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Lawmaker proposes regulation of ancient Chinese practice

The Oklahoma Capitol, in the early morning, on the last day of the regular legislative session on May 26, 2017 (Phil Cross KOKH)

The state would be tasked with regulating the practice of something that may not be measurable under a proposed bill in the state senate. The bill seeks to create a regulator and licensing board for the practice of Qigong, a Chinese practice of physical exercises and breathing.

Senate Bill 190, introduced by Tulsa Republican Senator Dave Rader, would create a board that would issue licenses to anyone who is offering Qigong as a cure for medical conditions. The bill said the licensing would not apply to those practicing Qigong for personal benefits.

“It is a medical system that works on just about every disease known to man,” said Tom Bowman who operates a Qigong practice in Tulsa. He is both a teacher and student of the ancient practice and told FOX 25 it is vital to be properly trained before treating anyone.

“You can't just start transferring energy to that person without having the knowledge as to why and where that disease started,” Bowman said.

Qigong is a growing practice in Oklahoma and it focuses on a person’s Qi, which can be described as their life force. The Qi, Bowman explained, runs along the “meridians” referenced in the practice of acupuncture.

Bowman said the practice of Qigong is largely misunderstood and sometimes dismissed because people are confused by the language involved. He said what the practice defines as Qi, actually represents the bioelectricity that scientists can measure in human cells.

“It is the flow of and the quality of the bioelectricity in your body that determines your health,” Bowman said.

He believes clinical practice of Qigong would add legitimacy to those who have truly studied the practice and potentially open the door to insurance coverage of Qigong.

The feeling is not universal among Qigong practitioners.

Tirk Wilder is one of those who believes legislation is unnecessary. He has practiced Eastern Martial Arts for more than five decades and has incorporated Qigong into his personal practices.

“Qigong is a mind body skill is the way I would put it,” Wilder told FOX 25, “It is supposed to create harmony with the universe and I believe it does when it is practiced properly.

Wilder said while the legislation would not directly impact his practice of Qigong, he sees it as a “slippery slope” which could entangle anyone who suggests the health benefits of many of the martial arts that incorporate Qi.

“We don't regulate karate instructors we don't regulate any martial arts instruction, yoga instructors and that's why I’m saying ‘Why is this necessary,’” Wilder said.

“Why do we need this?” Wilder asked “Is somebody being hurt by improper Qigong practice? I'm really hard pressed to believing that.”

There is little scientific evidence to back up many of the claims of Qigong proponents. Bowman said proof comes from practice and that non-believers may never experience the benefits because they have closed their minds to the possibility it could work.

Senator Rader told FOX 25 he supports the idea of a board because of the requests from his constituents like Bowman.

In recent years Oklahoma has sought to identify unnecessary occupational licensing. However, Senator Rader said he does not believe his legislation will create an unnecessary barrier to entering the practice of Qigong.

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