Zhou Ting-Jue is 78 years old and thriving. His secret, he says, is Qi Gong, an ancient Chinese martial-art that teaches control and eventually, mastery of Qi or life-force energy.
“When I was young, I got very sick,” said Master Zhou, who has taught martial and spiritual arts for over 40 years. "After learning Qi Gong, I never fell ill again. It is a powerful healing tool. When we are born, we inherit Qi from our parents -- but as we go through life, this naturally becomes depleted."
Originating from Chinese Taoism and Indian Shaolin-Buddhism, modern-day Qi Gong involves visualization and meditative breathing, synchronized with static, gentle and dynamic movements.
Scientific research shows that Qi Gong has many health benefits, including improved bone health, balance and quality of life, reports the National Institute of Health.
“When a person does not have enough Qi, he or she becomes prone to fatigue and illness,” Zhou says. "When a person builds a substantial amount of Qi, not only do they become strong, healthy and resilient, but they can also use that energy to help others; to treat, heal and be of service."
“Qi Gong releases stagnant energies in the body and builds healthy energies, which heal and re-vitalize,” said Jessica Cauffiel, a former New Yorker and student of Master Zhou’s.
Traditionally, Qi Gong was used as Chinese medicine. Today Qi Gong is practiced widely across the U.S., though the exact number of Qi Gong practitioners is hard to gauge.
“In this rush of popularity, the quality of teachings has become compromised,” said Master Zhou, who lives in California.
Anyone can practice Qi Gong but should learn from a master, he said.
“Because of how Qi Gong works with the neurological system, it can be dangerous if misused. The safest and best way to learn Qi Gong is to learn from a master,” said Zhou.
Qi Gong is not difficult or time-consuming, and should ideally be practiced once a day, said Cauffiel.
“The more you practice, the more dense energy you clear, and the more positive beneficial energy you generate,” said Cauffiel.
But experts say it’s important not to rush learning the art.
“Don’t be ambitious to proceed quickly or get to the top. It doesn’t serve anyone to skip to advanced levels, without a proper foundation,” said Zhou. "Qi Gong teaches patience. It is not just an exercise, but a practice of the heart. It is not about competition, personal gain or ego. Attaining bliss requires sincerity and patience. It will not come if it is forced, willed or anxious. It must be allowed to arise naturally."
Qi Gong is not about accumulating power, as popular misconception has it, said Zhou. “The purpose of Qi Gong has been to not only bring health and energy to oneself, but to purify one’s heart – to cultivate kindness, awareness, sincerity and humility. These go hand in hand.”