Qi Gong in the West, is very much a series of set movements. Focused heavily with the breath and led by the breath. The set of movements can be an independent exercise or part of a series such as the Ba Duan Jin or Yi Jin Jing. Most movements ten dot be fairly low impact and relaxing.
Moving to China, you’d expect to see Qi Gong all over the place. You see plenty of Tai Chi being practiced and on occasion some Kung Fu. Not in classes per se, or classes as we think of in the west but more just people out on the streets, in the parks and with friends whenever wherever. Although mornings and evenings are the main times for practice.
So where is the Qi Gong, has it completely disappeared? Well no, but you have to open your eyes to it.
As far as I have seen, Qi Gong is everywhere, but not as you’d expect. It doesn’t have the formalised approach as we know it. From my observations I have categorised it into six different categories:
Walking Backwards Qi Gong
– Certainly in the mornings and after work on the evenings you’ll see people out for a stroll facing the wrong direction. They may be walking with friends walking either forwards or backwards and at a leisurely pace. have they gone mad, well maybe not. Research has actually shown walking backwards is three times harder for your brain than walking forwards. It can help with Alzheimer’s and other degenerative brain diseases. Pretty good then.
Slapping yourself Qi Gong
– Hitting yourself with varying degrees of power, from light tapping to full of whacking is very common. Sometimes just on the arms, but over the face, body and legs and certainly the lower back is seen a lot. Standing waiting for the bus, on an airplane, walking down the road, or standing in a queue at the post office. Again is this some form of self punishment. Well again, no. Light tapping and rubbing can help circulation of the blood and help relax the muscles. Whole therapy system have been developed purely on tapping, such as EFT, Emotional Freedom Technique.
Bumping in Things Qi Gong
– Cycling down a tree lined street and you may travel past some bumping into a tree or lamppost. Usually not that hard, but with a bit of vigour, usually the back but sometime the side of the body too. When I was in Fuxing Park, a few months back I got chatting to some Tai Chi guys who did a lot of bumping into each other. “It helps build Qi in the body and makes you strong.” He them proved it by doing knocking arms with my Kung fu instructor. “His arms arms are very hard” said Neil Genge, Uk’s first Shaolin Disciple.
Shouting Qi Gong
– Heard sometimes from afar or across a park, shouting is one of the less common morning rituals which helps waken the body and clear the lungs. Completely crazy, well no. If you think about it, getting the lungs going is what Qi Gong is all about, enriching the body with oxygen and getting the heart pumping. Shouting is a greta way to do this.
Hacking and Spitting Qi Gong
– I apologise to the super squeamish, but the Chinese Art of Hacking is a common and widespread practice across all ages. I hope it never catches on in the West and it is something that most foreigners find difficult to get used to. Put that aside and the ‘clearing of the lungs’ has long been regarded a great way get more ‘Qi” into the body and make the lungs strong. Enough said on that the better.
Arm Swinging Qi Gong
– Arm Swinging is the last commonly seen people’s Qi Gong Exercise in Modern China. The holding of arms outstretch at any angle can fall into this category too. Also seen regularly in Bagua Zhang and Tai Chi. Arms signing will get the blood moving in the limbs and the heart pumping, without huge strain place upon the body. Try it for yourself.
So that’s the list. Nothing fancy and you don’t need a lesson or years of practice to become competent, it’s purely for health and benefits can be found among it.