Xingyiquan is perceived as the hardest of the internal martial arts even though its development starts and ends with the simplest of exercises–standing. Since it stems from military training it may be the oldest martial art and has produced some truly wonderful martial artist. The practice of Xingyiquan (Hsing-I) is the practice of the same thing thousands of times. If you are looking for flowery forms with dramatic jumps and spins you should look elsewhere. The Xingyi student works daily to practice the simple until it is highly refined. Thus the saying, “practice hard, keep it simple.”
Students looking to develop their Qi for “magic powers” like throwing people away without touching them or mastering “effortless force” will also be disappointed in the Xingyiquan training regimen. More so than any other art I have practiced Xingyiquan recognizes that we are physical beings subject to the laws of physics, mass, and energy. “Qi power” is not the result of sitting in meditation, but rather relies on understanding the bodies inherit strengths and connections through thousands of repetitions of single movements, and hours of standing in fixed postures. When the student becomes familiar with the bodies functioning the result can look like magic. In Xingyiquan, as in life, there are not magic solutions; it is “hard work” or “kung fu.” Ji Ji Ke Ji Ji Ke–also known as Ji Long Feng–is probably the creator of Xingyiquan. He lived in Shanxi Province. He was known for his skills with the spear and passed the imperial exams, making him a scholar boxer. He spoke the truth which caused him some trouble with corrupt local officials that forced him out of office. He travelled around China and during a rainstorm claimed that he found a manuscript in a statue of Yue Fei. He practiced from the manual daily and copied it down for others to read.
The manual was Yue Fei’s Six Harmony Xin Yi Boxing Manual. The story of Yue Fei is well known in China and seldom told in the West. He was a great military leader who had to be betrayed to be defeated. We know that he stopped the Jurchen from overrunning the south of China in the twelfth century. When he was mounting an offense to push the invaders back, he was opposed by a minister who had him executed. He is considered a patriotic hero of China and credited with many martial art forms. It is just as likely that Ji Ji Ke developed the art on his own and attributed his skill to the great general. Of all the stories of a martial arts development I think the story of Ji Ji Ke finding a manual written by Yue Fei is the most truthful. Why? Well, first of all, there is no bullshit in the Xingyiquan art. It is an honest art that requires honest practice.
Second, the stories about Xingyiquan masters are not filled with fanciful tales. Ji Ji Ke, Guo Yun Shen, and even Yue Fei himself are devoid of immortality or magic abilities. In fact, their mortality is celebrated and honored when their students knock down fanciful claims. Sun Jian Yun, Sun Lu Tang’s daughter, once said of her father that “he was not superhuman, no one can do those things.” In my opinion this is the greatest compliment you can give an old master. It recognizes him for his mortality great achievement. This story, like so many others on the development of martial arts, also has another very important lesson. You can learn from a book. I get tired of the crowd that insists you much find a “qualified master” to learn one of these magnificent arts, when all of them were started by individuals thinking, training, and studying by themselves.
Yang Lu Chan did not learn Taijiquan with the Chen family. He sneaked around at night, looking in on their practice and studying by himself–before he beat the best the Chen family had to offer. Dong Haichuan literally burst onto the scene in Beijing from nowhere. And the oldest of these three internal martial arts was learned from a manuscript found in a cracked statue on a rainy day. Think of how much more accomplished we can all be if we toss aside the dregs of the past and welcome the digital medium for expanding our practice. The Six Harmonies The cornerstone of Xingyiquan practice is the Six Harmonies. These are:
- The hands harmonize with the feet.
- The shoulders harmonize with the hips.
- The elbows harmonize with the knees.
- The heart harmonizes with the intent.
- The intent harmonizes with the breath.
- The breath harmonizes with the power.
The Six Harmonies are divided into three outer harmonies and three internal harmonies. The outer harmonies are principles of good posture and proper body alignment. The internal harmonies are principles of attention and make a meditative mind. The internal martial arts are moving meditation, and similar to sitting meditation you have to maintain a proper posture to be comfortable, and you have to maintain your focus on the now to achieve the proper mental and emotional effect.
It does not matter what level of experience you have in martial arts training Xingyiquan is an excellent art to learn. Whether you are coming to the martial arts as a new student, looking for an enjoyable and lifelong way to improve your health, or a to learn another style, Xingyiquan can benefit you. Its theory is deeply rooted in human physiology and psychology, but the movements are as simple as…walking.