|NOTE: I study the original Xinyi Liuhe Quan from the Henan (also written “Honan”) lineage. Lu Song’gao is my great grandmaster (i.e. he taught Zhang Zhaoyuan, who taught my current instructor Wang Dapeng.)
XINYIQUAN AND XINGYIQUAN
In most of the materials both styles of Xinyiquan (Hsin-I Chuan) and Xingyiquan (Hsing-I Chuan) are called by the latter name. This is mainly because Xingyiquan is by far more popular and influential as well as because Xinyiquan for a long time has been considered lost art.
Xinyiquan (literally Mind-Intent Boxing) is said to have been created by Yue Fei, general, patriot and national hero who lived in Song dynasty (12th century). However historical records point at Ji Longfeng (Ji Jike) living in 17th century as the one who created the art on the basis of his experience in spear fighting. The art was passed to Ma Xueli, who transmitted it to moslem communities in Henan province and became the main self-defense mean Islam followers in China, kept in secret and not passed to people of other nationalities until 1930s. Another branch was passed to Dai clan in Shanxi province, who developed it into a very sophisticated and internalized art. Li Laoneng learnt from Dai clan in 19th century and taught in both Shanxi and Hebei provinces. It was Li and his students who made the art very popular. From their times the art changed its name into Xingyiquan (literally Shape-Intent Boxing) and was completely reformed into a style differing a lot from Xinyiquan. It was Xingyiquan that Yi Quan (Intent Boxing) was based on when created by Wang Xiangzhai.
There are other arts closely related to Xinyiquan. One is Shaolin Xinyiba, the most treasured of all Shaolin styles, while he other is called Jin Family Gongfu (Skill) and is still practiced by a small number of practitioners in Sichuan province.
Technically Xinyi and Xingyi share common feature of straight line drills, with direct and effective movements. The difference between styles lies in basic methods: Xinyi is based on Dantian methods, practiced in movement, while Xingyi stresses importance of still standing in San Ti stance.
Of all internal arts Xinyiquan and Xingyiquan were considered those that could give the fighting skill in shortest time due to its focus on Obvious Power during the first years of practice. As Chinese saying goes "Taiji does not leave practice hall for ten years, while Xinyi kills in one year".
XINYI LIUHE QUAN - THE SECRET ART OF THE MUSLEMS
Part One - Brief History
by Jarek Szymanski
Text - Jarek Szymanski; photos - Jarek Szymanski and from author's collection
© J.Szymanski 2002
Xinyi Liuhe Quan (literally - Fist of Mind, Intention and Six Harmonies) is a martial art that has developed in Henan Province among Chinese Hui (Moslem) nationality. It is considered one of the most powerful and fighting-oriented styles among other Chinese Martial Arts, and for a long time it has been known for its effectiveness in fighting, while very few actually knew the practice methods of the style. Xinyi Liuhe Quan, along with Cha Quan and Qi Shi Quan (Boxing of Seven Postures), have been considered "Jiao Men Quan" ("religious - e.g. Moslem - boxing") meant to protect followers of Islam in China.
For more than two centuries the style had been kept secret and transmitted only to very few Moslem practitioners. Only at the beginning of this century first native Chinese (Han nationality) learnt the style, but still up to now the most skilful experts of Xinyi Liuhe Quan can be found within Hui communities in China.
Since the arts of Xinyi and Xingyiquan are generally divided into Hebei, Shanxi and Henan branches, the style is also called Henan Xinyi/Xingyi. In the West the style is often referred to as Ten Animals Xingyi.
The early history of the style is not very clear.
According to "Preface to Six Harmonies Boxing" ("Liuhequan Xu") written in 1750, the style was created by Yue Fei who "as a child learnt from a master of deep knowledge and became very skilful at spear play; (on this basis) he created a boxing method to teach his officers and called it "Intention Boxing" (Yi Quan); (the martial art was) marvelous and ingenious, unlike any other before. After the King (e.g. Yue Fei) (passed away), during Jin, Yuan and Ming dynasties the art was rarely seen. Master Ji, called Ji Jike, also known as Ji Longfeng living at the end of Ming and beginning of Qing dynasties in Zhufeng of Pudong (today's Zun Village in Shanxi Province), went to Zhongnan Mountains to visit teachers with deep knowledge there and received the boxing manual of King Wumu (e.g. Yue Fei) (...)".
The art of Xinyi Liuhe Quan was passed secretly among Chinese Moslems and has been known as "the most cruel style among Chinese martial arts"
According to "Ji Clan Chronicles" (Ji Shi Jiapu) Ji Longfeng's spear skill was extraordinary and he was known as "Divine Spear" (Shen Qiang). Ji (also known as Ji Jike) created a fist boxing using spear principles and taught in Henan.
These two texts talk about creating martial art on the basis of spear, although the first one attributes it to Yue Fei, while the other one - to Ji Longfeng.
Recently one of Chinese martial arts magazines published an article about a discovery of a new branch of Xinyiquan, related neither to Moslem nor Dai Family. The style is practiced only in a very small community in a small village in Henan Province. Many facts seem to support the thesis that the style is a "living remain" of Yue Fei's boxing from before Ji Longfeng's times. For example - one of the rules of that style does not allow to pass the boxing to people with the last name Qin - probably because Yue Fei was betrayed (which resulted in death sentence) by Qin Hui, minister in Song court. The style shows some similarity to other Xinyi branches, but its movements are simpler, methodology of Neigong (internal exercises) is practically non-existent and emphasis is put on practical fighting skills.
The first Moslem to learn the art and pass it to his disciples was Ma Xueli (about 1714-1790) of Luoyang in Henan Province.
The connection between Ma Xueli and Ji Longfeng is not completely clear and even Ma clan members did not know the name of Ma's teacher. A wandering master of unknown name who spent several years in Luoyang's Beiyao village was considered by them to be Ma Xueli's teacher. It is said that Ma's teacher for some reasons (one of them could be involvement in anti-Qing movement) wanted to keep his name secret.
On the other hand Moslem Xinyi Liuhe Quan practitioners in Lushan and other towns in Henan Province of lineages not directly related to that in Luoyang knew about Ji Longfeng and considered him to be Ma's teacher. This is probably because of the exchanges between one of Moslem Xinyi Liuhe Quan masters, Mai Zhuangtu, and Dai clan members.
A popular story says that Ma Xueli heard about Ji Longfeng and went to Ji's village in neighbouring Shanxi Province to study Xinyiquan. However since Ji did not teach martial art openly, Ma pretended to be deaf and dumb and was hired as Ji's servant. In this way Ma could observe Ji practicing Xinyiquan and within three years Ma not only learnt a lot but also became very skilful. After three years Ma was supposed to leave Ji's home and told his master about everything. Ma was asked to demonstrate what he had learnt and Ji realized he was very talented. Moved by Ma's sincerity Ji accepted Ma as his disciple and taught the complete art of Xinyiquan to him.
Further research into history and techniques of Xinyi Liuhe Quan suggests that the style could be a compilation of at least two styles - old Moslem style of Liuhequan (Six Harmonies Boxing; style different from Shaolin's Liuhequan; the name came from the name of six-cornered caps that Moslems used to wear) and Xinyiquan (Mind and Intention Boxing) coming - probably - from Ji Longfeng. Xinyi Liuhe Quan practised nowadays consists of two main parts - fist techniques (so-called "Ten Famous Fists" - Shi Da Ming Quan - originating from old Liuhequan) and movements imitating animals (Ten Big Shapes - of Xinyiquan origin).
Ma Xueli taught very few disciples and only three of them are known: Ma Xing, Ma Sanyuan, Zhang Zhicheng.
Currently the most important branches of Henan Xinyi Liuhe Quan are:
1. Luoyang Style, established by Ma Xing (also called Ma Style);
2. Lushan Style, coming from Zhang Zhicheng; the style was later developed by Mai Zhuangtu and hence is also referred to as Mai Style;
Ma Xing was Ma Xueli's nephew; he learnt the system of Xinyi Liuhe Quan and later reorganized the original set of many single movements he inherited from Ma Xueli into less and more complex routines. Ma Xing's style has been secretly transmitted within Ma clan relatives and Moslem community of Luoyang and re-discovered in late 80s. It is known as "Luoyang branch of Xinyi Liuhe Quan" and is a relatively unknown martial art. Ma Xing passed the art to his son, Ma Meihu; Ma Meihu was born in 1805 and passed away in 1928, living 119 years. His disciple, Liu Wanyi, first learnt from Ma Xing and then continued martial art study under his cousin, Ma Meihu.
In Luoyang Style Xinyi Liuhe Quan single movements taught by Ma Xueli were combined into short routines by Ma Xing
Once Liu Wanyi was invited to teach in Nanyang and immediately after arrival was challenged by a famous local fighter, Li Hu. Liu asked Li to attack first and Li striked with both fists to Liu's ears. Liu blocked the strike, and then immediately grasped Li's belt with one hand and pulled him at the same time hitting Li's head and breaking his backbone.
Liu's best disciple was Ma Mengle (Ma Mengluo), who taught many disciples in Luoyang, both Moslems and Hans (native Chinese).
Ma Sanyuan's skill was said to be very good, however Ma had bad temper and killed many people in fights. Later he became mentally sick and killed himself. Ma Sanyuan organized famous Siba (Four Seizes) routine into 36 movements so that it contained the essence of both fist and animal styles. Although generally Ma Sanyuan is considered to not have left any disciples, actually there are still practitioners who inherited Ma Sanyuan's style. They live in remote villages in central Henan's countryside.
The most thriving lineage of Henan Xinyi Liuhe Quan comes through another of Ma Xueli's disciples - Zhang Zhicheng. Zhang was from Nanyang in Henan Province and taught the art to very few disciples; only his nephew, Li Zheng of Lushan County, inherited the complete system.
There are many stories about Li Zheng - one says that Li escorted caravans and used to practice Chicken Step (Ji Xing Bu) in the meantime - he first chased the caravan until he caught up with it, then walked in the opposite direction for a while and then again chased the caravan. In this way his legs became very strong, footwork evasive and movements agile. In his late years Li's skill became very refined so that he was able to push the challenging opponents far away while keeping a bowl full of water in one hand. Even one drop of water was not spilled.
Although Li Zheng is also the person often held responsible for passing the art of Xinyi Liuhe Quan to Dai Longbang and his sons (which happened when Dais opened an inn in Shijiadian in Henan), it is actually not clear whether it was "this" Li Zheng (Zhang Zhicheng's disciple) or somebody else with the same name.
Double Seize (Shuang Ba) performed by Mai Zhuangtu's inheritor from Hebei Province - this branch has been re-discovered only recently
Li Zheng's most famous Moslem disciple was Zhang Ju of Lushan in Henan Province.
According to one story Zhang owned a Moslem restaurant in Lushan and whenever Li Zheng was passing by Zhang invited him inside. Zhang treated Li with great respect and after ten years Li came to his restaurant and said to Zhang: "I know a high level neijia martial art and decided to pass it to you as you are a sincere man of high morals. You should practice it hard and in the future choose one or two students and teach them. If in your opinion none is worth teaching, keep it secret and do not teach it!". Later Zhang Ju achieved a very high level of skill in Xinyi Liuhe Quan.
Zhang had two disciples: Zhang Gen (his son) and nephew Mai Zhuangtu.
Zhang Gen studied the art since early childhood and at the age of 15 became an accomplished expert. He was called "Stove for Scrap" because he used to fight with many bandits proficient in martial arts and either kill or cripple them so that they could never fight again (this was called "taking the art back" and was a common practice in martial arts circles directed against students who did not follow the rules of Wude - Martial Virtue - and became bandits).
There is a story that once Zhang Ju's gongfu brother came to visit him. He sat on a wooden chair and asked about Zhang Gen's skill with disrespectful intonation in his voice. Zhang Gen told his gongfu uncle to watch him carefully and before the uncle was able to react Zhang Gen used Bear's Dan Ba (Single Seize, one of Xinyi Liuhe most famous techniques) to hit. Uncle was knocked out and it took him half a day to regain consciousness. The chair he was sitting on collapsed under him after Zhang Gen's strike.
Zhang Gen used to teach in many villages around his hometown and was often coming back home late in night. Once in a forest on his way he saw a shadow of a man in the darkness and decided to attack him with a "Sparrow Hawk Flies into Forest" (Yaozi Ru Lin) technique. However what appeared to him to be a man was in reality a thick branch of a tree and Zhang died pierced by the branch.
Another famous disciple of Zhang Ju was Mai Zhuangtu, nowadays the most respected master of Lushan lineage.
Mai Zhuangtu (1829-1892), native of Lushan in Henan Province. Mai was doing leather trading business and often traveling across Henan and neighbouring provinces. He is responsible for spreading Xinyi Liuhe Quan to Zhoukou in Henan, which became the main center of the style in this century. Only recently it became known with "discovery" of Xinyi Liuhe Quan in Shanxi and Hebei Provinces that during his travels Mai visited also Qi County in Shanxi Province, Dai clan hometown, and taught some students there. This is probably where Mai heard about Ji Longfeng as the creator of Xinyi boxing. There are also some stories about visits of Taigu Xingyi masters to Mai's hometown, Lushan, which are inscribed on a memorial tablet at Black Tiger Bridge in Lushan. Technically Xinyi Liuhe Quan passed by Mai Zhuangtu shares many common features with Dai family Xinyi.
Generaly speaking Mai Zhuangtu made the following contributions to Xinyi Liuhe Quan:
Bao Ding (also known as Bao Xianting, 1865-1942) in a movement from famous Siba routine - "Bear's Posture of Tiaoling" (Tiaoling Xiongshi)
*simplified the old style 36-movements Siba routine into a four movement set which became one of the most essential training methods in Lushan branch of Xinyi Liuhe Quan;
*through exchange with Dai Family Xinyi practitioners probably incorporated some Dai branch practice methods into Moslem style (although the contents of this exchange and its influence on both Dai and Moslem branches would require further research);
*spread Xinyi Liuhe Quan all over Henan Province as well as in Shanxi and Shaanxi Provinces; Zhoukou in Henan with its Moslem community became the most influential center of the style;
Mai skills were legendary.
According to one of the stories Mai Zhuangtu was once sitting with his cousin, also Xinyi Liuhe Quan expert, Li Haisen (famous for his Dan Ba), discussing boxing methods. The cousin became very unhappy about the noise of sparrows sitting on a nearby tree and wanted to break the tree. Mai stopped him and while lifting the bamboo curtain covering the entrance, he caught the sparrow alive with the other hand. Another time, in Wuyang County, asked by Ding Zhaoxiang, local Imam, Mai demonstrated "Sticking to Butterfly Method" - he covered a flying butterfly with hand and was following it so that the butterfly could not escape from below Mai's palm. Mai was also famous for hitting his opponents so that they were pushed into the air, and then catching them so that they did not fall on the ground after the strike and hurt themselves.
Mai Zhuangtu had many disciples of whom the most famous were: Mai Xueli (son), Ding Zhaoxiang of Wuyang County, An Daqing of Chang'an (today's Xi'an; both Ding Zhaoxiang and An Daqing were Imams, Islam priests), Yuan Fengyi (Zhoukou) and Yuan Changqing (Zhoukou).
An Daqing's student, Bao Ding (Bao Xianting, 1865-1942) wrote first book on Xinyi Liuhe Quan published openly in 1931, "Xingyi Boxing Manual". His another book "Illustrated Explanation to Internal Method in Thirteen Parts" was published in 1927.
Yuan Changqing passed his art to Mai Jinkui of Zhoukou, who later moved to Wuhan in Hubei Province. Mai is said to fight a lot to survive in Wuhan (Hankou). Using his favourite weapon, heavy two-sectional staff only, Mai defeated many local gangs and became the head of harbor workers in Hankou.
Yuan Fengyi's four most famous students were: Shang Xueli, Yang Dianqing, Lu Song'gao (these three were called "Three Heroes from Zhoukou") and Song Guobin.
Lu Song'gao (?-1962) brought Xinyi Liuhe Quan from Henan's countryside to Shanghai - on the photo in "Dragon Wraps and Strikes to the Side" (Long Xing Guo Heng) movement
Shang Xueli first learnt Chazi boxing (boxing emphasizing hardening skills) from Yuan Fengyi and became his disciple. Later, when Yuan was defeated by Mai Zhuangtu and became Mai's disciple, Shang Xueli started to learn Xinyi Liuhe Quan from both Mai Zhuangtu and Yuan Fengyi. Shang was Yuan's best disciple and won Leitai (free fighting) competitions in Kaifeng where he used a combination of "Back Power" (Bei Jin) and knee strike (Ti Xi) defeating Shaolin expert, Zhang Qilin (who died few days later of internal injury).
Lu Song'gao (?-1962) was the first one to popularize the art and teach it to non-Moslems. Lu killed a man in a fight in his hometown, Zhoukou, and had to flee. He first went to Wuhan where he met Tie family (Mai Zhuangtu's adopted daughter was married to Tie Bing), then to Anhui Province, where he stayed for some time with his gongfu brother Song Guobin. Finally Lu moved and settled down in Shanghai, where he defeated many famous martial artists. Later, along with more Moslem Xinyi Liuhe experts coming to the city, Shanghai became new center of the art.
Just what is this strange looking martial art? Why is it different? What makes it so powerful?
For the record, Xingyiquan is pronounced "shing-EE chwen" and can vary slightly depending on the Chinese dialect.
It can be spelled many different ways, such as: "Xingyiquan," "Xing Yi Quan," "Hsing-I Chuan," Hsing Yi Ch'uan," etc. Pinyin is the official English romanization of the Chinese language, so I went with that - hence the spelling:"Xingyiquan."
Xingyiquan is a very old Chinese martial art that most believe originated in the early 1600s. It is a very powerful art which is classified as an internal system like it's sister arts Taijiquan (Tai Chi) and Baguaquan. However, Xingyi's mindset is that of an aggressive nature. Where Taijiquan yields and and blends with an opponent's attack, and Bagua circles and evades, Xingyi smashes right through the opponent in a linear fashion with an unrelenting attack.
Xingyiquan is a no-nonsense fighting system - relatively easy to learn, but difficult and long to master. Proper body mechanics and quieting of the mind and body are of utmost importance to excel in this art. The power is generated from the ground in the Xingyi practitioner's legs, funneled up through the body and out the arms. In fact, when the practitioner strikes, he is striking with his entire body, not just his fists.
The heart of Xingyi are five fist forms or "wu xing." These are short repetitive forms each depicted by the Chinese five elements of metal, wood, water, fire and earth. Each one generates a different kind of energy or fighting power and each one corresponds to an internal organ of the body. Advanced training introduces twelve animal forms based on the five fists.
THE NATURE OF THE ART
Ok...if you've just read the previous section, hopefully you grasped the general overview of what Xingyiquan is.
Now what about some of the specifics? What are the movements and forms like? What is the Xingyi mindset? Is it only for self-defense? Read on...
Xingyi boxers move linearally, stepping forward or angling in and out on straight lines. The basic posture, San Ti Shi, enables them to do that. The feet, the head and the lead hand are usually held on the same vertical plane, so the practitioner moves directly into the opponent, in contrast to many other fighting styles that often have circular motions, sidestepping patterns, and body shifting.
A Xingyi boxer rarely puts his weight on the front foot and almost never assumes a posture where the weight is evenly distributed. When he does move, it is from one leg to another, much as a chicken moves when running.
The linear stepping techniques naturally reveals Xingyi's strategy - offense. Unlike the passive approach stereotyped with internal arts, the Xingyi boxer will take the offense immediately and not let up until the enemy is down.
To achieve such ferocity, a Xingyi boxer will train in forcing the opponent back (and under the stress of the moment, people do tend to move straight back as a reflex to escape). Once the opponent back steps and provides space, the boxer will press into the space while delivering another powerful attack with coordinated body movements and attacks from the centerline.
Xingyi stylists practice few movements with high numbers of repetition. Compared to the forms of many northern styles, Xingyi's forms are comparatively short, some having only one movement. The essence of Xingyi consists of five fist movements, known as five elemental boxing, and practioners practice the five moves relentlessly, realizing that in a fight these are the ones they will use.
A Xingyi boxer learns that every movement in the art has a purpose for consuming the opponent. Perhaps that is the reason why in a small region among the Yellow River's plains and valleys the art earned the reputation as a no-nonsense approach to fighting.
STYLES - SHANXI, HENAN & HEBEI
There are three main branchs of Xingyiquan, all named after the location they were concevied in: Shanxi, Henan and Hebei.
If we consider that modern Xingyi began with Ji Long Feng during the early 1600s, then the original style is from Shanxi.
Ji then taught his system to Cao Ji Wu & Ma Xue Li. Ma left Shanxi and took his teaching to Henan, thus creating the Henan style which to this day only consists of the 10 animal forms.
Cao transmitted his entire art to Dai Long Bang. Dai Long Bang further developed the art introducing the 5 elements to the art. He was famous for Xinyi (Heart-Mind), not Xingyi (Form-Mind), and their boxing is still called Dai Family Xinyiquan to this day.
The majority of Northern style Xingyi still practiced today, however, can be traced back to one of Dai's best students, Li Lao Neng (also known as Li Neng Ran) who was nicknamed "Divine Fist Li". Li is considered one of most famous exponents of the art.
Li Lao Neng refined the whole style and varied the use of the elements. Many consider him the "father" of Xingyiquan. He also added the following forms to the style : Wu Xing Lianhuan, Wu Xing Sheng Ke, An Shen Pao, Za Shi Chui and two additional animal forms bringing the total to twelve: the Water Lizard (Tuo) and Tai Bird Forms.
Li later returned to Hebei and began teaching there resulting in the modified Hebei style.
The Henan style is still very rare to this day, while Hebei remains the most common style, especially here in the West. The Shanxi style is more fluid and it's animal movements are a bit more complex with emphasis placed on the type of internal energy you're trying to generate. Shanxi is generally practiced very smooth and softly at first. Hebei is more straightforward and simplistic, concentrating on gang jing or "hard power," which is later refined to hidden power.
Because of the nature of the art, there isn't much bickering among Xingyi practioners as to whose branch is the best or more effective. Mutual respect is generally held between the camps, for all branches of Xingyi utilize the same internal principles and same modus operendi - to take the enemy down hard, fast and without mercy.
NEI JIA & WEI JIA - INTERNAL AND EXTERNALS SYSTEMS
Wei Jia means external and Nei Jia means internal. The meaning of the two terms reflects the emphasis of philosophy by two different systems. Simply put, we can say Wei Jia focuses only on the development of external, while Nei Jia cultivates internal and then expresses it externally. "Externally" meaning physical movement of itself. Internal is made from two main ingredients: intention and Qi. From the dynamic nature of intention, Qi is born, which in turn transforms into physical expression. In other words, intention and Qi help lead and formulate physical movement. Because Nei Jia movement is lead by intention and Qi from start to end, the integration of intention, Qi and expression is a whole complete entity from start to end. There is no pause or break between intentions during the time of the whole movement. While in the external systems, if we examine them carefully in a microscopic sense, we can see the separation between intention of this movement with the next. The intention of Wei Jia is pure activated intention of the physical expression. The activated intention helps initiate the muscle contraction, and after completing its main purpose, it disappears.
The physical expression caused by activated intention now is on its own orbit. The muscle contraction is a natural build-up of subconscious muscle function. In that small elapsed time, our brain has neither awareness nor any control over that movement. In summary, while Wei Jia focuses on natural born sub-conscious muscle operation, Nei Jia is a keen awareness of conscious control movement from start to end with possible alteration.
We understand what Qi Gong exercise is: It is an exercise to cultivate our Qi. Wei Jia certainly has its Qi Gong routines. They are exercise routines with body regional focus and they are separate from fighting routines. On the contrary, Nei Jia is the combination of Qi Gong and fighting routines from beginning to the end. The fighting routine is designed in such a way that they will not contradict to Qi Gong practice principles. In a fighting situation, the body will naturally gravitate to the fighting aspect rather than Qi Gong. This is a sense in which the intention is now devoted to anticipate fighting. In more relaxed state of mind, the fighting form is turned into the Qi cultivation routine, with all the internal principles coming into play. The principles have both Qi Gong values and fighting application meanings. Keep in mind that at all times, the same movement serves two kinds of uses: wartime and peacetime. Any system in its wartime routines that cannot be used in peacetime to cultivate Qi, is not Nei Jia. They are then defined as Wei Jia. For example, a stretching posture in an external system does not provide the capability of Qi sinking to the dan-tian while at the same time maintaining intention connectivity.
Softness and hardness are just a result of any dimensional expression. External can be soft but it violates Qi Gong principles. Internal can be hard but by the result of intention and Qi that it formulates into. Softness and hardness cannot be the guiding rule to make the decision. The three major internal systems share major internal principles that help cultivate Qi. These principles should be the guideline to help categorize internal and external. Looking back in Chinese martial art history, we see the internal martial arts as just a brilliant idea of combining fighting applications and separate Qi Qong routines into one single system. Denying this is taking a step back in the advancement of the martial system, and undoing the efforts of its creators. Only with this clear cut understanding of what is Nei Jia and Wei Jia will help the Nei Jia practitioner go to the next level. This, in turn, preserves the true identity of Nei Jia for the future generations to come.
QI - THE UNIVERSAL ENERGY
Qi (chi) is the life essence, or energy, that enlivens all things. The concept of qi is found throughout Chinese traditional arts, ranging from medicine and acupuncture to gong fu and feng shui. Qi is divided into two types: cosmic qi and human qi. Cosmic qi encompasses air, movement, gas, weather, and force, while human qi implies breath, manner, and energy. The two types of cannot be clearly separated; in fact human qi is strongly influenced by cosmic qi.
The Chinese believe that everything that lives has qi. As one grows old the body degenerates due to the gradual lose of qi. That is why internal martial arts like Xingyiquan are not only effective fighting systems, but also very beneficial to ones health. The practitioner learns to cultivate and use ones qi for power, while at the same time strengthening the internal organs and heightening the mind and spirit, which leads to a long and healthy life.
Qi flows through the human body along pathways called meridians. Acupuncture doctors free up blocked or stagnant qi by inserting needles along the meridians into specific areas of the body called pressure points. At higher levels of martial arts training, one learns how to strike these points, which can render an opponent unconscious or even kill.
DAN TIAN - THE ELIXER FIELD
Xingyi, as well as Bagua and Taiji, utilize a system in which the center of breathing is low down in the body. The breath is drawn to the area three inches below the navel. This point is called the lower Dan Tian, 'the cinnabar field' or 'the elixir field'. It is the center of the body's balance and storage area for qi. The muscles of the diaphragm are trained to draw air into the lungs in the most beneficial method of breathing that is used by singers, in yoga, and in relaxation systems. Babies arrive in the world breathing this way.
While it is commonly known the Dan Tian is generally the spot 3 inches below the navel, it actually encompasses all the internal organs.
FAH JING - TRANSFERRING POWER
After learning to cultivate qi in the body, one learns to convert the qi into useable power and project it from the body. This procedure is called Fah Jing. Fah means "transfer" or projection," and Jing means "power." As soon as qi is condensed inward toward the center of the body, the mind actively "burns" or "accelerates" it and converts it into a different form of energy - one that feels like an electric current and in some cases even like an electric shock. By following the proper practice procedures, one can then achieve control of this feeling and success in Fah Jing, the transfer of power.
In Xingyi, the primary focus is developing yang, not yin, internal power. The body remains soft until the final moment of contact during a strike at which point the body stiffens. The results are explosive, likened to that of a mortar round going off. In a fraction of a second, the jing is transferred out of the body like a cannonball, aggressively obliterating the opponent.
WU JI - STATE OF EMPTINESS
Wu Ji is a philosophical term. It originally means the most primary phenomenon of the cosmos. In Xingyiquan uan it means that before practicing the art, one should be empty in the mind; without any thought or intention. Nothing is held in the heart, there are no motives in the mind, no visual power in the eyes, no dance in the hands or feet, no movements in the body, no distinguishing between Yin and Yang, no distinction between clear and turbid. Have the mind and consciousness in a calm state. That is the situation of no intention.
Those who skills become perfectly proficient can master yin and yang and are able to correct the physiological functions of the internal organs in order to guide the qi and return to the pre-heaven, or the initial origin. This is the same state a newborn baby comes into the world. The ultimate goal of Xing Yi is to attain this nothingness. Then the gong fu will flow from your body without thought, without intention, reacting without thinking.
TAIJI - SUPREME POLES
Each Xingyiquan form generally begins with the static Wu Ji posture, then a movement into San Ti. The old texts refer to these transitional movements as Taiji and Liangyi. This movement will vary depending on the style and familly.
Example of Shanxi method - the raise the arms up, circling up above the head, the hands turning palm down and into fists in front of the navel while twisting the upper body to the right. As the fists pass the heart, the whole body sinks at the knees, allowing the qi to sink to the dan tian. Then the right fist comes up the centerline as the body twists to the left and you step into San Ti.
Example of Hebei method - in our style, the right foot dragon steps forward while the hands ball into fists palm side down and arrive between the navel and right hip one fist apart while the upper body twists to the right. Then the right fist shoots out and the left fist chambers as the upper body returns to the forward position. From there, the left fists moves up the centerline to the right elbow and you split into San Ti.
Some call this the Infinity posture and is used for drawing qi into the body and for beginning most Xingyi forms.
From there, you begin the actual form you are practicing, repeating as space allows, then you turn and go back the same amount of repetitions.
SAN TI SHI - THREE BODY POSTURE
The foundation of Xingyiquan is it's stance keeping practice called San Ti Shi (also known as San Cai) , which means "Three Body Posture" or "Trinity Posture." It is the very core of training and develops many of the qualities essential to the development of martial ability.
The "three bodies" refers to the three phases all together, i.e. heaven, earth, and the human being. It corresponds to the head, hands, and feet in Xingyiquan. These phases are again divided into three sections.
Head - The position of the head is the key to the alignment of the whole body. When standing, the head is gently lifted upwards allowing the entire body to release tension and align itself properly with gravity. The chin is slightly tucked down and in while the head is pulled back and slightly up, as if hung on a meat hook. The Eyes are level, looking straight ahead and into the distance. Sometimes the eyes will be closed. The ears "listen" behind you and to the sounds of the body. The facial muscles remain relaxed; one should not wrinkle the forehead creating tension between the eyebrows. The tongue is curved upwards, touching the roof of the mouth and thus connecting the Ren and Du meridians, allowing the circuit to complete and the qi flow smoothly.
Body - The body should be centered and balanced. The shoulders drop and "get behind" the arms as the chest is relaxed and sunk slightly inwards. The shoulders should never lift upwards and should align with the hips. The buttocks are relaxed and have a sinking feeling. "Get into your legs" by pulling the tailbone slightly forward and under. This roots you better to the earth and straightens out the spine. The testicles should be lifted. As the body moves forward, the head and shoulders should reamain on the same horizontal plane.
Hands and Arms - The arms and hands are relaxed and held in gentle curves. They should never be fully extended. The fingers are separated and "shaped like hooks," allowing the qi to flow to the ends of the fingertips unimpeded. The hands are open and the palms deep. The elbows should feel heavy (with the mind) and remain dropped, protecting the ribs. "The hands never leave the heart, the elbows never leave the ribs." The index finger of both hands should be on the same vertical plane as the nose, or your centerline. The bottom hand should be at the navel or Dan Tian area.
Feet and Legs - The knees are slightly bent, never passing the vertical line which passes through the tips of the toes. Your weight should be in the back leg in a 70/30 distribution. This may vary a bit depending on the style. The feet grip the ground as if you were trying to pick up the ground with your toes. They should be visualized as twisting inwards and down like the powerful roots of a tree, gripping the ground - rooted, but ready to move without a thought.
PRINCIPLES - PRACTICE
Essential Knowledge for the Practice of Marital arts
by Dai Long Bang, 1750
Solo and Partner Practice - For those practicing martial arts, eighty percent of the time is spent in solo practice, twenty percent of the time is spent with others. Therefore, it is said, "The time strengthening the body is long, the time defeating opponents is short."
Daily Practice - One must practice every day, barring illness, without break.
Humility - One must not show off or bully others.
Quality vs Quantity - One who practices too great a variety will become panicked and distraught , if one does not train the body with a realistic foundation, in combat there will be no mature technique to fall back on, one will have neither a well trained body nor a solid technique.
Perseverance - There are those who have no perseverance, who study a little and think they know it all, they are quite satisfied with themselves and rarely practice, they think they are a great success, until they have to use the art and find themselves useless.
Before practice - The stomach should be neither too full or too empty, the mind should not be preoccupied with other affairs, do not practice when angry. When hungry one has no energy, too full and the stomach will be injured. Extraneous thoughts harm the brain. Anger harms the spirit.
During practice - Do not fool around. Do not spit. Do not be disrespectful. If one is not serious in practice the spirit is dispersed, spitting inflames the throat, disrespect weakens the practice.
After practice - Do not eat or drink, do not relieve yourself, do not lay down. Food and drink will not digest well, elimination causes qi to scatter, laying down causes the qi to rise causing discomfort.
The Three Harms - Those who practice martial arts must avoid the three harms.
1 - Inappropriate use of strength
2 - Forcing of breath
3 - Sticking out the chest and pulling up the belly
If one uses strength inappropriately, the qi will not flow smoothly, the meridians will be obstructed and the body will become bogged down. If one forces the breath, one will become stiff and easy to break, with the chest full of air the lungs will be squeezed and will suffer harm. If one sticks out the chest and sucks in the belly, the qi will move the wrong direction and will rise, it will not return to the dan tian.
Seeking Instruction - In order to study martial arts, one must be diligent in two areas. First, one must be willing to travel great distances in order to study with those of higher ability and sincerely request instruction. One must also be diligent in speech, humbling the self and asking for guidance.
Force and Self-satisfaction - In practicing the martial arts there are two things which must be avoided, the first is reliance upon force, the second is self-satisfaction.
Start Practice Slowly - After a period of practicing slowly, it is good to use more force and speed in order to increase the internal power for practical purposes.
Sequence of practice - At the beginning of practice stand in San Ti, afterwards practice forms.
Stages of Training - After beginning formal practice, one must follow the rules of training, if so, in three years the basic training will be complete. In the intermediate stages of training, practice single forms repeatedly, use the form to express the intent. After a long period of practice one will be able to change spontaneously with the circumstances. After six years one will complete this level of training. In advanced stages of training, both the internal and external gong fu will be completed, your body will become as hard as steel, your gong fu will be of a high level.
PRINCIPLES - FIGHTING
When practicing, imagine as if you are facing a top fighter. However, in real combat, the mind is calm, and the face is not angry. "Be like there´s no one in front of you". The body remains relaxed at all times. Whole body power cannot be used with tense muscles and a worried mind. The body strikes in the manner of a bamboo pole: It´s flexible before reaching the opponent, and at the time of contact, the whole body tenses for a second, and the strikes come out with shocking force.
The important point is to keep the eyes alive, the body must be ready to follow the intention and keep the distance. If the opponent doesn´t move, the Xingyi practicioner doesn´t move. If the opponent makes one little movement, or hesitates, thus closing the distance, the Xingyi fighter advances with quick steps, breaking the enemy´s defense, and strikes him, with multiple attacks or simultaneous attack and defense, gaining space and not letting him step away from the attack, until the enemy is down. The mindset is finishing the encounter as soon as possible.
If the Xingyi fighter attacks first, he/she won´t let the enemy even know where the attack's coming from. One hand shows up, creating a reaction in the opponent. Based on that reaction, the Xingyi technique changes, attacking in many different ways, with shocking strikes that hurt, no matter where they land. (Because of its shocking nature, even a strike on the shoulder will transfer energy to the neck of the opponent, shaking his head with extreme force). Then, a fast takedown will finish the fight.
Xingyi trains the fighter to attack with every part of the body, specially with the "Seven Stars" (Head, Shoulder, elbow, hand, hips, knees and feet). Together with the whole body, they form the "Fourteen Fists". The fist come out like a shooting arrow, with force and vicious speed. The head, shoulders, hips and knees are very dangerous in close combat. Any of this parts of the body, being trained with the practice of Xingyi, can deliver a dangerous strike.
In standing grappling situations, the Xingyi fighter doesn´t spend too much time. He uses attacks to break the hold by striking the opponent, followed with techniques intended to finish the fight before the enemy tries to grapple again.
Xingyi is a devastating fighting art, training the individual to strike even as he retreats, or turns.
Generally the fighting stance is a 45° position, with one foot ahead of the other. This protects the 'gates' of the body, because they are more hard to see, this way. Also, a smaller target is presented in this position. In addition to that, in this way is easier to move into the opponent´s range.
With all this in mind, one can understand how an art like Xingyi has stood the test of time. From the Chinese soldier on the battlefield to the modern day practitioner, this no-nonsense aggresive fighting art excels at what martial arts were created for, not health or character development ... but striped down highly effective fighting.