Qi is in everything, in every breath, every movement, even voice …everything that we do or feel is permeated with energy. That energy, impossible to be detected and defined by modern science, is known as Qi.
There are many theories what Qi is and whether or not even exist. Vast majority of people do not believe in Qi, at least not as traditional Chinese medicine defines it. Many people are completely unaware of such a thing and many simply do not pay attention. On the other hand there are many who practice cultivation and channeling the Qi and many of them exaggerate the effects and significance of Qi gong often entering the domain of esotery and supernatural.
Qi is a sort of bioelectrical impulse a signal that travels through the nervous system under the muscle stimulation. It is interesting fact that Qi is completely unreachable for people who do not believe in it. Simply, non believers cannot feel Qi. Autosuggestion plays an important role in Qigong. That is the reason why science in not able to detect Qi, it depends mostly of practitioner’s “feelings” and suggestion. Different sensations that can be felt in Qi gong training are not unified and every practitioner has different sensations. That is explained differently, while some people believe Qi is nothing more than psychosomatic occurrence and do not really exist others completely believe in traditional explanation of this phenomena. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
Whether Qi really exist or it is just an illusion of the mind and there are no solid scientific proof of its health benefits, Qi gong is an important part on Eastern culture and not only Eastern, today millions of people are practicing some form of Qi gong all around the world and they subjectively feel the benefit of that practice and that is the most important.
Qi became part of martial arts somewhere at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, especially during republican period when many Qi gong systems were incorporated in martial systems.
Internal systems appeared sometime earlier, in the second part of the 19th century , but as it was explained Qi gong and “Internal” or Neigong training are not same thing. Some internal systems , like some Wing Chun and White Crane styles are composed in very interesting way. In this systems Neigong and Qi gong training are parallel, same sets are used to develop internal ,today popularly called “engine” , and to develop and channel Qi.
It is commonly believed that first section of Wing Chun’s first form can be practiced as a Qi gong set, mostly because the fashion in which this section is usually performed. That is only partially true. The fact is, not only the complete first form but all three forms are Qi gong sets if taught and performed correctly.
While Qi gong, contrary to common believe does not influence fighting ability of the practitioner in any way , especially does not increase them in any percent , it has specific role in Wing Chun forms training. Let’s take a second section of second form for example ( I am not talking about Yip Man’s version of the form, the way his Chum Kiu form is preformed prevents any Qi gong practice). In this section the stepping is introduced to the system. But the step is not simply a step. There is a whole sequence of fine movements accompanied with a proper sequence of breathing in order to make a correct step. Pelvic area or “Kwa” plays an important role in this action. Kwa controls the direction of Qi in the body. Proper sequence of changing the Kwa position during the step the proper flow of Qi is enabled and regulated. Changing the position of Kwa is just one of Qi gong and Neigong elements of this “simple” action.
If Qi does not enhance or influence practitioner’s fighting ability in any way why practice is? It is true that same set of movements can be practice solely like Neigong exercise in order to develop proper body structure and power generation without Qi gong part and it will not influence the quality of the training. Same attributes will be developed with or without Qi gong part.
On the other hand, Qi gong can play an important part in achieving the highest level of skill much faster than usual. There are no special powers or properties of Qi that speed up the training but much simpler thing. Neigong training is very precise, it requires , besides complete relaxation , controlling and integrating a lot of fine micro movements. It is not easy to do that, especially with complete conscious control of the movements. Qi gong part not only that helps practitioner to relax but also moves the control to the deeper parts of consciousness and make it easier to perform correctly. One more thing is also very important and shows the ingenuity level of Wing Chun creators. Sets are made to be Neigong and Qi gong sets for a specific purpose. When Qi is activated and used to perform the set, in this case a step, it helps practitioner to actually feel whether or not he is doing everything properly. Qi will correct the movement automatically and put everything on its place. This is very important for achieving a high level of Internal skills. At higher levels , practitioner will perform the whole set without any conscious effort, the body will do everything like it has a mind of its own. That way the correct practice is insured and body structure and power generation can be pushed to the highest possible level.
The step will be performed in a manner that enables complete control of the center of gravity and balance, even is the outside force comes in the middle of the step when the pactitioner's balance and structure are most sensitive to attacks they will be kept intact. Also this movement will enable an additional impuls of power that can be directed to the blocks , punches or kicks.