Qigong legislation? Huh?
Those two words don’t seem to fit together. And yet, in the state of Oklahoma, there is a piece of legislation attempting to regulate the art of qigong.
Senate Bill 190 aims to establish an Oklahoma Board of Qigong that would regulate how qigong is taught and practiced.
(You can read the bill yourself here.)
So is this bill good or bad?
After reading this post, you can decide for yourself.
The Background in Oklahoma
Since 2003, there have been 4 attempts by acupuncturists in Oklahoma to govern Medical Qigong. In short, they have repeatedly tried to put qigong under their purvue.
There’s no doubt that this would be a bad thing for qigong. If qigong is going to be governed, it should be by qigong practitioners, not acupuncturists.
SB 190 was authored in direct response to those previous attacks. It was written by a fellow qigong practitioner, someone I know and respect. His heart was clearly in the right place, and his efforts to fight bad legislation in Oklahoma should not go unrecognized.
Something needs to be done to protect qigong practitioners in Oklahoma. But is this bill the right answer?
Ken Cohen’s Petition
Ken Cohen, a senior qigong instructor in America who wrote a classic book on the subject, has already taken a public stance against this bill. In an article on change.org, he lists 7 major problems with the bill, which you can read here.
As of this writing, over 1300 people have signed his petition. In a small community like qigong, that’s a lot of signatures!
Sifu Cohen’s petition is making the rounds on social media. Teachers and students alike are coming together in order to stand against SB 190.
News of this bill, perhaps because of Sifu Cohen’s petition, also made it to Channel 2 news in Tulsa. Here’s a snippet from the Channel 2 article:
“The bill would create the Oklahoma Board of Qigong, and the board would be ’empowered to determine the standards associated with qigong practice in the state.’ The board would charge up to $300 for a licensing fee, and investigate possible violations of the measure. Qigong would be banned in the state unless the person is properly licensed by the board. Those who are in violation of the measure would be subject to a fine up to $5,000.”
The bill even appeared in an article in Esquire! (Scroll down for the part about qigong and the Oklahoma bill.)
The Word “Qigong”
So what’s going on here? What’s the problem?
Part of the problem is with the word “qigong” itself. The word is notoriously problematic for many reasons:
- The term “qigong” was established by Liu Guizhen in 1949 to refer to several different Chinese self-healing practices.
- Before 1949, the arts that we now call “qigong” were called by names like daoyin, yangshen, neigong, or xiudao.
- There are literally hundreds of different styles and lineages of “qigong”, with thousands of different techniques. So qigong is virtually impossible to codify.
Another problem is the use of the term Medical Qigong.
Over the last 10 or 20 years, Medical Qigong is being used more and more often to refer to a specific, clinical branch of qigong. But let’s be clear that this usage is new. It’s not historically accurate.
Students often get confused by this new usage. That’s because many teachers, myself included, teach Medical Qigong for self-healing. In other words, we teach qigong techniques that can help heal medical conditions. (Click here for an infographic showing the 13 scientifically proven benefits of qigong and tai chi.)
The Medical Qigong that I teach is for self-healing. It’s not clinical therapy. It’s a form of self-care.
For the sake of clarity, I will call the clinical version of Medical Qigong as Clinical Qi Therapy. This makes it clear that there are 2 people involved in the healing process — the therapist, and the client.
Clinical Qi Therapy
In Clinical Qi Therapy, the practitioner emits qi to the client in order to facilitate healing. It’s a form of energy healing similar to Reiki (but older). Think of it as acupressure, but without physically touching the person.
This type of therapy is ancient and has its roots in Chinese Medicine, but it has been heavily promoted in post-Communist China. As a result, you’ll find Clinical Qi Therapy in many hospitals in China.
In the US, there are now many schools teaching Clinical Qi Therapy. Of course, they typically refer to it as Medical Qigong, hence the confusion.
Over the last decade, the Clinical Qi Therapists have attempted to co-opt the term “Medical Qigong”, thus separating themselves from the rest of the qigong community. I’ve even met Clinical Qi Therapists who believe that they are the only ones qualified to safely teach qigong for healing.
(Let me be clear: Qigong is safer than getting into your car. It’s arguably safer than yoga, karate, and tai chi — arts that need no government oversight and require no licensing.)
The Oklahoma bill would effectively cement the Clinical Qi Therapist’s modern definition of Medical Qigong into law even though there is no consensus in the qigong community and no historical precedent.
With this background, you may be better poised to understand the battle that is brewing between the qigong community and the Clinical Qi Therapists.
The 3 Main Categories of Qigong
Historically, there are hundreds of different qigong styles, but there are 3 main categories:
- Medical Qigong
- Martial Qigong
- Spiritual Qigong
(Note: I’ve previously written about the 5 categories of Qigong. Because there is some disagreement about whether or not Vitality Qigong and Scholarly Qigong are distinct categories or subcategories, I’m focusing on the 3 main categories that all qigong schools agree on.)
Clinical Qi Therapy is best viewed as a subcategory of Medical Qigong. The goal in both is to relieve pain and illness. The only question is whether we’re talking about self-healing or clinical therapy.
Despite all this, most styles of qigong don’t fit neatly into one category.
For example, Martial Qigong (like Tai Chi Qigong) is often used for deep healing. And people practicing Spiritual Qigong sometimes incorporate Medical Qigong to get rid of, say, low back pain.
So things can get messy. It’s hard to draw clear lines.
Unite Rather than Divide
So how do I feel about the bill?
The outrage surrounding this bill tells me everything I need to know about it. A bill like this should unite the qigong community against outside forces.
Instead, this bill has divided us.
It pits the Clinical Qi Therapists against the rest of the qigong community, with massive legal ramifications if they win.
Can I Still Teach in Oklahoma?
I’ve taught in Oklahoma and right across the border in Arkansas for over a decade. I also have certified instructors living there.
So can I still teach there?
The short answer is: Probably not.
Here is the line that concerns me most from the bill:
However, no person may represent themselves as a qigong medical or clinical qigong practitioner or qigong teacher in any manner, unless licensed in accordance with this act.
Yikes! That makes it pretty clear that I would need a license in order to teach in Oklahoma.
There are several exemptions listed in the bill, but those are not clear either. For example:
Exemption: “Persons who participate in general recreational qigong exercises for self-health and non-specific medical purposes and do not instruct others for profit or receive compensation through donations or by any other means.”
Recreational qigong? Non-specific medical purposes? Huh?
Can I teach a workshop called “Battling Depression with Qigong”, which is based on my own battle with Major Depressive Disorder?
Probably not! I’m certainly not going to risk a $5000 fine!
In other words, a respected teacher with 26 years experience who has taught thousands of students worldwide and certified dozens of qigong instructors — this teacher will need a license in order to teach in Oklahoma.
And who’s to say that I’ll even qualify for the license! Although I have thousands of hours of training from an accredited acupuncture college (that’s in addition to all my qigong training), my training in Clinical Qi Therapy was done mostly in Asia. I certainly didn’t attend a “Medical Qigong” college here in the US.
No wonder the qigong community is divided!
What You Can Do
I don’t agree with everything that Ken Cohen wrote in his petition, but I support his overall sentiment.
I oppose Senate Bill 190 and I signed his petition.
If you believe as I do that this bill is problematic, then you can do the following.
1. Write to Senator Rader before February 8th — especially if you live in Oklahoma. It will only take 2 minutes. Click this link, scroll down, look for “Office Information”, and then click the link entitled “E-mail Senator Rader”.
2. Sign Ken Cohen’s petition. Click here to read and sign his petition on change.org.
3. Share this post on social media using the links below.
4. Join our Qigong Teachers’ Alliance group on Facebook.
I’d also love to hear from you. Do you have any thoughts on this subject? Anything to add? Did I miss anything? Post in the comments below.[social_warfare]Best regards, Sifu Anthony I’m Anthony Korahais, and I used qigong (pronounced "chee gung") to heal from clinical depression, low back pain, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. Today, I'm the director of Flowing Zen, an international organization with students in 48 counties. I've been teaching qigong since 2005, I've served on the board for the National Qigong Association, and I’ve helped thousands of people to use qigong for their own stubborn health challenges. If you're ready to get started with qigong, there's no better way than my best selling book, which comes with free videos and meditations. The sooner you read my book, the sooner you can start healing! Click here to see my book on Amazon.
Ray Morneau says
I already signed Sifu Cohen’s petition a few days ago.
Thank You, Sifu Anthony, for so clearly explaining this complex situation.
David Whitham says
I have signed the petition,
I think you should have more confidence in your ability to qualify for the license. Just do it and stop complaining! I myself have encountered amazing Qigong teachers and some real fakes. I LIKE the idea of regulating this. If anything, it shows respect for the art.
Sifu Anthony Korahais says
Janice, this legislation would do nothing to protect against bad or fake teachers. If anything, it would block experienced teachers like me from teaching. Licensing and certification do not protect against bad teachers. There are plenty of bad acupuncturists despite all of the licensing and regulation.
I don’t know if you have experience in the field of qigong but I must say your response toward Sifu Anthony is disrespectful. There is no doubt he has confidence in his ability to teach and lead or he would not have taken on such an enormous task to teach an on-line course, after teaching in a studio setting for many years, to educate and help others.
Telling him to just do it and stop complaining shows once again disrespect and also your lack of understanding regarding what is involved. All his years of experience, knowledge and learning from many qualified Masters in China and others, means nothing in this country. You obviously did not read the entire bill that has been written.
To state you like the idea of regulating qigong also proves you are not educated in what regulating means. For starters, this is not about separating the real qualified instructors from the fake instructors. This is about the government, yes, the government governing this modality, which means another way for them to put more money in their pockets by means of the licensing fees collected. The colleges and universities are also involved because instructors will have to take credited courses as outlined in this bill to qualify for this license. That means although the colleges and universities will benefit, guess what?, the universities are government controlled and guess who receives that money. That’s right, the government.
The people who run the government will decide how we teach, what we can teach, and dig deep into the pockets of the teachers for taxes. Qigong now becomes owned by the government. If you know anything about this modality, you will find this is not what we are about. We are about helping others not about politics.
As Sifu stated, licensing does not prevent fakes. There are people who have been arrested after practicing medicine for several years with a license who were not qualified, how they managed to obtain a license is not clear. So regulating will not prevent the fakes, if anything it may produce people who teach qigong with their only interest being about money. I agree with Sifu Anthony, this should be in the hands of all involved with qigong. I am against qigong being regulated and becoming political.
You should take time to read the entire bill and research all the information Sifu Anthony highlighted for you to click on in his article. Then enter an intelligent response.
Sherry S Clark says
I signed the petition. I sent your blogpost to a qigong teacher colleague and he sent it to Senator Rader for his education and information. Thank you, Sifu Anthony, for representing the qigong community with your experience and knowledge.
peter levine (Ishan das) says
I confess I have not read all the relate material. But my intuition tells me that it is about an attempt to block the teaching of the art/science by those who are afraid that people who learn will not need to go to acupunturists. It is like the FDA closing the opportunity for cures that would affect the bottom line of Big-Pharma. I suspect is primarily a business $ concern, posing as something else. Just like the U.S. sending the marines, supposedly protecting democracy in the third world, when in effect they are trying to break a government that is protecting the people against U.S. imperialistic exploitation.
As qigong proves itself to be more effective than other medical modalities, and more people want to take it up, there will probably be more of this kind of attempt to stifle it. This is simply demonic. They work through the government, but they are not really motivated by the desire to protect the public; they use that as a ploy to protect their selfish financial concerns.
Rita Good says
I am against the need/requirement for licensing of qigong Teachers.
Since 1997 I have been a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. However, I started my Private Practice in 1981 – no licensing was needed.
I can now accept insurance! Great! But for years The Licensed Social Workers fought against Mental Health Counselors getting Licensed (getting Insurance reimbursement). Why? Competition? Money? Superiority? (The We are better than You syndrome?). We’re Licensed, therefore We’re Good?
I oppose licensing because I agree that it Doesn’t insure Quality! It Doesn’t insure Expertise. It Does insure Competition!!!
I had been successfully practicing my Mental Health Counseling/Therapy for 16 years before the Need to be Licensed (approved) came about (or I couldn’t put out ‘a shingle’).
How about letting the Client/Student decide? If people want a different Teacher/Practitioner/Therapist/Counselor, impower them to Decide.
By the way, Medicare does not cover my License because of the Lobbying Against my License! I am now 74 years old. My clients are getting older, too! But they can’t use their Medicare Coverage. I specialize in Grief and Loss!
I don’t live in Oklahoma! I am happy with online Qigong classes. I choose my Qigong Teachers based on their experience, style, and Wisdom.
Let the Student decide.
Thank you, Sifu Anthony for your Teaching/Guidance – Licensed or No License!
Bob Mente says
I have been doing many different forms of martial arts over the years and have chosen Chi Gong the last seven years. I am not a teacher but am greatly offended by SB 190 , which I consider BS.
Lynn McClary says
I signed the petition.
I’m a licensed architect. At least we have to be demonstrably competent in safeguarding public safety and welfare.
I note that the proposal would, strangely, legislate qi into existence. Like, it’s real and has real effects. Cupping and Traditional Chinese Medicine including herbs are also included in the legislation; I’m confused. Don’t want to know how Westerners propose to become experts in regulating Eastern arts.
What about reiki practitioners? Do they get legislated too? I ask, only part jokingly, could they send long distance reiki across state lines? (Tough to monitor or enforce, right? 😉 )
Shaking my head; it’s too close to bedtime for this. Sounds like it would get struck in part or while if challenged. And agreed: there are good and bad licensed professionals in every area. It’s just a demonstration of competence with meeting continuing education requirements (for architects and engineers: permitting departments check our work before anything gets built. Doctors don’t have such tight supervision right?)
Phil Ciglen says
The maximum fine for 1 offense under the bill is $500, not $5000.
“…fines imposed by the board shall not exceed Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) for any single violation and not more than Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00) for all combined
violations occurring in relation to a complaint”.
I agree with your points about teachers.
Whether practitioners should be regulated is debatable, I can see both sides, having been a registered massage therapist for 25 years.
Licensing is permission to work. Why would anyone needs the state’s permission to do something as harmless as qigong? Certainly not to protect the public. It’s American, for goodness sakes. Professional licensure is like a cancer in the domain of health care – it keeps spreading from one occupation to the next. Why? Because it is used by targeted professions as a survival strategy. Osteopathy, Chiropractic and Acupuncture have all done it for this reason – to survive withering assaults from the medical establishment. Massage is the only exception – it was forced on massage by governments in hopes of reducing prostitution, which it has failed to do in a spectacular way. And now massage boards persecute other professions in the same way as medical boards did Chiropractic and homeopathy. The childishness just goes on and on.
Here’s the solution to all the licensing madness: safeharbor through practice exemption. It’s been done in 11 states, Maine being the latest so far and Massachusetts and Wisconsin could be 12 and 13. It exempts complementary and alternative practitioners out of broadly written BS scopes of practices contrived by these anti-competitive special interest groups and creates a clear set of common sense prohibited acts within which they need to operate. Like you can perform surgeries, prescribe drugs or administer radiation. Boom – done – problem solved. No more arbitrary practice board harassment and everyone can start getting along like adults again.