Saturday, April 27 was World Tai Chi & Qigong Day, which falls on the last Saturday in April each year. It all started with a gathering of 200 people in Kansas City, Missouri in 1998. In recent years World Tai Chi & Qigong Day gatherings have taken place in hundreds of cities in over 80 countries around the world.
This year, I worked with other local teachers to hold a World Tai Chi & Qigong Day gathering here in Northampton. It was an inspiring experience to be a part of. I wasn’t sure if many people would show up. Saturday morning was cold and cloudy, with sprinkles of rain.
But a lot of people came! We estimated over 80 people were there. And what’s more, they seemed happy to be there.
The main feature of World Tai Chi & Qigong Day is a world wide wave of tai chi and qigong. People all over the world do tai chi and qigong at 10 am in their time zone. This results in a wave of healing energy that flows from one time zone to the next, around the globe.
After the wave, City Councilor Jim Nash presented an official proclamation from the Mayor of Northampton, declaring World Tai Chi & Qigong Day as an official holiday in our city. Then we had demonstrations and classes from several local teachers. These were engaging, and many people I spoke to expressed their excitement at seeing different styles of tai chi and qigong.
There are as many approaches to these arts as there are schools and teachers. But it would be easy to take classes for years without ever realizing that. As in any art, one can learn a lot by looking through an unfamiliar lens, so I think it’s very valuable to have events like this where we can experience different styles.
I also found it heartwarming and encouraging to see that so many people in our community not only practice tai chi and qigong, but want to come together and share the experience. One of our students, upon arriving, instantly recognized her neighbor - they live next door to each other, but did not know that they both do tai chi! It’s easy to see how this could happen. How many people in your town do qigong at a different school - you may never meet them or know that they practice qigong without a gathering like this.
Aside from bringing the local tai chi and qigong community together, there is another purpose to World Tai Chi & Qigong Day, which is to spread awareness of the benefits these arts can provide in our lives. They have been a huge positive influence in my life, not just from my practice, but also the people it has brought me into contact with. I’m sure many of you have had a similar experience.
Thinking about this reminds me that before I started going to classes, I didn’t really know what tai chi was, let alone qigong, which I’m not sure I had even heard of. It was recommended to me by a co-worker. If he had not taken the time to tell me that that tai chi helped him with his back pain, I might never have tried it.
I’m sure there are millions of people all around the world who are in a similar position: they could benefit tremendously from tai chi and qigong, but have no idea what these arts are or how much they could help.
It is in the spirit of educating people about tai chi and qigong, providing information and support to teachers, student, and the curious, that Bill Douglas and Angela Wong Douglas, the founders of World Tai Chi & Qigong Day, have worked to make these gatherings a global phenomenon.
Someone said to me after the event that she really likes thinking that, on any given day, when she does tai chi someone else somewhere in the world is probably practicing at the same time. When she mentioned this to a friend the friend said, “That’s interesting, you think about it horizontally. I think about it vertically - I like to think about all the people throughout the history of the art that have done the same movements I’m doing.”
This brings up one more reason to celebrate World Tai Chi & Qigong Day. To acknowledge that were it not for the many generations of people who have dedicated much of their lives to learning and passing these arts on to the next generation, from the qigong masters of ancient China to the tai chi masters of the last millennium, to those who in the last century or so who have begun teaching more and more openly, it would not be possible for millions of people all over the world to practice qigong and tai chi.
And top of all that, it’s just fun to play in a big group once in a while.