Xing yi

Xing yi

There are many different stories regarding the origin of Xingyi Quan. In this article, three of the main ones will be discussed. The first story attributes Xingyi to the Indian monk Bodhidharma, who brought Buddhism to China and spent nine years in meditation, facing the wall of Shaolin Temple. A poem was written to commemorate him which goes: Bodhidharma came from the west without a single word, his heart (Xinyi) was trained (kung fu) completely quiet, if you wanted to write about the essence of Buddhism, it would take as much ink as the water of Dongting Lake.” As the original name for Xingyi was Xinyi, we can ascertain that this poem tells us Bodhidharma created Xingyi. The second version attributes Xingyi to the famous general Yue Fei. In an unnamed pugilism manuscript it writes that Ji Ji Ke found an old manual of martial arts pertaining to the Song Dynasty general Yue Fei. After Ji Ji Ke learnt from this manual, his martial arts became excellent. However this theory has been refuted in later years, as a certain person did much research in the 1980s, and found that there are no records of a manual of Yue Fei’s martial arts having ever existed. The third version states that Ji Ji Ke created the art himself. In the Qing Dynasty pugilism

 manual it states that Ji Ji Ke was proficient with a spear, however, he needed a way to defend himself if he was weaponless, and so he created Xingyi. Sun Lu Tang wrote that Xingyi was created by the patriarch Bodhidharma, and was perfected by the great general Yue Fei. However, it was almost lost during the Yuan and Ming Dynastys, and was finally resurrected when Ji Ji Ke found the lost manual in the mountains of Zhong Nan Shan. After mastering the art, he passed it on to Cao Ji Wu. Xingyi became widespread in the provinces of Shanxi, Henan and Hebei. Due to the influence of Shanxi merchants, and their need for good bodyguards, the art developed to new heights around this area. Ji Ji Ke spent many years traveling around Henan, particularly Shaolin Temple and Luoyang city, and he finally passed his art on to Cao Ji Wu of Anhui province. Cao Ji Wu passed his art on to Ma Xue Li, a Chinese

 Muslim, and from him on, the art became known as Xinyi Liuhe Quan, and was only passed on among the Muslim community of Henan. From there, the art was passed on to Dai Long Bang, who founded the Dai Family Xinyi style. He passed his art on to Li Luo Neng, who founded modern Xingyi Quan. Guo Yun Shen eventually learnt the art, who was known as “half step crushing fist Guo”, and he made great developments in the five elements aspect of the style. From him, Sun Lu Tang learnt his art, who after also learning Cheng Style Bagua and Wu Style Tai Chi, created his own Sun Style of martial arts. Wang Xiang Zhai also learnt from Guo Yun Shen, and upon this basis, as well as other styles, he created his own art Yi Quan, later also being known as Da Cheng Quan. Guo Yun Shen and Bagua’s founder Dong Hai Chuan both believed their arts had many similarities, and studied from each other.

 However, it was their students, Li Cunyi and Cheng Ting Hua, who really formalised this, and they mixed their art together, becoming famous throughout Beijing and Tianjin. Because of this, the arts were often trained together, and Zhang Zhan Kui literally created a style called Xingyi Bagua. Besides this, Shaolin Temple has its own Xinyiba, and Sichuan has Jin Jia Gong, which are both originated from Xingyi. In 1911, Li Cunyi moved to Tianjin, and took his martial arts there, where he made many acquaintances. In 1914, a man named Chi En Guang taught the art abroad for the first time in history. In 1918, a Xingyi practitioner had a fight with a Russian strongman, and brought honor to the Chinese nation. At this time, Xingyi, along with other martial arts, began to be taught in schools throughout the nation. Many martial arts novels were written at this time. During the 1930s, many Xingyi practitioners from Shanxi attended the national Leitai competitions in Nanjing, and defeated many other fighters. However, with the Japanese invasion of China, the art came into decline, as many practitioners joined the war effort.

As Xing Yi Quan has it origins in spear fighting, its techniques are very direct. This is not a flamboyant styles as every move is their for practicality and not for show. Also the training places emphasis on heavy repetition of a few moves, the idea is quality and not quantity. Therefore Xing Yi is a direct and practical method of self defence.


The foundation of Xing Ti Quan is the San Ti Shi stance. This stance is used throughout the art and is the foundation of many of the stances used in this art. The idea is that its more efficient to learn one stance rather than many. Furthermore, it helps to build strong legs, teach correct posture and develop strong tendons in arms and legs. In sum this is the core training of the art.


Next students learn the 5 elements fist (Wu Xing) these five strikes are both practical and lay the foundation for the rest of the art. The five elements are: Metal Pi, Water Zhuan, Wood Beng, Fire Pao and Earth Heng. Once a student has become proficient with these moves they are then taught the 5 elements linking form and two person drills and forms such as San Shou Pao and Wu Xing Pao. These forms teach a student how the elements can be used together and the latter also teaches a person correct timing and control as they are working with a partner. Training the five elements provides a student with practical moves for self defence.


The next stage in the training process is learning the 12 animals: Dragon, Tiger, Monkey, Horse, Chicken, Sparrow, Sparrow-hawk, Tuo (Son of the dragon), snake, Tai bird, eagle and bear. The techniques of the animals build on the moves of the five elements and teach a student how to use the elements in different ways. . For example the tiger teaches strong powerful strikes using metal while the monkey teaches nimble footwork and fast strikes using metal. They also provide students with moves that suit both their personality and body type for example a strong person will be drawn to the tiger while a quick and nimble person will be drawn to the monkey. After the individual animals have been learned they are then combined and used in several linking forms, which teach a student how to combines the animals and elements for self defence. Finally students are also taught advanced two person forms that teach a student how to use the animals for self defence. In sum learning the animals aids a students in developing their own fighting style.


Weapons training plays an important part in the heritage of Xing Yi Quan. At our school students can learn sword, saber, staff and spear. When learning these weapons a student will first learn the 5 elements techniques and then the 12 animals techniques for the weapons. This is a cleaver training method as both the empty handed and weapons moves use the same body mechanics, thus making the learning process very efficient. Students also train with the large spear to help them develop their internal power. Thus weapons training helps a student to further connect with this art.


Many Xing Yi Quan students also study Bagua, this is because the two arts complement each other. Xing Yi is a very direct art while Bagua is based on circle walking. Therefore, by training in both arts a student can learn the direct and aggressive strikes of Xing Yi and the evasive footwork of Bagua. The person who does this becomes a formidable fighter. 

At Shengjing Shan you can learn this fascinating art from gold medal winner Master Qu. He has also had students go on to win gold medals for their Xing Yi Quan in competitions too. 

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