The art of Qi-Gong predates the martial art forms that exist today.
Qi, which is pronounced as “chi,” is believed by eastern practitioners and teachers to be “the flow of internal energy that allows one to function throughout each day whether one is practicing a form of martial arts or performing another exercise that is conducive towards inner healing and health such as gardening. Qi is said to be the energy which not only propels us through life but defines us as individual carriers (vectors) of our own internal Qi. According to Qi Gong historian, Xu Xiangcai, the practice of manipulating Qi for health purposes began as early as 8th century BC. By the 3rd century BC, this practice had been formalized into a series of exercises recognizable as “Qi Gong.” Over millennia, the practice refined and grew into assorted styles. Starting in the 1970s the practice of Eastern medicine began to gain acceptance worldwide, and so did Qi Gong.
By contrast, Tai Chi was created by “Chang San-Feng” in the 14th century AD. Its history has more closely followed that of other Chinese martial arts with different families practicing their own variation until popularity in the West spawned the development of unified and commercial forms, which do vary significantly from one practitioner to another, which is why you will see a wide variety of different forms of movement and breathing presented by different practitioners on such sources as YouTube.
Most Tai Chi practitioners accept the concept that the correct flow of internal energy, Qi, is facilitated by the art of Qi Gong, and therefore Qi Gong must be mastered before one can pursue any form of martial arts such as Tai Chi or Wing Chun.
Despite ongoing research into the existence of meridians, there is no overwhelmingly scientific proof as to their existence other than the fact that there are several evidence-based, peer-reviewed, double-blind medical studies which have shown acupuncture (which is based on the science of strategically placing sterile acupuncture needles at certain points along the mapped-out path of meridians by a certified acupuncturist who holds at least a master’s degree in the area of healthcare) to have statistically valid therapeutic effects.
However, it is not necessary to believe in the existence of meridians, nor is it mandatory to believe in the concept of “Qi” to reap the benefits of Qi-Gong and Tai-Chi as a mild form of exercise, a significant form of stretching, and as a means of biofeedback-based deep breathing to promote calmness, health, a decreased stress level, and such empirically verified effects such as a more therapeutic heart rate, a more therapeutic blood pressure, more controlled breathing for management of stress and anxiety, as well as a plethora of other statistically validated therapeutic effects.
The following is a link to a website that is being initiated for the purpose of educating people in the art forms of Qi-Gong & Tai-Qi (Tai-Chi):
On a more personal note, the videos posted in the above link were created by my uncle, Sifu Joseph Estrada. The YouTube channel is dedicated to his wife (my aunt who was much more of a dearly loved sister to me than an “aunt,” as we were only 5 years in age difference) who died from brain cancer in 2012. Her photograph is here: