Chi kung (or Qi Gong) has been praciced at the Shaolin temple
in China for over 1500 years. The origins of both Chi kung and the Shaolin fighting arts in general can be traced back to
a Buddhist monk known as the BoddhiDharma who had travelled into China from his home in India. He found a small community
of monks living and studying at the site of what was later to become the Shaolin temple. These monks spent all their
time either in still meditation or copying out sacred texts. The BoddhiDharma was impressed by their dedication and work
ethic, but he could see that their neglect of the body in favour of the mind and spirit was causing severe problems to their
health; he therefore decided to stay with them and try to help remedy this situation. At first the Chinese monks would not
listen to him or accept him as one of them, but after he spent six years in constant meditation from dawn to dusk in
a cave next to their community they realised that he was no joker and that they ought to listen to him if he ever came out.
He did come out, obviously, and began to teach them a set of exercises designed to promote health and strength of body at
the same time as training the mind and cultivating spiritual awareness. These exercises were recorded in the earliest text
of either kung fu or chi kung known as the 'muscle-tendon change classic'. He also taight them a set of exercises called the
eightenn Lohan hands. It is almost certain that the tradition drawn upon to create these exercices was the same one which
later evolved into the Indian system of Yoga.
The monks of China, who were at constant risk from attack by bandits, developed
both kung fu and Chi kung from this beginning over the following centuries. Most of the many styles of kung fu, as well
as Tai Chi and specialised martial arts Chi Kung all stem from this single source.
Basic Chi kung was, and still remains, an art form whose main pruposes are
to strengthen the link between the physical body and the mind, to develop greater control over the functioning of the physical
body than is possible through conventional physical exercises alone, to fascilitate spiritual development and growth, and
to promote health, well-being and a radiant fullness of energy and vitality. Its specialised applications include the healing
of specific ailments and cultivating and directing force for martial arts purposes.
Chi kung also developed to include and draw from other traditional Chinese
disciplines such as acupuncture / accupressure and traditional medicine, the Daoist philsophy of yin and Yang, the Five
elements, and the eight major hexagrams of the I-Ching.