The subject of Qigong is a difficult one to come to terms with on many levels though we live in a time in which it has become very popular again, both in the West and in China.
I won’t try to summarize any aspect of this exercise/meditative umbrella of practises except to say that many taiji teachers have said that our discipline is not a form of qigong and that such supplementary exercises are not useful to developing any of the six Family styles of taijquan and their attributes.
One of the exceptions to this is the practise of standing quietly for extended periods of time [5-30 minutes] before and/or after doing any of the traditional Yang solo forms. Since I am, foremost, a Yang style practitioner, I will let one of the acknowledged masters of that art voice his opinion on this from "The Essence and Applications of Taijiquan" by Yang Cheng fu  , translated in 2005 by Louis Swaim and published in 2005. It summarizes neatly the Yang Family approach to standing still as being an integral part of learning and practising that discipline
This is a very short article on a very complex subject and It’s not a topic I have usually addressed with either groups or individuals for a simple reason — the only way to defend against a knife in the hands of someone who wants to hurt you is to use another weapon against him or her. Sad to say even if you succeed you’ll be cut [or worse] and then you have to deal with the legal system afterwards as well as the ethical issues to be confronted.
You wouldn’t know this from the endless earnest offerings on the internet and on instructional dvd or short-term self-defense courses on offer by various combative experts all promising that their methods will ensure survival against attacks by edged weapons. I don’t like blanket statements about the value of most of what I have seen but I will use one for this topic — Nonsense!
Don’t believe me… take your best man [or woman] in terms of martial experience; put an untrained attacker into some decent protective gear and give them a magic marker and tell them to attack the ‘good guy’ as if their life, or the life of a loved one, depended on it. Afterwards, count the number of coloured slash marks on the martial artist’s uniform or t-shirt even if it looked as if they had succeeded in defending themselves.
So, don’t play with knives if you think that learning some techniques will allow you to use your empty hands to stop an armed attacker without getting badly cut, maimed or worse!
Copyright Michael A. Babin ©2018
N.B. In the interest of fairness to all the experts touting their unarmed knife defense methods; some are better than others though most offer delusions of safety rather than practical advice. It is also true, I will admit, that some training is often better than none, particularly if the training allows you to get used to the idea that someone is really going after you with potentially lethal results. In the end, it is better to die on your feet trying to defend yourself than to die on your knees in a panic.
Aside from the explosion of the availability of instructional martial arts cassettes and dvds in the last 25 years and now internet courses, the same period has seen the proliferation of workshops and seminars. The good side of this is that practitioners can spend an intensive weekend or week studying with like-minded students under a famous instructor with an international following. Deepening your understanding or contrasting how your style diffes from what is being shown can be very useful for an experienced practitioner. The bad side of this is that some participants will inevitably confuse a superficial familiarity with the material with competence. This can affect all levels of attendees and it is not uncommon to find teachers incorporating new material into their own curriculums based solely on what they were able to glean from a few hours or days with a master practitioner.
I had some sad news yesterday when a former taiji colleague phoned to let me know that she had recently learned that our first taiji teacher, Shirley Choi, died in April of this year. While I had lost touch with the deceased since the late 1980s, I owe her and her late husband, Steven, a great debt as my first serious instructors in the Yang style. I had first learned rudimentary taiji at a three-month course in 1975; however the instructor didn't offer another session after the first one finished. I learned about Shirley's classes from a couple who had been in that course with me and who were more in tune with the local taiji world, and went to watch one of Shirley’s classes. I was hooked even though Shirley focused on Yang style for health and I was looking for a more martial approach.
The Baduajin ("Eight Precious Brocades") is a traditional set of eight qigong exercises which are usually performed while standing though I have seen traditional seated versions as well. The exercises in this set strengthen and stretch the muscles and ligaments while, according to Chinese Traditional Medical Theory, stimulating the distribution of internal energy throughout the body. Manuscripts excavated in Chinese tombs in the last few decades have proved beyond doubt that the tradition for therapeutic movement/exercise goes back well into antiquity.
Even today, there are hard style versions from the Shaolin tradition that are quite demanding as well as relatively easy sets from the Taoist perspective and also those developed in more recent decades, that are suitable for the old, the infirm or those looking for meditation rather than physical activity. The Eight Brocades usually taught by taiji instructors these days can be viewed as relatively easy warm-up or cool-down exercises for more demanding practise. However, the better versions are hardly as simple as they may first seem to beginners and can help serious students identify the principles common to both qigong for health as well as the internal martial arts practices.
The quantity of martial solo form demonstrations and instruction available online in recent years has been a boon for those who want to see how whatever style they may be interested in is interpreted by other teachers. Sadly, it is hard for those who are beginners to tell the difference between mediocre and good examples of solo form work. However, learning to know the difference between, for example, "Wow, that sure looks good" and "Hmm, that kind of movement is really efficient compared to what I do" is part of the process of becoming educated to what is really important in learning and practising a solo form, especially in the Chinese internal martial arts.
Whether you learn from a person in a group class or on your own from a video on the internet or a dvd; part of becoming skilful is being able to see and copy what is being shown on first a gross and then an increasingly subtle level. This is far from easy and is made even harder for those going the self-instruction route as they won't get much or any feedback on their efforts to copy what they see. [Should I really say "What they think they see!"].
43+ Years of Experience Training in the Chinese martial arts; 33+ years experience teaching taijiquan and 24+ years experience teaching baguazhang