving the coordination of breath, mind, and body under the "umbrella" of the term qi gong,
"Gong" literally means "effort" or "work," "merit" or "achievement," and "usefulness" or "effectiveness." If we choose our definition of qi gong to be "qi work" or "qi achievement," we can see that almost every form of
1) In this article I will not try to define "qi" in the context of qi gong practice. I believe that each individual practitioner should try to identify with his or her own "definition" of qi through the practice of martial arts or qi gong rather than listen to someone else's description. My personal favorite idea about "what qi is" came from Steve Rhodes, the publisher of Qi Magazine, in his premier issue. Steve wrote, "I have always wanted to publish a six-inch thick book on what I think "Qi" is. I would leave all the pages blank and a brief paragraph in the beginning would instruct readers to fill in the information as they discovered it within themselves, because this is the only place it exists." Later Steve also writes, "It is virtually impossible to translate "Qi" without putting it in some type of context, and even then it changes depending on how each of us look at it."
physical, mental, or breath exercise could possibly fall into this category since everything we do involves the use of our qi1. In this article I will focus on a small slice of the qi gong spectrum of exercises and techniques in that I will only be discussing methods which are typically taught as Ba Gua Zhang Qi Gong training. However, even these methods vary from school to school because many instructors have added qi gong training to their Ba Gua programs which they have borrowed from other martial arts styles and other internal disciplines (religious, medical, etc.)
Since Ba Gua Zhang is an internal martial art, some of the goals of qi gong practice as it relates to Ba Gua development would be a balanced, full, smooth, strong, distribution of energy in the body, a harmonization of the mind, breath, and body motion, and a refinement of all internal processes (physical, mental, and spiritual). The results of the practice should be a strong, internally healthy body, efficient and effective use of the body in martial arts application, the ability to issue a great deal of martial power through very subtle body motions, and a heightened state of awareness and sensitivity to one's internal body and external environment. Ba Gua Qi Gong methods are designed with these goals in mind.
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