Since the beginning of human civilization, people have sought to relieve pain and suffering, to heal sickness, and to prolong life.
In China, relaxing exercise movements evolved with that express purpose. Qigong is as old as Chinese culture, and probably began even before the advent of writing. Qigong is a primary component, and sister practice, of T’ai Chi Ch’uan.
Qi-gong means breath-work. Qi means breath, or life-force. The second word, gong means the same as the Kung in Kung Fu, (different spelling). Qigong is sometimes spelled Chi Kung. These are just differing systems of Romanization, or ways to make Chinese spell-able and pronounce-able to a Western language native speaker.
The Chi in Chi Kung (Qigong) should not be confused with the Chi in T’ai Chi. They do not have the same tone or meaning. Qigong clears the mind and body for the flow of T’ai Chi Ch’uan energy, which is less stationary and more dynamic than Qigong.
“Chinese Qigong [Dao Yin] has been practiced with a recorded history of over 2,000 years. But it wasn’t until 1953, when Liu Gui-zheng published a paper entitled “Practice On Qigong Therapy”, that the term Qigong (Chi Kung) was adopted as the popular name for this type of exercise system. Prior to that date, there were many terms given to such exercise, such as Daoyin, Xingqi, Liandan, Xuangong, Jinggon, Dinggong, Xinggon, Neigong, Xiudao, Zhoshan, Neiyangong, Yangshengong, etc…” — Qi Journal, Qigong
T’ai Chi is a blending of qigong and kung fu. T’ai Chi is qigong with a martial intent. I always start with separate qigong training before my own practice, and do the same for all my T’ai Chi classes, because it clears the mind, relaxes the body, and opens the channels through which the qi travels. Qi can be felt immediately during and after the first session, but developing martial skill takes a long time, daily practice and lots of focused attention.
Scientists have researched qi since the 1980s. I have read and heard about lots of fantastic qigong in which people move other people without touching them, heal people with thought, and move objects from a distance. I have never felt or seen any of these things firsthand, but I am very amazed with the way I feel from doing qigong.
The best thing is to try it and see what it does for you. There are no negative (physical) side effects, unless you have prior deep, psychological problems. In rare cases, qigong (and meditation) can induce psychosis, but there must be a severe, pre-existing condition.
After scientific scrutiny, several forms have received the Chinese government’s stamp of approval. These are: Bar Duan Gin (Eight Brocade Silk), Yi Gun Gin (Muscle Change Classic), Wu Qin Xi (Five Animal Frolics), and Lui Zi Jue (Six Healing Sounds). Countless other effective systems have emerged and are emerging, and are practiced all over the world.