On Saturday, April 15, 2017 William & Mary Confucius Institute held the 2017 Williamsburg World Taiji and Qigong Day at the Williamsburg Public Library on Scotland Street. The event, which focuses on two ancient Chinese forms of meditation, Taiji and Qigong, has been held for the Williamsburg community since 1999.Taiji and Qigong have their roots in Chinese traditional medicine and have been practiced in China for thousands of years. In China today, even in big cities, it is common to see people practicing Taiji and Qigong on the streets or in parks. These styles of meditation have maintained their popularity through millennia due to their numerous health benefits and connection to traditional Chinese medicine. Though they both originate from Chinese philosophy and medicine, Taiji and Qigong are very distinct.
Taiji, which translates as the “Supreme Ultimate,” is the infinite force from which the familiar duality of Yin and Yang originate. Taijiquan is the martial art that is based on this philosophy. It is comprised of a series of continuously circulating, slow, relaxed, and flowing movements. These movements are thought to create and distribute “qi” throughout the body. Qi is an energy that flows through all living things and is essential to health and well-being.
Qigong, which translates as “life energy cultivation,” centers around the cultivation of qi within the body through moving meditation, rhythmic breathing, and relaxation. Qigong is often practiced as a form of self-healing and self-cultivation. It is said that practicing Qigong can help one develop their full potential. Both Qigong and Taiji rely on understanding the importance of the flow of qi within the body. Qi flows into areas within the body called “dantian.” Dantian are centers of qi and are focal points for Taiji and Qigong exercises.
This year we were fortunate that Grand Master Sitan Chen was able to come and give a demonstration. Grand Master Sitan Chen is the President of the American Taiji and Health Qigong Center and the Deputy Director of the Technical Commission of the International Health Qigong Federation (IHQF). As founder of the New York Taiji Championship, Master Chen is also the first world champion for men (in the Second World Wushu Tournament in 1993) and the first Taiji champion for men in the Asian Games (1990). As two-time Taiji Champion in the World Wushu Tournaments of 1993 and 1997, he has altogether won 32 Taiji gold medals in major Chinese and international competitions.
World Taiji and Qigong day began with demonstrations by Master Sitan Chen and others, while Stan Rockwell, a long-time practitioner of Taiji, emceed. After the demonstrations several classes were held by local masters and instructors. Grand Master Sitan Chen, alongside Ji Su and Jingzhu Wang, gave an introduction of Taiji philosophy and physical movements including basic postures, hand forms, foot work, and hand-foot coordinative movements. Attendees then practiced these forms with the masters. Meanwhile, Brigitte Fox, a local acupuncturist and expert in Chinese herbology, gave a lecture about how consciousness and thought patterns affect one’s state of health and well-being.
In the next session, Terry Price gave a demonstration and lecture on the Eight Mother Palms, a series of hand positions and movements derived from Daoist theory. These movements, with whole body integration, are practiced for internal energy cultivation. They can be used as an excellent form of standing or walking meditation, while also containing various martial arts and self-defense applications.
The other class during this session was taught by Braxton Gutierrez about the five Element Flow, which is a series of movements that balance the body's five major energy systems. These systems are related to the organs - lungs, kidneys, liver, heart and spleen. The moves were relatively simple, yet powerful. The class began with focused breathing, followed by warm ups and stretches, then moved into flows and standing postures. A brief period of meditation was used to conclude the session.
The many participants present left the demonstrations, classes, and workshops with a far greater knowledge of traditional Chinese culture. The well-rounded classes and exciting demonstrations made the 2017 World Taiji and Qigong Day a success!