Qi is in everything …in a breath, voice, movement…Qi is life its self. But what is Qi actually? This term is very difficult to explain, especially to the people from the western cultural background. Qi is the central underlying principle in traditional Chinese medicine and more, one of the most important tools which helped ancient Chinese to understand and explain how the world function. Qi is energy in the very broadest sense possible. Qi is universal .Qi embraces all manifestations of energy, from the most material aspects of energy (such as the earth beneath your feet, your computer, and flesh and blood) to the most immaterial aspects (light, movement, heat, nerve impulses, thought, and emotion).Life, it is said in the Chinese medical classics, is a gathering of Qi. A healthy (and happy) human being is a dynamic but harmonious mixture of all the aspects of Qi that make up who we are. Qi is in a state of continuous flux, transforming endlessly from one aspect of Qi into another. It is neither created nor is it ever destroyed; it simply changes in its manifestation.
In some sense Qi was integral part of martial arts since the beginning , because movement does not exist without Qi. On the other hand, Qi Gong became integral part of Chinese martial arts in second half of 19th century. The social role of Kung Fu changed at that time and its development took very different path from any martial training before that time. Qi Gong became part of martial systems and some styles transformed in more or less completely Qi Gong based arts while losing martial component almost entirely.
Wing Chun was no exception. Created among “Red Boats” as a perfect system of fighting for closed quarters environment, Wing Chun left the Opera troupe and came into possession of highly educated people who were also a masters of traditional Chinese medicine like Dr. Leung Jan , Law Tiu Wen and others … While there were attempts to put Qi Gong back in history of the style much further, there are no evidence that Qi Gong was a part of the system before 1860’s or even later.
Not all Wing Chun styles and lineages have Qi Gong as a part of the system. Some styles have separate Qi Gong sets which are not part of any Wing Chun form, some styles refer to the first section of the first form as a Qi Gong set and some have no Qi Gong at all.
While first section of the first form certainly can be done as a Qi Gong exercise that is definitely not all that Wing Chun has to offer to the serious practitioner. All forms are in essence Qi Gong exercises if done properly. Of course, there are slight differences in doing forms for purely martial purposes and doing it as Qi Gong exercises. These differences are undetectable for untrained eye but there are slight adjustments in tempo, breathing, body structure ect. These small details are crucial for developing a proper flow of Qi through the body. What is the most interesting part , these small adjustments have also martial purposes and can make punches and blocks stronger, improve balance especially during stepping and many others.
For example, second section of Chum Kiu form is also a part of Qi Gong system introduced through entire second form. Step in second form is not simply a step it is a precisely defined sequence of constant fine adjustment of the body structure and breathing. These fine muscle movements done in particular sequence which follows breathing and doing fine tuning of the skeleton making particular type of the bones alignment in specific moment activate QI flow . The part of the body known as Qwa in Chinese, during this exercise has not only a purpose to keep structure in order, but with fine adjustment of the Qwa practitioner can change the direction of Qi while stepping. Advanced practitioners can control the amount of the Qi and which part of the body it will be accumulated in particular moment.
Like I said before, all forms taught and done properly are Qi Gong exercises. Of course, proper and very precise adjustments in body structure and the sequence of activating and deactivating specific muscle groups must be made. In Wing Chun , at least in one that I am practicing , Qi Gong and Nei Gong exercises are very close and in few occasions identical and although they have completely different goals and developmental path can support each other in some unusual ways which I am not in liberty to publically explain because if done without direct supervision of qualified instructor can endanger health of the practitioner. Every section of every form can be done as a separate Qi Gong exercise or each form can be done as a complete Qi Gong exercise.
At the beginning practitioner can feel some sudden and I rare cases slightly uncomfortable sensations but in time they stop. While practicing Wing Chun forms as Qi Gong can be very beneficial , doing them without proper and direct guidance of someone who already mastered the forms can give totally opposite results.