The role of qigong in the internal martial arts

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Tai chi, bagua and xingyiquan use forms to practice combat movements, build strength and gain agility.
The forms are highly intricate, with many different levels of skill.


Yiquan (mind fist)/dachengquan (the great accomplishment) - an offshoot of xingyiquan - does not use forms. Instead, it uses static standing qigong postures in lieu of form.

The difference

Xingyiquan uses form(s) for power development.
Dachengquan uses standing qigong. See the difference?

Muddled up?

What should a tai chi school do? The answer is somewhat self evident, isn't it?


Tai chi is not dachengquan. It uses forms, not standing qigong postures. Read The Tai Chi Classics... There is no mention of standing qigong but a whole lot of information about movement e.g.:

Tai chi is like a great river rolling on unceasingly.

(Chang San-feng)

Cross-pollination of ideas and practices

Traditionally, some people studied more than one martial art. For example, students of xingyiquan may have practiced bagua as well.
There are some excellent styles of bagua where linear (xingyiquan-style) fighting sets have been incorporated into an otherwise non-linear art.
This is not right or wrong... It is more a matter of individual preferences changing the nature/tone of the practice. Read Chinese Boxing by Robert Smith for more examples.

How come so many tai chi people stand?

Clearly, standing qigong proved popular with some schools of tai chi and was incorporated into their training. This said, qigong is still qigong, and not tai chi.


People often think that sung means 'to relax'. Yes, it does, but that is not all it means. Sung entails being so relaxed that you no longer actually feel your own body.

How is this possible?

When you pick up a glass of water, do you notice the muscles working? To walk, do you struggle, strain or exert?
The focus is upon the movement itself, not upon experiencing the physicality of your own body. If you can only feel the movement... this is sung. Sung comes from form, not from standing qigong.


When fighting, a person must move swiftly and accurately. They must change direction smoothly and efficiently, deliver power spontaneously and effectively.
Tai chi is a martial art so most of the attention needs to be upon expedience in combat. This is why form is paramount in tai chi, not standing still.

Sitting duck?

Standing in one place advertises your position: you are literally a 'sitting duck'. You need to move spontaneously and freely, without any preparation or preamble. Form trains the habit of movement...

Should you stand?

Only you can answer. It depends on what you personally want to do. Just remember: standing qigong is qigong. It is not tai chi.

Worth reading

Form is movement
Free the movement
The internal way of moving
Neijiaquan (internal martial arts)
Reeling silk
The role of qigong in a tai chi class

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Page created 18 April 2005
Last updated 16 June 2023