Tai Chi or Qigong?

Differences between tai chi and qigong

The term Tai Chi has become more familiar than Qigong in the west, with both being seen to comprise of slow flowing movements however though there are many overlaps and connections there are also differences. They are both sequences of movements combined with breath work and the sequences are called ‘forms’.

The Chi/ Qi both sounding like chee or jii mean different things. In Qigong the Qi is “energy” from “life energy work (or skill)” and in Tai Chi Chuan the Chi means “ultimate” from Grand ultimate fist.


Qi is the animating power that permeates the universe and all living things. It is the basis for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) -- Qi flows throughout the body’s energy pathways, or meridians, to help maintain essential health by gently unblocking, where there may be blockages and facilitating free flowing and balanced qi to energise the organs systems and cells.

Qigong has a rich history dating back 5000 years with developments from China, India, Japan and continues to be practised, researched and developed in both the East and the West.

There are three main paths of Qigong, which of course can run parallel or overlap. These are:

Use for healing in TCM or health and well-being through balancing the flow and reducing stagnation of energy in the body.

The cultivation of qi for increasing power for use martially

Qigong Meditation for integration of mind and body, emotional and spiritual fulfilment, qi cultivation and healing.

Qigong has many forms that can be performed whilst lying down, sitting or standing through breath work, slow gentle movements and an internal focus.

In Qigong forms the movements tend to be short in sequence and repeated several or more times before moving on to the next.

The Qigong breath work and forms in the classes are not merely a warm up for the Tai Chi but support health/healing and the development of deep relaxation of the mind and body in working with the life energy which can then be carried forward through to enrich the experience of the tai chi forms.

Tai Chi

Tai chi also has many forms in various styles (theme for another blog!) all stem from a martial art thought to be developed by the founder of Chen Style tai chi, Chen Wangting (1580–1660) from which all the other styles developed.

Tai chi consists of continuous, usually slow, circular, relaxed and smooth flowing movements that has numerous health benefits for people of all ages and health conditions.

All of the movements in tai chi without exception relate to, potentially, a martial application and the forms tend to be made of several to many movements that follow on from each other, rather than repetition of short sequence of movements as in Qigong.

Practising Tai Chi one works with the fundamental principles in the forms involving grounding (rooting), alignment, integration, coordination, connection, precision and unity which in time and practise will in itself bring about a healthy flow of qi.

In Chen style tai chi, along with the longer forms which can take some time to learn, but are indeed very rewarding, there are also shorter ‘exercises’ called “Silk Reeling” and help to stimulate and circulate Qi through the body whilst developing a felt understanding of the fundamental principles of movement in Tai Chi.

Chen Style is also one of the only styles to include fast movements woven into the forms and where any number of movements can be practised at high speed, though in our classes the main, but not all, focus is on taking time to develop the form and awareness through slow movement.

Although in all the classes the focus is on the health benefits of Chen style tai chi and, though not teaching martial tai chi, we refer to some of the martial applications at times to give a deeper understanding of the origin and 'intention' of the movement so as to be able to exercise the movement with greater focus and deliberation.

The classes with FullcircleQi work with both Tai Chi and Qigong.

We work primarily with the shorter Tai Chi forms with a focus on the deepening of the quality rather than the quantity of movements from the outset of one’s journey with Tai Chi and Qigong.