As a martial art, Xing-Yi Quan (mind-formed fist) traces back at least to the late 1700's and early 1800's. Xing-yi quan, together with bagua zhang and taiji quan, comprise the internal family (nei jia) of Chinese martial arts. These arts are based more on Daoist principles than on Shaolin Buddhism. However, many early masters of these styles also had prior experience with Shaolin-based martial arts.
The exact origins of xing-yi quan are unknown. It may have come about from the fusion of pugilistic methods of the day with Daoist energy and meditiation practices (qigong), along with certain stepping methods used in Daoist rituals (e.g., 7-star step, paces of Yu). Some of the first xing-yi quan masters of note from the early- to mid-1800's included Li Lao-neng, Che Yi-zhai, Liu Qi-lan, and Guo Yun-shen. Subsequently (mid/late 1800's), xing-yi quan was often passed on together with bagua zhang among the next generations of practitioners. Xing-yi quan has been transmitted through several excellent groups in China and Taiwan, and is now gaining popularity in the West.
The xing-yi system that developed in Hebei province (Hebei style xing-yi) is built upon the basic standing posture (san ti), the main action of 'rise-drill-fall-overturn' (qi-zuan-luo-fan), some basic stepping patterns (ji bu, ban bu), and the 5 elements fists (wu xing quan). Continued study includes several linked forms and sets (wu xing lien huan, ba shou, ba shr, shi er hong chui, za shi chui), and the 12 animal forms (shi er xing). Some of the animal forms have several variations each that range from 2 movements to linked forms. In xing-yi quan, it is more important to express the animal's inner character and spirit (i.e., essense) rather than simply mimic its physical movement. So, for example, in tiger form (hu xing), one expresses the inner attributes of power and quickness that cannot be stopped, rather than developing the clawing action skills often seen in Shaolin tiger movements. Advanced footwork and turning are developed via practice of the 12 animals, and also by practice of the 5 elements fists in a 9-gate pattern. Two person drills teach the way to basic and advanced fighting applications.
The internal emphasis in xing-yi involves use of an attentive mind to first follow the body movements smoothly, while remaining centered, and with the root maintained in the feet and legs. Then, with advancement, one is able to generate powerful movements for self-defense, instantaneously, as a thought (i.e., mind-formed). Therefore, xing-yi is characterized by hair-trigger, explosive movements, driven by rooted stepping, and ranging from big to small. Its main strategy involves the use of advantageous angles for both defense and attack, culminating in rapid entry to occupy the opponent's space.
Benefits of Xing-Yi Quan: Training in xing-yi quan bestows robust health and a profound awareness because of explicit emphasis on the use of an attentive mind. Practice will develop a sure-footed root in the feet that generates tremendous leg power and builds in an explosive whole body method for driving the techniques.
The movements in xing-yi quan are permeated with highly effective self-defense techniques using hand, elbow, shoulder, foot, knee, hip, and head. As with most martial arts systems, the specific methods of xing-yi include 'dien, da/ti, shuai, na' (vital point attack, hit/kick, throw, lock/seize). These methods are explored carefully and in a controlled manner in Academic Training Traditions internal martial arts classes and seminars.
Belt or sash ranks are not usually awarded in xing-yi quan. Depending on level of commitment, practitioners can be classified as beginner (1-2 yrs), intermediate (2-5 yrs), or veteran (5+ yrs). Training in xing-yi can include weaponry (staffs, swords, some eclectic instruments), but we are not offering classes in xing-yi weaponry at the present time. Most teachers (shifu, laoshi) are considered as experts, with the title of master usually being reserved. Master is a special title that should be assigned only when appropriate, like in the case of a legitimate lineage head, or in special recognition by other teachers.
The photograph of Master Guo Feng-chih (Paul Guo), Metropolitan Police, Taipei, Taiwan (ca. 1960), standing in the xing-yi san ti posture, is courtesy of the photo archive of Mr. Robert W. Smith.
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