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Brief History

Ki Gong in China and Korea

The origins of Ki Gong date back to pre-history. Archeological evidence of stone and bone acupuncture needles shows that traditional oriental medicine had developed in China and Korea by 3000 BCE. The first written record of Ki Gong practice dates back to the Spring and Autumn Chronicles approximately 500 BCE. Both the I Ching and Tao Te Ching reference breathing and energetic practices to enhance and prolong life. By 200 CE, many methods of Ki Gong had been developed by Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist scholars as well as traditional medical physicians. The first recorded martial Ki Gong sets date back to around 600 CE and Bodhidarma at the Shaolin Temple. An innumerable number of different martial, spiritual, and medical Ki Gong sets have been developed over the centuries, most for the purpose of improving health and vitality. The physical movements of many of these sets are often similar. The main difference in the various types of Ki Gong is their focus/purpose.

Early written historical records show traditional oriental medicine was already highly advanced in Korea by the Three Kingdoms period. Korean physicians have made major contributions to traditional oriental medicine. A 15th century Korean physician named Heo Jun wrote the text Donguibogam (Principles and Practice of Eastern Medicine). This comprehensive collection of medical knowledge was published in 1613 and is now recognized as a world cultural heritage item due to its influence on oriental medicine. Another influential Korean physician was Lee Je-ma (Yi Je-ma) who developed Sasang typology in the book Donguisusebowon (Longevity and Life Preservation in Eastern Medicine), first published in 1894. The Sasang typology divides patients into four major body types, and while it is commonly used with herbal treatment and acupuncture, it is not commonly utilized in Ki Gong practice. Ki Gong continues to be part of the educational curriculum to become a physician in traditional Korean medicine, but it is not a separate specialty.

Modern History

Beginning in the 1930’s, the Chinese government began a process to integrate the various Ki Gong systems into a standardized medical practice and to formulate a scientific method of practice. It was openly taught to large groups for the first time, as opposed to being practiced solely in temples and martial societies, and Ki Gong became established as a formal branch of traditional oriental medicine. Several historically significant Ki Gong sets continue to be practiced to this day, including: Five Animal Ki Gong (Oh Hyung Ki Gong), Muscle Tendon Change (Yuk Keun Kyung), Bone Marrow Washing (Sae Soo Kyung), Small Universe (So Ju Chun), Six Healing Sounds (Yuk Jah Kyul), and the Eight Pieces of Brocade (Pahl Dan Gum).

During 1935—1937, Grandmaster Hwang Kee was in China and trained under Yang Kuk Jin. According to the book The History of Moo Duk Kwan, Grandmaster Hwang Kee learned Tae Kuk Kwon (Tai Chi Chuan) and Ryun Bup (method of conditioning), which includes Muscle Tendon Change and Eight Pieces of Brocade. Copies of Chinese texts illustrating Ki Gong methods were included in Hwang Kee’s first book Soo Bahk Do Tang Soo Do, Volume 1, along with an untranslated copy of the Muye Dobo Tongji.

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