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Xingyi Quan (形意拳; xíng yì quán; Hsing I Ch'üan) page


Brief Outline of Xingyi Quan

Xingyiquan (形意拳; pinyin: Xíng yì quán; Wade-Giles: Hsing I Ch'üan) is one of the major "internal" (nèijiā) martial arts.

Xingyiquan translates approximately to "Form/Intention Boxing", or "Shape/Will Boxing", and is characterised by aggressive, seemingly linear movements and explosive power. Its path and coordinated offense was based on straight line.

Its origins are traceable to the 18th century. There is no single organisational body governing the teaching of the art, and several variant styles exist.

A Xingyiquan fighter uses coordinated movements to generate bursts of power intended to overwhelm the opponent, simultaneously attacking and defending. Forms vary from school to school, but include barehanded sequences and versions of the same sequences with a variety of weapons. These sequences are based upon the movements and fighting behaviour of a variety of animals. The training methods allow the student to progress through increasing difficulty in form sequences, timing and fighting strategy.


Although the exact origin of Xingyiquan is uncertain, the earliest written records of Xingyiquan can be traced to the 18th century to Ma Xueli of Henan Province and Dai Longbang of Shanxi Province. Legend, however, credits the invention of Xingyiquan to the renowned Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD) general Yue Fei.

According to the book Henan Orthodox Xingyi Quan written by Pei Xirong (裴锡荣) and Li Ying’ang (李英昂), Xingyi Master Dai Longbang

"...wrote the Preface to Six Harmonies Boxing in the 15th reign year of the Qianlong Emperor [1750]. Inside it says, '...when [Yue Fei] was a child, he received special instructions from Zhou Tong. Extremely skilled in spearfighting, he used the spear to create fist techniques and established a skill called Yi Quan [意拳]. Meticulous and unfathomable, this technique far outstripped ancient ones."

"于乾隆十五年为“ 六合拳”作序云:“岳飞当童子时,受业于周侗师,精通枪法,以枪为拳,立法以教将佐,名曰意拳,神妙莫测,盖从古未有之技也。"


Throughout the Jin, Yuan and Ming Dynasties few had his art, one of them being Ji Gong [Ji Longfeng]. After Yue Fei's death, the art was lost for half a millennium. Then, during the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Shaanxi Province's Zhongnan Mountains, Yue Fei's boxing manual was discovered by Ji Longfeng (also known as Ji Jike) of neighbouring Shanxi Province.

Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming argues that aspects of Xingy iquan (particularly the animal styles) are identifiable as far back as the Liang Dynasty at the Shaolin Temple. Yue Fei, therefore, did not strictly invent Xingyiquan, but synthesised and perfected existing Shaolin principles into his own style of gongfu which he popularised during his military service. Nonetheless, according to Yang, Yue Fei is usually identified as the creator because of his considerable understanding of the art (as shown in the work The Ten Theses of Xingyiquan, credited to Yue) and his cultural status.

Other martial artists and historians of gongfu, such as Miller, Cartmell, and Kennedy, hold that this story is largely legendary; while xingyiquan may well have evolved from military spear techniques, there is no period evidence to support that Yue Fei was involved or that the art dates to the Song dynasty. These authors point out that the works describing Yue Fei's role or attributed to him long postdate his life (some being as recent as the Republican era), and that it was common practice in China to attribute new works to a famous or legendary personage, rather than take credit for one's self. One source claims that the author of the "preface" is unknown, since no name is written on the manuscript. Most practitioners just assume it was written by Dai Longbang. Some martial researchers believe that it was actually written in Shanxi during the final years of the 19th century. In addition, historical memoirs and scholarly research papers only mention Zhou Tong teaching Yue archery and not spear play. Yue historically learned spear play from Chen Guang (陈广), who was hired by the boy’s paternal grandfather, Yao Daweng (姚大翁).

With the late Ming era and Ji Longfeng, evidence for the art's history grows firmer. Ji Longfeng's contributions to the art are described in the Ji Clan Chronicles (姬氏族谱; pinyin: Ji Shi Jiapu). Like the Preface, the Chronicles describes Xingyiquan as a martial art based on the combat principles of the spear. The Chronicles, however, attributes this stylistic influence to Ji himself, who was known as the "Divine Spear" (神槍; pinyin: Shén Qiāng) for his extraordinary skill with the weapon.

The master who taught Xingyiquan to Ma Xueli is conventionally identified as Ji Longfeng himself. However, the traditions of the Ma family itself say only that Xueli learned from a wandering master whose name is unknown. Ji Longfeng referred to his art as Liu He, The Six Harmonies.

The Preface identifies Cao Ji Wu as a student of Ji Longfeng and the master who taught Xingyiquan to Dai Longbang. However, other sources identify Dai's teacher variously as Li Zheng or Niu Xixian.

Xingyiquan remained fairly obscure until Li Luoneng (also known as Li Nengran) learned the art from the Dai family in the 19th century. It was Li Luoneng and his successors—which include Guo Yunshen, Li Cunyi, Zhang Zhaodong, Sun Lutang, and Shang Yunxiang—who would popularise Xingyiquan across Northern China. Sun Lutang exchanged knowledge with Fu Chen Sung, who subsequently took this branch of h'sing yi ch'uan to southern China.

Characteristics and Principles

Xingyiquan features aggressive shocking attacks and direct footwork. The linear nature of Xingyiquan hints at both the military origins and the influence of spear technique alluded to in its mythology. Despite its hard, angular appearance, cultivating "soft" internal strength or qi is essential to achieving power in Xingyiquan.

The goal of the Xingyiquan fighter is to reach the opponent quickly and drive powerfully through them in a single burst — the analogy with spear fighting is useful here. This is achieved by coordinating one's body as a single unit and the intense focusing of one's qi.

Efficiency and economy of movement are the qualities of a Xingyiquan fighter and its direct fighting philosophy advocates simultaneous attack and defence. There are few kicks except for extremely low foot kicks (which avoids the hazards of balance involved with higher kicks) and some mid-level kicks, and techniques are prized for their deadliness rather than aesthetic value. Xingyiquan favours a high stance called Sāntǐshì (三體式), literally "three bodies power," referring to how the stance holds the head, torso and feet along the same vertical plane. A common saying of Xingyiquan is that "the hands do not leave the heart and the elbows do not leave the ribs." Another characteristic common to many styles of XingYi is a stance called "Dragon Body". This is a forward stance similar to a bow stance with a straight line from the head to the heel of the back foot and the front foot perpendicular to the ground. This is not so much a separate stance or technique in itself as a principle of movement to provide power to techniques.

The use of the Santishi as the main stance and training method originated from Li Luoneng's branch of Xingyi. Early branches such as Dai family style do not use Santi as the primary stance nor as a training method.

Five Element Forms

Xingyiquan uses the five classical Chinese elements to metaphorically represent five different states of combat. Also called the "Five Fists" or "Five Phases," the Five Elements are related to Taoist cosmology although the names do not literally correspond to the cosmological terms.

Xingyi quan practitioners use the Five Elements as an interpretative framework for reacting and responding to attacks. This follows the Five Element theory, a general combat formula which assumes at least three outcomes of a fight; the constructive, the neutral, and the destructive. Xingyi quan students train to react to and execute specific techniques in such a way that a desirable cycle will form based on the constructive, neutral and destructive interactions of Five Element theory. Where to aim, where to hit and with what technique — and how those motions should work defensively — is determined by what point of which cycle they see themselves in.

Each of the elements has variant applications that allow it to be used to defend against all of the elements (including itself), so any set sequences are entirely arbitrary, though the destructive cycle is often taught to beginners as it is easier to visualise and consists of easier applications. Some schools will teach the Five Elements before the Ten Animals because they are easier and shorter to learn.

The Five Elements of Xingyi Quan
name     element explanation
Splitting Metal Like an axe chopping up and over
Pounding Pào Fire Exploding outward like a cannon while blocking
Drilling Zuān Water Drilling forward horizontally like a geyser
Crossing Héng Earth Crossing across the line of attack while turning over
Crushing Bēng Wood Arrows constantly exploding forward

It is perhaps unfortunate that the names used for the elements are used as fundamental names for applications of energy or jìn (勁), since it can be confusing to describe the "heng jin contained within pi quan". The jìn referred to by the five element names are not the only ones, there are many others.

Animal Forms

Xingyiquan is based on twelve distinct animal forms (形; pinyin: xíng). Present in all regional and family styles, these emulate the techniques and tactics of the corresponding animal rather than just their physical movements. Many schools of Xingyiquan have only small number of movements for each animal, though some teach extended sequences of movements. Once the individual animal forms are taught, a student is often taught an animal linking form (shi'er xing lianhuan) which connects all the taught animals together in a sequence. Some styles have longer, or multiple forms for individual animals, such Eight Tiger Forms Huxing bashi.

The ten common animals

Bear 熊 Xióng In Xingyi, "the Bear and Eagle combine," meaning that the Bear and Eagle techniques are often used in conjunction with each other. There is a bird called the "Bear Eagle," which covers the characteristics of both forms.
Eagle 鷹 Yīng
Snake 蛇 Shé Includes both Constrictor and Viper styles.
Tiger 虎 Hǔ features lunging open handed attacks mimicking the pounce of a tiger
Dragon 龍 Lóng The only "mythical" animal taught. in some styles it is practised separately from tiger because they are said to clash.
Chicken 鷄 Jī mimmicks the pecking movement of a chicken
Horse 馬 Mǎ uses left to right movements similar to the tiger form but with closed fists. mimicks the action of a rearing and striking horse
Swallow 燕 Yàn Follows the swift and random movements of the swallow by rotating position and circling the enemy with strong but quick foot movement.
Goshawk 鷂 Yào This can mean 'Sparrowhawk,' though the more common word for "Sparrowhawk" used to be Zhān (鸇), which has fallen from use over the years. The Chinese word for "Goshawk" covers both the Goshawk and the Sparrowhawk.
Monkey 猴 Hóu

Other animals that may be present in a particular lineage

Crane 鶴 Hè
Crocodile 鼍 Tuó The animal it is meant to represent is the Yangtze River alligator. Sometimes referred to as a water-skimming insect, or water lizard. the movements of a yangtze river alligator have been compared to those of a pig crossed with a dragon
Tai 鳥台 (𩿡)
see note This is a flycatcher native to Asia. Due to the rarity of this character it may be translated as Ostrich, Dove, Hawk or even Phoenix. The Chinese for this animal is a single character (𩿡), not two (as written); this character is not in the earlier versions of the Unicode standard so not all computers are capable of displaying it.. For further information on this character, check the Unihan database for complete data on this character.
Blowfish 鮐 Tái
Turtle 龜 Guī Some schools will teach this in combination with Tuó, considering them to be the same animal.
Wildcat 貓 Māo


Xingyiquan has three main developmental branches:

* Shanxi
* Hebei
* Henan

However, the identification of three separate branches is tenuous because of the extensive cross-training that occurred across their lineages. This suggests that the branches did not evolve in isolation, thus diluting any major differences between them.

Schools of the Shanxi branch have a narrower stance, lighter footwork and tend to be more evasive. Schools of the Hebei branch emphasise powerful fist and palm strikes, with slightly different evasive footwork. Schools of the Henan branch are typically the most aggressive of the three.

The Henan branch is known as the Muslim branch because it was handed down within the Muslim community in Luoyang to which its founder, Ma Xueli, belonged. Henan branch is sometimes referred to by practitioners as Xinyi LiuHe Quan instead of simply Xingyi quan This may be attributed to the fact that the Muslim community of China was historically a very closed culture in order to protect themselves as a minority, thus retaining the older addition to the name of Xingyi. LiuHe means "Six Harmonies" and refers to the six harmonies of the body (hips, feet, knees, elbows etc.) that contribute to correct posture. This is not to be confused with the separate internal art Liuhebafa.

Both the Shanxi and Hebei branches use a Twelve Animal system with Five Elements while the Henan branch uses Ten Animals. Depending on the lineage, it may or may not use Five Elements. Due to the historical complexity and vagueness of the lineages, it is uncertain which branch would constitute the "authentic" Xingyiquan.


Traditionally, Xingyiquan is an armed art, students would train initially with the spear, progressing to shorter weapons and eventually empty-handed fighting. Xingyiquan emphasises a close relationship between the movements of armed/unarmed techniques. This technical overlap aims to produce greater learning efficiency.

Common weapons:

* Spear
* Straight sword
* Sabre
* Large Sabre (used by infantry against mounted opponents)
* Long Staff
* Short Staff (at maximum length you could hold between the palms of your hands at each end - techniques with this weapon may have been used with a spear that had been broken)
* Needles (much like a double ended rondel gripped in the centre - on the battlefield this would mostly have been used like its western equivalent to finish a fallen opponent through weak points in the armour)
* Fuyue (halberds of various types)
* Chicken-Sabre Sickle. This weapon was supposedly created by Ji Longfeng and became the special weapon of the style. Its alternate name is "Binding Flower Waist Carry".

Weapon diversity is great, the idea being that an experienced Xingyi fighter would be able to pick up almost any weapon irrespective of its exact length, weight and shape.

Famous Figures

Cao Jiwu 曹繼武 Reported to have won first place in the Imperial Martial Examinations - sometime in the 17th or 18th century.
Chu GuiTing 褚桂亭 One of disciples of Li Cunyi. He mastered Xingyi, Bagua and Taiji.
Dai Longbang 戴龍邦 First student of the art from the Dai family.
Fu Chen Sung Chief instructor of baguazhang at the Nanjing Central Goushu Institute
Guo Yunshen 郭雲深 A legendary tale reports him as having been incarcerated for killing a man, and when confined to a prison cell only being able to practice Beng quan.
Hong Yixiang 洪懿祥 Founder of the Tang Shou Tao school in the 1960s
Ji Longfeng Ji Jike (姬際可) Founder (or rediscoverer depending on how legendary you consider the Yue Fei tale.)
Li Luoneng 李洛能 Li Nengran Nicknamed "Divine Fist Li."
Li Tian Ji 李天骥 Li LongFei (李龙飞) Author of "The Skill of Xingyiquan". Was the first Chairman of the Chinese Wushu Administration under Communist China. Helped to preserve Xingyiquan during the Cultural Revolution.
Li Cunyi 李存义 Li Cunyi Famous Boxer. One of disciples of Guo Yunshen
Ma Xueli 馬學禮 Founder of the Henan or Muslim branch.
Shang Yunxiang
Song Shirong 宋世榮 Founder of the Song Family Style.
Sun Lutang 孫祿堂 Sun Fuquan Author of several books on internal arts.
Zhang Junfeng 張俊峰 Founded a major school in Taiwan in the 1950s.
Zhang Zhaodong 張兆東 Zhang Zhankui

Important Texts

A variety of texts have survived throughout the years, often called "Classics", "Songs" or "Theories".

* Classic of Unification
* Classic of Fighting
* Classic of Stepping
* Classic of Six Harmonies

Disputed history

Ancient Chinese texts, the source of Xingyi quan knowledge, often contain characters whose meanings are obscure or have disappeared completely from the language. Specialised terms which describe historically-specific concepts (names of ancient weapons for example) are commonly interpreted with regards for their closest, modern linguistic equivalent. The results can be problematic, producing translations which are linguistically correct but inconsistent within a fighting or martial context.

Jargon from other martial arts seems to have entered the Xingy iquan vocabulary through cross-training. For example, some schools refer to a training method of "Xingyi Push Hands" - a term more commonly in use in training Taijiquan - which may be called by other schools "Five Elements Fighting"

The recognised founder of Bagua zhang, Dong Hai Chuan, was reputed to have fought Guo Yunshen with neither able to defeat the other - though it is possible that they were training together. It would have been controversial at the time for Dong Hai Chuan to have studied under Guo Yunshen, since Dong Hai Chuan was the older of the two. The most neutral viewpoint would be to say that they trained together, which may explain the stylistic similarities between Baguazhang and the Xingyiquan Monkey.

Frantzis argues that this encounter never took place and that Guo and Dong had little contact with each other. Frantzis argues that a Xingyiquan-Baguazhang exchange was more likely to have occurred in Tianjin c. 1900 where Xingyi masters Li Cunyi and Zhang Zhaodong, Bagua master Cheng Tinghua, and four other Xingyi and Bagua teachers lived together (Frantzis, 1998, p. 179). It is stated in Sun Lutang's autobiography that the legendary fight between Guo Yunshen and Dong Hai Chuan never happened. The book states that the truth of the matter is that Guo Yunshen actually fought one of his older Xingyi brothers and lost. Sun Lutang was a student of both Guo Yunshen and Cheng Tinghua so this stance on the subject seems to be one of the most accurate. On another note there are claims that the fight did happen from very credible masters that have knowledge of specific, original forms both empty handed and weapons that were invented by Dong Hai Chuan himself. They claim that the two masters agreed to a draw, realizing that both arts were equally on par with each other and always had mutual respect for the other. They claim that the friendship developed two new arts BaguaXingyi and Xingyibagua. Both arts were a fusion of the two with more emphasis on the art that is stated first in the name. A person had to decide which art he had more interest in and resonated in them more. Xingyibagua for the student more interested in Xingyi and BaguaXingyi for the student more interested in Bagua (Pa Kua).

Treating the story of Dong Haichuan and Guo Yunshen as allegory, however, reveals a common training protocol among xingyiquan and baguazhang practitioners. Often, because baguazhang requires significantly more time for a practitioner's skill to mature, it is acceptable to learn xingyiquan first or simultaneously. Such a practitioner develops a tactical vocabulary that is more readily apparent than the core baguazhang movements.

The founder of Yiquan, Wang Xiangzhai studied under Guo Yunshen, and similarities in techniques between these arts can be seen. The primary standing postures of Yiquan trains separately what xingyiquan santishi (三體式) trains simultaneously.

Xing Yi Quan

Xing Yi Quan (Hsing Yi Ch'uan) is the oldest of the orthodox, internal styles of Chinese martial art (predating the creation of both Taiji Quan and Ba Gua Zhang). Xing refers to form or shape and Yi commonly refers to the mind or intent. Quan [fist] denotes a method of unarmed combat. Xing Yi Quan is commonly referred to as Form and Mind or Form and Will boxing. The name illustrates the strong emphasis placed on the motion of the body being subordinate to conscious control. The form the body takes is an external manifestation of the internal state of mind and is the underlying premise behind Xing Yi Quan as a method of combat.

The exact details of the origins of Xing Yi Quan are unknown. The creation of the Art is traditionally attributed to the famous general and patriot Yue Fei (1103-1141) of the Sung Dynasty. Being a beloved historical figure and warrior, Yue Fei is credited with the creation of several systems of martial arts. There is, however, no historical evidence to support the claim that he had anything to do with the creation of the art Xing Yi Quan. The style was originally called Xin Yi Liu He Quan [Heart Mind Six Harmonies Boxing]. The Six harmonies refer to the Three Internal Harmonies (the heart or desire harmonizes with the intent; the intent harmonizes with the Qi or vital energy; the Qi harmonizes with the physical strength), and the Three External Harmonies (the shoulders harmonize [coordinate] with the hips; the elbows harmonize with the knees; the hands harmonize with the feet). The practitioner's internal processes harmonize and coordinate the external movement, unifying the person as a whole into the most powerful state possible.

The earliest reliable historical information we have makes reference to Ji Long Feng (also known as Ji Ji Ke) of Shan Xi Province as being the first to teach the art of Xin Yi Liu He Quan. Ji Long Feng was active near the end of the Ming Dynasty (early 1600's) and was a master of spear fighting [he had the reputation of possessing "divine" skill with the spear]. He is recorded as stating, "I have protected myself in violent times with my spear. Now that we are in a time of peace and our weapons have all been destroyed, if I am unarmed and meet the unexpected how shall I defend myself? " In answer to his own question, Ji Long Feng reportedly created a style of weaponless combat based on his expertise with the spear. He referred to his art as Liu He, The Six Harmonies.

Ji Long Feng had two very famous students. One was from He Bei Province and was named Cao Ji Wu. The other was from He Nan province and was named Ma Xue Li. It was at this point in history that the Xin Yi Liu He Quan [now also referred to as Xin (heart) or Xing (form) Yi Quan] divided into three separate yet related styles: the Shan Xi, He Nan and He Bei schools. After spending twelve years studying Xin Yi with Ji Long Feng, Cao Ji Wu entered the Imperial Martial Examinations and placed first [this was the most prestigious honor one could possibly win as a martial artist in Dynastic China, and as the reward for victory was an assured high level military appointment, the competitive exam attracted the cream of the martial crop from the entire country]. Cao's high profile martial status brought fame to the Art. Cao Ji Wu, in turn, passed on the Xin Yi Quan to two famous brothers, Dai Long Bang and Dai Lin Bang. Dai Long Bang further developed the Art and the written classics of the style are attributed to him. Dai Long Bang in turn transmitted the Art to its most famous exponent, the renowned Li Luo Neng (also known as Li Neng Ran; he was nicknamed "Divine Fist Li").

Li Luo Neng holds the distinction of being the greatest Xing Yi boxer in the styles' history and one of the top Chinese boxers of all time. Li Luo Neng taught his art in his native Shan Xi Province and also taught a great number of students in He Bei Province [his duties as a bodyguard involved escorting various members of wealthy families to and from He Bei].

Two of Li's most famous Shan Xi students were Sung Shi pong and Che Ti Zhai. Li's most famous He Bei student was the formidable Guo Yun Shen, who reportedly defeated all comers with his famous Beng Quan, a straight punch to the body [as a youth in training, Guo would walk several miles to and from his teacher's house every day, practicing his Beng Quan every step of the way]. After spending several years incarcerated for killing a man in a platform challenge match [Under the law of the times, fighters were not held liable if they killed their opponent during organized challenge matches, but after the unfortunate fight in which Guo's opponent died, he was arrested. When Guo protested and quoted the law of exoneration for platform fighters, he was told that "a man of your level of skill should have more control and was sentenced to several years in prison], Guo Yun Shen passed on his art to Wang Fu Yuan, Liu Chi Lan and Sun Lu Tang, among others.

Liu Chi Lan passed on the Art to the most famous practitioners of this century, including Li Cun Yi and Zhang Zhao Dong. There are many practitioners of all three substyles of Xing Yi Quan active today, and the Art is still a popular and well respected style of martial art in China and abroad.

The art of Xing Yi Quan is divided into two main systems: the Ten Animal and the Five Elements. The Five-Element system is further divided into two main branches, the He Bei and Shan Xi styles.

The Ten Animal style is closest to the original Xin Yi Liu He Quan in form and practice. The movements in the forms are patterned after the spirit of various animals in combat, including the Dragon, Tiger, Monkey, Horse, Chicken, Hawk, Snake, Bear, Eagle and Swallow.

The Five Element based systems have five basic forms: Splitting, Drilling, Crushing Pounding and Crossing; these Five Elements form the foundation of the Art. The basic energies of the Five Elements are then expanded into Twelve Animal forms which include variations of the animal forms found in the Ten Animal styles as well as two additional animals, the Tai (a mythical bird) and the Tuo (a type of water skimming insect). Training in all systems centers on repetitive practice of single movements that are later combined into more complicated linked forms.

The direction of movement in Xing Yi forms is predominately linear. Practitioners walk through the forms coordinating the motions of their entire bodies into one focused now. The hands, feet and torso all arrive together and the nose, lead hand and lead foot are aligned along the same vertical axis (San Jian Xiang Jiao). The arms are held in front of the body and the practitioner lines up his or her centerline with the opponent's centerline. A familiar adage of Xing Yi Quan is that "the hands do not leave the [area of] the heart and the elbows do not leave the ribs." There are few kicks in the style and the techniques are predominately percussive in nature. Great emphasis is 'placed upon the ability to generate power with the whole body and focus it into one pulse which is released in a sudden burst.

The techniques of Xing Yi Quan are characteristically aggressive in nature and the Xin Yi Quan fighter prefers to move into the opponent with a decisive strike at the earliest opportunity. The style prizes economy of motion and the concept of simultaneous attack and defense. As the name implies, the form or shape of the movements is only a physical manifestation of one's internal state [intent]. A fundamental principle underlying all styles of Xing Yi Quan is that the mind controls and leads the movements of the body.

Training in He Nan (Ten Animal) Xin Yi Liu He Quan includes basic movements designed to condition and develop the striking ability of the Seven Stars [the head, shoulders, elbows, hands, hips, knees and feet]. From here, the student will progress to learning the basic animal forms. Basic form practice consists of repeating single movements while walking forward in various straight-line patterns. Later, the single movements are combined into linked forms. The techniques are relatively simple and straightforward and rely on the ability to generate force with almost any part of the body (the Seven Stars). Also included at more advanced levels are weapons forms (including the straight sword, staff and spear).

The Five Element based styles of Xing Yi Quan (Shan Xi and He Bei styles) traditionally begin training with stance keeping, the holding of static postures for prolonged periods of time (Zhan Zhuang). The most fundamental posture is called San Ti(Three bodies)or San Cai (Three Powers referring to heaven, earth and man). It is from this posture that all of the subsequent movements in the style are created, and most teachers place great emphasis upon its practice. After stance training, the student begins to learn the Five Element Fists (Wu Xing Quan). These are the basic movements of the Art and express all the possible combinations of motion which produce martial power (including energy which moves downward upward, forward, outward and inward). After a certain level of proficiency is acquired in the practice of the Five Element Fists, the student goes on to learn the twelve Animal and linked forms. The twelve Animal forms are variations of the energies of the Five Elements expressed through the format of the spirit of animals in combat. There are several two-person combat forms that teach the student the correct methods of attack and defense and the applications of the techniques practiced in the solo forms. Five Element based styles also include weapons training.

He Nan Xin Yi Liu He Quan(Ten Animal Xing Yi Quan) is characterized by powerful swinging movements and the ability to strike effectively with every part of the body. Walking forward while coordinating the movements of the arms generates the power of the body. There is also emphasis placed upon conditioning the body to receive strikes. This system is very powerful and aggressive in nature and the movements are simple and straightforward.

He Bei Xing Yi Quan is based on the practice of the Five Element Fists and emphasizes Large and extended postures, strict and precise movements and powerful palm and fist strikes. The techniques of He Bei Xing Yi Quan are akin to those of the Ten Animal styles in that they are aggressive and straightforward. The forms of Shan Xi Xing Yi Quan are very similar to those of He Bei Xing Yi Quan but the movements are smaller, with the arms held closer to the body. The footwork is light and agile and the style emphasizes a relatively "softer" approach to applying technique. A greater emphasis is placed upon evasiveness than in the other styles and techniques are to be applied without clashing with the opponent’s force.

The Martial Applications of XING YI QUAN

Xing Yi Quan is the oldest of the 'internal' martial arts, and the only internal art proven effective on the battlefield. Based on the movements of the spear, the strategies and techniques of Xing Yi Quan are designed to subdue an opponent in the shortest possible amount of time (as prolonged exchanges were not conducive to survival in mass battle situations). The basic fighting strategy of Xing Yi Quan dictates an aggressive "take no prisoners" attitude, with the goal of incapacitating an opponent as quickly as possible. There are no flashy or overly complicated techniques; the art is a study in practical efficiency. The fact that Xing Yi Quan fighters have been among the small percentage of the most elite for the past four hundred years in China lends credibility to the Art's efficacy in training, strategy and application.


The underlying strategy of Xing Yi Quan is based around ending a martial confrontation in thexuhonju.gif (15880 bytes) most expedient manner possible (usually, while inflicting the maximum amount of damage to the opponent). It is not so much a system of self-defense as aggressive offense. The founder of the Art, Ji Ji Ke (Ji Long Feng), was a famous warrior, and his warrior's mentality carried over into the boxing style he created. The "self-defense mentality" is one of escaping from a violent encounter unharmed. The 'warrior' mentality is one of taking out the opponent as quickly and efficiently as possible. Although, to a certain extent either of the above strategies can be applied to similar techniques, Xing Yi Quan's techniques were developed with the latter strategy in mind.

Since the principles of this Art were gleaned from battlefield experience, and because the Art was designed to be applied against a potentially armed and armored opponent, it favored direct, incapacitating techniques which would quickly end the encounter. Striking precise vital points (often protected by armor), complicated leverage techniques, prolonged grappling encounters and the use of force against force were all impractical under the above mentioned battlefield conditions. Continuous, vicious attacks with shocking strikes and quick debilitating takedowns were the techniques of choice.

The powerful 'shocking' strikes of Xing Yi Quan will damage and disorient the opponent no matter where they connect. These blows are generally not aimed at specific 'vital points,' but rather through the enemy's center of mass; this insures maximum shock and transfer of energy into the opponent. Xing Yi Quan grappling techniques involve rapid, bone jarring takedowns. The lifts and hip techniques of the wrestling arts are not commonly found in the Xing Yi Quan arsenal. From the point of view of the warrior on the battlefield, the longer he is engaged in a grappling encounter, the longer he is exposed and vulnerable to attack from a third party.

Xing Yi Quan techniques are based on continuous attack, or simultaneous attack and defense if the opponent manages to launch an attack first. Techniques which block first and then counterattack with a 'one-two' timing are not emphasized. The Art also contains a set of techniques that allow the Xing Yi fighter to attack the opponent even as he retreats. These techniques are introduced in the "Jin Tui Lian Huan" (Advanced Retreat Linked Form).


Based on the energies of the Five Element Fists, each of the Twelve Animal Forms contain a variation in strategy and technique based on the specific animal's intrinsic nature in combat. For example, although the Tiger Form and the Monkey Form are both variations of Pi Quan (Splitting Fist), their strategies and techniques manifest differently, changing in accordance with the nature of the animal they represent. The splitting energy of the Tiger Form has the fighter advance boldly and strike the opponent ferociously with the power of the whole body behind both palms, like a tiger leaping on its prey. In contrast, the splitting energy of the Monkey Form is utilized as a series of rapid fire whipping palm strikes which sting the opponent from various angles, like a clever monkey which avoids direct confrontation while striking without warning from unexpected angles.

Although the Xing Yi Quan fighter seeks to master the strategies and techniques of all twelve animals, he or she will, naturally gravitate toward specialization in a few of the animal styles most suited to personal temperament and physique. For example, the smaller, more agile fighter will naturally tend to specialize in the strategies and techniques of the Monkey, Swallow or Chicken Forms. The larger, stronger fighter will tend toward specializing in the strategies and techniques of the Tiger, Hawk or Bear Forms. It is also important to note that because it is the flavor of the animal's intent and not their particular movements which is assimilated into the forms, the movements of the Five Element Fists and Twelve Animal Forms can all be done with the intent of a single animal.


Finally, let's look at the strategies and techniques of Xing Yi Quan as applied to specific situations. If an opponent closes the distance with a committed attack (a committed punch, kick, push, tackle...), the basic aggressive nature of Xing Yi Quan's strategy prefers a simultaneous defense and counterattack. Ideally, at the point in time the opponent expects to connect with his own technique, he finds his attack neutralized and in the same instant feels the pain of the counterattack. Once the opponent is stunned, the Xing Yi Quan fighter follows up relentlessly until the opponent is defeated. In a 'hands up' fight, the Xing Yi Quan fighter prefers to attack first, thereby drawing the opponent into reacting. Using the opponent's reaction to his own advantage, the Xing Yi Quan fighter continues pressing the attack, never allowing the opponent time to regroup. In standing grappling situations, the Xing Yi Quan fighter seeks to avoid clinching and wrestling for an advantageous position; holds are preempted or broken by 'shocking’ the opponent from close range with one of the 'Seven Stars' (head, shoulder, elbow, hand, hip, knee and foot), thus giving the Xing Yi Quan fighter the advantage and opportunity to follow up, and, as usual, he continues to press the attack. The overall flow of the typical Xing Yi Quan technique generally follows the pattern of first making a physical connection with the opponent, then immediately (or simultaneously) setting up a shocking strike and ending the fight with finishing strikes and/or a fast and hard takedown. Although the Art has few ground grappling techniques per se, it does include a set of techniques for defending oneself from the ground if taken down by an opponent. These techniques are known as the 'Ground Dragon' method.


The aggressive nature of Xing Yi Quan can be summed up in the key words of the style: Brave, Fierce, Sudden, Wicked, Quick, Violent, First and Sharp. The study of its strategies and techniques provides a fascinating view of the mindset of the warriors of old. In the modern world, Xing Yi Quan training, besides conferring excellent health benefits, provides a practical, no-nonsense approach to cultivating the attitudes and physicality necessary for real fighting ability.



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