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Discovering Qigong

Flip through the brochure from your local recreation center,
and you’re likely to find qigong classes listed. Check out the offerings at an expensive spa, and there it is again—the word with the “qi” in it without a u after the q.

But what is qigong? What does it do for you? How do you choose which type of qigong to learn?

Qigong is a holistic system that encompasses training for the body, mind, and spirit, although most types of qigong currently taught in North America focus solely on the body. It is an ancient discipline: Archeological evidence shows that it was practiced as early as the Neolithic period in China. Over the centuries, it has been modified and refined to suit changing times and knowledge.

One way to describe qigong is to say that it is the practice of moving energy, or “qi” (pronounced “chee”), through the body in specific ways. Qigong practitioners say, “Where qi flows, disease disappears.” Stress, high blood pressure, and a host of other physical and psychological symptoms of distress and imbalance vanish away. In China, thousands of replicated research projects have conclusively demonstrated these effects and more, and in the West, contemporary experiments are showing the same results. (To see some of these studies, go to

You might think that something this effective would be very hard to do—visions of pretzel-shaped legs and Shiva-like arms may be dancing in your inner eye. But the opposite is true. Qigong is easier to practice than yoga, for example, and can be modified for people who are very young, aging, bedridden, or wheelchair-bound.

One Qigong, Two Qigong

You might also think that all forms of qigong are much the same—that the differences between one class and another are simply a difference in the skill of the instructor. But this isn’t so. There are three major branches of the energetic arts in China—the Shaolin, Wudang Gongfu, and Emei—and more than 3,000 different types of qigong. One key difference is in the intention of the practice. The Shaolin and Wudang Gongfu schools focus on the martial arts, while Emei concentrates on health, healing, and spiritual development.

Practicing a martial art will bring about healthful benefits, but these effects—which extend not just to the physical but to the emotional and spiritual realms—typically come about much more swiftly when practicing Emei Qigong.

Emei is also the only school whose lineage holder—the person entrusted with preserving and advancing the entire body of the school’s knowledge and passing it to the next generation—is teaching in the West. Grandmaster Fu Wei Zhong, the 13th lineage holder of Emei Qigong, spends half the year in China, training the monk who will succeed him, and half the year in the United States, making his knowledge available in this country and teaching and training teachers here.

Emei Qigong was founded nearly 800 years ago by Bai Yun, an enlightened monk who combined 3,600 disciplines, schools, and practices, including many Buddhist and Daoist traditions, to create it. For centuries, Emei Qigong theories and practices were held secret and passed only to monks of the Emei Linji School, with the highest and most treasured secrets given to only the succeeding lineage holders.

This secrecy began to change a generation ago. Between the two World Wars, Grandmaster Yong Yan, the 11th lineage holder, envisioned the coming chaos in China and the rest of the world. Concerned that the treasured knowledge of Emei Qigong would be lost to the world forever, he decreed that henceforth, the lineage would pass between a monk and a chosen layperson. The monk and layperson would share the title of lineage holder as well as the information entrusted to them. The first lay lineage holder, Grandmaster Zhou, passed and shared the 12th lineage with Ju Zan, who was also the head of Chinese Buddhism, a position equal to that of the Tibetan Dalai Lama.

Ju Zan then passed the lineage to Fu Wei Zhong, a young man who was an accomplished doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine by the age of 12 as well as a teacher of martial arts. When Ju Zan passed the lineage to Fu, he entrusted him with two missions. The first was to find and train his successor monk, and the second was to teach Emei Qigong to lay people in both China and the West.

Distillation of Knowledge

After years of isolation and meditation, Grandmaster Fu emerged and began fulfilling this mission. He has developed and is continuing to refine qigong forms that are appropriate to Western audiences; has written several books for English-speaking seminar participants; and has prepared a multi-level training program to teach basic qigong as well as train those who wish to become Emei Qigong teachers. Fu’s goal is to develop teachers both inside and outside of China who will pass on the knowledge with the same purity as they learned it.

Participants at a four-day Level I seminar learn how to heal themselves and how to assist others in their healing process. Students are taught a gentle but potent qigong form that enables them to generate and store qi and are introduced to a heart-centered philosophy that allows them to clear past and present negative emotions and events.

They also learn the healing sounds of Emei Qigong, each of which corresponds to a different organ. Since there is also a correlation between the organs and different emotions, chanting the sounds can lead to greater emotional stability. Students gain a more sophisticated understanding of the laws of karma and how karma influences our lives—and, most importantly, they learn how karma can be changed.

Moreover, for those working with others, the Emei techniques demonstrated and practiced at a Level I seminar not only treats the client but also protect the healer. This is a key benefit, as many qigong techniques in use elsewhere can harm the practitioner over time.

Emei Qigong has other distinctive characteristics as well. One of the most important is that there is an emphasis placed on learning theory. This allows the student to marry mind intention with action, which amplifies the effect of the practice. In addition, students are taught how to enter the wuji state, when the healing energy of the universe can flow directly to where it is needed most.

Emei also offers several levels of training, so that if a student finds that he or she is interested in pursuing additional understanding and knowledge, there’s no need to have to search out a different teacher or method. With more advanced training, a student can look forward to more advanced results.

It’s impossible to say precisely what each person who attends an Emei Qigong seminar will gain because no two people experience identical benefits from the practice.

But there are elements in common. The overwhelming majority of those who practice what they are taught experience improved health almost immediately. Their senses sharpen and so does their intuition and subtle awareness. They become calmer and more able to direct their feelings and actions, and this transforms their life path.

Wendy Goldman is a Certified Teacher of Emei Qigong, trained directly by Grandmaster Fu. Wendy will be teaching a Level I seminar in San Diego over two weekends, on February 20-21, and February 27-28, 2010. For more information, please visit