The Seemingly Simple Movements in Xing Yi
The Xing Yi (i.e., structure and mind) martial arts system is perhaps the most misunderstood internal martial arts. In many books or articles, even people who have spent many years practicing Xing Yi considering it to be more similar to external styles than any other Chinese internal martial arts style. This reflects the lack of grasping the true essence of Xing Yi on most of the practitioners. Since Xing Yi movements are relatively simple from outlook, if one does not know the correct alignment of body structure and does not execute the movements in an integrated manner (most practitioners thought they do but they actually don't), it does look like an external style. As a matter of fact, any experienced and talented martial artist is able to learn the "simple and straightforward" Xingyiquan five-element movements in less than one hour (of course, at the superficial level). Nowadays, many people learn Xing Yi by attending a seminar or watching a video tape and some even start to teach Xing Yi after that. For those unfortunate students who learn Xing Yi from this kind of instructors, it is just like "asking direction from a blind." As the population of Tai Chi practitioners grows and becomes more mature, many people start to explore other internal styles such as Xing Yi and Ba Gua. However, without the correct understanding of the essence of the style, many people may become disappointed about it.
A Structure Based Internal Style
Xing Yi is not as soft as the prototypical internal martial arts - Yang style Tai Chi, and its ferociousness makes it look like a Shaolin style. Yet, it can be considered as the most "internal" martial arts system due to the fact that the major source of Xing Yi power comes from the correct alignment of internal body structure. By properly adjusting the parts of skeletal structure (such as tailbone, shoulder, elbow, and scapula), one is able to construct a spring-like body which can absorb the force of the opponent, propagate it to the earth without getting stuck in any part of the body, and bounce the force back to the opponent. With the special walking of Xing Yi and the "six harmonies" (to enable all the body parts to move in a totally integrated manner), once the force reaches the opponent, will usually send he/she "flying away". Thus, the strategy of Xing Yi in combat is to form a solid, stable, and spring-like body structure and drive this structure directly and forcefully toward the center of the opponent. The blocking and attacking movements are executed simultaneously; in other word, each movement is used for both offense and defense. Click here to watch the Xingyiquan and applications YouTube video demonstrated by our chief instructor Wei-Chung Lin.
Xing Yi at CTMAA
The Xing Yi system was first taught by Mr. Ji Long Fong, a spear expert, after he learned it from a Taoist in Mt. Chung Nan in the 17th century. After hundreds of years of evolution, there are three major styles of Xing Yi: Hebei, Shanshi, and Henan. At CTMAA, we teach the empty-hand and weaponry techniques of the Hebei (and some Shanshi) style Xing Yi. The curriculum consists of the following:
(1) The mother fist - eagle capture
The next training step is the correct execution of the "eagle capture" movement which lays the foundation for all the Xing Yi movements. This movement, which is the first movement in many Xing Yi demonstration forms, is often confused with the splitting fist which is the first one in the five-element fists. In addition to acquiring the basic half-step walking skill, a student is expected to learn how the basic Xing Yi vertical-circle movement is executed.
(2) Five-element fists
The five-element fists include the splitting, drilling, smashing, pounding, and crossing fists. They are not only very effective in combat but also a set of qigong methods aiming to strengthen the five major internal organs of the body. Furthermore, the splitting and the drilling fists can also be considered as a "small orbit circulating qigong" when they are executed in An-Jin (i.e., the forces are hidden in the practice like Yang style Tai Chi Chuan movements) manner.
(3) Xing Yi Tan Tui
The Xing Yi Tan-Tui (spring leg) methods include 12 kicking forms. The forms were created by the Shanshi style master Jee Yi-Chai more than one hundred years ago. To enrich the kicking techniques of Xing Yi, he created the forms by modifying the Shaolin Tan-Tui 12 forms. Although there are many hidden kicks in traditional Xingyiquan, these forms enable a Xing Yi practitioner to expand his/her repertoire of kicking techniques.
(4) Twelve-animal forms
The twelve-animal forms include the forms of dragon, tiger, monkey, horse, alligator, rooster, sparrow hawk, swallow, snake, Tai bird, eagle, and bear. They are the variations of five-element fists and capture the fighting spirits of the respective animals.
(5) "Ba tze gong" or eight-character method
These are the eight traditional training methods summarized by the eight characters including expansion, interception, wrapping, crossing, plucking, confronting, clouding, and leading. Each character corresponds to a single movement or a sequence of movements for a specific purpose.
(6) Combined forms
The curriculum includes several forms which are mainly composed of movements from five-element fists and 12 animal forms. In addition to be used in demonstration, these forms are useful for the practitioners to polish their movements and increase their endurance.
The weaponry of Xing Yi system taught in CTMAA includes sword, broadsword, staff, and spear.