(also known Hsing-I Chuan)
Nowadays in Germany, Tai Chi Chuan is on everyone’s lips, but who knows of or has seriously considered tackling Xingyi Quan? Even today, this martial art is sadly neglected, although it is one of China’s 3 classic internal martial arts. Unfortunately it has been sidelined in our part of the world This is wholly unjustified, for each of the three classic internal martial arts offers its own, characteristic approach to perception, eventual deliberate direction, accumulation and distribution of the internal energy Chi.
When compared to the forces of nature, Xingyi Quan can be said to be the equivalent of lightning. Continuing with this analogy, Tai Chi is the ocean wave and Bagua Zhang the tornado or whirlwind. These comparisons already say a great deal about the way in which each individual system treats internal energy.
Xingyi developed many centuries ago in China and was once very popular with the military. This system practices its basic techniques in long lines. This means that a single technique is sometimes practised hundreds of times in a row, space permitting. This helps the student to develop a special skill known as Line Power. Xingyi adepts are able to mount endless attacks, if necessary for minutes on end, in a highly logically thought-out way. In earlier times this line training was used for exercising soldiers during long marches. These long marches had to be absolved anyway, and so they presented an ideal oportunity to practise individual combat techniques hundreds or even thousands of times in a row.
No other internal system apart from Xingyi has developed such explosive forward energy combined with ultra high-speed long strides.
Imagine a cat, leopard or tiger, ready to jump and you will have a rough idea of Xingyi. There is a lot of potential kinetic energy in the positions and individual exercises of Line Power Training. Of course, the military were interested in Xingyi as a good method of attacking an enemy, naturally preferring a slightly aggressive system to a gentler one such as Tai Chi, which was more defence orientated. I wouldn’t presume to pass judgement and say that Tai Chi is better because I myself have practised it for longer, but I would say that if you are genuinely interested in learning and mastering the rather more strenuous Xingyi exercises, then you do need an inner urge for movement coupled with a certain amount of aggression. Xingyi is an alternative for those people who find Tai Chi too slow and not athletically demanding enough.
For me personally, a return to a more dynamic system after many years of slowed up training, brought back positive and happy memories of my Taikwon-Do period. I can thoroughly recommend Xingyi, especially to slightly wild young people with lots of energy to spare – it is an ideal way of accessing the wonderful and varied world of internal movement and martial arts systems. It offers everything that both Taekwon-Do and Karate do, and the reasons for liking any one of these systems are fairly similar, but Xingyi also offers the chance of a very systematic development of internal mental and physical powers – something that even today cannot be taken for granted in martial arts training here in the West.
Similar to Karate and Taekwon-Do, Xingyi students often practise in long lines. This is very helpful in internalizing specific sequences. The way in which energy is treated in Xingyi is unique among the internal systems.
Large amounts of energy are drawn into the system with extreme rapidity and then compressed along the central rising energy channel, only to be further compressed once more in the lower dan tien. During years of training, one gradually becomes able to virtually overload the lower dan tien with energy instantaneously. This energy, which is gathered and temporarily stored during each Yin phase of a movement, is then shot explosively upwards and outwards through the arms, hands and fingers in a wide variety of fist, finger and chopping techniques, as well as in numerous kick variations.
Due to the speed at which Xingyi students operate, the association with a lightning flash seems appropriate. Like a flash of lightning which you can’t see coming, the Xingyi fighter acts with surprising speed for a martial artist, covering very long distances in extremely short periods of time. You can compare him/her to a sprinter who, for 20 years, practises starting and running the first ten metres as quickly as possible, and nothing more. Using this tactic, the oponent is knocked down very quickly – you run straight through him, as it were. My students are always surprised when one moment they are standing a long way outside the range of a potential kick and the next they are on the receiving end of a punch which could theoretically penetrate them to a depth of 30 centimetres. No-one standing more than 2 metres away could possibly expect such a rapid fist attack before a kick attack from this range. But in Xingyi it is this element of surprise which is applied. If you are unaquainted with this type of attack, then possible defence techniques will be extremely difficult to execute.
In short, Xingyi is the perfect system for people who want to really let off steam during training, not only for young people but for people of any age who feel an inner urge for movement. Xingyi Line Power training, with its very attractive and explosive forms, is an ideal way to exercise this inner urge. There is also a very nice kick form with over 30 kicks of every variety for people who would like to do more leg work.
The Tai Chi Forum considers itself very lucky to have found a generous teacher in the person of Master Sha Junjie, who has impressed even Chinese specialists time and again at Xingyi championships in China with his extremely explosively executed and highly expressive forms, winning first prize at countless tournaments. With his help, we will have the relatively exclusive opportunity in the coming years, of learning many Xingyi hand and weapons forms. I consider this a great opportunity for all those who have perhaps long wished to experience and learn the other internal marial arts at first hand. For me personally, Xingyi has brought a lot of new insights and knowledge concerning the use of vital energy, and has produced completely different sensations than my longstanding Tai Chi training has. By approaching and trying out the new movement and thought patterns objectively it is possible to see one’s present preferred style of training with different eyes, perhaps discovering, in the process, aspects of our familiar martial arts which we have never noticed before.
If you are reading this article and are looking for a different internal system or a new approach to or way of accessing the vital energy permanently circulating within us, I invite you to try out a few of the Xingyi movements. Those of us here at the International Marial Arts Forum would like, in future, to offer courses in this rather neglected martial art, together with a specific standardised teacher training programme, to aid the development of a German Xingyi network similar to those which have been steadily evolving in the fields of Tai Chi and Qi Gong over the past 25 years. I hope to have aroused the latent curiosity of some of my readers and made them eager to discover more.
If your interest in Xingyi Quan has been awakened, please contact us.