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 1.  Introduction
 A.  Overview
 C.  Styles
 2.  Internal Style
 3.  Xingyi Basics
 4.  Five elements
 5.  Lianhuan quan
 6.  5 elements 2 man
 7.  Xingyi animals
 8.  Advanced Training

Just what is this strange looking martial art? Why is it different? What makes it so powerful?

For the record, Xingyiquan is pronounced "shing-EE chwen" and can vary slightly depending on the Chinese dialect.

It can be spelled many different ways, such as: "Xingyiquan," "Xing Yi Quan," "Hsing-I Chuan," Hsing Yi Ch'uan," etc. Pinyin is the official English romanization of the Chinese language, so I went with that - hence the spelling:"Xingyiquan.

Xingyiquan is a very old Chinese martial art that most believe originated in the early 1600s. It is a very powerful art which is classified as an internal system like it's sister arts Taijiquan (Tai Chi) and Baguaquan. However, Xingyi's mindset is that of an aggressive nature. Where Taijiquan yields and and blends with an opponent's attack, and Bagua circles and evades, Xingyi smashes right through the opponent in a linear fashion with an unrelenting attack.     
Xingyiquan is a no-nonsense fighting system - relatively easy to learn, but difficult and long to master. Proper body mechanics and quieting of the mind and body are of utmost importance to excel in this art. The power is generated from the ground in the Xingyi practitioner's legs, funneled up through the body and out the arms. In fact, when the practitioner strikes, he is striking with his entire body, not just his fists.

The heart of Xingyi are five fist forms or "wu xing." These are short repetitive forms each depicted by the Chinese five elements of metal, wood, water, fire and earth. Each one generates a different kind of energy or fighting power and each one corresponds to an internal organ of the body. Advanced training introduces twelve animal forms based on the five fists.


Ok...if you've just read the previous section, hopefully you grasped the general overview of what Xingyiquan is.

Now what about some of the specifics? What are the movements and forms like? What is the Xingyi mindset? Is it only for self-defense? Read on...

Xingyi boxers move linearally, stepping forward or angling in and out on straight lines. The basic posture, San Ti Shi, enables them to do that. The feet, the head and the lead hand are usually held on the same vertical plane, so the practitioner moves directly into the opponent, in contrast to many other fighting styles that often have circular motions, sidestepping patterns, and body shifting.

A Xingyi boxer rarely puts his weight on the front foot and almost never assumes a posture where the weight is evenly distributed. When he does move, it is from one leg to another, much as a chicken moves when running.

The linear stepping techniques naturally reveals Xingyi's strategy - offense. Unlike the passive approach stereotyped with internal arts, the Xingyi boxer will take the offense immediately and not let up until the enemy is down.

To achieve such ferocity, a Xingyi boxer will train in forcing the opponent back (and under the stress of the moment, people do tend to move straight back as a reflex to escape). Once the opponent back steps and provides space, the boxer will press into the space while delivering another powerful attack with coordinated body movements and attacks from the center-line.

Xingyi stylists practice few movements with high numbers of repetition. Compared to the forms of many northern styles, Xingyi's forms are comparatively short, some having only one movement. The essence of Xingyi consists of five fist movements, known as five elemental boxing, and practitioners practice the five moves relentlessly, realizing that in a fight these are the ones they will use.

A Xingyi boxer learns that every movement in the art has a purpose for consuming the opponent. Perhaps that is the reason why in a small region among the Yellow River's plains and valleys the art earned the reputation as a no-nonsense approach to fighting.


There are three main branchs of Xingyiquan, all named after the location they were concevied in: Shanxi, Henan and Hebei.

If we consider that modern Xingyi began with Ji Long Feng during the early 1600s, then the original style is from Shanxi.

Ji then taught his system to Cao Ji Wu & Ma Xue Li. Ma left Shanxi and took his teaching to Henan, thus creating the Henan style which to this day only consists of the 10 animal forms.

Cao transmitted his entire art to Dai Long Bang. Dai Long Bang further developed the art introducing the 5 elements to the art. He was famous for Xinyi (Heart-Mind), not Xingyi (Form-Mind), and their boxing is still called Dai Family Xinyiquan to this day.

The majority of Northern style Xingyi still practiced today, however, can be traced back to one of Dai's best students, Li Lao Neng (also known as Li Neng Ran) who was nicknamed "Divine Fist Li". Li is considered one of most famous exponents of the art.
Li Lao Neng refined the whole style and varied the use of the elements. Many consider him the "father" of Xingyiquan. He also added the following forms to the style : Wu Xing Lianhuan, Wu Xing Sheng Ke, An Shen Pao, Za Shi Chui and two additional animal forms bringing the total to twelve: the Water Lizard (Tuo) and Tai Bird Forms.

Li later returned to Hebei and began teaching there resulting in the modified Hebei style.

The Henan style is still very rare to this day, while Hebei remains the most common style, especially here in the West. The Shanxi style is more fluid and it's animal movements are a bit more complex with emphasis placed on the type of internal energy you're trying to generate. Shanxi is generally practiced very smooth and softly at first. Hebei is more straightforward and simplistic, concentrating on gang jing or "hard power," which is later refined to hidden power.

Because of the nature of the art, there isn't much bickering among Xingyi practioners as to whose branch is the best or more effective. Mutual respect is generally held between the camps, for all branches of Xingyi utilize the same internal principles and same modus operendi - to take the enemy down hard, fast and without mercy.