Well, as we begin to try to answer this question, we have to acknowledge that Taijiquan is actually a form of Qigong--martial Qigong, to be exact. Qigong is any exercise involving the cultivation of internal energy (which the Chinese call "Qi") and the coordinated working of mind, body, and breath. Taijiquan is more widely known in the US, but Qigong is gaining recognition rapidly.
The Benefits of Taijiquan
As someone who teaches and loves both arts, I think I can provide an unbiased view of the comparative advantages of each.
Taijiquan is a martial art, and we have seen the art of Taijiquan be truly life-changing for students who are dedicated and persistent. We have seen students look and act years younger after a few years of practice. We have seen students' spirits heightened and their personalities change from shy, insecure and wary of challenges to outgoing, confident, and accepting of challenges. Students report improved medical test results that surprise their doctors.
Taijiquan training has many other benefits, including strengthening the whole body, stimulating the intellect, calming the mind, reducing stress, improving balance, and helping to prevent and relieve many illnesses. Since it is a martial art, it can also provide self-defense skills to those who practice its martial applications.
The other side of the coin, however, is that achieving such results with Taijiquan requires a serious commitment to learning and practice. The traditional Yang style Taijiquan Long Form that we teach can take a year or longer to learn, depending on how devotedly you study and practice. In addition, because our curriculum is comprehensive, it is challenging to learn.
The Benefits of Qigong
For the vast majority of people, Qigong is faster and easier to learn and offers an opportunity to more quickly meet some of their goals for improved health and stress relief. There are many different Qigong forms, some of which are for general health and the whole body, while others aim at specific areas of the body or relieving specific illnesses. Some whole body Qigong routines such as widely-practiced Eight Pieces of Brocade can be learned in a few hours. Some very simple exercises such as Swimming Octopus are very helpful for preventing or relieving specific problems such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
So Which One Is “Better?”
The real question isn’t which one is better, but which one is most suited for you at this moment in your life. A big factor in deciding which type to pursue is the question of individual preference: Which exercises do you like best and will therefore be more likely to practice regularly? Some people try Taijiquan and find it too challenging to learn and give up. Some people regard Qigong as too routine and less interesting and exciting than Taijiquan, especially if they enjoy Taijiquan's martial aspects, the mental challenge of learning the Taijiquan Long Form, and heightened spirit and self-confidence from Taijiquan practice. And some people start with one and then move to the other as their individual needs and preferences change or evolve.
What We Offer
At Qi Elements we have classes that emphasize beginning Taijiquan and advanced martial Taijiquan. We also offer classes that emphasize Qigong, but it is not an either/or choice. Our regular Taijiquan classes include Qigong exercises, which are essential, fundamental training to completely experience Taijiquan and all of its benefits. Our Qigong repertoire also includes Taiji-Qigong, which is Taijiquan movements done in Qigong mode: Student perform individual Taijiquan movements but do not have to learn any long sequences. And many students have studied both Taijiquan and Qigong.