THE ART OF XINGYI BOXING
by Li Jianqiu
[translation by Paul Brennan, Feb, 2013]
INTRODUCTORY DECLARATION TO THIS PUBLICATION
上海國術研究會：李劍秋 黃方剛 吳志青 黃警顧 代表全體會員聯合宣言
In a human life, there is no suffering worse than for the body to become weakened and dispirited, and no happiness greater than for the body to made healthy and whole. Methods of making the body healthy divide into two categories: movement, focusing on muscular development, and stillness, focusing on cultivation of spirit. Seated meditation can be categorized as a form of stillness practice, but gymnastics as well as Chinese weapons and weightlifting exercises are all forms of movement practice. However, both of them have their abuses, usually due to absurd ideas about sitting meditation, leading to insanity, or due to the exceeding of limits in movement exercises, resulting in stupidity, all because of ignorance of the principles of physical training.
In modern times, every nation gives attention to physical education, and it is now considered a field of science. The conclusion of researchers is that body and spirit should be simultaneously trained and thereby evenly developed. By blending them together, the cultivation of moral character is promoted as well. The newly instituted calisthenics follows this principle, but while its physical education theory is solid, as an art it has not yet been perfected.
Our own bodies were frail and often ill, but we encouraged each other to practice boxing arts, and after not very long we gradually experienced a shift toward health. In this way, we suddenly realized that Chinese martial arts train body and spirit at the same time, and that they conform well to the principles of physical education.
Upon gathering ardent admirers of martial arts, we found that many were illiterate, unable to study the deeper theory and thereby use it to guide students. Scholars were still not willing to learn these things, which saddened us. Then in 1916, with our fellow student Wu Zhiqing we founded the Martial Arts Society, calling upon our comrades everywhere to research day and night. Its prestige increased with each day, and it came to pass that the nationwide educational system requested there be a department of instruction to make martial arts an intrinsic part of our nation. It was then added to school curricula, and was also established as a specialist field in educational institutions, producing many martial scholars.
Beginning on the North Sichuan Road in the Yile neighborhood, we rented a large space, but attracted few students. Having now purchased some land and built a new space ourselves, membership is in the thousands, and they practice every day without slackening. It is now common practice for teachers of these systems to instruct boys and girls in both elementary and high schools. Even the older generation of foot-bound women can practice for quite long periods without discomfort. From this it can be known that having martial arts in schools is a case of nothing but advantages, being particularly beneficial for bodily health.
When the Society was founded, our colleagues primarily knew the advantages of Xingyi Boxing and that in the south it was not being promoted by anyone. Deeply regretting this situation, we sent a letter to Chen Zizheng of the Fengtian Boxing School, seeking instructors to fill two positions, and he generously recommended Liu Qixiang and Chen Jin’ge. Also at that time, through the social club of the Merchants’ Publishing House we started the Martial Arts Research Association, which soon led to a morning practice session for dozens of people. In the five years since, all goes well with it, but our meager effort has been unable to cause it to grow, for which we are ashamed. Alongside comrades within and beyond the Society, we hereby establish our declaration: “We will strengthen ourselves to strengthen our countrymen, strengthening our countrymen to strengthen our country.”
An ancient man said [Mengzi, chapter 7a]: “When poor, take care of yourself. When successful, share it with the world.” And so we say that if you want to preserve your true nature and its tranquil bearing, do not seek wealth and fame, or to have power over life and death, authority over punishment and reward. For the sake of self-contentment, we must learn to venerate traditions of chivalry, caring for everyone, and then we are not wasting our lives. We send this book out into the world for those who also seek of martial arts. Li Jianqiu of Shulu [in Hebei] is passing down a wonderful art, and is constantly in demand to instruct at Tsinghua University, having a great deal of experience in the Xingyi boxing art. We make this joint declaration with the aim of encouraging those who appreciate martial arts.
– Making this joint declaration on behalf of the entire Shanghai Martial Arts Research Association are Li Jianqiu, Huang Fanggang, Wu Zhiqing, and Huang Jinggu.
Our nation’s boxing arts were the earliest to be passed down, but ever since the custom of solemnizing the intellectual and trivializing the martial came to be, scholars have considered it to be something that is beneath them to discuss. Because practitioners were often illiterate, they were unable to give it its full expression and thereby securely fulfill it as the quintessence of our national culture, and so over the course of time it has fallen into oblivion, which we ought to deeply regret.
For the last several decades, the advocating of it in educational institutions has roused our fellow countrymen to study it. They begin by practicing whatever they are curious about, then select the style that is right for them. The northern and southern systems divide into Daoist and speed-oriented. The teachers of each style are sharing with each other, presenting their theories in books, and seek to show the full range of methodologies and the full variety of postures. But if the basics are neglected, those who want to learn will have a hard time making any progress. You betray the actions of your limbs if you do not train your spirit at the same time, for it would merely be a robotic action, which may look right but actually be missing its vital ingredient. This works for making a decorative visual impression, but is inadequate when talking of practical function.
In boxing arts nowadays, for those who seek to exercise both body and spirit, nothing compares to Xingyi Boxing. Tradition has it this method was created by Yue Fei, from whom it spread north and south of the Yellow River. Its method lies in using intent to make the posture and gathering energy into the lower abdomen, so that with each movement, the posture and intention are always linked. Furthermore, during the practice of it there are no occasions of leaping up or rolling around, for it seeks only for practical function and has no interest in being eye candy, and so students will not feel it to be difficult. Yet once it has been trained to a deep level, none of the other various boxing arts can live up to it. It obtains for you the preventing of disease and the prolonging of life. It penetrates to the wondrous Way, truly blending internal and external skills into one. It should be a popular feature in every school.
Li Jianqiu of Shulu [in Hebei] is an expert at this art. He has been teaching it at Tsinghua University for years, and has compiled his experience into this book. Huang Fanggang requested a preface of me. Though I am a layman, it would not be right to refuse his request, and so I have bestowed a few words upon you.
– written by Jiang Weiqiao in Beijing’s Pleasant Park, Nov, 1919
The strength or weakness of the people’s physique is the key to the rise or fall of a nation. Westerners consider physical education to be one of the most important factors, all of their countrymen giving attention to it, and therefore the entire nation is physically trained and everyone is strengthened. Since time immemorial, our nation has venerated the civil above attending to the martial. The path of martial arts has thus for a long time gone abandoned and unused, with the result that the physical constitution of the people weakens by the day, and the thought of it makes me want to mightily sigh.
Wang Junchen, Zhang Yuanzhai, and Li Jianqiu are all stars within Xingyi. They fear the essence of our culture is sinking away and bemoan the lethargy of our physical education. They have for a long time been frequently minded to promote the Xingyi boxing art.
Li now presents his several decades of profound experience and careful study, gathering it all into a book, desiring to cause martial arts to grow and spread to the whole nation. This will do much to cultivate a heroic bearing in the people, ridding us of our complacent degeneracy, and make us equally matched with the world’s great powers. He has made great personal effort, for which we deeply admire him.
We [Zhang Xueyan and I] were in the army ranks, and we all sparred with swords. When the weak stabbed at the strong for a prolonged period, they were made to toughen and able to endure, and finally, to become victorious. This is dramatic proof of how it strengthens the weak.
Li has undertaken this hard work to rescue the weak, and the merit of his deed is truly boundless. When he completed the manuscript, he urged me to write a preface. We perused its chapters and found its language to be profound and its words to the point. When we finished reading it, we then grabbed our swords and began practicing enthusiastically. It is truly a masterpiece of physical education literature for our times. Hence I wet my brush to write this preface.
– written by Li Haiquan of Baoyang, with Zhang Xueyan of Anping, Dec, 1919
The Xingyi boxing art comes from the Zen master Damo of the Northern Wei Dynasty [386-534]. The teachings were obtained by Yue Fei of the Song Dynasty [960-1279], who often merged spear and boxing techniques, establishing a method of teaching his officers called Xingyi [“shape & intent”]. While its fame began at that time, its transmission through the Jin, Yuan, and Ming dynasties cannot be verified.
At the end of the Ming Dynasty and beginning of Qing , there was a Ji Jike, called Longfeng, of Zhuping village in Pudong. He visited a famous teacher in the Zhongnan mountains and obtained Yue Fei’s boxing manual, from which he taught Cao Jiwu, who then taught Ji Shou. Ji then arranged the contents of Yue Fei’s boxing manual into the version that was spread to the world and is the Xingyi Boxing Manual we have today [see appendix].
At the same time, there was a Ma Xueli of Luoyang, who also obtained the transmission. During the reign of Emperor Xianfeng [1831-1861], Dai Longbang of Qi county [in Shanxi], along with his younger brother, Lingbang, trained in Ma’s art,
thoroughly obtaining his skills, and their fame spread through Shanxi. At the end of the Emperor Tongzhi’s reign , Li Luoneng of Shenzhou [in Hebei] travelled to Shanxi, for having heard of the Dai brother’s fame, he went to visit them. He adored his martial studies with them for nine years, and then having completed the skills, he returned east and began teaching students, many of whom travelled to learn from him.
The Xingyi boxing art in Hebei began with Li, and when he died, its transmission continued. Beyond Liu Qilan of Boling, it was taught by Guo Yushen, Che Yonghong [Yizhai], Song Shirong, Bai Xiyuan, etc, all who obtained the essentials of Xingyi. Liu Qilan taught all of his sons – Jintang, Dianchen, and Rongtang – as well as Li Cunyi, Zhou Mingtai, Zhang Zhankui, Zhao Zhenbiao, and Geng Jishan [Chengxin]. Guo Yunshen taught Liu Yongqi and Li Kuiyuan. Li Cunyi taught Shang Yunxiang and Hao Enguang, as well as his own son, Lintang. Zhang Zhankui taught Han Muxia, Wang Junchen, Liu Jinqing, Liu Chaohai, and Li Cunfu, as well as his own son, Yuanzhai. Li Kuiyuan taught Sun Lutang, my granduncle, Li Wenbao, and my father, Li Yunshan, both of whom also learned from Li Cunyi and Zhou Mingtai. I received it because it was handed down in my family.
Recalling my youth, I was very ill, and both Chinese and foreign doctors had no method of curing me, so I focused on practicing the Xingyi boxing art. Not only did I recover from my illness, I became quite robust. That Xingyi is therefore of great use is without doubt, and I am preoccupied with sharing it with everyone.
In 1912, Liu Dianchen, Li Cunyi, Zhang Zhankui, Han Muxia, and Wang Junchen launched the Warriors’ Association in Tianjin and then the Esteeming-the-Martial Society in Beijing. Later, Sun Lutang wrote A Study of Xingyi Boxing . It still seems to me that the spread of this art is confined to the north, and that Sun Lutang’s writings have not yet spread very far, and so I, despite my ignorance and shallow level of ability, have endeavored to make this book.
– written by Li Jianqiu of Shulu, Dec 19, 1919
1. The fundamentals of the Xingyi boxing art are the techniques of the five elements and twelve animals. There are various boxing sets, such as Continuous Boxing and Mixed Posture Striking, and two-person sets such as Five Elements Generating & Overcoming and Fixed Body Cannon. This book addresses only the five elements techniques and the Continuous Boxing set. Since the five elements techniques are the foundation of everything in Xingyi Boxing, the rest all start from them.
In former times, Guo Yunshen specialized in Xingyi, and his specialty was striking opponents with the “crashing” technique, which indicates that what makes ordinary boxing arts inferior to Xingyi Boxing is that they are flowery and are hardly useful. When they were created, they must have been useful, but they have ended up useless. They started out simple and direct, but then became overly complicated, until finally they have lost touch with their original intention.
I fear that the Xingyi boxing art will end up gradually progressing toward the flowery and follow in the footsteps of these frauds. When students cannot be induced to work at the fundamentals and discover what is there, these kinds of editings end up getting made. Those who have added to the Continuous Boxing set are trying to get the students to practice more in their spare time by making adjustments to the training of how the five elements transition to each other [and thereby supposedly making it more interesting]. From this we can understand how boxing arts alter.
For those who do not engage in the two-person sets, you must when sparring not be restricted to a fixed fighting method, even though the fighting methods are written down in fixed texts. Once you are truly capable with the five elements and have something of a foundation, drill the techniques with a partner. All sorts of wonderful things can be obtained in this way, which are not necessary to record in this book.
2. Within the five elements techniques, the theory is the same for each though the postures are different, and the differences between the postures are easy to deal with because the theory is the same. In the beginning of the training, focus on one technique. After practicing it for six months to a year, it should be a part of you, and then you may move on to practicing the rest. It will not then take many days to obtain the rest, for theory and posture are blended together.
Despite working at it for only a few days, it does not at all diminish the six months to a year of training in that first technique. Why is this so? In the beginning, you are to practice a single technique for such a long period not because the posture is difficult, but because grasping the theory is so hard. Once you understand the theory for one of these techniques, you will understand the theory for the rest, and therefore for the rest you need only practice the posture. The theory you have already grasped will merge with the postures you subsequently practice, and the work from that point will be relatively easy.
With this method of transitioning, if you can sincerely focus on one technique, all will proceed smoothly and your gains will be countless. It is best to start by practicing the chopping technique, because all the rest begin by making the chopping posture. If you do not start by practicing the chopping technique, there will be no use in practicing the rest.
3. Preceding the main body of text in this book are several prefaces, a general introduction, and the first two chapters. [This means the meat of the book was considered to be chapters 3-7, which follow eight sections of introduction and are followed by a ten-section appendix with its own preface and postscript. Therefore the twenty-five parts of this book are mainly supplemental to a mere five, thus making this a book based upon a surprisingly succinct selection of material.]
4. In Chapter Six – “A Look at Xingyi Boxing’s Main Points” – only a few examples are examined, leaving many still unwritten. I hope students will be able to delve into what is left unsaid and use rational methods to investigate one new facet after another.
5. Within the Xingyi Boxing Manual in the appendix are “Discourses on Essentials” [parts 1-9] and “Fighting Tactics” [part 10]. Contained within are many important sayings as well as many inexplicable phrases. Over time it has gradually drifted away from the original text. Students must personally examine it with meticulous attention.
Chapter One: The Use of Boxing Arts
Chapter Two: The Use of the Xingyi Boxing Art
Chaper Three: On the Xingyi Boxing Art’s Fundamental Five Elements Techniques
Chapter Four: Advance & Retreat Continuous Boxing
Chapter Five: The Deeper Meaning of Xingyi
Chapter Six: A Look at Xingyi Boxing’s Main Points [The Four Constant Essentials]
Chapter Seven: Xingyi Boxing’s Strong Points [Three Comparisons Between Xingyi and Ordinary Boxing Arts]
Appendix: The Essentials of Yue Fei’s Xingyi Boxing Art
第一章 一 要論
1st Discourse on Essentials [Unification]
第二章 二 要論
2nd Discourse on Essentials [Duality]
第三章 三 要論
3rd Discourse on Essentials [Triple Sectioning]
第四章 四 要論
4th Discourse on Essentials [The Four Antennas]
第五章 五 要論
5th Discourse on Essentials [The Five Organs & Their Associations]
第六章 六 要論
6th Discourse on Essentials [The Six & More Unions]
第七章 七 要論
7th Discourse on Essentials [Seven Advancing as One]
第八章 八 要論
8th Discourse on Essentials [The Body’s Methods]
第九章 九 要論
9th Discourse on Essentials [Stepping Principles]
第十章 十 交手法
Part 10: Fighting Principles
THE ART OF XINGYI BOXING
The uses of boxing arts are grand: strengthening the health of the body and defending against foreign aggression are its major aspects. Truly it is the quintessence of our national culture, yet those of our countrymen who are capable with it are very few. Scholars in the old days were obsessed with preparing for the imperial examinations, in a hurry to grasp meritorious fame. For the rest of the populace, such as apprentice artisans or those in the merchant class, they were lacking in knowledge and education. Therefore there were not many who thought about methods of strengthening the body. Martial arts teachings were trivialized and there was felt to be no reason to popularize them. The “sick men” slanders of foreigners have apparently been pretty fitting.
Since the time the great powers brought their weapons, gaining superiority through their firearms, the advantage of boxing arts has declined. However, as for foreigners who live in our country, whenever they see our nation’s boxing arts, they cannot help but exclaim their admiration and amazement. Whenever students of these arts extravagantly exhibit it to foreigners, they all marvel at it. Our countrymen look down upon it and consider it not worth learning, but when foreigners see it, they wish to learn it. It is said this is just because they are curious, but boxing arts will never be without value, and this is just one piece of evidence to prove it.
For those of our countrymen who wish to cement the worth of these things, we must first sort through to know what is best and what is to be researched, then we will achieve.
CHAPTER ONE: THE USE OF BOXING ARTS
Various exercises such as long-distance running, sprinting, training in the long jump or high jump, hurdle racing, pole vaulting, training at the shot put or discus or javelin, soccer, basketball, tennis, swimming, weightlifting, and training with the vaulting horse, all – apart from swimming, soccer, and basketball – use effort in some areas more than others. In the case of running and jumping, the lower body uses more effort than the upper body, and with shot putting and discus throwing, the arm and shoulder use more effort than the leg or foot. If you practice these kinds of exercises:
– Your muscular development and strength enhancement will be confined to specific areas, leaving others areas comparatively unworked.
– To get any benefit from it, you must fully desire it and constantly practice it, which does not use your time economically.
– The environment and equipment for each of these exercises does not necessarily provide for any of the others, making it harder to work on the one you have chosen [if you are in a training space designed for a different one].
If however you are training in a boxing art, then your whole body must make an equal effort, and you must concentrate your spirit and gather your energy. Your eyes will want to be alert, your limbs will want to be lively, your neck will want to turn smoothly, and your abdomen will want to feel solid. When your body is like this, then a unified spirit, a resolute will, an indomitable energy, and a patient strength will arise.
Furthermore, you can do it anywhere, as it does not require a special space, and your hands are all your need, as it does not require special equipment. Is anything more convenient than this? As for its practical application, with it you can not only protect yourself but can also protect others, defending the weak against the bullying, displaying chivalry. Because of this aspect at its foundation, the benefits of training in a boxing art are superior to those of practicing various other exercises, for it has special merits that are all its own.
CHAPTER TWO: THE USE OF THE XINGYI BOXING ART
The use of boxing arts in general has already been described in the previous chapter, and the use of the Xingyi boxing art specifically is no different. The Xingyi boxing art in application is victorious over ordinary boxing arts and is convenient to practice.
Regardless of man or woman, young or old, as long as they have a mind to it, then all will have no difficulty. How do I know this to be so? It is said: “It has no leaping or rolling around on the ground, but seeks for practical function rather than showing off.” Therefore I know it to be without difficulty.
If you practice it to a deep level, then you will defeat opponents stronger than yourself, nor will it be difficult to attack from more than ten feet away. When you decide to subdue your opponent, it is as easy as turning your hand.
As for the effects of Xingyi, they are endless. It is very good at boosting your spirit, thereby preventing disease and prolonging life, and causes you to carry out tasks with agility, thereby enabling you to succeed in the world. These are its most general uses.
CHAPTER THREE: ON THE XINGYI BOXING ART’S FUNDAMENTAL FIVE ELEMENTS TECHNIQUES
The five elements techniques are: chopping, crashing, drilling, blasting, and crossing. I will explain them individually. [The explanations below assume the reader is already familiar with these five techniques, either by way of other teachers or other books, and so no basic explanations or illustrations were included in this book. Supplied below are not actually explanations of how to perform them, simply additional points to improve their performance.]
The technique known as “chopping” goes downward with the palm like the chopping of an axe.
When practicing it, your eyes look level or to your front hand, your head presses up, your chest opens, your lower abdomen rouses its energy, your buttocks tuck in, your knees slightly bend, and your thighs squeeze toward each other. Your foot advances along with the urging forward of your hand, advancing like an arrow, straight and fast, and when it touches down, it is like an arrow hitting a target. The toes clamp down over the ground solidly and are not easily pulled up. The size of the step depends on your height.
Although your front leg has an intention of advancing, it also maintains an intention of hooking back. Although your rear leg does not stand in front, it has a strong intention of hastening forward. Your legs forward and rear squeeze toward each other to be that much more stable. As for the other parts of your body, they constantly exert forward as described.
When the hand withdraws, it strongly bends into a fist, the fingers seeming to be pulling something heavy, and gathers in until reaching your solar plexus, the palm now fully changed to a fist, and then shoots out again from your solar plexus. When the hand pulls back, changing from palm to fist, it should contain a downward pressing strength, and when your fist extends forward, it should contain an upward propping strength. The reason for this is that when the palm is forward, its position is slightly higher than your solar plexus.
Whenever your front foot advances a large step, your rear foot comes forward a small step, causing the distance between the feet to remain consistent, thereby preventing any worry of instability. During the chopping technique, when the step comes out along with the hand, it always involves a small step. The hands and feet go along with each other, moving in unison. For the remaining four techniques below, this is left undescribed.
The idea of “crashing” is of a mountain collapsing [as in a landslide or avalanche], a very fearsome dynamic which the personality of this technique resembles – hence the name. Points for attention:
Your right elbow must end up wrapped inward, same as in the chopping technique, so that the hollow of the elbow is almost facing upward. By manifesting a slight downward bend, all of your limbs will be kept from feeling stiff, a wonderful characteristic which is obtained through long practice. (See Chapter Six.)
The toes [of your front foot] aim straight forward. Your right foot may touch your left heel due to the vigor of the technique.
At the same time, your body must be erect. Your head is to be pressing upward and must not hang down. Your legs must be slightly bent. Use a shorter step than before.
The idea of “drilling” is to concentrate power. The movement of this technique is like the hand is drilling through – hence the name.
The footwork is mostly the same as in the chopping technique, and so it is not described here.
The idea of “blasting” is somewhat similar to crashing. It is said that the action of the technique is like a cannon firing. It deals with deflecting an opponent’s attack high while striking beneath it. A marvelous feature of Xingyi is that whenever you are attacking an opponent, you are simultaneously able to protect yourself, which means that during the moment the opponent is attacking and you are defending, you are also able to attack him, rendering him too late to defend himself against it.
Your legs are slightly bent as your right leg hastens forward toward your left leg which is in front. In this way, although you are moving forward, you are maintaining a strong awareness of your stability. At the same time, take the energy of your whole body, which is gathered into your lower abdomen, and invisibly send it into your limbs. Thus the power of your arms, which is not much in itself, will with this addition be multiplied many times. With this multiplied power, even if you are facing strong opponents, none will be able to stand up against it.
The function of this technique is not to go straight forward but to go across, hence it is called “crossing”.
When practicing it, the elbow should be tightly wrapped in and the rear fist comes out from under the elbow of the front arm. Remember this.
CHAPTER FOUR: ADVANCE & RETREAT CONTINUOUS BOXING
This exercise is the linking of the five techniques into a series of eleven movements:
2. Crashing [with opposite fist and foot forward].
3. Retreat, crashing [with opposite fist and foot forward].
4. Crashing with same fist and foot forward.
5. Double crossing fists.
7. Retreat, chopping.
11. Crashing [with opposite fist and foot forward].
12. After you have performed the crashing technique, turn around, repeat the sequence as before until you are again performing movement 3, then finish.
CHAPTER FIVE: THE DEEPER MEANING OF XINGYI
The shape [xing] means the posture. Posture is external and is what people get to see. The intent [yi] means the will. Intent is not a shape, for no one gets to see it. Intent controls the hand’s shape. Shape cannot act by itself. The movement of the shape is always caused by the intent. An exception to this is the cardiopulmonary system – your heart and lungs are endlessly moving without your intent and also without volition of their own, as universally acknowledged by modern physiologists.
The movement of your shape is always a matter of your muscles. If your muscles are strong, yet your intention is not sensitive, then even if your power is great, your movement is slow. But when your muscles are strong and your intention is sensitive, it is still not quite perfect. Suppose you are compelled to deal with a powerful opponent, but you are in hurry. It will be difficult to respond as skillfully as you would under normal circumstances. This is a similar situation to teaching children who have not yet learned anything, which begins by testing their manual dexterity, and it is hard at first to get mind and hand to coordinate with each other. But for someone who has practiced Xingyi Boxing for a long time, it should not be difficult to manage such coordination.
Modern educators all do their utmost to promote handicrafts. The essential in artwork is that mind and hand coordinate. That being the case, if you have proficiency in the art of Xingyi and then apply it to artwork, it should make it easier. Looking at it from this point of view, there is more to Xingyi’s function than just strengthening your body and defending yourself.
If you gather energy into your chest, you will gasp and it will not stay for long. If you gather energy into your lower abdomen, it will stay long and not hinder your breathing. It will accumulate gradually until it is abundant. This kind of energy is vast, and is more readily led by the intent.
When punching, guide it to your fist. It is nothing less than the power of your whole body. When you wield it, it will gather at the tip of your fist, and the power will be fierce and unstoppable.
If you happen to become ill, then guide energy to the sick area and blood will flow there, its white blood cells very capable at eradicating germs and casting off disease.
Furthermore, the energy is indomitable and direct, filling every space, giving you strength of poise and a shining face. It is just like this phrase from Mengzi [chapter 3a]: “How could he deceive me?” [In other words, when you are healthy, it is clearly apparent.] You will start to be able to bear responsibilities for others as well as yourself, and will attend to each task without doubting that you are up to it.
I have here only put forth the general ideas. For you to be further enlightened depends mainly on your own capacity for realization.
第六章 形意拳術之要點及其研究 形意拳術之要點凡四
CHAPTER SIX: A LOOK AT XINGYI BOXING’S MAIN POINTS – THE FOUR CONSTANT ESSENTIALS
1. Your mouth is closed, tongue touching the upper palate, saliva is generated, and is then swallowed.
When your mouth is closed, it keeps your energy from leaking out, and dirty air is prevented from entering your mouth. This should not only be the case when practicing the boxing, but should be so whenever you are not using your mouth.
When your tongue is touching the upper palate, saliva is generated, which keeps your mouth from drying out. Swallowing it then keeps your throat moist.
2. Wrap your elbows, hang your shoulders, swell your belly, and open your chest.
By wrapping in your elbows, your arms will be kept bent, and by being slightly bent, power from your shoulders can be transmitted to your hands. This is a key point which is indispensible in the Xingyi school of boxing. For example, in the chopping technique it must be so for the power of your whole body to able to get to your fingertips. For a person with weak finger strength, how can he strike an opponent and send him sprawling over ten feet away? Ignoring the weakness of your fingers, if you instead use the strength of your whole body in this way, what then will be the difficulty? But if you do not wrap your elbows, your arms will be stiff, and being stiff, the power will go no farther than your arms and be unable to express outwardly. By testing each of these points one after another, you will understand.
Hanging your shoulders keeps energy sinking down and gathering in your lower abdomen rather than floating. If you do not hang your shoulders, it will be hard to hold onto it for long.
Swelling your belly means gathering energy into your lower abdomen. The human body has two places for storing energy, one being the lungs, the other being the lower abdomen below the navel. When energy is stored in the lungs, then after not very long it must be released. Such is the case with breathing. However, when energy is stored in the lower abdomen, the breathing of the lungs will not be able to drain it away, and by accumulating energy in this way, it will in turn not hinder your breathing. If the energy is sufficiently relaxed, you will be able to hold onto it for a long time. If not, then when fighting you will pant and gasp, your face and ears will turn red, your heartbeat will pound, and your veins will pop out alarmingly.
Opening your chest means keeping the accumulating of energy from interfering with your breathing. You should always gather energy into your lower abdomen, but if you are forcing the energy in your lungs down to your lower abdomen, you are overdoing it, inhibiting your chest to make it flat. [Although your chest should not stick out, it should also not be crushed in.] This will result in your lungs not being able to expand, hindering your breathing, which is very injurious to your body. Even though you rouse energy in your lower abdomen, your lungs have to be allowed to freely expand, and then you will be free from harming yourself.
3. Your legs squeeze toward each other and your toes grab the ground.
Your legs squeezing together keeps your body from leaning in any direction. It is always seen that when a burly man fights someone who is weaker but more active, his strength and strategy should be sufficient to defeat such an opponent, but will always lose if in the use of his strength he leans. When you advance with your body leaning forward, you will be completely without strength to the rear, the opponent will take advantage of your power and go along with your momentum to topple you.
Your toes grabbing the ground then makes your body that much more stable.
4. Your eyes should be bright and alert.
The more they are so, the more your mind and hands will coordinate with each other. Fighting is entirely a matter of this mind/hand connection, which depends most of all on your eyes. If your eyes are not bright and alert, your mind and hands will not be able to coordinate with each other, and you will rarely have the ability to win. This is a principle everyone will understand, but just how are the eyes to be used during fighting? These are the points to be studied:
i. Observe the opponent’s eyes above, (The direction his eyes are looking is where his hands will go.)
ii. his chest in the middle, (The area in front of his chest is where his hands will leave from and return to.)
iii. and his feet below. (The direction his feet are pointing is where his body will go.)
第七章 形意拳術之特長處 形意拳術之較長于普通拳術者凡三端
CHAPTER SEVEN: XINGYI BOXING’S STRONG POINTS – THREE COMPARISONS BETWEEN XINGYI AND ORDINARY BOXING ARTS
1. It stabilizes your body and balances your energy.
We often see practitioners of ordinary boxing arts spinning and leaping, and whenever they kick at opponents, it is nothing more than pretty. This cannot be considered as anything more than a kind of exercise and is not adequate for fighting. I would be exhausting myself while the opponent takes his ease, endangering myself while the opponent rests in a position of safety. During a fight, if you feel you are already incapable of being stable, why would you then take away one of your feet to kick at an opponent? If you kick but are not balanced, you are sure to lose. It is enough to quietly observe the opponent’s actions and gauge how to respond. Why jump around and wear yourself out? Xingyi is without these kinds of useless actions.
2. Its boxing method is simple and direct.
As to the actions of the arms in ordinary boxing arts, defending is one action and attacking is another. This means that if an opponent attacks me, I must first defend in order to counter. Xingyi is not like this. Attack is defense and defense is attack. A single technique contains both functions.
How shall we discuss this? Let us take as an example the chopping technique and suppose an opponent uses his left fist to attack my solar plexus. Regardless of whether his fist is high or low, I simply advance to the right side, performing a right chopping technique using a fist [instead of a palm] to parry his arm, thereby guarding myself, and at the same time I merely advance, my arm doing a slanting scrape along his arm and going forward. If his hand is not quick, he will be struck by my fist. This is a case of defense as attack.
If his hand is quick, then he will surely lift up my fist and push outward, so I will go along with the momentum of his lifting and pushing by drawing back my fist, while gradually lowering it, then changing it into a palm, and then suddenly perform the chopping technique, pushing forward to his body. If he wants to defend, he will be too late. Why is this so? His lifting and pushing requires so much effort that his momentum stalls and he pulls back because I am smothering his power. When he then urgently seeks to attack, I merely make a circle and he has been struck. My attack with a single arm causes him to be too busy defending himself to have time to attack me, an example of attack as defense. Is not the Xingyi boxing art crafty?
Someone said to me: “As for the crashing technique, it may very direct, but I don’t think it’s as subtle as this.” To which I replied: “It is both.”
If an opponent attacks me with a high punch, I insert a fist diagonally from below it with an energy of carrying upward. While my fist enters at a slant, my body will advance to his side, and thereby I have already evaded his punch. I am now propping his fist upward while at the same time wasting no time in striking forward. If he wishes to press down my [carrying] fist, he will not be able to, and even if does, he will not be able to press it down far enough because I have prepared against it by having at the same time already struck his body with my [other] fist. [Although this paragraph actually depicts the blasting technique, it emphasizes the crashing aspect within it. The paragraph below depicts the crashing technique more purely.]
If an opponent attacks me with a low punch, then my fist attacks diagonally from above his fist, making an energy of pressing down. Once his fist has been pressed down, then the length of his arm is unable to reach my body, while my fist, scraping over his fist, has already struck his body. Who says the crashing technique does not have both functions?
3. It nourishes your energy and strengthens your will.
Through these major characteristics, you can begin to obtain internal skills. Xingyi thus has both internal and external skills, as elaborated in Chapter Five.
APPENDIX: THE ESSENTIALS OF YUE FEI’S XINGYI BOXING ART
In the summer of 1915, I returned south, and as I passed my hometown, people praised me as a prominent expert for making a study of the contents of Yue Fei’s boxing manual. Within it are nine chapters of essential principles and one chapter on fighting. Although the content of the writing is not without its flaws, the style of the writing is marvelous, powerful, and smooth, and as suits the work of Yue Fei, the theory is refined and thorough. It is certainly not the case that Yue Fei was unable to communicate. I say that equipped with this old Xingyi manual, you too will obtain such a level of clarity.
The Xingyi martial art has over time become much more prominent, and it is urgent for us to now make records of it and take them to Beijing so that connoisseurs and ordinary practitioners alike, as well as ordinary people, can admire Yue Fei. It we protect this material and do not let it slip away, we can help later students to the source.
– written respectfully by Zheng Lianpu
1st DISCOURSE ON ESSENTIALS [UNIFICATION]
It is always the case that what disperses will have its way of reintegrating, what separates will have its way of rejoining.
So it is in the world. There are four compass directions, then eight, then too many to keep track of, but each has its place [meaning every specific angle of direction can be more conveniently generalized into the area it belongs within the basic compass points]. Things are numerous, then innumerable, then a haze of meaningless detail, but all things have their basic sources [by which they can be more understandably grouped and classified under].
Everything is distributed from a single source to which everything ultimately and inevitably returns. The content of martial arts is very complex, but really the endless variations consolidate into matters of merely posture and energy, and even though there is a variety of postures, there is only one energy.
This single energy goes from head to foot, inwardly filling your organs and tissues, outwardly covering your muscles and skin, and from your five senses to your many bones, all are joined together to link into one [“a single thread”]. If smashed against, it does not leave a gap. If crashed into, it does not break apart.
When your upper body is about to move, your lower body naturally goes along with the movement. When your lower body is about to move, your upper body naturally takes charge of the movement. Once your upper body and lower body are in motion, your middle section attacks. When your middle section moving, your upper body and lower work in harmony.
Inside and out are linked together. Front and back are relying on each other. When we talk of linking into one, this is what is meant. But it is crucial that you do not force it to happen or try to sneak up on it, for that will not make it work.
When the moment comes for stillness, be silent and calm, staying put as stable as a mountain, then when the moment comes for movement, be like thunder or an avalanche, expressing as fast as lightning. When still, all parts are still, inside and out, above and below, and without any part feeling out of place. When moving, all parts are moving, left or right, forward or back, and without any part pulling the posture off course. Truly it is like water as it fills in downward, too much to be resisted, or like a cannon going off, too fast for you to cover your ears.
There is no contrivance of pondering, nor any worrying over doubts, for truly it will happen in its own time, achieved without your attaining. Yet how could such an effect happen without a cause? To get any benefit means the energy has to be built up day after day, and that means working at it for a long time for that to begin to happen. As for the wise teaching of the “single thread” [Lun Yu, 4.15 & 15.3], you must be patient and hear it many times until it is deeply ingrained, and then you will finally realize. Do not abandon the work of “broadening your knowledge to gain understanding” [from the “Da Xue”, chapter 42 of the Book of Rites], and therefore be aware that it is not a matter of difficulty or ease, just a process of doing your best.
You must not skip steps or rush through it, but go step by step and in the right order. That being the case, your senses, bones, limbs, and sections will link up naturally, above and below, inside and out, smoothly connecting. Thereby the dispersed are reintegrated, the separated rejoined, and all your limbs and bones returned to being a single energy.
2nd DISCOURSE ON ESSENTIALS [DUALITY]
Any discussion of boxing is simultaneously a discussion of energy. Energy is a single thing, but it can be divided into two parts, such as the two parts of breathing. Breathing breaks down into passive and active aspects. As punching cannot happen without its states of movement [punching] and stillness [not yet punching / having already punched], so too breathing cannot be without its exhaling and inhaling: inhaling is passive and exhaling is active.
Stillness is passive and movement is active. Rising is active and lowering is passive. Active energy rising is active, but active energy lowering is passive. Passive energy lowering is passive, but passive energy rising is active.
These are distinctions between passive and active. What about “clear” and “murky”? What rises is clear and what lowers is murky. The clear energy rises and the murky energy lowers. The clear is active and the murky is passive.
The key is that the active nourishes the passive. When mixed together, they are described as a single energy. When separated, they are described as the passive and active aspects. Energy cannot be without its passive and active aspects. Along the same lines, the body cannot be without its movement and stillness, the nose cannot be without its inhalations and exhalations, and the mouth cannot be without what comes out from it [as in talking] and what goes into it [as in eating].
This is the concept of the eternal cycling of opposites. Although energy divides into two, the two are actually one, and so if you are intent upon this path of study, be careful not to get too obsessed over either of the two [at the expense of the one].
3rd DISCOURSE ON ESSENTIALS [TRIPLE SECTIONING]
Because energy fills your whole body, the sectioning of the body is not a matter of specific landmarks, but of dividing into the three general sections of an upper section, a middle section, and a lower section [as well as a root section, a middle section, and a tip section for the limbs].
For instance, in the body, the head is the upper section, the torso is the middle section, and the legs are the lower section.
In the upper section [the head], the forehead is the upper section, the nose is the middle section, and the lower jaw is the lower section.
In the middle section [the torso], the chest is the upper section, the belly is the middle section, and the elixir field is the lower section.
In the lower section [the legs], the foot is the tip section, the knee is the middle section, and the hip is the root section.
Correspondingly in the arm, the hand is the tip section, the elbow is the middle section, and the shoulder is the root section.
In the hand, the fingers are the tip section, the palm is the middle section, and the heel of the palm is the root section.
Based on the previous example, it is then obvious enough how the foot is to be sectioned [toes, sole, heel].
Thus from your headtop to your feet, every part has three sections. The point is that if there is no dividing into three sections, there will be no areas of awareness. If the upper section is not understood, there will be no decisiveness. If the middle section is not understood, your whole body will be an empty nothing. If the lower section is not understood, you will be toppled over. Therefore we cannot afford to overlook them.
When expressing energy, it has to be the case that all the tips move, the middle sections follow, and the root sections hasten to back them up. This describes how the sections are divided.
To describe how they join, then from headtop above to foot below, all the limbs and bones are united into a single section, in which case it can no longer be said that there are three, and certainly not three within three. [The final message of this discussion of division is thus to return to the first principle of unification.]
4th DISCOURSE ON ESSENTIALS [THE FOUR ANTENNAS]
Examining beyond the body and the energy, there are then the “antennas”. The antennas are the leftover parts of the body. They are not addressed initially when discussing the body, and hardly dealt with at all when discussing the energy. A punch expresses outward from inside, and energy goes from the body into the antennas. Thus if the use of energy does not come from the whole body, it is empty rather than authentic, and if it does not reveal itself in the antennas, then even if it is there, it is still empty. The antennas must therefore also be given attention, although they are specifically antennas of the body, not purely antennas of energy.
What then are the four antennas?  Firstly, there is the head hair. It has nothing to do with the organs or limbs, and thus would appear to be irrelevant, but the hair is the antenna for the blood, and the blood is the sea in which the energy swims. Although it is not necessary to consider the hair when talking about the energy, we cannot talk about the energy without considering the blood. So since we have to consider the blood, how can we not at the same time consider the hair? The hair should be pricking up under the cap, which indicates the blood is in a state of sufficiency.
 The tongue is then the antenna for the muscles. The muscles are a sack for holding the energy. If the energy is not able to reveal itself in the tongue, then the energy is not at full capacity. If the tongue keeps wanting to press up behind the teeth, this indicates that the muscles are in a state of sufficiency.
 The teeth are the antenna for the bones, and  the nails are the antenna for the sinews. Energy is born in the bones and unites with the sinews, and so if it is not apparent in the teeth, it will also not show up in the nails. For it to display sufficiency, the teeth will be wanting to bite through sinew and the nails will be wanting to scratch through bone.
Once they are thus, the four antennas are in a state of sufficiency, and that being so, naturally the energy will be too. It will then not be the case that it is empty rather than authentic, nor that even if it is there, it is still empty.
5th DISCOURSE ON ESSENTIALS [THE FIVE ORGANS & THEIR ASSOCIATIONS]
In boxing arts, we discuss postures, and to do that, we discuss energy. The posture is made by the five organs in the body, for the energy is generated from the five organs. The five organs are truly the source of our life force and the basis of generating energy. They are the heart, liver, spleen, lungs, and kidneys.
The heart relates to the element of fire, which blazes upward. The liver relates to the element of wood, which bends and straightens. The spleen relates to the element of earth, which supplies abundance. The lungs relate to the element of metal, which obeys and overthrows. The kidneys relate to the element of water, which soaks downward. These are the relationships for the five organs. Their energies must be maintained at the right level, for they each play their role within a cooperative whole, and this is why a discussion of martial matters has to address this concept.
The chest is where the lung energy is positioned. It is the canopy for the other organs. When the lungs move, the other organs are unavoidably affected. At the center of the chest is the heart. The lungs are wrapped over it and protect it. Under the lungs and above the stomach is where the heart energy is positioned. The heart is ruler over [the other body parts associated with] the element of fire. When it moves, all the other fire correspondences [such as the vessels, the blood, and the tongue] accord with it. Behind the ribs on the left [right] side is the liver, and on the right [left] side is the spleen. To the sides of the lumbar vertebrae are the kidneys.
This is how the five organs are positioned, but as for their relationship, they are all connected through the spine to the essential fluid of the kidneys. Positioned in the waist, the kidneys are the first stage in the processing of innate energy and are thus the basis for the other organs. When the kidney fluid is sufficient, all of the five elements have vitality. This is why the five organs are positioned as they are.
The five organs have their fixed positions within, but also have special areas of association throughout the body, for instance the neck, headtop, brain, bones, and back are related to the kidneys. The ears are also related to the kidneys. The lips and cheeks are related to the spleen. The hair is related to the lungs. Tianting [the acupoint at the center of the forehead] is the source of the six active meridians, the gathering place of the essence of the five organs. Truly it is the leader of the face, and is no less than the supervisor over the whole body.
Yintang [the acupoint between the eyebrows] is the major spot on the stomach meridian. When vitality awakens at Tianting, it is because of activity at Yintang, and when energy is generated from the kidneys and reaches to the six active meridians, it is indeed because of the activity at Tianting.
The eyes as a whole are related to the liver, but as for the specific parts of the eye: the inner corner is related to the heart energy, the outer corner is related to the small intestine, the sclera is related to the lungs, the iris is related to the liver, and the pupil is related to the kidneys. Truly this is the place where the essence of the five organs is gathered, and is not just related to the liver.
The nostrils are related to the lungs. The cheeks are related to the kidneys. The forward flap of the ear is related to the energy of the gallbladder. The area of skull rising up from behind the ear is also related to the kidneys. The nose is related to the center, the source of sustenance for all parts [seeing as air is the most basic fuel we take in], and is truly lord over the central energy.
Renzhong [the acupoint between nose and upper lip] is where blood and energy meet and then push through up to Yintang and reach Tianting, and so it is another crucial spot. Tianting interrelates with two more acupoints, Chengjiang, below the lower lip, and below that, Dige, both of which are also related to the energy of the kidneys.
The collar, headtop, neck, and nape of the neck form the paths through which energy and blood congregate. In the front are the paths through which food comes in [mouth] and air goes in and out [nose]. Behind is the path along which kidney energy rises and lowers. From it the liver energy turns off to the left [right] and the spleen energy turns off to the right [left]. These relationships are particularly important, being essential to the whole body.
The breasts are related to the liver. The shoulders are related to the lungs. The elbows are related to the kidneys. The limbs are related to the spleen, as are the arm muscles that are attached to the back. The fingers are related to all five organs [in this way: forefinger – heart, middle finger – liver, thumb – spleen, little finger – lungs, ring finger – kidneys]. The knees and shins are related to the kidneys, as are the soles of the feet, the Yongquan [“Bubbling Spring”] being the major kidney acupoint.
More general relationships in the body are: central areas are related to the heart, hollowed areas are related to the lungs, boney areas are related to the kidneys, sinewy areas are related to the liver, and muscular areas are related to the spleen.
To analogize their intentions, the heart is like a fierce tiger, the liver like an arrow, the spleen energy is great and inexhaustible, the liver [lung] energy is the most aware of change, and the kidney energy moves fast as the wind. These are examples of making use of the energies, but in order to do so, wherever in the body a specific energy is to be activated, it can never be done without the [specific] intention. The right practitioner will naturally intuit this, whereas words are not adequate to get the message across. As for the process of how they [the five] generate and inhibit each other, that is for another discussion, but by studying the essentials, it will all come together naturally.
The five organs and the many bones all form a single unit. The four limbs and the three centers [palm, sole, solar plexus] unite into a single energy. And so it is not necessary to go into detail about the particular energy channels one by one.
6th DISCOURSE ON ESSENTIALS [THE SIX & MORE UNIONS]
Mind is united with the intention, intention united with energy, energy united with power – these are the three internal unions. Hand is united with foot, elbow united with knee, shoulder united with hip – these are the three external unions. These together are the six unions.
Left hand can also be united with right foot, left elbow united with right knee, left shoulder united with right hip – likewise with left and right reversed. In addition, head is united with hand, hand united with torso, torso united with step. Are these not external unions? Heart is united with eye, liver united with sinew, spleen united with muscle, lungs united with torso, kidneys united with bones. Are these not internal unions? We cannot say there are only six unions, for these particular distinctions are also talked of. The main idea is that when one part moves, every part moves, and when one part finishes, every part finishes. Therein lies the complete functioning of the whole body in all of its parts.
7th DISCOURSE ON ESSENTIALS [SEVEN ADVANCING AS ONE]
[1 – head] The head is the source of the six active meridians and is the commander of the whole body, from senses to bones. There is no part that does not rely on it, therefore the head must advance.
[2&3 – hand & forearm] The hand is the first to go forth, but it is rooted in the forearm. If the forearm does not advance, the hand cannot go forward. This is why it is important for the forearm to advance.
[4&5 – energy & waist] Energy gathers in the wrist, but its engine lies in the waist. If the waist does not advance, the energy will not have enough energy to manifest. This is why it is important for the waist to advance.
[6&7 – intent & step] Intention courses through the whole body, but movement lies in the stepping. If the step does not advance, the intention is unable to proceed. This is why it is essential for the step to advance. Furthermore, when going forward with your left, you must advance your right, and when going forward with your right, you must advance your left.
These are the seven parts that advance, each of them involved in the effort. The key to it is that before you advance, there should be no intention of movement anywhere in your body, and then when you decide to advance, your whole body acts without holding back.
8th DISCOURSE ON ESSENTIALS [THE BODY’S METHODS]
What are the methods for the body? To release and rein in, to go high and low, to advance and retreat, to turn behind and turn to either side.
To release is to express power, sending it all in one direction so it does not get turned back. To rein in is to bind up power, building it up so no one will be able to resist it.
To go high is to raise the body up so it seems to be lengthened. To go low is to bow the body down so it seems to be squeezed in.
When it is time to advance, I advance, overwhelming his strength by valiantly charging straight in. When it is time to retreat, I retreat, luring his energy in so that he overcommits and falls forward.
When turning around to face behind, what is behind becomes what is in front. When facing to the left and right, I ensure no one dare attack me from the side.
It is important that these points not be turned into a restrictive formula. I must first observe an opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, which will give me my strategy. I suddenly release and suddenly rein in, adjusting according to the situation, for I must not be stubborn about when to use one or the other. I go suddenly high or suddenly low, adapting as circumstances demand, for I must not hold to a preconceived pattern.
When it is appropriate to advance, I must not retreat and thereby make myself timid. When it is appropriate to retreat, I should retreat, and yet with a readiness to advance. Therefore, advancing is a matter of advancing whole-heartedly, and retreating is also actually a matter of advancing.
When I turn around to face behind me, I have no notion of it as being behind. When I face to either side, I have no notion of them as being a left or a right. To sum up, operations are in your sight and adaptations are in your mind. [To clarify the summing up, your view of the situation is always forward and your sense of your changing surroundings is always inside you.]
Once these essentials have been grasped, they will become a part of you. When going forward, every limb will move uncommanded, and when withdrawing, every bone will arrive without a thought. However, these things first have to be discussed in order to be realized.
9th DISCOURSE ON ESSENTIALS [STEPPING PRINCIPLES]
From your five senses to your many bones, your movement is presided over by your stepping. Your step provides the base for your body and the crux for its movement. When fighting with an opponent, it is always the case that you are to use your whole body. But without your step, your body really has nothing to stand on. Adapting according to the situation lies with your hands, but the capacity for your hands to maneuver lies with your stepping.
When advancing or retreating, turning around or to the sides, you will have no vehicle to drive you there unless you step. When raising or lowering, expanding or contracting, you will show no ingenuity of adaptation unless you step. We say that “operations are in your sight and adaptations are in your mind”, and therefore you are to twist and turn in endless variations to stay out of danger, but this cannot happen without the step being in charge. However, it is crucial that you do not try to force this.
The movement begins mindlessly, its motivation arising unconsciously. When your body is about to move forward, your step [with the front foot] turns outward [to prepare]. Then when your [rear] hand is about to go forward, your step [with the rear foot] hastens to get ahead of it. This quality will happen in its own time, arriving without your steering it. When we talk of the upper body being about to move and the lower body naturally going along with the movement, this is what is meant.
Stepping divides into front and rear, fixed and unfixed. When the front foot advances and the rear foot follows, they are fixed [i.e. front foot remaining forward, rear foot remaining in the rear]. When the front foot becomes the rear foot or the rear foot becomes the front foot, whether it be because of the front foot becoming the rear foot by way of the rear foot stepping forward, or because of the rear foot becoming the front foot by way of the front foot stepping back, they are unfixed [i.e. front foot and rear foot switching roles].
It is always the case in boxing theory that the crucial thing to grasp is the stepping. Whether you are lively or not is a matter of stepping. Whether you are nimble or not is a matter of stepping. The function of stepping is a huge factor. [The specific theme of stepping now fades from the spotlight. The text from this point on was likely originally intended as part of the 10th section.]
This kind of boxing is called “Mind & Intention” [Xinyi – an older name for Xingyi]. It is called this because intention is generated by mind and the fist then expresses as dictated by the intention. You should always know both yourself and your opponent, and respond according to the situation. Mind and energy express as one. Your limbs act together. When lifting your foot [to step], it is a matter of direction. When lifting your knee [to kick], it is a matter of calculation. When turning around, it is a matter of position. Unify your shoulders with your hips. The three points are to align with each other. Mind [is united with intent], intent [united with energy], energy [united with power] – these are the three internal unions. Fist is united with foot, elbow united with knee, shoulder united with hip – these are the three external unions. The three centers – palm, sole, solar plexus – are united as a single energy.
Do not shoot out your hands when the distance is too great. Your punch can reach past three feet, but no farther than about five feet. Whether going forward or back, left or right, step with your punch [to get the fullest range]. You definitely need to be able to reach the opponent, and yet it will be even more effective if you can do it without telegraphing what you are up to.
Your hand shoots out fast as wind or an arrow, the sound like thunder or an avalanche. Come and go like a rabbit darting here and there, attacking like a hungry bird entering a crowded coop. When fighting an opponent, be like a huge cannon reducing a wall to rubble. With your joints readied to spring, leap straight in to consume him. Before there is contact, energy should go forth, but once your hands have connected, the ingenuity lies in quick action.
Do not attack just because you notice a gap, look for a way to deflect him aside and then attack. Do not seize the position just because you notice a gap, look for a way to deflect him aside and then seize the position. Above, middle, and below should have an energy between them that is kept consistent. Body, hands, and feet should be bound together by acting in coordination. Though you should not rise and lower meaninglessly, proficient skill is entirely a matter of liveliness. Be able to evade or engage, to harden or soften, to advance or retreat.
Be as still as a mountain, as confusing as the alternations of the passive and active aspects, as limitless as the universe, as full as a warehouse, as vast as the ocean, as dazzling as the sun, moon, and stars. Observe for opportunities presented by his incoming attacks, sizing up his strengths and weaknesses. Await movement with stillness. Meet stillness with movement. A technique of borrowing his force is the easy way. A technique of going against his force is difficult. But if you revert to going against his force, the key is to get there first.
When fighting a courageous opponent, you must not worry about doing anything wrong, for if you do, you will seize up and not be able to do anything right. Lift like an arrow releasing, then drop like the wind. When pressed to frustration, stop his hand and draw it aside. Cloak everything you are doing, then emerge like lightning. Deflect to your sides, guarding both, and when you turn around, it is like a tiger searching a hillside. Swipe aside and strike fiercely, and he will not be able to withstand you. Swipe aside his limbs and go directly forward, and you will seize his center. Striking above or below, move like a tiger. Seem like an eagle descending on chickens in a coop. Having “diverted the river and turned back the sea” [signifying a stupendous achievement], you do not need to be in a rush. Because “the phoenix has landed on the sunny slope” [signifying the arrival of talent], your ability has become potent. When sun and moon go behind clouds, the world is changed. When martial artists clash, inferior and superior become apparent.
Step in this way: between your feet is an inch in width and a foot in length.
When chopping to his face, step forward with your right leg and follow with your left foot. Here is the method of moving forward: advancing on an opponent requires advancing with your body. When body and hand are working in unison, then it is right.
The trick to this is to study the principles [specifically of unification], and then it will seem miraculous. A hawk slips through the trees without a touch to its wings. A eagle catches prey without unbalancing its body.
To win, your limbs must act in unison. If you lose, it must be because you brought his aim to your center. Carry out your strategy adaptively, send out your spirit thunderously, consider viciousness to be the best plan, and your hands and eyes will then defeat him.
What are evading and advancing? Advancing is an evasion. Evading is an advance. It is not necessary to think about this too hard. What are attacking and defending? Defending is an attack. Attacking is a defense. Just shoot out your hand. Mind like gunpowder, fist like a bullet – with just a nudge of the trigger [i.e. with the merest thought], the bird cannot escape. Body like a bow, hand like an arrow – with the thrum of the bowstring, the bird falls like magic. Lift your hand like lightning flashing. When lightning flashes, there is no chance to close your eyes. Strike the opponent like thunder clapping. When thunder claps, there is no chance to cover your ears.
The five methods [the five elements techniques] are basically five ways of closing off an opponent. There is no one there to guard against because the blocking is an intrinsic part of it. As your left hand covers your left side, your right hand attacks from your right side, and then as your right hand covers your right side, it is your left hand’s turn. Each hand is wrapped into a fist and punches directly forward while the doorways of the five closings close tight. Your fist shoots out from your center and lands upon his nose, while your foot lifts and steps quickly through his center like surging fire. Of the five elements of metal, wood, water, fire, and earth, fire blazes upward and water floods downward. We each possess a heart, a liver, a spleen, lungs, and kidneys. Our five elements urge each other on without error.
PART 10: FIGHTING PRINCIPLES
Stand on your right foot to advance with your left, then stand on your left foot to advance with your right.
When stepping, first the heel comes down, then the toes grip the ground. The step should be steady. The body should stand sturdy.
A punch is heavy and vigorous, leaving with the hand loose, then contacting with a completed fist. When making the fist, it should roll up tight to grasp with energy.
Above and below, the energy should be even. Going out and coming back is dictated by your mind. Your eyes, hands, and feet go along with the movement, no part overemphasizing nor underemphasizing, nothing acting independently.
The elbow lowers and covers, then the hand lowers and covers.
Your right foot begins, the elbow going forward. This is the exchanging of steps.
Punch from the center, putting the power of your whole body into the hand. Your hand acts through your mind and your mind acts through your hand. Advance with body and step so that in each step and punch, when one part moves, all parts move along with it. The key to issuing power is that when one part grasps in, the whole body grasps in, and when one part reaches out, the whole body reaches out. Grasp in all the way to your root, and reach out all the way with an advance. It is like a cannon that has been tightly packed, which will then shoot that much more powerfully.
Regardless of what kind of attack, be it lifting up, pressing down, scraping, spinning, slashing, thrusting, hatcheting, elbowing, shouldering, striking with the hip, headbutting, or whether it is done while advancing or retreating, with the front hand and foot the same, the front hand and foot opposite, or whether it be forward or back, left or right, up or down, the various means of attack should all flow continuously one after the other.
When your hands go forth and are the first to occupy the “main entrance”, this is called skill.
Your joints should be coordinated. If they are not coordinated, there will be no power. When grabbing, the hand should be nimble. If it is not nimble, the opponent will adjust his position and get away. When attacking, the hand should be quick. If it is not quick, it will be too late. When lifting, the hand should be lively. If it is not lively, it will not be quick. When striking, the hand should be followed upon. If it is not followed, there will be no reinforcements. Your intent should be poisonous. If there is no poison, there will be no precision. Your feet and hands should be lively. If not lively, you will be taking risks. Keep your mind sharp. If not, you will get tricked.
When attacking, you should have the fierceness of a seizing eagle. All that is seen outside is your skin, but within there is boldness. When the moment comes, act with skill. Never fear nor hesitate. Be both careful and courageous. Show a kind face to mask your vicious intent. In stillness, be like a scholar. In movement, be like a thunderclap.
The opponent’s incoming attacks should be carefully observed. If his head tilts, he is about to kick. If his shoulder twitches, he is about to punch. If his torso turns sideways, he is about to step forward. If his torso leans in, he is about to leap at you. If he steps out at an angle, he is about to switch feet. If he does a blocking strike, he is about to back off. If he lifts his leg, he is about to extend it into a pressing kick.
When guarding to the east, you must prepare against danger to the west. When there is emptiness above, there will be solidity below. The fast technique defeats the slow technique. There are countless cunning ways to attack, but the best will come from your own contemplations.
The real stuff is to be found in the common sayings.
Lifting seeks to drop. Dropping seeks to lift. Lifting and dropping should follow each other.
When torso and hands arrive at the same time, it is correct.
Using your thighs like scissors [i.e. your thighs squeezing together as your rear foot follows your front foot], target [with your hand] the opponent’s brow.
When you turn around, it is like a tiger searching a hillside, then like a delicate robe hanging from a tree that gives no shade [i.e. Decisively look behind you, but then wait in ghostly stillness for the moment to act.].
Lift your hand like a flash of lighting. Drop your hand like a crash of thunder. It is also like wind pushing aside rain, an eagle catching a rabbit, a hawk slipping through the forest, a rooster pecking away a goose, and like you are trying to [go through the opponent to] touch the ground.
When your hand lifts, the three centers are to be aligned with each other.
When you are still, be like one reading a book, and when you are in motion, be like a dragon or tiger.
When out of range to strike with your hands, both hands are to be guarding your ribs.
When attacked to your right side, meet it with your right side [and likewise for the left]. This will deal with an opponent quicker.
At a distance, strike with hand or foot. When close in, strike with elbow or knee. The two ranges should be understood when punching and kicking.
The direction of your head will compel the direction of your posture, but examine the opponent to be able to decide when to advance.
Do not outwardly reveal your intention, for if you do you are sure to fail.
To deal with an opponent quickly, consider the surrounding environment so as to strike from a superior position.
Your hands should be quick, but your feet should be light, stepping like a cat stalking its prey. Your mind should be decisive and your gaze should be focused.
When your hands and feet act in unison, you are sure to win. If your hand arrives but your step does not, your attack on an opponent will not have its fullest effect, but if hand and step arrive at the same time, the attack on the opponent will be like spreading grass aside.
When attacking above, go for the throat. When below, go for the groin. When to the side, go for the ribs. When to the middle, go for the solar plexus. When attacking forward, the range can go beyond ten feet [by combining stepping with the hand technique. When close in, it all happens within an inch.
When your body moves, it is like a wrecking ball going through a wall. When your foot comes down, it is like a tree planting roots.
Your hand lifts like a cannon shooting straight ahead. Your body should be like a writhing snake. “Attack its head, its tail counters. Attack its tail, its head counters. Attack its middle, head and tail counter together.” [Art of War, chapter 11]
When attacking forward, you must consider behind. To know how to advance, you must know how to retreat.
Your mind moves fast as a horse. Your spirit moves fast as the wind.
When practicing, there seems to be an opponent in front of you. When fighting, it is as though no one is there.
When your front hand lifts, your rear hand hastens after it, and when your front foot lifts, your rear foot closely follows.
Do not perceive your hands in front of you as hands, nor your elbows in front of your chest as elbows [because the key is the whole sum that they are merely parts of].
Neither attack nor advance just because you have spotted a gap. [Control the opponent first, preventing him from covering his center when you attack, then go in.] Your fists should not be and lowering in pursuit of nothing.
Once your hand rises up, your foot should be coming down. Once your foot comes down, your hand should be rising up.
Your mind should be ahead of the opponent’s, your intention should defeat him, your body should attack him, and your step should walk through him. What your front leg seems to add, your rear leg seems to further increase.
Your head should go up, your chest should go forward, your waist should lengthen, and your elixir field should wield energy. From headtop to foot, there should be a single energy running between them.
If you are afraid, you will lose. If you are unable to interpret his words or manner, you will be unable to guard against him, and you will certainly be unable to beat him to the punch.
The one who moves first becomes the teacher. The one who moves after becomes the student. If you can be taught, you will want to advance. If you cannot be taught, you will want to retreat.
The three sections should be settled into place. The three points should align with each other. The four antennas should be equal.
Understanding the three centers means more power. Understanding triple sectioning means more focus. Understanding the four antennas means more essence. Understanding the five elements means more energy. Understanding that none of the three sections are to be excessive or deficient means greater adaptability in lifting and dropping, advancing and retreating.
A posture is made by the “three turnings in nine revolutions” [the process of essence turning into energy, energy turning into spirit, spirit returning to void, exercised over and over again], and the mind should always be in charge. The cooperation of the five elements moves the two energies [passive and active – metal and water being passive, wood and fire being active, earth being a balance of both]. Practice constantly, never missing a day. When in a fight, there is struggle. But if you have been working at it for a long time, there will instead be naturalness.
These are words of conviction, not empty platitudes.
Note: The Xingyi of Hebei was transmitted from Shanxi, and the Xingyi of Shanxi was transmitted from Henan. Thus the various contents of this Xingyi Boxing manual are found mostly in Henan and Hebei because the circumstances led it to be the case. But over the many generations, the writings overflowed unsystematized, and through the process of retranscription, many errors were made. The original ten chapters are not sufficient to give us a whole picture of the Xingyi martial art, and thus we cannot obtain it fully through the manual. Its chapters are therefore reduced in stature from wings to mere fish scales, and yet they are indeed worthy of being treasured.
I am no intellectual, so if you deign to so much as even hold this thing in your hands, I would look upon that as a great compliment.
– Li Jianqiu of Shulu