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Five Elements

The following is a good discussion with illustration on the five elements.  In the training at Ottawa Chinese martial arts association, proper understanding of those five fist forms are crucial to truly appreciate the style.  Our students will perform successive lines of techniques in order to understand the nuances of this art. 

 1.  Introduction
 2.  Internal Style
 3.  Xingyi Basics
 4.  Five Elements
 A. Wu Xing
 B. Pi Quan
 5.  Lianhuan quan
 6.  5 elements 2 man
 7.  Xingyi animals
 8.  Advanced Training

The heart of Xingyi training lies in the five element fists, or Wu Xing. Externally, they appear to be simple linear movements, but actually contain subtle hidden circular movements within. Pi Quan is usually taught first since it is the same stance as San Ti.

The Five Element Fists are based upon the five forces of Splitting (Pi), Drilling (Zuan), Smashing (Beng), Pounding (Pao) and Crossing (Heng). They are designed to follow the cosmological sequence in which metal generates water, water grows wood, wood generates fire, and so on. In this way, Xingyi moves from the semipractical study and imitation of the natural world into a corporeal performance of the combination and separation of the basic elements of the world. Not only does Xingyi exhibit a fundamental congruence with the ancient Taoist philosophies, but it also has special martial qualities as well.


Pi Quan (Pi Chuan) is also known as Chopping Fist or Chopping Palm

Element: Metal
Organ: Lungs
Power: Axe
Energy: Splitting, rending, cleaving or tearing apart; swinging upwards or chopping forward and down like an axe

Sun Lu Tang

Pi Quan is first of the five elements. It's beginning stance is identical to San Ti. It corresponds to the lungs in the Wu Xing and therefore belongs to Metal. When Metal is concealed inside, the nose connects to the lungs, expanding and compressing them with each movement.

When you make the Pi movement, and, in fact, when you do any of the five movements, one hand pulls in to the abdomen. This balances the physical movement of the other arm, but it also helps you to draw Qi into your Dan Tian and accumulate it there.

Pi Quan may vary depending on the style, especially in the beginning movements of the form. Some families use large movements drawing the fists to the side of the body while twisting the torso, while others, like ours, are smaller and tigher, bringing the fists down to the Dan Tien while keeping the upper body facing forward.

Song of Pi Quan

The two fists are like embracing and move toward the mouth. The fist is drilling upward the same height as the eyebrows. The latter fist follows closely and connects tightly. The two arms are embracing the sides as high as the heart. The Qi falls to the Dan Tian following the body movements. Two hands fall together as the rear foot follows. Four fingers are open and the tiger mouth is round. The high and low of the front hand is the same as the heart.

The rear hand is always hidden under the armpit. The tips of the hands, foot and nose are lined up. The little finger is turned upward as high as the eyebrows. The method of the Pi Quan strike is drilling upward. The feet and hands fall together and the tongue is pressing upward. Step and exchange the forms, the Yin palm is falling.

Variations of the Wu Xing

As you can see from the postures of Sun Lu Tang, Jiang Rong Qiao and Chen Pan Ling, the basic posture of Pi Quan, which is identical to San Ti Shi, differed slightly depending on the master. The positioning of the hands may have varied, but were always on lined up on the same vertical plane, keeping true to the "Three Points" rule. The width of the gate between the legs also varied, but once again, all three masters stay true to the basic Xingyi principles. All three of these masters were Hebei stylists, and all three performed the fists with in a way that was comfortable and right for them.  In comparison, associated styles such as Xingyi Ba (心意把), for example, will have quite different starting positions.


Jiang Rong Qiao

Chen Pan Ling

Xingyi Ba (心意把)

Zuan Quan (Tsuan Chuan)

also known as drilling fist.
Element: Water
Organ: Kidneys
Power: Lightning
Energy: To drill, penetrate, and force one's way through; forward and aggressive, rotating like a drill.

Sun Lu Tang
In Xingyi, the Zuan moving pattern belongs to Water in the Five Elements. The Qi circulates like water flowing in a curved river: smooth, and reaching every tiny area. When the Qi circulation can be smooth and harmonious, the Qi in the kidneys can be regulated. Zuan Quan creates Beng Quan, and just as water douses fire, it destroys Pao Quan.

From the point of view of Nei Gong, the motions of Zuan Quan alternatley tenses and relaxes the back muscles, which massages the kidneys. The kidneys control the water in the body and are responsible for the moisture balance in the body. When your body is properly moisturized there will not be too much Fire (i.e., too much Yang), the clean Qi can be raised, and the dirty Qi can be sunk. This allows the mind to be calm and the body's Yin and Yang to be balanced. 

Song of Zuan Quan

The front Yin palm is facing downward and the rear Yang hand is drilling upward. The emitting hand drills up as high as the eyebrows. The two elbows are embracing the heart while the moving the rear foot.

The eyes stare at the front fist while the Qi reaches to the four extremities. When Zuan Quan is changing postures, the body moves. The front foot steps first and the rear foot follows. The rear hand is Yin and hides under the forward elbow.

With each step the three points must be aligned. The front Yang fist strikes the tip of the nose, the little finger turning upwards as the elbow protects the heart. In Zuan Quan, step forward and strike the tip of the nose. The front palm grabs the the opponent's wrist, pulling down and to the side. Step forward and turn the palm strike, striking the tiger relies on this.

Jiang Rong Qiao

Deng Fu Xing

Beng Quan (Peng Chuan) is also known as Smashing Fist, Punching Fist, etc.


Element: Wood
Organ: Liver
Power: Arrow

Energy: To stretch, develop, extend and expand powerfully.

Sun Lu Tang
The energy expressed in Beng Quan feels like a strong bow which has been drawn, and whose power is able to smash anything. The two fists attack in a rotating cycling fashion. Regardless of which fist extends out, the left foot is in front and the right foot is in the rear.

In Xingyi, the Beng moving pattern belongs to wood in the Five Elements. Wood can create fire, so Beng Quan creates Pao Quan. According to the principles of Mutual Destruction, Beng Quan destroys Heng Quan.

The energy of Beng Quan is like a tree which can grow and be bent like a bow. The Qi in this pattern extends and withdraws. When the Beng movement is smooth it can benefit the Qi circulation in the liver. . 

Song of Beng Quan

When the Beng Quan posture is emitted, the three tips (hands, feet & nose) are lined up. The tiger's eye is facing upwards level with the heart. This is Yin. The rear hand is Yang and chambers under the armpit. The front foot (left) is forward and must move smoothly.

In order to be steady on the rear foot, the feet must form the shape of the Chinese character for man (inverted V). When performing Beng Quan and turning the body, the hand is held high as the eyebrows. The body is standing upright while raising the foot. The foot is raised under the knee and the toes are sideways.

The foot and the hands fall together and the thighs are like scissors. The front foot must step with Heng and the rear foot follows smoothly. The way of striking in Beng Quan is the tip of the tongue presses upward. In the front arm, the elbow is pulled and the fist is pressed upward. When you step forward and emit the fist, first strike the flank. The rear foot is tightly connected and follows.

Jiang Rong Qiao

Gong Zhong Xiang

Heng Quan (Hern Chuan) is

also known as crossing fist.
Element: Earth
Organ: Spleen
Power: Ball rolling
Energy: Energy: To cross, move sideways, or to force through aggressively with a sidewards motion.

Sun Lu Tang
Heng Quan is considered to be neutral, or the center of the Five Elements. It is located centrally between Yin and Yang, and constitutes a bridge between them. In the Five Elements, it is like a ball rolling and belongs to Earth, and is related to the spleen and the stomach. This movement is able to make the Qi gathered at its center round and full.

Everything grows from the Earth. The old masters said that faith in the principle is just like the spleen in the body. A person without faith fails in everything. A person with a hurt spleen loses the harmony of the five internal organs. Beng Quan is the important move in Xingyi. Students should pay attention to it.

On the body, "Renshong" is the name of the cavity located between the nose and upper lip. It is related to the spleen, and reflects the condition of the spleen.

Song of Heng Quan

The front hand is Yang and the rear is Yin. The rear hand is always hiding under the armpit. As you exchange the posture and release the hand (attack), the leg raises for action.

The tongue curves upward and Qi is emitted. When Hern Quan is changing postures, the thighs are like scissors. Triangular body; moving the important stepping, feet and legs are maneuvered cleanly. When the rear hand is turning and becoming Yang, it repels toward the outside.

When the step falls, the three tips should line up. The tip of the nose and tip of the foot should be closely connected. When Heng Quan is used for striking, ther rear fist is Yin. The front hand is Yang and its elbow protects the heart. Left and right bend the bow and repel to the outside. The feet and hands fall at the same time and the tongue tip is curved.

Jiang Rong Qiao

Deng Fu Xing