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Xing Yi theory is based on the Chinese philosophy of the six combination, five elements as well as the combat spirit of the twelve animals.

 1.  Six Combination
 2.  Five Elements
 3.  Mutual Creation / Destruction
 4.  Twelve Animals

Six Combination

Six Combination (六合) is a central idea behind Xingyi practice. It summarise the internal and external connections that are to be made during the performance of a Xingyi technique.

The Internal harmonizes (內三合) are represented as follows:


  • Xing (形; Shape) combines with Yi (意; Intention)
  • Yi combines with Chi (氣; Energy), and
  • Chi combines with Li (力; Strength)
While the External harmonizes (外三合) are described as:

  • Hands combine with feet
  • Elbows combine with knees, and
  • Shoulders combines with hips.
The idea of three internal and three external combination can be applied to other parts of the body. For example, internally, there is a connection between
  • The heart and the eyes
  • The liver and the tendons,
  • The spleen and the muscles
  • The lungs and the entire body
  • The kidneys and the bones.
Similarly, there are connections between the different parts of the body,
  • The left hand and the right foot,
  • The left elbow and right knee
  • The left shoulder and the right hip.
  • The head and the hands,
  • The hands and the body
  • The body combines with the stepping.
All those pairs relates to the concept of “Six Combination”. The number six only selects the most important points as a reminder. The key concept is that “one place moves, everywhere moves; one place combines, every place is combined.” . 

Five Elements

The Wu Xing (Chinese: 五行; pinyin: wǔxíng), or the Five Movements, Five Phases or Five Steps/Stages, are chiefly an ancient mnemonic device, in many traditional Chinese fields. For the ancient Chinese, the universe was thought to be composed of five elements: Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth. Hsing Yi practitioners use this theory as a basic memory aid to teach the various attacks and defense sequences of this style. The relationship between the five elements and five fists is as follows:

Element Fist Chinese Pinyin Description
Wood Crushing Bēng To collapse, as a building collapsing in on itself.
Fire Pounding Pào Exploding outward like a cannon while blocking.
Earth Crossing Héng Crossing across the line of attack while turning over.
Metal Splitting To split like an axe chopping up and over.
Water Drilling Zuān Drilling forward horizontally like a geyser.


Mutual Creation and Destruction

The idea of the Five Elements leads to the theory of Mutual Creation and Destruction.  Each element naturally creates the next element and can also be destroyed by another element.  This can be seen as a memory aid to understand how a series of techniques can be used and countered.

The cycle of creation is as follows:

1.Metal Produce Water - Pi turns to Zuan

2. Water produces Wood - Zuan turns to Beng

3. Wood produces Fire - Beng turns to Pao

4. Fire produces Earth - Pao turns to Heng

5. Earth produces Metal - Heng turns to Pi

The cycle of destruction are as follows:

1. Metal conquers Wood - Use Pi to defend against Beng

2. Water conquers Fire - Use Zuan to defend against Pau

3. Wood conquers Earth - Use Beng to defend against Heng

4. Fire conquers Pi - Use Pau to defend against Pi

5. Earth conquers Water - Use Heng to defend against Zuan

A two man pair practice is often used to illustrate these concepts. 

Twelve Animals

Once the bases of the five elements are understood, the practioner will then continue with the theory of the twelve animals. The twelve animals is based on the form and spirit of a particular animal. For example: Dragon, Tiger, Monkey, Horse, Chicken, Hawk, Snake, Bear, Eagle, Swallow, the Tai (a mythical bird) and the Tuo (a type of water lizard, akin to the aligator).



Tthe features of the traditional Xing Yi are described as follows:


Which can be translated as:

Choose your moment to attack and once you attack be relentless.
Your last technique delivers first, in a straight forward manner.
Use your whole body as a weapon.
If you choose the right moment to attack, then you have already won the battle.
Attack and defense are carried out at the same time.

The following four sentences are also used to described the features of Xing Yi:


Which can be translated as:

Plain and quick;
Tight and compact;
Steady and firm;
Harmonious and orderly.