Qigong History

Welcome to my website on Qigong, the ancient Chinese art of energy cultivation. If you are interested in learning Qigong for health cultivation, spiritual development, healing purposes, or physical fitness, you’ve come to the right place. Here you will find articles, video clips, and information on some of the highest quality instructional material for learning this ancient art form.

What is Qigong?

From a literal standpoint, the word “Qi” is the Chinese word for “vital energy”. Qi is the animating force that moves through our body and soul and gives us not only life but consciousness. The concept of a living energy can be found in every culture and is known by names such as Prana (India), Ruach (Israel), Aenema (Ancient Greece), Holy Spirit (Christianity), and The Force (Star Wars).

“Gong” is the Chinese word for “work” or “skill”. So the word “Qigong” can be translated as “the skill of vital energy”.

However, I’ve never found this translation to be helpful in understanding what Qigong really is.

How can you truly describe this mysterious energy that gives us life and consciousness? What is its nature? Where does it come from and where does it go after we die? What is the relationship between living beings and this energy called “qi”? How can this energy be developed and used for practical purposes, and for what specific purposes?

Over the past 10 years of teaching Qigong (and almost 20 years practicing it), I’ve found that the best way to gain an understanding of this metaphysical art form (metaphysical = “beyond the physical”) is not to describe what the word “Qigong” means, but to give some information as to the history behind it, and how the art form developed over the past 6,000 years. So here’s a better question…..

What is the history of Qigong?

Before I answer this question I want you to know that there is no official history of Qigong that is agreed upon by the experts. There are records of Qigong practice that go back to 4,000 B.C. as a method of transcending physical, mental, and spiritual limitations. The real history of this practice has been lost to antiquity and will probably never be known for certain.

Of the many stories I’ve heard about Qigong’s history, I’d like to tell you the one that has made the most sense to me from both an intellectual and experiential standpoint. This is also one of the more popular stories and many other experts agree with it. So dim the lights, get a hot cup of tea and enjoy this short story.

Ever since we were given consciousness, since we were able to contemplate our own mortality, we have asked questions about the existence of our spirit. Do we have a spirit? What is its nature? Where does it come from and where does it go? What is its relationship to the rest of the Universe if there is a relationship at all?

The ability to think of our own death is unique to human beings and possibly to a few other species such as dolphins. This awareness of death and mortality is the foundation of spiritual questions, because it exploits our desire for permanence and fear of non-existence. Human beings cannot tolerate uncertainty, especially as it relates to something like the existence of an immortal spirit, and so people began asking questions. They began creating culture as a way to give meaning to a life that appears to be meaningless.

Sometimes people would have glimpses into the spirit realm, they would have ecstatic mystical experiences and maybe even display supernatural powers. These mystics would often share their experience with others. They would be worshipped as prophets because they gave answers to the unanswerable questions. The people, desperately wanting some relief from the absurd nature of an indifferent Universe, would take these answers to be sacred truths and live by them. Doctrines formed, religions were created, and people were able to find meaning, purpose, and divine love within their lives. They were lucky, they were blessed.

Unfortunately, some people were not so lucky. Some were not so blessed.

There has always been a small segment of society that would ask too many questions, have too many doubts, and never believe anything that they could not verify within their own experience of reality. They were often labeled as not having any faith, immoral, and in the worst cases…heretical.

Tormented by a desire to know the truth of reality from an experiential (rather than conceptual) standpoint, they retreated from society and fled to the mountains. This was how the earliest sects of what would later become Taoism started. A bunch of misfits who were not satisfied with anything less than the direct experience of the divine (if there was any at all) and who made desperate sacrifices to find truth.

Not trusting their senses and disbelieving all information given by society, the early Taoists rejected everything and sought truth through their own experience of reality. As they sat in meditation they began to experience the presence and movement of qi in their bodies. This presence of qi was there all along, what was missing was their conscious awareness of it.

After feeling the presence of qi in their bodies, they began feeling this same presence in all of nature, all of existence. The experience of energetic oneness and unification among all of existence led to the discovery of existential truth. “I am energy, I am spirit”, they said. “All is energy, all is spirit”, and with this core realization that is at the heart of Taoist thought, the art of Qigong was born.

Through meditation and awareness of this energy, the early Taoists were able to see the subtle and hidden aspects of reality that most are blind to. When you consciously experience oneness with all of creation, many of life’s mysteries unfold right before your eyes. People thought the Taoists were clairvoyant or even demigods (and many were worshipped as such!) yet the Taoists knew that what was seen as supernatural perception was nothing more than the natural by-product of a quiet mind!

With their closeness to nature and ability to feel subtle energies, many of the early Taoists were able to not only feel the presence of qi in their bodies, they were able to feel the specific pathways through which they traveled. It soon became apparent that most of them had very similar experiences of these energetic pathways, they felt the same lines and points of energy opening in their bodies during meditation. These experiences were recorded over thousands of years and later became known as the meridians of acupuncture.

I like to think of the acupuncture meridians as the anatomy of the human spirit, or bio-energy field. In the same way that knowledge of physical anatomy allows us to perform complex medical procedures such as surgery, physical therapy, and the prescribing of medication, knowledge of energetic anatomy allows us to cultivate the spiritual aspects of our being for specific purposes. In the case of Qigong, the knowledge of the acupuncture meridians and energetic pathways were used for three major purposes: Medical, Martial, and Metaphysical.

Medical Qigong

If the physical body is nothing more than a reflection of the energetic body, you can reason that all diseases begin in the energetic body and thus can be treated through the energetic body. This is the foundational principle of Medical Qigong. By harmonizing the body’s energetic pathways (acupuncture meridians) through either meditation techniques or the care of a trained Qigong healer, Medical Qigong is amazingly effective at treating pain and disease from its most core aspect, the human energy field.

Incidentally, I believe the first acupuncturists were actually Qigong healers looking for ways to make their jobs more efficient. Qigong healing uses the same theories and principles as acupuncture, yet Qigong is considered to be much older than acupuncture.

In Medical Qigong, the healer will use his hands and intent to channel his energy into the specific acupuncture points with the purpose of achieving a certain effect. The only difference between this and acupuncture is that the latter uses a needle to transfer energy rather than his hands. The use of the acupuncture needle simply allows the healer to transfer energy in a way that is more efficient and requires less energy.

Almost all of the “old school” masters of acupuncture that I have talked to say that the needle is just a tool for the healer to transfer energy deep into the patient’s energy field. Without this transfer of energy the treatment will always be sub par. An analogy I like to use is that the healer is a battery, the patient is an electrical appliance, and the acupuncture needle is a plug. The healer plugs into the patient and transfers healing energy, but without the energy transfer the best healing results will not be seen.

Martial Qigong

Anything that can be used to heal can also be used to harm. It is no coincidence that many of the famous Chinese doctors were also renowned martial arts masters.

Before the advent of gunpowder and firearms, the primary method of defending one’s family and country was with classical weapons such as a sword, a spear, or even a fist. While modern weapons and technology have made hand to hand combat obsolete, in ancient days the cultivation of physical prowess and martial arts abilities was often the foundation of survival. To this end the early Qigong masters were able to use their knowledge of energetic anatomy to create sophisticated and deadly martial art forms.

In addition to learning how to damage an opponent by striking acupuncture points and channeling qi into martial arts techniques, knowledge of energetic anatomy allowed the ancient Qigong practitioners to develop seemingly supernatural strength, endurance, and reflexes. Most of these techniques can still be found in popular forms of Kung Fu and especially Tai Chi.

My own experience was that I first began studying Qigong when I was 12 years old, yet it was a form of martial arts Qigong where the goal was to develop extreme physical strength, a fearless spirit, and a precise understanding of how to manipulate the opponent’s energy field to cause bodily damage. With daily training, by the time I was 17 I had a decent understanding of how to use the acupuncture meridians to hurt people with Martial Qigong.

Later on when I shifted my focus to studying Medical Qigong, I found that the same principles and theories were used. Transferring healing energy through touch and emitting energetic force through a punch involves basically the same principle, it’s just that the intent and method of energy transfer is different.

Metaphysical Qigong (Spiritual Qigong)

Even though the medical and martial forms of Qigong are better known, the first masters of Qigong were the early Taoists who strived for understanding of life and reality. The metaphysical form of Qigong is in my opinion the oldest form, from which the medical and martial aspects grew out of.

When a person begins asking dangerous questions regarding the absolute nature of reality, he will find two forms of truth. The first is conceptual truth that is found in books and lectures. The second is experiential truth that is felt within your own being. This is truth that comes from within you in the form of personal insight. While there is nothing wrong with conceptual truth, unless it becomes a part of your being it will never be more than a mere concept, a mere thought. And thoughts are cheap, fleeting, and ephemeral.

The early practitioners of Qigong sought after a direct connection with ultimate reality which they called “Tao”. The early Taoists sought after a peace and understanding that transcended the polar opposites of happiness and sadness, pleasure and pain, yin and yang.

Through Qigong practice, the early Taoists were able to develop conscious awareness of the Tao on an experiential/existential level. Qigong was the end result of the process that they discovered for coming into direct contact with ultimate reality, and finding peace.

Overlap Between the Three Areas

In the early stages of Qigong study, the Medical, Martial, and Metaphysical branches of Qigong have a large amount of overlap and similarities. All three disciplines emphasize:

1. Diaphragmatic breathing (Taoist Breathing).

2. Controlling the thought process of the mind to develop greater awareness.

3. Regulation of body posture to control the tension/relaxation balance in the body.

The above three principles lie at the root of any Qigong practice be it Medical, Martial, or Metaphysical. It should be noted that mastery of the above three principles will determine whether or not one truly becomes a great Healer, Warrior, or Sage.

These three principles are so important because they allow the student to return to his most natural state of existence. These three principles bring you back to a state where you are as close as possible to the state of pure spirit before you were born. It is in this state that the real potential of the human spirit can be displayed.

You may notice that diaphragmatic breathing, an alert mind that is unburdened by thoughts, and a relaxed posture are most clearly found in newborn infants. It is only as we age and become exposed to the vices of unnatural living that our breath, posture, and mental state become distorted.

In teaching the various aspects of Qigong, I’ve found that many students are all too eager to skip to the advanced techniques without first developing a strong foundation in the above three principles.

This is a huge mistake, because a lack of development in any one of the three areas will prevent the student from smoothly progressing in his/her development as a Healer, Warrior, Sage, or combo of the three.

But that is a discussion for another time….

So...What is Qigong?

Now that we’ve looked into the history of Qigong (at least my brief interpretation of it), we can talk about what Qigong is.

Qigong is a tool to actualize the highest levels of human potential. That’s my definition of it.

In the over 6,000 year history of the art form, Qigong has been used to cultivate life (Medical Qigong), destroy life (Martial Qigong), and achieve liberation from the dual natured world of yin and yang to come into conscious awareness of ultimate reality (Metaphysical Qigong). Qigong has been used to find spiritual peace through understanding, develop extraordinary physical and mental abilities, restore health, and live a more dynamic life.

And if any of this is of interest to you, then you’ve come to the right place...

I believe that the energy of life (qi) that pervades the Universe has an intelligence that is beyond our comprehension. If you have read this far, then this Universal intelligence has led you here for a reason.

Perhaps you have expressed a desire in your heart to experience a reality that exists beyond the drudgery of modern life. Perhaps this desire has been heard by Universal intelligence, and you have been led to ancient practice of Qigong, as have countless of others during the long history of this art.

Please read on, look around this site, and hopefully find something that will help you along your journey.

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