What is the difference between hard qigong and soft qigong?

Introduction of Qigong

Qigong, a martial art renowned for fortifying the body, nurturing vitality, and promoting longevity, has emerged as a prominent fixture among traditional Chinese exercises. Drawing from ancient Chinese medicine, martial arts, and philosophy, Qigong encompasses a regimen of rhythmic movements, concentrated breathing techniques, and meditative practices. At its core, Qigong is the art of mastering Qi, the vital life force or energy that courses through every living entity.

Within its various schools, 2 distinct paths emerged: Hard Qigong and Soft Qigong. Each path offers unique benefits and challenges to suit different goals and preferences. Let’s explore these fascinating styles, their differences, and how to embark on your journey to learn Qigong.


Hard qigong, also known as “Waigong“, focuses on building physical strength, endurance, and martial prowess. Those engaged in hard qigong endeavors train their bodies to endure impacts, cultivate explosive force, and augment their martial skills. This variant of qigong entails dynamic movements, tension-inducing exercises, and occasionally incorporates weights or resistance. More than simply honing physical toughness, this practice instills mental fortitude and discipline.

Key Characteristics of Hard Qigong:

  • Emphasis on physical conditioning and martial applications.
  • Practices include forceful breaths, loud exhales, and power-focused movements.
  • Often incorporates training methods like hitting or being hit to strengthen the body.
Hard Qigong

Soft qigong, also known as “Neigong,” places emphasis on internal healing, balance, and nurturing qi for overall health and wellness. This approach is distinguished by its gentle, fluid movements coordinated with deep, rhythmic breathing patterns. Soft qigong carries a meditative quality, with the goal of aligning the body, mind, and spirit while facilitating the smooth circulation of qi throughout the practitioner’s being. It’s inclusive to individuals of varying ages and physical conditions, rendering it a favored option among those in pursuit of stress reduction and holistic well-being.

Key Characteristics of Soft Qigong:

  • Focuses on health, relaxation, and internal energy flow.
  • Practices include smooth, graceful movements and controlled breathing.
  • Aims to improve flexibility, balance, and mental tranquility.

Hard Qigong vs Soft Qigong

What is the difference between hard qigong and soft qigong? You can see from the table below that hard qigong has greater physical strength than soft qigong. The breathing techniques and applications of the two are also different:

Aspect Hard Qigong Soft Qigong
Physical Intensity Emphasis on strength and endurance Slow, flowing movements for relaxation
Breathing Techniques Synchronized with powerful movements Natural and relaxed, integrated with slow movements
Intent and Visualization Focus on external power, visualizing strength Internal focus, visualization of energy flow
Applications Martial arts training, physical conditioning Health and wellness, stress reduction, spiritual development

The Journey of Learning Qigong

Beginners practice Soft Qigong first, including standing postures, sitting meditation, and Health Qigong routines. Only after you have a strong sense of Qi can you lose Qi. Combined with the practice of resisting blows, you can finally practice Hard Qigong.

  1. Start with Soft Qigong: Beginners may find it beneficial to begin with soft qigong practices, such as Tai Chi or gentle breathing exercises, to acquaint themselves with the foundational principles of qigong.
  2. Seek Guidance: Consider seeking guidance from experienced qigong instructors who can provide personalized instruction and guidance tailored to your individual needs and goals.
  3. Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body’s feedback during practice. Honor your limits and avoid pushing yourself beyond what feels comfortable or safe.


In summary, the dichotomy between hard and soft Qigong provides a rich tapestry of practice for individuals seeking to cultivate vitality, resilience, and inner harmony. Whether you are drawn to the dynamic intensity of Hard Qigong or the gentle grace of Soft Qigong, both paths lead to profound explorations of body, mind, and spirit.

Xinglin Martial Arts Academy will provide you with professional martial arts guidance. If you are interested in martial arts, please feel free to contact us!

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