Tai Chi, Qigong and Kung Fu
"The fluid movements associated with tai chi are based on the spiraling motion of the silkworm as it wraps itself in its cocoon: too fast and the silk breaks; too slow and it tangles. To its practitioners, tai chi is exercise and meditation rolled into one. The slow repetitive work stimulates circulation and generates body heat, while the concentration involved provides mental calmness and clarity."
TAI CHI (Taiji, Taijiquan)
The basic idea of Tai Chi is to become free within the form; to find your own freedom, expression, and way of moving within a predesigned form. As a bonus, you will develop better balance and coordination, and improve your health. Also, depending on the emphasis in teaching, you can develop martial art skills. However, for Tai Chi to be truly effective as a martial art, it will require years of diligent and concentrated practice. For this reason, many people prefer to focus on the other benefits of the Art.
Tai Chi comes from China, where people often practise the forms outdoors, whether it's in a park or close to a water, or in a public square. Indoor practise can, and does, happen as well. Many different types of Tai Chi forms and styles exist, some looking very different and some quite similar to one another. Tai Chi also has weapon forms, using e.g. sword, broadsword, staff, spear or fan. The language of Tai Chi is circular or spiral, with expanding and withdrawing, faster and slower movements alternating.
Tai Chi is a unique way of combining peace with strength. As a result of including Tai Chi in your life, you will become less affected by outer turbulences, having a stronger root and connection to your own life and being. Tai Chi is also a way of removing internal blockages, resulting in a better circulation and energy flow, bringing beauty and harmony into your life.
QIGONG (Chi Kung)
Qigong is a Chinese method for sustaining and increasing health and wellbeing. The word "qigong" can be translated as "skill or ability to maintain life-energy". Compared to Tai Chi, Qigong puts more emphasis on connecting breathing with the movements. Also, most Qigong forms lack the martial art aspect found in Tai Chi.
Qigong requires a relatively small area to practice. All the movements affect different parts of the body and also activate the meridian system. Qigong is usually done standing, and the movements are repeated in the same way on both sides. Generally speaking, Qigong is easier to learn compared to Tai Chi. With every movement we are using our Qi, our energy, directing it to different parts of the body.
Wudang Five Animal Qigong is a strengthening and stimulating exercise, where movement takes place in a slightly wider area. Many different types of Animal Qigong forms exist. In this particular form the animals are Turtle, Crane, Snake, Tiger and Dragon. Each movement imitates the essence or idea of the animal in question, and affects different parts of the body and the meridian-internal organ system.
KUNG FU (Gongfu)
Compared to Tai Chi or Qigong, Kung Fu clearly has most to do with self-defence and body-mind conditioning. Just like Tai Chi and Qigong, many different types of Kung Fu styles and forms exist, some based on animal movements and some on monasteries or specific places or areas (Shaolin, Wudang, northern or southern styles). Kung Fu forms are usually very fast and dynamic.
Speed with strength, combined with punches, kicks, parries, throws, and Qinna (joint locks and vital point strikes), this is the language of Kung Fu. In Chinese the word "kungfu" refers to a skill or merit based on dedication and practice, and this can refer to any area of life (e.g. cooking or cleaning). Sometimes the word "wushu" is used instead, to refer to martial arts.
Learning Kung Fu will help you in becoming stronger and more fit, developing a sharper and more focused mind.
A Personal Story
Before learning or knowing any Tai Chi or Qigong, I used to fall at least a couple of times during every winter in Finland (we get plenty of ice). During the first winter, after about three months of Tai Chi practice, I didn't fall even once. Nor have I fallen since. My reason for taking up Tai Chi classes were constant headaches and back pains, with eventually heart palpitations which gave me the final push to search for a Tai Chi Club. Also, I was rather tired of getting a cold at least five times a year. Nowadays I might get a headache a few times a year, after staring at the computer screen for too long. Back pains have disappeared completely, heart palpitations are ancient history. My immune system has likewise grown stronger, with an occasional flu bug trying to get into my system – and usually failing. Similar real-life stories can be found in most Tai Chi books, or heard from most people practicing the Art.