One World, One Breath: An Interview with Bill Douglas, founder of World Tai Chi Day & Qigong Day—Part 2
I recently spoke to Bill Douglas, founder of World Tai Chi and Qigong Day, about his experience with this amazing global event. Here is Part 2 of the interview. See April 13, 2015 for Part 1.
Why do you think World Tai Chi & Qigong Day (WTCQD) has spread worldwide?
WTCQD occurs because each year tens of thousands of people worldwide share a common vision of hope and healing for our planet. The dream overrides any political ambitions, religious affiliations, racial or economic status, as it is about our earth, our people and healing benefits. Qigong means "energy work," or "breath work," so our motto for this annual global wave of Qi, "One World … One Breath." We have found that humans yearn for connection, and today people feel a desire for global connections. We have been surprised at how this event has tapped into that desire and has truly captured the world's imagination.
I guess it shouldn't be surprising, given that since we practice and teach tai chi, we understand why the Chinese tend to practice tai chi in groups. It "feels nice" to connect energetically to others. Humans have an innate desire for connection, so if we do it in the microcosm of coming together, then it makes sense we would also desire it on the macrocosmic global level and enjoy the feeling of doing it with the entire world on WTCQD each year.
It has also captured the global media's attention, as tai chi is so photogenic and dynamic, yet visually soothing. CNN, FOX News, BBC Television, Agence France Television, The New York Times, Parade Magazine, The South China Morning Post, and other countries media worldwide have covered WTCQD events.
How did you accomplish this worldwide phenomenon?
Mostly through the power of the Internet. It's amazing that this media channel can be used to foster global health and healing. Personally, the vision of this event grabbed me and wouldn't let go. I felt like Richard Dreyfus's character in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," when he keeps getting this image in his mind of something he can't quite articulate, but he keeps trying to shape it out of anything he can get his hands on to do so. Everyone thinks he's nuts, but he can't stop pursuing the creation of the vision bubbling in his mind.
I worked in issue politics for years—environmental, human rights, and social justice—where we tried to reach maximum numbers of people with information while working on a shoe-string budget and depending on donations. So, I carried those skills into spreading the word on the event and the emerging tai chi and qigong medical research, by doing international media work, and of course by organizing WTCQD. I had done a lot of media work in my political career, so I carried that over to get massive coverage of tai chi and qigong benefits, research and of WTCQD annual wave of qi and health education. I eventually learned Photoshop, Moviemaker, Premier Pro, and learned how to be a web master.
When we first started WorldTaiChiDay.org we farmed out the web work and paid professionals $50 and up per hour to list tai chi and qigong schools from around the world in our free directory of events and schools. So for that first few years, until I learned web design, we paid dearly out of our pocket to promote teachers we didn't know and would not benefit from. Why? Because we believed they had something precious to share with their community and our world. We literally put ourselves on the edge of financial ruin by putting so much time into organizing WTCQD rather than focusing on our local classes, plus paying all the costs of this global organizing out of our pocket. I spent thousands of dollars faxing media institutions worldwide in media campaigns, and Angie and I just bit the bullet and paid it out of pocket.
It would have taken millions of dollars to do what we did on a shoestring with my home computer. If I had known just how much effort, treasure, and time I was diving into this project, I'm not sure if I'd have the will to do it all again.
But now that it's become a global phenomenon it sure is fun seeing the world play tai chi and qigong together, and also to breathe together. In 2015, China's largest Wushu journal did a feature article on WTCQD's expansion around the planet.
How do you fund WTCQ Day?
Like I said, in the beginning Angie and I covered all the costs of organizing this global annual event ourselves. It was unsustainable. If we'd continued to do so as it grew we would have lost our home, savings, computer and there would have been no more WTCQD. So eventually, we developed the Official WTCQD T-Shirt as an annual fundraiser to help cover some of the costs of annual organizing and ongoing free services at WTCQD.org.
On the back of the T-Shirt we placed translations of the event's motto, "One World … One Breath," and people were magnetized to it, and to the goals of our event. Participation grew, as did the number of translations, and today we have "One World … One Breath" in 34 languages on the back of the Official T-Shirts. People can support our work by ordering them on our web site.
On your website, there is a Harvard Medical Health Publication which states that tai chi might well be called "medication in motion." Care to elaborate on this?
Yes, my book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi & Qigong was one of the earliest tai chi books to examine the vast medical research being done about tai chi and qigong. But eventually Harvard jumped deep into tai chi research, and the Harvard Health Publication made the exciting point that indeed tai chi is "medication in motion" because of all the myriad health issues it can help or even treat. On our web site, we have a free Tai Chi Medical Research Library where we offer nearly 100 common health challenges, which can be searched for health publication articles on tai chi research regarding how it helps nearly 100 conditions
Harvard Medical School tai chi researchers held a series of lectures about tai chi's medical benefits to celebrate World Tai Chi & Qigong Day, and the Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi reported that the greatest indicator of tai chi's rapid spread throughout the planet is the annual event of WTCQD, which brings people together all over the planet to provide a vision of health, hope and healing.
How do martial arts schools, teachers or just interested individuals get involved with this Day?
They can list their tai chi or qigong school or group in the school directory and/or in the events directory on our web site. Our site has connected nearly one million visitors with tai chi and qigong teachers in their local area.
Then, they might utilize our free banner and poster artwork to print to promote their local event, or use our media kits and organizing kits to promote their event to get maximum media coverage. We've helped groups worldwide get national media coverage for their WTCQD event and local classes. The publicity created for the Day is priceless.
Groups and teachers worldwide use our free online Medical Research Library to expand their classes into health, corporate, penal institutions, etc. But, they also use it to educate the public when they get media attention for their WTCQD events.
WTCQD has been officially proclaimed by 22 United States governors, the Senates of California and New York, and by government agencies and offices worldwide including in 2014 the National Congress of Brazil. We have a tutorial to help teachers and groups get an official proclamation for their World Tai Chi & Qigong Day by local, state or national agencies or officials. They can then use these proclamations to hook media into covering their local WTCQD event and local classes.
I have a message to tai chi teachers about the event: Many of the new students interested in tai chi are drawn to it because of the mounting health research, and are seeking help with their healing. Therefore, it is very important that when we hold WTCQD events, if we offer teach-ins, we must teach very simple, easy, non-straining forms or exercises that are accessible to all, so that anyone can do them safely.
Do corporations participate in WTCQ Day? If so, what are their responsibilities?
We have not had corporate sponsorship on our global organizing hub level. However, local groups have worked with businesses before. We're not sure at what level or exactly how they are approached it. We just offer support in our resources at web site.
There are tens of thousands tai chi groups that participate annually. YMAA Publication Center is a strong supporter of World Tai Chi and Qigong Day and has schools all over the world that participate in this event.
Someday we'd like to have more corporate involvement so we can organize more widely, but it would have to be a corporation synonymous with our goals, maybe an organic super market chain, or something promoting global health and healing. A solar or wind energy company might be a nice sponsor fit.