Xingyi Quan “form and intention boxing” is the most esoteric of the internal martial arts, and the most aggressive. Xingyi overpowers an opponent with fast, close-range strikes. But how do you develop the internal power needed for Xingyi?
Xingyi martial power is developed through practice, and practice starts with standing meditation.
Unlike seated meditation or Tai Chi zhan zhuang, Xingyi standing is not done in a relaxed state. Instead, the body is filled with isometric tension. The back foot pushes forward, and the front leg pushes back. The front hand presses out, while the supporting hand guards the dantian and internal organs. This dynamic posture lengthens and strengthens the muscle and tendon. When every part of your body is engaged at all at once, develop the ability to be aware of many parts of your body at the same time. Despite the physical effort involved, your breath should be slow and deep and your mind and emotions must remain calm. In fact, when you are practicing Xingyi standing meditation, you are developing the body type, sensitivity, and mental state needed for fighting.
While Xingyi martial power comes with practice, it relies upon technique to be used effectively. Xingyi technique is based on speed, efficiency, and harmony.
There are five Xingyi striking methods: chopping, bursting, drilling, canon, and crossing. They are inspired by the five elements (metal, wood, water, fire, and earth). The striking methods teach you how to exert force in different directions:
Chopping (劈 Pī) = down
Drilling (钻 Zuān) = up
Bursting (崩 Bēng) = forward (slightly further range)
Cannon (炮 Pào) = forward (slightly closer range)
Crossing (横 Héng) = to the outside
The five striking methods can be combined in hundreds of ways with endless martial applications. For example, the chopping strike can be used to neutralize an incoming kick or punch, or as a joint lock. The crossing strike can be used to throw a person.
Xingyi is fast, like a racehorse rushing ahead at the starting line. An old quote about Xingyi says:
Wèi děng dǎ rén xiān jìn shēn
Jiǎo shǒu qí dào fāng wéi zhēn
Not yet – wait – strike – person, first – advance – body
Hands – feet – together – arrive – technique – is – true
This means that when you attack, the feet move first. The feet carry the waist, and the waist carries the hands. Your feet and hands arrive at the same time. In this way, the force of the whole body is contained in your strike. In fact, all of the different Xingyi movements (footwork and striking methods) are parts of a whole. In each movement, stepping, striking, and blocking are all combined together.
That is the secret to Xingyi martial power. Strength, sensitivity, and calm gained through standing meditation is combined with the technique of efficient and harmonious movement.
Interested in the origin of Xingyi? Read the earlier post: Xingyi Quan and the Legend of Yue Fei