YI CHUAN or XINGYIQUAN Both are pronounced HSING EEEE CHWAN and
literally refer to the Shape (Hsing) of the Intent ( I ) or Will.
Simply put, the idea is that the mind of the practitioner creates
an instantaneous attack and or defense from the mutable changes
of the moment.
(See Heritage Chart)
DIVERSE STORIES There are a number of speculations on the origin
of Xing Yi, one of Chinese most recognized martial arts. Some say
it was developed in the Sung Dynasty and attribute it to the famous
protector general Yueh Fei who almost single handedly retarded the
progress of the invading Mongols. Some attribute it to the Shaolin
Temple which claims its own distinctive form of Xing Yi.
agrees that Xing Yi is a dynamic and powerful style of martial arts.
It's movements aren't just brisk but, when demonstrated by a master,
almost incredibly rapid and clear. Xing Yi is a system with evident
integrity. Where other styles sometimes seem obscure and of questionable
application Xing Yi is powerful and aggressive without being crude
or simplistic. Xing Yi also takes a very ancient and historically
more realistic attitude towards forms practice. While Xing Yi certainly
boasts a full range of forms and some excellent ones at that, it
emphasizes practice that returns continually to basics, recognizable
fundamentals. Xing Yi students are always aware of which movements
are basics in their styles without having to "decode" such movements
from a forest of actions.
number of scholars, and some solid historical evidence also trace
Xing Yi to around 1600 and attribute its creation, or at least drastic
restructuring, to one Ji Long Feng (Ji Ji Ke).
The most basic of these basics are clearly defined in the Five Elements
known as the Wu Xing a series of fundamental movements based
on ancient Chinese philosophy. This philosophy, which developed
over two thousand years ago, sees the changes in Nature as being
a series of primary transformations. Each of these forms of transformation
is known as an "element" and is symbolically based on an element
found in Nature. These elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water
are initially taught to the student as five separate actions called
Five Elements Fist or sometimes Five Mother Fists.
first form of these is simply a series of "roads"up and back each
with one of these distinctive and sophisticated "elemental" fists.
These movements, like everything in Xing Yi, are incredibly compressed
with information. They are the martial arts equivalents of holographs.
Metal, for instance, combines the 6/4 stance,
explosive forward movement, drilling
action upward, falling action downward, centerline theory, Reeling
Silk Energy and many other key points of Kung Fu skills.
of Xing Yi's Five fists is similar. Loosely based
on Chinese philosophical beliefs they are grouped
into two cycles CREATIVE and DESTRUCTIVE. In one cycle a certain
type of energy, enbodied in each element, is said to engender another
The CREATIVE cycle runs thus:
FIRE feeds EARTH
EARTH begets METAL
METAL collects WATER
WATER feeds WOOD etc.
so called DESTRUCTIVE cycle is said to consist of elements which
suppress or endanger another. They are set up like this:
WOOD breaks EARTH
EARTH absorbs WATER
WATER douses FIRE
FIRE melts METAL
METAL splits WOOD
practitioners mistakenly take this to mean that a WOOD movement,
for instance, should be chose to squelch a FIRE action. Fighting
doesn't work this way. But the idea of immediate, powerful and clear
transformation is indeed embodied within Xing Yi's excellent basics.
And, as these elements are correlated to the same organ systems
of Chinese traditional medicine where, for instance, Metal = Lungs;
certainly advanced health practices are already being practiced
even by a beginning student.
a non philosophical level these actions are dynamic methods of motion
each of which can be considered solely from the standpoint of martial
skill. These down to earth correspondences are:
Metal = SPLITTING (Pi)
Wood = CRUSHING (Beng)
Water = DRILLING (Tsuan)
Fire = POUNDING (Pao)
Earth = CROSSING (Heng)
ANIMALS The next fundamental level of Xing Yi training is embodied
in the 12 animals. Each of these takes Xing Yi's symbolic idea still
further and integrates animal imitating movements which express
distinctive forms of movement and unique JINS (refined transfers
of energy). Mostly commonly (these differ from style to style with
some even having more or less) the 12 animals are named:
other versions we have the mythical TAI bird and even the ALLIGATOR.
These movements carry forward the essential energetics of Xing Yi
but add a little more zest to its actions.
the Mother Fists the initial animal movements are often taught in
what many people would call a "form" but among martial instructors
is often known as a LINKING FORM: that is, simply a series of movements
in their rawest form and without esthetic selection to act as continual
actions Xing Yi spends a lot of time on structural issues often
considered quite advanced in other styles. Part of Xing Yi's overall
flavor and strength as a martial art is its reliance on the idea
of STRONG SHAPES, that is postural formation which do a great deal
of martial work just by the nature of their structure. In this general
area Xing Yi starts with an excellent posture appropriate for both
Chi Kung and martial training, namely the SAN IT formation. SAN
IT (which means Three Powers, those being Heaven, Earth and Mankind)
is a stance with 60 per cent of the weight on the back leg, the
front hand lightly extended and the rear hand pulling back toward
the Tan Tien. This posture contains a series of animal shapes which
act as reminders of general Xing Yi postural principles.
CHICKEN LEG = One firmly planted and the other lighter.
BEAR SHOULDERS = Shoulders rounded but stretched with energy.
EAGLE CLAWS = Fingers throbbing with power
TIGER EMBRACE = Arms folded and enlivened with potential energy
postural considerations include
Pressing the head upward, the tongue forward and
the arms forward. Strengthening the shoulders, extremities and teeth
Rounding the back, breast and Tiger Mouth (space between thumb and
Sinking the Ch'I, shoulders and elbows.
Curving the knees, shoulders and elbows.
Straightening the neck, spine and joints.
Embracing the chest with the arms, the navel with
the ch'I and the body with courage.
Yi also incorporates the famous and fundamental Six Harmonies idea
of Chinese Kung Fu. These are simple correspondences that
are useful for proper body alignment and power generation.
SIX OUTSIDE HARMONIES
Shoulder to Hip
Elbow to Knee
Hand to Foot
Heart to Mind
Mind to Ch'i
Ch'i to Strength
guide line for Xing Yi practice is San Dian or Three Points. This
suggests that nose, fist and foot are always on line with one another.
The body and Ch'I interplay subtlely in Xing Yi as the texts say
when the body sinks the ch'I rises and vice versa.
LEGGED BOXING One of the distinctive features of Xing Yi is the
fast and very direct footwork. People unfamiliar with the art might
at first seen it as something like the Kung Fu equivalent of Karate,
so linear are the steps and so compact the motions. Initially most
footwork is executed in the 60/40 stance with the weight slightly
on the back. Due to the explosive forward movement of Xing Yi this
seems paradoxical to the beginning student. As he or she develops
forward motion they are still never allowed to completely shift
the weight to the front foot. Once this segmented "bamboo step"
is studied it is augmented by a small finishing step that requires
the back, weighted leg to be brought up another few inches just
synchronized on the end of each forward burst of motion. This step step adjust
foot pattern has suggested the name "Three Legged Boxing" to Xing
Yi practitioners. Thus early Xing Yi training, quite in contrast
to say T'ai Chi completely emphasizes forward motion and explosive,
the Xing Yi stylist begins to really delve into the practice he
may find himself, or herself, doing the same action over and over
again for hundreds and even thousands of repetitions. This driving
forward motion coupled with the seemingly simple but highly concentrated
actions of the arms shows us much about Xing Yi's basic training
philosophy. While some styles of martial arts may emphasize strategy,
ingenuity and diversion: Xing Yi lays emphasis on neurological re structuring.
It strives to make certain types of actions the boxing equivalent
of pulling one's hand off a hot stove. The genius of Xing Yi is
that the actions developed for the Wu Xing as so close to normal
hand movements and yet so profoundly structured that repetition
actually becomes one of the Xing Yi stylists secret weapons. At
a certain point move have actually become completely natural. One
famous instructor of the 19th century, Guo Yun Shen, studied under
a teacher who didn't particularly like him and thus only taught
him one move in the first three years. In fact, had the teacher's
wife not gotten fed up and demanded Guo be taught more he would
hardly have learned even the Mother Fists. Nonetheless Guo was so
effective with his one punch that he didn't need any other technique
for the first half of his career. Xing Yi movements are said to
be so fast and powerful because the are absolutely spontaneous.
BRANCHES FROM ONE TREE
See Branches. The main divisions of Xing
Yi are named after local, just as the main branches of T'ai Chi
are named after families. In Xing Yi we have the ShanXi, HeNan and
HeBei divisions. If, as some say, Chi Long Feng was the creator
in the early 1600's then ShanXi would be the primordial Xing Yi
style. One of his students, Ma Hsueh, left after mastering the art
and traveled to HeNan to create that style (which even now contains
only 10 animal forms possibly because Ma never learned the other
two?). Another student, Ts'ao Chi Wu, transmitted the art to one
T'ai Ling Pang who really refined the Mother Fists. He called the
art, as has happened before in history, XIN Yi (Heart Will) Boxing
and his students referred to it then, as now, as Tai Chi (Tai Family)
Xin Yi (Heart Will or Mind) Boxing. One of Tai's student was named
Lin Lao Neng (or Li Neng Ran) who was, without a doubt, one of the
most famous and influential Xing Yi artists of all time.
only did Li teach a slew of top students (see heritage information
below) but he added and refined its formal exercises. In other word
he refined Xing Yi's curriuculum. His contributions include Wu Xing
LianHuan (Five Element Linking Form), Wu Xing Shen Ke, An Shen Pao
(Partner Form), Za Shi Chui and he added the Tuo (Water Lizard)
and Tai (Legendary Bird) animals.
three styles are all Xing Yi but have each distinctive characteristics.
HeBei, the most common, is harder and more "Gang" firm. ShanXI
is softer and more fluid with more apparent complexity. And HeNan
is still quite rarely seen and might be considered "hidden". But
all Xing Yi stylists share a common feeling for the efficacy and
directness of their mutual heritage.
KUNG & FIGHTING
interesting factor in Xing Yi training is its integration of stillness
and movement. While historically most styles,
after taking many decades and centuries to see how Ch'i
Kung training could be added to martial training nonetheless kept
these two separate. Xing Yi is a key style with actual integration
of this Yin and Yang of training. In Xing Yi a practitioner will
move with the speed of lightning and then halt, absolutely still,
gathering and relaxing simultaneously.
some this seems in stark contrast to Xing Yi's apparently forceful
forward thrust. But it is this relaxed and yet fully aware state
that Xing Yi gathers its energy and deepens its physical commitment.
To do a move simply,
smartly and directly requires a clarity that is only augmented by
Ti stance and the subtle preparedness of the Xing Yi stationary
due to its emphasis on Strong Shapes and repetitive
movement Xing Yi boasts one of the quickest methods for students
to actually feel the inner connectedness between the internal and
external aspects of their art. In truth, though often linked with
Ba Gua and T'ai Chi as INTERNAL SCHOOLS, we subscribe to that older,
and in our opinion, historically more accurate picture that says
there are NO "internal" or "external" schools
of martial arts just internal and external levels of performance.
After all everyone starts externally, moving limbs, torso and pelvis.
And then progresses, if they practice hard, to the subtler and more
internalized aspects of the art. But some styles, like Xing Yi,
make the transformation a little clearer though, of course, guarantee
There are many forms in Xing Yi and, due to its basic flexibility,
the line between formal and spontaneous can be blurred. But here
are some of the name of traditional forms one might encounter in
Xing Yi Spear
Xing Yi Sword
Xing Yi Saber
Xing Yi Staff
Five Elements Fist
Wu Xing LianHuan Five Elements Linking Fist
Twelve Animals Fist
Elements and Animals Linking Fist
Eight Skills Fist
Wu Xing Shen Ke
An Shen Pao (Partner Form)
Za Shi Chui