Although they have some similarities, Tai Chi and qigong are not the same.
The Chinese believed that proper flow of qi would result in a fit body, long life, and self-defense and that unbalanced qi led to diseases. Therefore, they developed qigong and Tai Chi to restore qi. Both work with qi energy, often in very different ways, but with similar benefits.
Let’s look how they are alike:
mind-body practices that offer many health benefits
done in slow motion
emphasis is qi or energy
use visualization, body movements, meditation, and breathing to guide flow of qi
goal to improve flexibility, strength, and balance
challenging, energy-boosting techniques
Now let’s look at how they differ:
Qigong Tai Chi
3,000 to 5,000 years old 800 years old
Hundreds of styles Five major schools with many forms in each
Means “cultivation of energy” Means “internal martial arts”, “supreme ultimate fist”
A series of exercises done over and over A set of exercises done a few times and then moves on
Quicker to learn, simple movements Takes longer to learn, more complex movements
Based on traditional Chinese way of life Based on martial arts, focus on internal energy
Can sometimes involve no movement Focus on form, series of movements, posture alignment
only breathing or meditation and body mechanics
Free form, less rigid Disciplined, specific principles to follow
Considered an element of daily living Promotes strength, health, fitness, good posture,
and traditional Chinese medicine increases mental focus and stress management
Health, healing, meditation focus Can also be applied for self-defense as well as the above
Anti-aging emphasis Emphasis on movements, energy flow, resilience
Most people prefer Tai Chi because the flow of movements are interesting and relaxing; essentially an exercise for the whole body combined with meditation. Tai Chi practices always include concepts and theories and usually include qigong. However, qigong won’t necessarily include Tai Chi. Keep in mind that you can combine both in order to reap more benefits.
How do you decide which one to choose? It depends on you and your situation and how much interest you have. Also, the amount of time are you willing to commit. Can you try one now and change your mind later? Absolutely. Many community education classes have 6-8 week blocks. This is a chance for you to see if that is the path you want to follow.
Can you combine both? Absolutely. Some Tai Chi forms such as TCA 1 and 2 and Tai Chi for Energy (Tai Chi for Health Institute) combine both. Is one better than another? It depends on whom you ask. Each practitioner will tell you their art is the best.
Only you can decide what feels right for you!