THE DEVELOPMENT OF XINGYIQUAN*
Xing-yi quan (form and intent boxing) is an ancient style which holds an important place in the history of Chinese martial arts. It has been known variously as xin-yi quan(heart and mind boxing),
xing-yi quan(theory and practice boxing),
xin-yi liu-he quan(heart and mind six harmonies boxing), and liu-he quan(six harmonies boxing)
and is still called xin-yi quan(heart and mind boxing) in some areas of China.
Some say the name xingyiquan is used because of the high degree of unity demanded between internal and external- the intent manifesting the internal and the body manifesting the external form.
Others say it is because xingyiquan is an animal imitative style that creates its shapes in the imagination.
According to historical records, xingyi has a history of over three hundred years. It was created in Puzhou, Shanxi province, during the period of the late Ming and early Qing dynasties.
Its creation is generally credited to Ji Longfeng, although various records also give his name as Ji Jike, or two separate people, Ji Long and Ji Feng. One record written in Henan in 1735, states, "There are a lot of martial styles whose origins are unknown, but we do know that liuhe boxing comes from two men in Shanxi called Ji Long and Ji Feng who lived at the end of the Ming dynasty. They so excelled in spear techniques that many considered them spirits, and there was much speculation about who their teachers might have been. They thought that in their time of peace, when all weapons had been melted down or put away, they would have no idea how to fight if they met with an unexpected attack. This is why they developed spear techniques into hand techniques.
This fighting theory came from one source but took on a myriad of different forms, and the style was called liuhe. "This record also states; "The heart is united with intent, intent is united with energy, and energy is united with force, the shoulder is united with the hip, the elbow with the knee, and the hand with the foot. These are the six harmonies. "A later record, written at the end of the Qing dynasty, states; "This style came from two people, Ji Long and Ji Feng, from Puzhou in Shanxi province. They came from local families and trained in martial arts for many years, but there is no record of any prior generations."
Some sources on Xingyi claim that it was created in the Song dynasty by Yue Fei, while others say it was brought from India late in the fifth century by Da Mo. A record from 1750 states that Yue Fei excelled at spear techniques, used these in his fist technique, and taught a style called yi quan(boxing of intent) which was outstanding.
The record continues "One surnamed Ji with the name Jike, also called Longfeng born at the end of the Ming or beginning of the Qing dynasty, from the Feng clan in Pudong, trained with famous Masters in the southern mountains. He excelled in boxing with Wu Mawang and later learned from Cao Jiwu." There are no historical records however, of Yue Fei, Da Mo, or Cao Jiwu in relation to Xingyi, and many scholars of wushu history feel there is inadequate proof that they developed Xingyi boxing.
Also, according to a Shaolin monk, in their Shaolin temple at Lingshan mountain they were practicing a style called xinyi quan (heart and mind boxing) or xinyi ba (heart and mind grappling) since very early on, and it was one of the best styles of the temple. In 1963 Li Tian Ji, in the context of a research conducted on Xingyi, went to the temple to see the style xinyi ba practised by the old monk Wu Shanlin. He draw the conclusion that the character of his movements was very similar to the xingyi quan as it is practiced nowadays, something that should give food for thought to xingyi historians. It remains to be investigated to what extent the xinyi ba of the Shaolin temple is related to the xingyi quan taught by Ji Longfeng.
Ancient records clearly state that, from the beginning, xingyi placed equal emphasis on health and fighting, and that the style was quite straightforward. The basic techniques were six forward stances and six back stances. The forward stances were powerful and the back stances were soft.
The movements emphasized the six harmonies, five elements, and alternation between power and softness. The basic requirements were the body of a dragon, the shoulders of a bear, the legs of a chicken, the hands of an eagle, the hugging arms of a tiger, and the sound of thunder.
By 1736, xingyi was widespread in Henan,Shanxi and Hebei provinces.
Ma Xueli in Luoyang (Henan province),
Dai Longbang in Qi county (Shanxi province), and his student
Li Luoneng in Shenzhou (Hebei province) continued the tradition of xingyi and taught many students.
Xingyi developed a great deal over the next hundred years, with many skilled practitioners all around China. Xingyi proved to be a solid fighting style, and evolved many more techniques and a variety of branches.
For example, in Shanxi the style is tight and crisp with clean and agile power; in Henan the style is fierce, tough, and solid; in Hebei the style is expansive, stable and solid.
Every region has its own variations. There is considerable interaction between Shanxi and Hebei provinces, so their contents are quite similar. The basics in both provinces are the 'three bodies stance' (santishi), the techniques of the five elements- split, drive, drill, cannon, and wring (pi, beng, zuan, pao, heng) and twelve animals - dragon, tiger, monkey, horse, alligator, chicken, sparrow hawk, swallow, snake, wedge-tailed hawk, eagle, and bear (Long, Hu, Hou, Ma, Tuo, Ji, Yao, Yan, She, Tai, Ying, Xiong ).
In the following years many xingyi masters have contributed much in the way of theory and technique.
Among those who work to spread xingyi are Guo Yunshen, Li Cunyi and Zhang Zhaodong of Hebei province, Che Yiji and Song Shirong of Shanxi province - and Mai Zhuangtu and Bao Xianyan of Henan province.
In 1911, xingyi master Li Cunyi, created the Chinese wushu association in the city of Tianjin, where he trained many students and helped to unite the martial arts world.
In 1914 a teacher from the association, Hao Enguang was the first to introduce xingyi boxing abroad, and particularly into Japan.
In 1918 in Beijing Han Baoxia, beat the previously undefeated Russian fighter, Kang Qin'er, which greatly increased the influence of xingyi boxing.
Sun Lutang, Shang Yunxiang and other famous masters did a great deal of work to spread xingyi in the area around Beijing and Tianjin.
Sun Lutang created a style which combined the theories of xingyi, bagua and taiji boxing, and his books also had great impact. After liberation in 1949, Chinese martial arts became even more widespread. They became popular among the masses. Xingyi spread further throughout the country, and became one of the styles in the national martial arts meets and competitions. For many years xingyi standing postures have been used extensively in physiotherapy. When used in conjunction with qigong and other therapeutic exercises, good results are shown. Nowadays, Xingyi has spread all over the world.
In this way, xingyi contributes to the cultural exchange between the peoples of China and the world.
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF XINGYI QUAN
Plain and straightforward
The movements of xingyi are plain.
They mostly come and go in a straight line, one limb extending as the other flexes, with little extraneous movement. In action, xingyi is fast and powerful, combining soft and hard with a natural beauty.
As the techniques are mastered power is evident in simple, unadorned movements - no extras can be added, as they would destroy the original form. This characteristic of straightforwardness also applies to fighting, which emphasizes a quick and direct attack to get to the opponent first. The goal of a hit is "one inch wins," or "once you start you're already there." These phrases describe the simple, fast, and powerful movements.
Tight and well-knit
Xingyi emphasizes strength and speed. It moves quickly with small amplitude. The phrase "the elbows never leave the ribs, the hands never leave the heart" means that as the hands go in or out they stay close by the body, like a twisting rope, so the power is complete, compact, and comes from the whole body. To say that the hands "rise like a steel rasp and drop like a hook pole" means that the power is short and tight, twisting as it strikes, and is tightly coordinated with the bodywork and footwork. To stride forward, the hip joint is rolled to close the groin, the knees are flexed and the foot turned in, the toes grip the ground. Likewise when turning around, the centre of the body (the lumbar area) leads the movement, which is fast and compact. This compactness clearly differs from the extended and large range movements of style of long fist.
Settled and stable (firm)
The stance is solid and the footwork firm - "stride out like driving a plough, plant the foot like growing a root." The chest is wide and the abdomen solid, the energy is sunk to the dantian, and the energy and strength are united. Because of this, the upper body is open and natural, and the lower limbs are steeled and firm; movement is neither floating nor stiff, and gives a feeling of outward ease and inward solidity. Solemn and comfortable, the whole body holds internal strength throughout.
Coordinated and integrated
The whole body is united, the movements regular, and the feet and hands are well coordinated. Classical texts say, "a strike must start in the body, and arrive together in the hand and foot," and "if the hand arrives before the foot, the strike will not succeed; if the hand and foot arrive together, the strike will go through the opponent like cutting grass." Xingyi requires the coordination of not just foot and hand- but rather of hand, eye, body, and steps - "if one branch moves, a hundred branches follow."When hitting, the three tips - fingertips, toes, and nose - align, and the three segments are synchronized - the tip segment starts, the middle segment follows and the root segment chases. On this foundation, intent moves energy and energy creates strength, so that the mind, breath, and strength are coordinated. The resulting synchronization of external and internal is such that once you move there is nothing that is not connected. In the past xingyi quan was also called liuhe quan (six harmonies boxing) - a reference to the three internal and three external linkups. The former three are emotion with intent (also called spirit and mind, or heart and eye), intent with energy, energy with strength. The latter three are shoulders with hips, elbows with knees, hands with feet. These linkups show the high degree of coordination required in xingyi.
THE VALUE OF TRAINING XING YI QUAN
Xingyi is a physical activity that benefits both body and mind. Xingyi is excellent for conditioning the body, with a decided training effect on muscular strength. Young, strong athletes can develop the muscles of the entire body. The phase of muscular training is to improve conditioning for future needs. To build a good foundation you have to solidify the body. When the arms stretch out or draw in they keep close to the ribs, which create antagonistic resistance. When the hands raise or lower they outwardly rotate and drill out, then inwardly rotate to spiral and turn, which twists the forearms, biceps, triceps, and deltoids. The power used to roll, twist, strike and spiral calls for contraction of all the muscles, and trains them effectively by using them against each other.
There are also strict guidelines for the stances and footwork. A straight advance, for example, requires a long step that is fast and lands solidly such that the body neither rises nor falls. This puts a great deal of stress on the legs. The twelve animal forms have many jumps, drops, and quick spins, which give the muscles and ligaments a complete workout. For example, golden cock shakes its tail and golden cock reports the dawn require steady stances, full power in the arms, lifting and pressing-down power in the palms, and quick explosive power through the muscles of the abdomen, upper back, and lower back. Over time, the muscles of the entire body develop great power.
The nervous system is also trained. This type of activity requires the coordination of the eyes, hands, feet and body, so that the whole body moves as a unit. The spirit must be attentive and body and mind united in order for intention to lead movement .In this way the cerebellum is activated to regulate the movement, which serves to coordinate the central nervous system and the functions of the brain. This kind of neural excitation by concentrated activity also serves to give an active rest to the brain, as parts of it are shut down. So the practice of xingyi not only works up a sweat, it also serves to dissipate fatigue and replenish well being.
Xingyi also has an excellent effect on the internal organs and the cardio-vascular system. It requires that the chest is relaxed and the abdomen solid and the breath pulled down to the dantian. Purposefully increasing the depth of breathing strengthens the diaphragm, so that long term practice improves respiratory function. Abdominal breathing causes the diaphragm to move down, which increases the movement of the organs in the abdominal cavity. This helps to improve the blood flow in the abdominal cavity, which aids digestion and other metabolic processes. Many techniques in xingyi are imitative, modeled on animals - each of which has unique characteristics. For example, to imitate convincingly the agility of a monkey, the fierceness of a tiger, the swiftness of a swallow, or the suppleness of a snake the athlete needs to develop speed, strength, agility and flexibility of the hands, eyes, body, and feet. This kind of activity can develop all qualities of the body and mind.
Xingyi has obvious fighting characteristics
During the historical development of xingyi, a rich variety of theory and experience in fighting strategy and technique has been accumulated. This variety becomes evident during training and develops an understanding of self defense, and trains fighting ability. Such awareness helps maintain students' interest.
In strategy, xingyi emphasizes the following:
Fight to win.
Dare to fight as if you must win, bravely drive straight in - two xingyi guidelines are "when you meet the opponent there will be one winner, face death without fear," and "if you can move in with one thought, you can stay in with one thought." Fighting builds the confidence to meet the enemy and win. Xingyi lore has many sayings to describe developing the spirit through fighting: "fight as you would walk along a road, see people as you would see grass," "when training, see a person in front of you, when fighting, act as if there is no one," "a brave person does not consider mistakes, one who considers mistakes finds it difficult to walk one inch," and "when anger fills the chest, what is difficult in pressing the enemy?"
Take the initiative.
Move in or out quickly, keep the initiative on your side. Xingyi sayings emphasize this: "the eyes are clear and the hands are fast, jump in and attack cleanly," "rise like the wind, land like an arrow, hit before the enemy expects it." On meeting the enemy to fight, make the first strike to take control, hit fast, and hit once. Attack before the enemy has prepared a defense to make him hit without thinking. Neither show your intentions nor telegraph your moves - avoid having your plans found out - "once you move it should be like the wind sweeping the ground." In tactics, keep the initiative in your own hands, hit close and fast - attack then dodge, dodge then attack, there is no need to move away. When hitting take the front door, go for the most advantageous places. "Put your foot in the centre, the place he defends- even an immortal would find it hard to counter that."
Keep your opponent off balance.
Xingyi calls the head, shoulder, elbow, hand, hip, knee and foot the "seven fists" - any one of them could strike, and you can use any one. If the opponent is far away use the hands, if he is close add the elbow; if he is far away use the heel, if he is close add the knee. Use the feet for seven-tenths of the attack, and the hands for three-tenths - unite the five phases and the four tips completely. When fighting, be absolutely empty or solid - like a tiger walks without making a sound, or a dragon moves without a trace - so that the opponent finds it hard to figure you out and defend against you. Classical texts say, "The fists hit three tips and no one sees their form; if they see the form then you can't succeed."
Adapt to circumstances.
Know yourself and know the other, see your chance and go for it - xingyi emphasizes changing according to the opponent. When fighting an opponent, you can't stick to a plan, you must adapt according to what he does. The highest skill is to have no fighting strategy, no plans - only when there is no planning is there an effective plan. Against an opponent you have to see what he is doing, and combine defense with offense, using the techniques of watching, considering, and intercepting. When the opponent moves, use the opportunity which he shows you, quickly intercept, then when your intention arrives your hand arrives, when your hand arrives use your power, use the changes of hard and soft, empty and solid, rise and drop-"always move by using the chances you get.
Xingyi fighting techniques show "six-sided"skills.
Qong-qiaomiao-skill or ability
Shun-Ziran-flow or naturalness
Yong-Guoduan-courage or decisiveness
Hen-Bu Rongqing-relentlessness or mercilessness
Zhen-true, or not letting the opponent's changes confuse you.
Xingyi has a wide variety of attack and defense moves.
Its solo shadow boxing and weapons forms have many hand techniques, footwork, leg techniques and weapons techniques, and all have attack and defense use. Some can be directly used in real situations, and others need to be figured out, which is another method of training for fighting strategy.
THERAPEUTIC EFFECTS OF XING YI QUAN
Xingyi uses an upright posture and can be practiced vigorously or gently, so people of all ages and physical conditions can do it. People with weak constitutions or chronic illnesses can select specific techniques and practice gently, or do just the standing training for its health-building effect. Recently some physiotherapy clinics, such as the clinic at Harbin Medical University, have had good results by combining xingyi standing with other therapy for patients with conditions such as high blood pressure, bronchitis, and nervous disorders. If you use xingyi for therapy select the simpler positions and movements, and make sure to keep your heart rate and breathing calm during practice. Keep the trunk upright and the body relaxed, and concentrate on what you are doing. This will put the nervous system in order, improve the functions of the internal organs, and improve emotional and physical condition. The combination of moving and standing practice used as therapy has the same effect as China's traditional breathing practices (qigong) and taiji boxing. Some people with trouble moving their limbs have shown marked improvement with this type of practice under proper supervision. *The information and theory written above belong to sigung Li Tian Zi, shifu Niu Shen Xian as well as the ancestors. They are displayed freely here to whoever has reached the level to feel that they are necessary.