What is Xing Yi Quan?
Xing Yi is is perhaps the most linear and forthright of the internal martial arts. Quick and direct movements characterize this style. The name translates to “Form and Intent Boxing” meaning that this is a practice of aligning mind and body into a unified whole.
Folk history credits the famous Chinese general Yue Fei with inventing Xing Yi. But modern Chinese researchers generally agree that a martial artist named Li Luo-neng (1808-1890) adapted an earlier style known as Xinyi Liuhe Quan to create this style.
While it is not well known in North America, it is well suited to people looking for a practice that is clearly martial, but easier on the joints and ligaments than external styles.
What makes a martial art internal?
The internal martial arts make a distinction between health and fitness. Most typical forms of exercises train fitness. Fitness requires health, but increasing fitness levels doesn’t necessarily build up health. In fact too much exercise can even hurt your health, as anyone who has over- trained will understand. The internal arts are different in that the emphasis is first to build up health. This is why typically, exercises are done slowly and relaxed. Meditation and/or standing exercises to cultivate health are also an important part of the learning do this reason.
Learning Xing Yi
Xing Yi practice begins with stance training. Traditionally months to years of just standing practice would be required! There are five key striking techniques which are organized according the Chinese concept of the Five Phases —Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth. These strikes and the standing practice form the core of Xing Yi. Typically a single technique is practiced repeatedly, gradually increasing efficiency of movement and power.
As a student advances, animal forms are taught. There are 12 Xing Yi animals which build on the techniques learnt from the 5 strikes. Different styles will have slightly different animals but common animals forms are Dragon, Tiger, Snake and even Chicken.
Routines, partner routines and weapons (staff, spear, sword and saber) forms are also complete the Xing Yi curriculum.
Tips for successful practice
Take time to get the stance and Xing Yi stepping correct. Xing Yi makes use of ‘full body power’ which requires careful attention to alignment and footwork.
Intention is an important part of Xing Yi. Understanding the intent that each movement reflects is important to improving your skill.
Don’t forget to relax! Being the most linear of the internal arts it is easy to use too much tension to power the movements. Alignment and timing instead, is the key to Xing Yi’s martial skill.
Website of Di Guo-yong: http://www.diguoyongwushu.com/
China From Inside’s overview of Xing Yi: http://www.chinafrominside.com/ma/xyxy.html