5.a.viii.-qi Section


(by Nick Gudge – last updated October 2007)

Qi, (spelled written more frequently the old fashioned way as ‘Chi’,) is an element of eastern asian cultures, (particularly China, Japan ‘ ki’, Korea and Vietnam.) It is central to their cultural underpinning of how the life functions. There are many different meanings of the character qi. (I was told by one researcher that they knew of several hundred.) It is translated most commonly in English as ‘breath’, ‘energy’ and ‘life force.’ Undoubtedly the concept is central to taijiquan. The taiji classics make central reference to the idea. The highest level practitioners make constant reference to qi. What is clear to me is that there does not appear to be any high level practitioners who has has not operated under this Qi paradigm, I have puzzled over how to get around the cultural and linguistic impediments that the phrase qi offers for many years. So that others can perhaps avoid some of the hurdles and dead ends that I have ventured around, I have gathered together ten questions, with quotations from the highest level sources that appear to address these questions directly.  

1.      How important is qi in Taijiquan?

“As for the essence of taiji, it consists of the sudden, quiet realisation of the way of qi circulation” Chen Xin - Page183

“The principles of Taiji concern only the mechanisms of qi.” Chen Xin – Page 593

“By internal training this means we are training the qi. If there is no sense of qi then we cannot call it an internal martial art.” Chen Zheng Lei – AY – Page 16

“One of the avowed aims of Taiji is to foster the circulation of this 'qi' within the body, the belief being that by doing so the health and vitality of the person are enhanced. This 'qi' circulates in patterns that are close related to the nervous and vascular system and thus the notion is closely connected with that of the practice of acupuncture and other oriental healing arts.” Chen Zheng Lei – WS – What is tai chi

“Taijiquan is a training method to open the small and big circles. When you practice it every day and the qi builds up accordingly, then the large river will overflow into the small rivers.” Chen Zheng Lei – AY - Page 24

When asked "What is the essence of Taijiquan?" he simply said, "It is all about the interaction of Yin and Yang and Qi circulation." He said that Qi, our vital force, is a bit like electricity. It requires a polarity of negative and positive, or Yin and Yang dynamics for it to flow. The movements of Taijiquan, if executed properly, with correct breath and mind intent, will provide the polarities to activate and to maintain qi flow to nourish our body and our mind. Illnesses result from qi blockages and qi deficiency, which Taijiquan can prevent from happening.” Chen Xiao Wang - HC

“The taijiquan classics mention that ‘yi and qi are more superior than forms’.” Chen Xiao Wang - TL

“When the yi moves, the qi moves and when the qi moves, the body moves.” Zhu Tian Cai - DL  Page 10

“Practice helps to develop the internal energy.  When this occurs over time, in each completed posture the qi will sink into the dantien and from the dantian the qi goes down into the feet and then up into the upper torso, arms and hands. The body’s original qi, yuan qi, sinks down to the feet. The cultivated qi, controlled by the mind, is pumped through the body to the hand and arms.” Zhu Tian Cai - DL

2.      What is the function of qi in Taijiquan?

“Once you get good at moving qi, you can protect your life.” Chen Xin - Page 111

 “When the whole body is relaxed, the dantien is filled with qi which sinks to the yongquan, allowing the upper body to be nimble, the lower body to be stable.” CZL – AY

“When the internal qi is full, when I feel a touch I immediately know how to counter. No matter how they attack, I don’t have to think about it, I naturally have a way to deal with it.” Chen Zheng Lei – AY - Page 20

“Neiqi,  internal energy has to be full. A lot of people it's ... uh... weak, you know. It's like a tire. They only have five pounds pressure. So when the people attack you, you get hurt. See, the high-level T'ai Chi master, the internal energy is like 50 pound in 30 pound tire: you kick the tire, you fly out. So their internal energy is full. But once the internal energy is full, like a rubber man full of air: you cannot become separate. If you were not full of energy, you'd become flat, soft. If full of energy, it cannot be flattened.” Ma Hong

“Qi by itself is weak, soft. The dantian "communicates" to the muscle and bone. The dantian is the storage of all the qi. The jingluo directs the qi through the body. When qi is generated, it is communicated (wired like a bomb) through the body. It is very important to understand the relationship of dantian to qi, qi and muscle, and muscle and bone. The main communication is between the dantian and muscle -- this is the essence of Chen Taijiquan.” Chen Xiao Wang

“The cultivation of the qi helps to improve the energy of the body and jin, internal strength,  is the acceleration of qi.” Zhu Tian Cai – DL – Page 15

“You use the internal qi to bring out the external form.” Cheng Zheng Lei - CO - Page 6

3.      What are the sensations / feelings relating to qi in Taijiquan?  Is there a process of qi sensation?

“When the internal qi is full, that is neigong. When we practice, we cause the qi to flow, to clear the meridians, to flow inside the body non-stop. When the neigong is there in the body, first we will know it in the hands. The fingers have a swelling and numbing feeling: the wrists have a hot feeling. The next feeling is in the dantien. It has a full and heavy feeling. This is not enough. We want to make it fuller. When the dantien qi is fuller, then it can spill over to the limbs and extremities. Third is when, after the above are achieved, it will sink to the feet.” Chen Zheng Lei – AY - Page 23

“Some things can only be felt and cannot be described. You should be feeling "hot water", pouring through your arm and to your hand. Even at low levels, people can feel this. When the arm is circling the little finger moves, energy goes to the dantian. When the thumb moves, the qi goes from the dantian out to the hand.”  Chen Xiao Wang.

“The inner energy, qi, can be gradually induced to move within the trunk and limbs with refinement of one’s movements. In the first level of gong fu.. one can only feel the internal energy but is not able to channel the energy to every part of the body in one go” Chen Xiao Wang  - TL.

“If you feel that your chest is very loose and relaxed and your dantien is full, then this feeling would be correct. “ Chen Xiao Wang – JC

“As you practice, you gradually develop qi sensations. This involves swelling of the hands and overtime you will feel your feet and heels are glued to the ground. It takes a certain amount of time to develop these inner feelings.” Zhu Tian Cai - DL

“Practice the movements and make them smooth, and gradually the qi will concentrate in the dantian.”  Chen Zheng Lei  - CO  - page 6

“the feeling of qi is usually forst manifested by tingling sensations and warmth in the palms and fingers. These are manifestations of qi flowing, suggesting that you have achieved a certain looseness in your body. With more practice, your dantian area will have a feeling of filling upwith qi and qi sinking there.” Chen Zheng Lei  - CO  - page 7

“Some people feel the dantian filling up with qi and think they have reached a high level state of practice. But this represents a second level, not the higest level. In the next level , qi will flow down into your legs. It is extremely difficult for the qi to be able to sink down to the legs. It is difficult because once you have the dantian filling with qi, the obstacle is to get the qi to flow through the gateways into the legs. It goes through the gateways of the kua. Unless your qi is full and clear enough, you will not have enough qi to move through to the next gateway. At each stage, such as filling the dantian with qi, unless your qi is full and clear, it will not pass through the kua, nor through the knee joints. Each stage of training requires very hard work.” Chen Zheng Lei  - CO  - page 7

4.      Is there a particular way to train the qi?

“A student of taijiquan first has to delve into the principles and only after understanding and applying will they be able to obtain qi to produce active movement from within.”  Chen Xin - Page183

'In practising Chen style Taijiquan you must keep your thoughts quiet, getting rid of all internal and external disturbances. Only in this way will you benefit by restraining your internal energy (nei qi), and by guiding the rising up and movement of internal energy (yin dong gu dang)' Chen Zheng Lei

The Classic says, "Where the mind goes, qi will follow and action results. – Chen Xiao Wang - HC

5.      Is it important to be able to feel qi in Taijiquan?

“In Taiji training, one of the main goals is to realise qi development and achieve the state of being able to feel qi in the body.” Chen Zheng Lei  - CO  - page 7

“It is only through continual, constant practice that qi is accumulated.” Chen Zheng Lei  - CO  - page 8

“The more you practice, the more you will feel qi and the more you will fill up with qi.” Chen Zheng Lei  - CO  - page 8

“As a student progresses, he finds there are other aspects he has to work on. As he feels the qi in his fingers, he will focus on improvingthe feel of qi and make the qi clearewr.” Chen Zheng Lei  - CO  - page 9

6.      Should a practitioner of Taijiquan be concentrating principally on qi sensations? What importance should be placed on these sensations?

“You don’t want to obstruct qi development. That is why it is best to practice taiji according to taiji principles and not practice movement limited to a specific application.” Chen Zheng Lei  - CO  - page 10

“When you get rid of tension in the body and fangsong, your qi will well up, and your form will not be empty but full.” Chen Zheng Lei  - CO  - page 12

7.      Is it necessary to imagine the path of the qi?

“You do not need your imagination to think it is happening.” Chen Zheng Lei – AY - Page 24

A valuable follow on might be: "How do you gain this Qi connection and Qi circulation?" Again he replied succinctly: "By getting the feel of it first." He said that the reason we repeat the Taijiquan movements slowly and deliberately, over and over again, is so we can feel the qi on our body gradually. We do Push Hands with each other so our qi can be put under pressure to test its connections (Peng jing). If our posture is out of alignment, our qi will break and we will be pushed over. If we lose our concentration or lose the feeling of the connection of qi in our body, we will be "penetrated" and be pushed over also. We perceive and react to the outer world through our five senses. Without feeling, or the awareness of qi in us, we are not really alive.” Chen Xiao Wang - HC

8.      What are qigongs and neigongs?

“Qigong is a relatively new term for arts, some of which are over 2000 years old. Orginaly these were called daoyin breathing techniques or Neigong.” Chen Zheng Lei – AT - Page 6

“When the internal qi is full, that is neigong.” Chen Zheng Lei – AY - Page 23

9.      Are there particular taijiquan qigongs?

“The routines are one way to use the physical body to guide the internal qi, external movements to stimulate the internal qi. There are many other methods, like zhan zhuang, seated meditation” Chen Zheng Lei – AY - Page 24

“Taijiquan is a complete set of Qigong, you really need no other.” Chen Xiao Wang

“Silk Reeling keeps qi centred, cultivated and stored for use. “ Chen Zheng Lei – GH page 16

“Silk Reeling is a way to get rid of rigidity and improve elasticity and flexibility so as to unblock the qi channels and allow internal qi to flow smoothly. Internal qi and eternal motion should flow together and complement each other.” Chen Zheng Lei – JC Page 17

“Qigong can help to speed up the feeling of the sensations of qi in the body and hands.” Zhu Tian Cai - DL

10.  Is it important for taijiquan practitioners to have an awareness of the energy system and the accupoints and meridians etc.?

“You needn’t think of these things. If your neigong isn’t full then however much you think about or read about it it won’t be of any use. The practice of Taijiquan will open up all the passages and meridians in the body. It is not important to have knowledge of where in the body this will happen because it will happen naturally, if you practice properly. If you just read about it, you will have knowledge of where, but without proper practice it will never happen.” Chen Zheng Lei – AT - Page 6



AT – Chen Zheng Lei’s interview with Ronnie Robinson, translated by Aarvo Tucker, in Tai Chi Chuan - BTCCU Magasine, Autumn 1998

AY – Chen Zheng Lei on The Study of Taijiquan, in Tai Chi Magasine, conducted and translated by Alex Yao, April 2007

CO - Chen Zheng Lei on Mind Intent as Unifying Principle: an interview with Chen Zheng Lei conducted by Marvin Smalheiser, in Tai Chi Magasine, translated by C.P. Ong,

CX – Chen Xin – The illustrated Canon of Chen Family Taijiquan, translated by Alex Goldstein, 2007

DG – Oil on Parchment – by David Gaffney

DL – Zhu Tian Cai on Chen Style Training Methods: an interview with Chen Zheng Lei conducted by Marvin Smalheiser, in Tai Chi Magasine, translated by Dan Lee

GH Chen Zheng Lei on Chen style Silk Reeling Practice, with Gao Xiao Hui and De Ru, in Tai Chi Magasine.

HC - Interview with CXW in ‘Taijiquan and the Qi Connection’ by Howard Choy http://www.tai-chi-centre.com/qiconnection.htm

JC – Chen Xiao Wang on Silk Reeling Energy Skills: an interview with Chen Xiao Wang conducted by Marvin Smalheiser, translated by Joseph Cheu.

MH –  Ma Hong  Chen Tai Chi: An Interview with Master Ma Hong, conducted by Andrea Cheng, translated by George Xu, 1990. http://www.lasvegastaichi.com/ma.html

TP – ‘The Five Levels of Skill in Chen Style Taijiquan’ by Chen Xiao Wang, translated by Tan Lee-Peng.


Nick Gudge is a student of Wang Hai Jun and teaches Chen style taijiquan (tai chi) classes in Limerick.