The body methods and characteristics of XingYiQuan (hsingichuan) by Mike Patterson
Xingyi (hsing i) BODY
Xingyi places a great deal of emphasis on the three main segments of the body (Dragon Body) in terms of motion. These three main segments are named as the Head to the Waist, the Waist to the Knees and the Knees to the Feet respectively. It is said that these segments are to be unified in attack and separated in defense. This allows for the whole body power to be applied in attacking actions, and for soft evasive power to be applied in defensive actions. Furthermore, it is said that Xingyi never defends. If ground must be given, it is given strategically while looking for the earliest opportunity to counter attack. If the opponent moves, I move more swiftly than he, and I need hit him only once although he may hit me lightly many times.
The six body styles of Xingyiquan are: Trunk of a Dragon; Hands of an Eagle; Legs of a Chicken; Shoulders of a Bear; Poise of a Tiger; and Thunder and Roaring. Power is transmitted in a unified fashion from the legs, waist and torso by complex manipulations of the Jin path in a rapid pulse. The hands lead the body once the training is complete.
The most notable characteristic of motion in this art is the ever present "half-step" (bamboo step) which punctuates a large number of the movements in Xingyi. This step, when done properly, allows greater derivation of power through certain frames of motion by using a refined physics principle called a vector product. This simply means to combine two or more force vectors efficiently to multiply the force products of all into one magnified force. Done correctly, this method is extremely potent and one of the primary sources of the famed power of Xingyiquan.
There are three primary types of release using this method of half-stepping found in the various forms. The first method times the release of energy with the arrival of the front foot to a rooted position with the second foot following up to adjust the center only. This method is useful for quick bridging attacks. The second method employs a rear foot release timed with the half-step itself although the body has been moved as a unit beforehand. This method is extremely powerful and useful for follow up and/or finishing strikes. The third employs again a front foot release with no half-step follow up. This method is useful for close quarters foot changes and/or angling counter attacks.
A person reading about Xingyiquan may sometimes come across a phrase referring to "Xingyi Grunting". This phrase is indicitive of the sound made by the rush of air escaping the lungs during the issuing energy (fah jing) phases of Xingyi movement, which is quite frequent in this dynamic art form. One should be mindful that this is normal but, at the time, be equally mindful not to force the air out. The exhalation, although rapid, must still be smooth and natural.
Both the ShanXi and HeBei Hsing-I Styles are composed of the twelve animals and the five forces (elements) as the heart and soul of the practice. The five forces (forms) contain nuances not found in the Honan branch of Xingyi and are named as the following:
- Pi Chuan (Splitting) - Corresponding to the Metal Element (Lung and Lg. Intestine).
- Tsuan Chuan (Drilling) - Corresponding to the Water Element (Kidney and U. Bladder).
- Peng Chuan (Penetrating) - Corresponding to the Wood Element (Liver and Gall Bladder).
- Pao Chuan (Pounding) - Corresponding to the Fire Element (Heart and Sm. Intestine)(Also secondary fire correspondance to Pericardium and Triple Warmer).
- Heng Chuan (Crossing) - Corresponding to the Earth Element (Spleen and Stomach).
It should be noted that Xingyiquan's Five Forms have both a martial side (the five forces trainings to develop applied kinetic potential) and a philisophical/medicinal side hence the correspondance to the five elements of traditional Chinese medicine. This line between the two has become somewhat blurred in recent years. Accordingly, most modern practitioners will call the five forms by their elemental names as opposed to their actual names of Splitting, Drilling, Penetrating/Crushing, Pounding and Crossing.
The twelve animals of ShanXi or HeBei Xingyi are more complex than those found in Honan style Xingyi (which has only ten). They are named (and most often translated) as follows:
- Ma Hsing (Horse Form)
- Yao Hsing (Hawk Form)
- Ing Shyung Hsing (Eagle/Bear Form)
- Dou Gi Hsing (Cockerel Form)
- Sir Hsing (Snake Form)
- Tuo Hsing (Tortise or Alligator or Water Skipper Form)
- Gi Hsing (Chicken Form)
- Tai Hsing (Phoenix or Ostrich Form)
- Yen Hsing (Swallow Form)
- Hou Hsing (Monkey Form)
- Fhu Hsing (Tiger Form)
- Lung Hsing (Dragon Form)
Most practitioners will learn all twelve animals to complete the body training of Xingyi Chuan. Then each practitioner will tend to choose four or five of the animals combined with the knowledge gleaned from the practice of the five forces to composite his/her personal fighting style. Only those that teach the art need be proficient at all twelve.
Some styles of Xingyi also contain some combinative forms that mix and match the twelve animals with the five forces to further challenge the advancing skills of the practitioner, such as Shr Er Hong Chwei (Twelve Red Hammers).