Why study Qi? Qi is the fundamental building block of the universe. “From nothing came something.” Any thing that exists is composed of Qi. One thing differs from another because of the behavior of its Qi. The diagnostic models are all about the behavior of Qi. Medicine is only one specific set of Qi behaviors. Yin & Yang and the 5 Elements are applied to many things other than human health. Social structure, family dynamics, politics, geology, ecology, economic ebb and flow, to name a few. They are analytical tools which basic principles are about the behavior Qi.
Qi is profound and mundane. Cultivation of Qi is a key part of spiritual development but Qi is also what moves our bowels. The study of Qi can inform us about any facet of existence. It does take practice. I like to compare it to music which has straight-forward basic principles understanding and using them to productive effect is an infinite endeavor.
Studying and gathering Qi creates changes in us that often precede our awareness of them. Before I stumbled across Tai Chi Chuan my life was a pursuit of secuity, fun, and toys - a house with a large yard, partying, and fast internal-combustion engine vehicles. Watching Tai Chi the first time I was enthralled by the grace it imparted to very complex movements and the palpable strength coming the group I was watching. After a few weeks of attending the class I noticed I experienced a state of pure calm after doing the slow form. And the more I practiced, the longer the effect lasted. After a few months of practice my life focus had changed from owning a fleet of 18 wheelers to gaining a classical education of immense utility - the study of Qi in medicine, martial arts, and realization of my human potential. I think its important to note that I didn't forsake security, fun and toys entirely, the study of Qi simply insinuated itself self at the top of my life priorities.
At the left are links to three common paths for the study of Qi.
One of the first meanings of the word (roughly 3000 years old) is breathing or the force that creates breathing. Another meaning from around the same time is "give nourishment". A broader meaning from this era is "essence". Later meanings included "vitality" and "life-sustaining substance". Much later meanings included references to weather, the natures of people, and motion. Qi has many differnt meanngs but this has not made it less useful as there is a common thread woven throughout them. The behavior of Qi is what creates the infinite number of things and qualities in existence.