I had been studying Tai Chi for several years when I decided to begin learning Qigong as well. Part of the reason I waited was that I wanted to focus on developing my Tai Chi, but partly it was because I had not really understood the difference between the two skills. Understanding the difference between the two skills helps explain the value and application of each.
In simple terms, Chen style Tai Chi is focused on martial arts and self-defence. The full name of the skill is Tai Chi Chaun or Taijiquan. The Chaun / Quan means ‘fist’, and this is what identifies Taijiquan (literally ‘yin/yang fist’) as a martial art. While it is a martial art, Taijiquan is based the principle of developing health while developing fighting skill. Some people do choose to practice Taijiquan just for health as a result, but this is not its primary purpose.
Qigong translates literally to ‘Energy work/exercise’ and its primary purpose is to improve and develop health. The skill aims not only to improve our health generally, but also to specifically how to heal and strengthen our organs, bones, muscles and brain.
So, Taijiquan is for self-defence and Qigong is for health. When we start to understand the detail though, we can see that the two skills compliment and support each other in several ways, which I will explore in the next post.