In the Western world, until recently, there have only been three ways to encounter Qi Gong. They are Sundays in the park, a semester-style course, or study with a Master. That is simplifying things a lot, so please forgive me for keeping this as concise as I can.
In almost every county in the world, if you go to a city park on a Sunday morning, you are very likely to see a group, or several distinct groups, practicing Qi Gong, Tai Chi (Taijiquan), or other embodied arts. Most groups are open, and you could just go and follow along any time you like. Perhaps after a few weeks, you found a style of movement that you enjoyed and began showing up every week. Eventually, you would be invited to tea after the class, and learn more about the practice, its history, and purpose, and the teacher.
That is how the vast majority of people experience Qi Gong, even in China. Show up, follow along, learn gradually, enjoy the practice, the process, and the people.
If you live in a city with a community college or a large recreation facility, you may have access to a Qi Gong class that may last 4 – 8 months. The course will cover a specific series of practices, the history, benefits, theory, and potential pitfalls. This kind of Qi Gong training usually involves training two or more times per week, with a specific schedule and series of lessons and goals. The classes are taught, hopefully, by people who are patient and able to break down movements, concepts, and subtle interactions into ’ bite-sized’ and applicable experiences.
Over the course of a few months, you could learn enough about Qi Gong to have a comprehensive and lifelong personal practice. Oh, I forgot to mention all of the people in the park on Sundays, just doing their own thing – for their entire life.
It is possible, on a Sunday morning, or at a community college, to meet a legitimate, lineage-holding, trained since they were children, probably very high-level Qi Gong Master. There are better places to find them, you just need to be a part of those groups to get an introduction. Learning from a person with an actual lifetime of life-defining experience in any single aspect of human life is always amazing. Learning Qi Gong from a person who was raised from the age of four to become a Master of a very specific skillset is undeniable when you find it.
Then there is the precarious period of time to find out if they will actually teach you. All of those movies about ancient Masters making you go through certain challenges to prove yourself is a thing. It probably always will be – because it works. Some things can only be learned in the context of humility and patience.
I will not attempt to get into all of the intricate aspects of Chinese culture, Martial Arts culture, and modern New Age culture, and all of the hilarious misunderstandings that can happen. Needless to say, finding a Master, being accepted as a formal student, committing years of your life to a practice, and then finding your way as a teacher is not an easy or simple path. If you have the opportunity to study with someone with more than 30 years of experience (the traditional requirement to be considered a Master), who carries an authentic lineage of practice, take it!
Learn as much as you can and if you are willing, please teach what have learned someday.
Now there is a fourth way to learn Qi Gong. Today, you can find a school of Traditional Chinese medicine that teaches Medical Qi Gong if you want to become a Healer. Or, you can find credible teachers who have studied with traditional Masters and commit to an entry-level or even a more advanced level of training in Qi Gong. They all have websites, training videos to follow along (just like Sunday mornings), lectures on theory and history, offer weekend intensive seminars, and a thousand other things to support your learning journey.
There are also people offering these kinds of training who have very little experience and probably no experience studying with a traditional teacher or Master. However you begin your journey, it will not take you very long to see the difference.
If you are new to Qi Gong, and are not certain what the best choice is, consider this. Do you want a personal practice, a dedicated healing process, or do you want a profession Healing others?
If you enjoy Qi Gong and want to continue developing a personal practice to do so into your elder years, then find a few core practices, some enjoyable Seasonal alterations, go to retreats, read books, follow random YouTube videos, and celebrate swimming in a vast ocean of possibility.
If your life feels like it needs a life raft, and I am saying that as a compassionate clinician, find a personal teacher who focuses on a combination of Qi Gong, Meditation, Inner Healing, and Self-Cultivation practices. For at least three years, just learn, practice, let go, learn, let go some more, and become connected with your Inner Shaman.
If you have had a personal experience with Qi Gong that has ignited a fire within your being, and you want to commit your professional life to studying, practicing, learning on purpose, learning by accident, sharing with friends, and eventually teaching classes in a park on Sundays, extended courses at a local learning center, or teaching online, then I encourage you wholeheartedly to become a Qi Gong teacher.
Can You Learn Qi Gong Online?
Yes, I think Qi Gong can be learned, to a certain extent, online.
Given the technology so many people have access to, and the level of interaction possible, a person could learn enough online to have a very deep personal practice. Of course, like any art, the more you interact with other artists, especially those with more experience than you (even online), the better an artist you will likely become.
When access to video recording and sharing was first easily available, most of my very traditional Gong Fu (Kung Fu) and Qi Gong Masters would give me a tape of what we were learning. Usually half of the tape would be them demonstrating and the other half was them giving me specific corrections. I thought we were breaking some rule and then I realized that each of them had spent their lives training Olympic level athletes.
These exercises are safe, easy to learn (mostly), and deeply enjoyable. If you are looking for some basic exercises to get you started there are many free videos on social media. I sometimes choose a Qi Gong practice and find someone demonstrating it on YouTube. It is always fun to follow another person through a form you have practiced for years.
I am amazed at how many unique perspectives are out there!
If you are looking for a complete paradigm of practice, an ancient lineage to carry and a family of practitioners, teachers, healers, and warriors, then I invite you to join me in a life-changing journey into the practices, benefits, and traditions of Qi Gong.