Tai Chi Chuan or Taijquan? Chi Kung or Qigong? Chi or Qi? Hsing-I Chuan or Xingyiquan?
These are the same words but are spelled differently because initially Chinese words where transliterated according to the Wades-Giles system. In the 1980's the transliteration was switched to the Pinyin system. Today you may see a combination which may vary from author to author. Hence, the confusion.
What is Taijiquan? "Taiji" refers to the duality of the universe depicted by the famous symbol of yin and yang. That symbol is called the Taiji symbol. It's half black with a white dot and half white with a black dot. It symbolizes a dynamic state of interdependence, transformation, and balance. Taiji refers to the primal condition of the universe after it split into two from the primordial Oneness. It is often translated as the "grand ultimate or grand terminus". "Quan" refers to fist or force and martial arts. Taijiquan was originally known as Cotton fist.One story is that the originator of Yang style Taijiquan, Yang Lu Chan, was an unbeaten pugilist who employed the principles of yin and yang. His embodiment of Taiji philosophy in his art gave rise to the name, Taijiquan.
The vast majority of people who practice Taijiquan today do not use it as a martial art. Most practice it as a flowing set of mindful movements which reduce stress, increase well-being and balance.It has a long list of scientifically verified benefits including, increasing grey matter in the brain, helping with diabetes, improving bone density, reducing blood pressure and more..
To study the martial aspects of Taijiquan is becoming a little more popular in America than it once was. To actually use it effectively in real martial arts contests is rare and would require very intensive mental, physical and energy training for years. Taijiquan is a masterpiece. Woven within it is Qigong, the physics of effortless movement, a through and gentle exercise system, Meditation, Inner Alchemy and the study of Yin and Yang within oneself as well as with others.
It is deeply influenced by Taoist philosophy, i.e. the philosophy of being natural and harmonizing with Nature.
Taijiquan has different branches named after families or locations: Yang, Chen, Wu, Sun, Wu/Hao, Wudang etc. Each Taijiquan style has an external form or choreography which takes some time to learn properly. Along with form study, Taijiquan's internal training involves learning "Sung", listening and sensing skills or "Ting jin", Fajin or explosive power, push hands etc. Weapons like sword, are used for training in later stages of development.
What is Qigong or Chi Kung? Qi or "chi" basically means energy or life force** and "gong" refers to any skill which is highly developed through dedicated practice. Qigong is a method of building, balancing, and refining your energy and awareness. There are thousands of forms of Qigong which may focus on health, martial power, inner alchemy, spirituality and ethical development or can be a synthesis of these. Qigong often includes still meditation and self-massage/acupressure as well.
Qigong movements are done mindfully with different focuses depending on the goal. Generally, there is regulation of breathing, mind, movement and posture with deeper alignments of energetic structures (danteins,sinew channels, meridians, energy gates) all done in an integrated fashion.
Most Qigong sets are separate movements which are easy to learn. Externally, they may look simple but internally, they are more complex. There are some Qigong forms, like Wild Goose Qigong, which have a long series of linked movements.
** Qi meaning life force is very simplistic and limited. To begin a deeper understanding of "Qi", please read this: http://jaybulloch.com/articles/what-is-qi/ and start practicing Qigong or Taijiquan.
Understanding the philosophy of Yin and Yang