WHAT IS TAI CHI?
Tai Chi (also spelled Taiji) is a slow exercise from China based on martial art principles. There are several different styles of Tai Chi, the most commonly found traditional ones being Chen, Yang, Wu, and Sun styles. Although these each give a different flavour and feeling, the basic principles involved are the same no matter which style you are practising. It is how the movements are done which is important. As a beginner you will learn a sequence of movements known as a (hand) form. Most styles now offer very short introductory forms as well as the longer more traditional forms.
Although the martial origins of most traditional Tai Chi movements can be demonstrated, the contemporary focus is usually on its health benefits as a mindful exercise. Tai Chi can specifically improve your focus, body awareness, relaxation, and balance, as well as all the more usual benefits of exercise. The aim is for all movement to be done efficiently and mindfully using the whole body.
In addition to the hand forms, more advanced Tai Chi training includes forms done with a Sword or Fan, and Push Hands a two person exercise which adds an external dimension to your internal focus. Tai Chi can be followed to competition level.
However, many people like to come for the sense of well being and relaxation which can be experienced even by beginners.
WHAT IS QIGONG?
Qigong (also spelled Chi Kung) is a health based exercise originating in China. There are very many different forms of qigong, which can vary from stillness, through gentle movement, to some which are physically challenging. Based on ancient exercises, many of these have been updated or introduced in the last fifty years. Qigong movements often relate to aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine such as the meridians used in acupuncture, but others may reflect the natural world eg in imitating the movements of animals.
An important part of qigong is mental focus and coordinating the exercise with relaxed and slow breathing.
FINDING A TEACHER
Tai Chi and Qigong overlap. Qigong can be done without Tai Chi, but Tai Chi cannot be done without Qigong.
There is no regulation of instructors.
Tai Chi Teachers:The Tai Chi Union offers some assurance of competence as any instructor listed by them has to have been recommended by another teacher member. However there may be good teachers who belong to alternative organisations.
In depth training is available through a variety of different organisations eg
The British Health Qigong Association which trains instructors in forms introduced by the Chinese Health Qigong Association (currently 9 different forms).
Wild Goose Qigong is a complete system which has several longer forms.
Simple qigong is increasingly offered by therapists and other professionals such as yoga teachers. Their level of knowledge may vary.
I am a Tai Chi Union Registered Tai Chi Instructor, trained by Deyin Institute and I can teach you Tai Chi principles, short Yang and Sun style forms, Yang style sword and basic Pushing Hands.
I am an instructor member of British Health Qigong Association and can teach you simple qigong, and three of the BHQA qigong forms.