A COMBINED VOLUME:
FIVE ELEMENTS MANUAL / CONTINUOUS BOXING MANUAL
dictated by Li Cunyi of Shenzhou [in Hengshui, Hebei]
recorded by Du Zhitang of Guangzong [in Xingtai, Hebei]
[circa 1916 (This book has no date on it, but is listed within Part Three of 精武本紀 The Annals of Jingwu, which itself was published in late 1919. According to that listing, this book was published by the 天津武士會 Warriors Association of Tianjin, which was established in 1912. Compromising between these two dates, 1916 seems reasonable for the time being.)]
[translation by Paul Brennan, Oct, 2017]
MANUAL FOR THE FIVE ELEMENTS TECHNIQUES
CHAPTER ONE: GENERAL INTRODUCTION
Section One: Explanation of the Five Elements
The five elements are metal, wood, water, fire, and earth. Internally there are five major organs and externally there are five senses. All of these things are paired with the five elements. The heart corresponds with fire. The spleen corresponds with earth. The liver corresponds with wood. The lungs corresponds with metal. The kidneys corresponds with water. This is the five elements hidden within. The eyes are connected to the liver, the nose is connected to the lungs, the tongue is connected to the heart, the ears are connected to the kidneys, and the Renzhong acupoint [between nose and upper lip] is connected to the spleen. This is the five elements functioning externally.
The five elements have a method of generating each other: metal gives rise to water, water gives rise to wood, wood gives rise to fire, fire gives rise to earth, and earth gives rise to metal. There is also the method of how they control each other: metal overcomes wood, wood overcomes earth, earth overcomes water, water overcomes fire, and fire overcomes metal.
The five elements concept first appeared in the Hong Fan [“flood model”] document [Book of Documents, document 32], which was then used by Han Dynasty scholars as a way to interpret the world. Later generations mocked the theory because they no longer understood it, however, but the principle of the elements generating and overcoming each other is never unworthy of study. The five elements are after all where these boxing techniques get their name. Make use of them to be solid internally and in good order externally. The method of them generating each other has to do with the solo practice. The concept of them controlling each other helps make sense of the partner practice. It is not necessary here to go more deeply into the ancient explanations.
Section Two: Explanations for the Five Techniques
The five techniques are: crashing, drilling, chopping, blasting, and crossing. Crashing is like an arrow, and so it is associated with wood. Blasting is like a cannon, and so it is associated with fire. Crossing is like a springiness, and so it is associated with earth. Chopping is like an ax, and so it is associated with metal. Drilling is like an electric shock, and so it is associated with water.
They generate each other in this way: crossing can generate chopping, chopping can generate drilling, drilling can generate crashing, crashing can generate blasting, and blasting can generate crossing, All things are born of the earth, therefore crossing can also generate all the other techniques. They overcome each other in this way: chopping can overcome crashing, crashing can overcome crossing, crossing can overcome drilling, drilling can overcome blasting, and blasting can overcome chopping.
Section Three: Explanation of the Four Antennas
The body has blood, muscles, sinews, and bones. The endpoints of these tissues are called “antennas”. The antenna of the blood is the hair, the antenna of the muscles is the tongue, the antenna of the sinews is the nails, and the antenna of the bones is the teeth. When the four antennas express power, they can transform you into something unearthly, transmitting to the opponent that he should fear you.
1. The Blood’s Antenna
Filled with a rage,
your hairs will stand on end.
With your blood clearly quickened,
the opponent will tremble in fear.
Even though hairs are so small,
they have no trouble in wrecking the opponent’s morale.
2. The Antenna of the Muscles
Curl your tongue upward and energy will descend,
and then even mountains will be shaken to pieces before you.
Your muscles will be hard as iron
and your spirit will be filled with courage.
With a single powerful action of your tongue [completing a potent energy circuit],
the opponent will lose heart and be scared to death.
3. The Antenna of the Sinews
With the might of a tiger and the fierceness of an eagle,
treat your nails as sharp weapons.
Your hands seize and your feet trample,
both with an energy of boldness.
No matter where you put your claws,
you will win.
4. The Antenna of the Bones
Courage lies in the bones
and expresses in the teeth.
The opponent’s flesh looks yummy,
says your glaring eyes.
Baring your teeth
will make him quite unnerved.
Section Four: The Eight Terms
Beyond the four antennas, there are also the eight terms. Once you have settled into the boxing postures, you are ready for the eight terms. They are all a means of storing power and nurturing energy, keeping one who would fight against you from having a way to get started. They are special qualities of the Five Elements techniques. The eight terms are: 1. pressing, 2. covering, 3. roundness, 4. cruelty, 5. wrapping, 6. lowering, 7. bending, 8. straightening. Each of the eight is divided into three parts. All twenty-four of these items are explained individually below:
1. Three Pressings
[i] Your head presses upward with the brashness to pierce the sky.
[ii] Your hands press outward with the ability to push over a mountain.
[iii] Your tongue presses upward and thereby you have the power of a lion roaring as if to gulp down an elephant.
2. Three Coverings
[i] Your shoulders cover, and thus power reaches your elbows.
[ii] Your palms cover, and thus power reaches your hands.
[iii] Your fingers and toes cover, and thus power will fill your whole body.
3. Three Roundnesses
[i] With your spine rounded, power will urge your body.
[ii] With your chest rounded, your forearms will be filled with power.
[iii] With the tiger’s mouths rounded, bold fierceness will be outwardly shown.
4. Three Cruelties
[i] Your mind is cruel, like an angry fox seizing a rat.
[ii] Your eyes are cruel, like a hungry hawk spotting a rabbit.
[iii] Your hands are cruel, like a hungry tiger catching a sheep.
5. Three Wrappings
[i] Your elixir field wraps your energy so that it does not scatter away.
[ii] Courage wraps your body so that you will face changes in a situation unfazed.
[iii] Your elbows wrap your ribs so that you may attack and withdraw without falling into disorder.
6. Three Lowerings
[i] Energy lowers, thereby descending to the elixir field.
[ii] Your shoulders lower and thereby urge your elbows forward.
[iii] Your elbows lower and thereby give a natural roundness to your arms.
7. Three Bendings
[i] Your arms should be bent. Then power will be abundant.
[ii] Your legs should be bent. Then power will be collected.
[iii] Your wrists should be bent. Then power will be full.
8. Three Straightenings
[i] When your neck straightens, energy will course through to your headtop.
[ii] When your torso straightens, power will arrive at the four antennas.
[iii] When your knees straighten, your energy will be calm and your mind will be focused.
CHAPTER TWO: DESCRIPTIONS OF EACH TECHNIQUE
Section 1. BEGINNING POSTURE
The Five Elements techniques are to be performed with great precision. The body, shoulders, forearms, hands, fingers, thighs, feet, tongue, and tailbone are all involved. Each of these parts is described below:
If you lean forward or back,
the posture will have no power.
To lean to either side
is an error for the whole body.
Be upright but seem to be at an angle,
and be angled but seem to be upright.
Your head wants to press upward,
but your shoulders have to hang down.
Your left shoulder twists in
and your right shoulder naturally goes along with it.
When the strength of your body reaches your hands,
your shoulders are where it is transmitted from.
Your left forearm is extended forward
and your right forearm is at your ribs.
[Your front arm] seems bent but not bent,
straight but not straight.
If too bent, it has no reach,
and if too straight, it has little power.
Your right hand is at your ribs
and your left hand is at solar plexus level.
Your rear hand slightly presses in
and your front hand strongly reaches out.
Both hands turn over to be facing downward,
and should do so with much power [equal force].
The fingers are all spread apart
and the shape is like a hook.
The tiger’s mouth is rounded and open,
and there seems to be hardness and yet softness.
Power has to reach the fingers,
but must not be forced to be there.
Your left thigh is forward
and your right thigh supports behind.
[Your front leg] seems straight but not straight,
bent but not bent.
With one leg supporting while the other sticks out,
it always looks like a chicken.
Your left foot goes out pointing straight,
it being an error to have it turned out to the side.
Your right foot is pointing diagonally,
the front heel aligned with the rear ankle.
There is a distance of two feet between your feet,
and the toes are firmly covering.
The tongue is the antenna of the muscles
and is curled upward for energy to descend.
Your eyes will widen, your hairs will stand,
and your elixir field will be boosted.
Your muscles will be like iron
and your internal organs will be strengthened.
Tuck in your tailbone
and then energy will course through to the four antennas.
Your legs will be rounded
and your buttocks will squeeze together.
If your tailbone is sticking out, the posture will be in disarray,
therefore it should be slightly tucked in.
Performing the techniques is not just a matter of the five techniques. The beginning posture is used with each of them and its functions are many. You should memorize these nine poems and then the practice will be natural.
Section Two: CHOPPING
What makes Xingyi different from other boxing arts is that when the front foot advances, the rear foot will follow. When performing a technique, your front foot should quickly advance. You will thus be so nimble and agile that you will always be able to win. When advancing, your rear foot should fiercely follow. Thereby energy will urge your body on and nothing will be able to stand against you, and this is not only true for the chopping technique. The footwork of chopping is to make three steps with each performance of the technique: 1. your front foot advances, 2. your rear foot advances, 3. the foot that first advanced now follows. See the diagram:
開勢 beginning posture
一組 1st time 二組 2nd time 三組 3rd time
一 1st step 二 2nd step 三 3rd step
Your hands grasp tightly into fists,
both with the center of the fist facing upward.
Your fists go out from by your mouth,
rotated so that the little finger is upward.
[Your left fist] goes no higher than shoulder level,
the strength in your left shoulder.
Your rear fist goes out following [your front fist],
the elbow placed in front of your chest.
Your gaze is level, your tongue curled upward,
and energy sinks to your elixir field.
Your front foot steps out first
and your rear foot advances a large step.
Your feet and hands finish in unison,
one hand pushing out, the other pulling in, both moving quickly.
Your rear foot is at an angle,
but your front is again straight.
[Your front hand] is at solar plexus level, fingers spread,
and your rear hand is near your ribs.
Your feet, hands, and nose
are arranged into a vertical alignment.
4. Turning Around
From your right hand being forward, turn around to the left. (If your left hand was in front, you would turn around to the right.) Your front foot becomes the rear foot and your rear foot becomes the front foot. Then process is as before: 1. the front foot advances, 2. the rear foot advances, 3. the new rear foot follows. See the diagram:
Section Three: DRILLING
These three steps are the same as for chopping.
Your left foot advances,
your left palm turning over so the palm is facing upward.
The palm hollows and the elbow bends
so that it is like drawing a bow.
Your right palm grasps in a fist,
the center of the facing upward, and is place beside your ribs.
Your gaze is toward your front hand
and aggressive energy builds.
Then as you continue into finishing,
this technique cannot be defended against.
Your left foot opens outward,
then your right foot advances.
As the foot comes down, your [right] fist drills,
and your [left] fist should turn over rapidly.
Your left foot follows, pointing diagonally,
and your right foot is pointing straight.
Your front fist seeks to be at nose level
and your rear fist has its elbow tight against you.
Your feet, hands, and nose
are all vertically aligned with each other.
4. Turning Around
From your right hand being forward, turn around to the left. (If your left hand is in front, you would turn around to the right.) Your right goes to your [left] ribs, turning over to cover the opponent’s wrist. The footwork is the same as in chopping.
Section Four: CRASHING
The crashing technique is so simple that it cannot be divided into postures of starting and finishing, but its turning around is more complex than for the other techniques, and so its postures are divided into the actions of sending out and turning around. Its practice method involves the left leg being in front and the right foot following forward, hence it is also called LEFT-LEG CRASHING. See the diagram:
2. Sending Out
Your left foot first goes out,
then your right foot advances.
The ankle is next to your left heel,
and though your legs are bent, the posture stands proudly.
Your palms become fists
and your rear fist goes straight forward, the center of the fist facing to the left.
Your left fist forcefully pulls straight back
as your right fist goes vigorously forward.
Your hands switch places with ease
and your footwork is not in disorder.
3. Turning Around
Your left foot turns sideways to the right,
going along with the [rightward] turning of your body.
Your right foot lifts, turning sideways,
your right fist reaching out with the center of the fist facing upward.
Your left fist is wrapping in,
then your hands push and pull with equal force.
Your foot and hands finish in unison,
your palms turning to be facing downward.
Your rear palm is at your left ribs
and your front palm is at solar plexus level.
Footwork for turning around:
囬身 turning around 一組 1st time [along new line]
4. Closing Posture
The other techniques are concluded simply, but with the crashing technique, after the second time you turn around and strike out, your left hand then goes forward. Your right leg diagonally retreats a step, the foot coming down sideways, then your left leg retreats a large step. When your right foot comes, your hands stay as they are. When your left foot comes down, your right hand fiercely withdraws and your left hand forcefully goes out. This movement is called RETREAT, CROSSING [movement 3 of the Continuous Boxing set]. See the footwork diagram:
Section Five: BLASTING
Whereas chopping and drilling each use three steps, and crashing uses two steps, blasting uses four steps, always moving diagonally. See the diagram:
Your left foot advances first,
then your right foot follows.
With your right foot pointing diagonally, your left leg lifts,
and your gaze goes to the corner.
Your palms becomes fists, the centers of the fists facing upward,
your right fist at your ribs, your left fist at your navel.
It is like a T shape,
neither hand higher or lower than the other.
As your elbows squeeze your ribs,
curl your tongue upward for energy to descend.
Your right fist goes straight out
like a stone being thrown.
Your left fist turns over inward
as it is placed at your forehead.
Your [left] foot lifts and advances
in unison with your left fist.
The movement is then performed alternating to the left and right
without doing anything else.
Try out the footwork
and you will find it is like a dragon or a serpent.
4. Turning Around
From your left hand being forward, turn around to the left. (If your right hand is forward, you would turn around to the right.) When turning, your left foot slightly shifts, your right foot gathers in to be where your left foot was, then your left foot lifts and you again strike out diagonally. The diagram below is aligned north-south. Before you turn around, you are striking to the southeast. After you turn around, you are striking to the northeast. (The rest of the four corners can be deduced from this.) See the diagram below, which shows the stepping to the corners:
Section Six: CROSSING
Crossing again uses diagonal stepping. The technique has similarities to chopping and drilling, but is not performed along a straight line. Its winding path is like blasting, but with fewer steps. See the diagram:
Your front foot lifts and withdraws,
and your rear foot stands one-legged.
Your hands become fists,
the center of your front fist facing upward, your rear fist pressing under its arm.
Your front fist is at eyebrow [shoulder] level
and your rear fist is hidden under its elbow.
Your body is upright, your gaze is level,
your tongue is curled upward, and your breath slows.
Although you pause standing tall for an instant,
you should be filled with power.
Your [left] foot advances and comes down,
making a scissor shape.
Your rear fist drills outward
and your front fist retreats along its arm.
Your drilling fist turns over so the little finger is upward,
your retreating fist level with its elbow.
The fist that was underneath goes out across,
Your hands and feet alternate
to perform the technique on both sides.
4. Turning Around
From your left hand being forward, turn around to the right. (If your right hand is forward, you would turn around to the left.) When turning, your left foot slightly shifts, then your right foot advances, your left foot advances, your [right] fist drills, and your right foot follows. See the diagram:
CHAPTER THREE: CONCLUSIONS
Section One: Practice
1. Concentrated Practice
The practice of boxing arts is eighty percent solo practice, twenty percent partner practice. Thus it is said: “Strengthening the body is constant. Defeating opponents is temporary.” As for strengthening the body, any boxing art can be practiced. As for defeating opponents, the Five Elements techniques are best. A method of defeating opponents requires quality more than quantity. These techniques can be used to fight against one person or many. If you are practicing too many techniques, you will be neglecting all of them. If you strive to have a large amount, you will only end up with a big mess. If your body has not been properly trained, or you try to deal with opponents having not yet achieved skill, in either case you will lose.
It is human nature to devote our attention to what we enjoy. We want things to be full-flavored rather than bland, to be wide-ranging rather than restricted, and to come to us quickly rather than making us wait. A lonely pine tree with a long branchless trunk may not be as pleasing a sight as freshly flowering willows, but which is better at surviving through harsh winter? The Five Elements techniques are all simple postures and are thus the proper thing for ordinary practice.
2. Long-Term Practice
“So deep there is no bottom, so vast there is no horizon.” Boxing arts are like this. If you achieve a shallow level, you may be able to deal with one opponent, but if you achieve the deepest level, you will be able to deal with any number of them. To practice boxing arts, you truly have to be humble. If you only take a taste and then stop, working at it sporadically, you cannot expect to get very far. The Five Elements techniques are not at all easy. After just a few months you will see progress, but even after ten years you will still not have mastered them.
A superficial person will look at the contents of the art and feel that the finish line is no better than the starting line, that the long-term achievement is no better than the short-term achievement. However, once your skill has ripened, you will be filled with internal strength, and the tendency toward external strength will have faded. Unless you put many years of uninterrupted work into it, you will not be able to achieve mastery. Mastery comes from two things: humility and perseverance.
Opinionated people keep saying that boxing arts teachers are all selfish, that whenever you ask them something, they will not explain, and whenever they do explain, they do not explain fully. Is this really so? Students who are full of themselves will either recklessly challenge others and invite disaster or they will love to fight so much that they go around bullying people. They are vehicles for their own destruction. Students who are inconstant learn something halfway and then think they know it well enough. They start in the morning, but quit by the evening, and then say they have completed the course. When you test your skill and find out that it is useless, do not say “my teacher cheated me”, say “I practiced it wrong”. It was not that the teacher failed you, it was that you never took the art seriously. How was he being selfish?
Section Two: Variations
Although there are only five techniques, they are indeed ingenious in their function, for they can naturally be adapted. There are six versions of chopping. Drilling, blasting, and crossing each have seven. Crashing has nine. Altogether this makes thirty-six. They are listed below, the versions already appearing in the descriptions above being at the head of each section of the list.
正步劈拳 進步劈拳 退步劈拳 搖身劈拳 轉身劈拳 捋手劈拳
Straight-step chopping, advance with chopping, retreat with chopping, shaking-body chopping, turning-body chopping, rolling-back chopping.
順步鑽拳 進步鑽拳 退步鑽拳 搖身鑽拳 轉身鑽拳 拗步鑽拳 捋手鑽拳
Straight-step drilling, advance with drilling, retreat with drilling, shaking-body drilling, turning-body drilling, crossed-step drilling, rolling-back drilling.
左骽崩拳 進步崩拳 退步崩拳 搖身崩拳 轉身崩拳 十字崩拳 順勢崩拳 右骽崩拳 捋手崩拳
Crashing with left leg forward, advance with crashing, retreat with crashing, shaking-body crashing, turning-body crashing, crossed-hands crashing, straight-step crashing, crashing with right leg forward, rolling-back crashing.
拗步礮拳 進步礮拳 退步礮拳 搖身礮拳 轉身礮拳 順步礮拳 捋手礮拳
Crossed-step blasting, advance with blasting, retreat with blasting, shaking-body blasting, turning-body blasting, straight-step blasting, rolling-back blasting.
拗步横拳 進步横拳 退步横拳 搖身横拳 轉身横拳 順步横拳 捋手横拳
Crossed-step crossing, advance with crossing, retreat with crossing, shaking-body crossing, turning-body crossing, straight-step crossing, rolling-back crossing.
(This concludes the manual for the Five Elements techniques.)
MANUAL FOR THE CONTINUOUS BOXING SET
CHAPTER ONE: GENERAL DISCUSSION
Section One: About the Name
The transformations of the five elements are merged together into one set, suddenly advancing and suddenly retreating, cycling on and on, a variety of techniques linked together, which is called Continuous Boxing. It changes constantly between advancing and retreating, therefore it is also called Advance & Retreat Continuous Boxing, but is abbreviated in this book for the sake of simplicity.
Section Two: Practice
The Continuous Boxing set is based in the Five Elements techniques. If the five techniques have not yet been practiced to familiarity, there is no point in learning the Continuous Boxing set. This set has altogether ten postures [minus the beginning posture and the turning posture], about half of them advancing, half retreating. Although the scope of practicing only back and forth is rather small, it does have the method of reaching far. Practice in a broad space so that the postures do not get shortened. Reach far all the way through the first performance of the postures. Do not turn around until you have performed the final crashing technique, then repeat the movements [going back to where you started]. And then by going back and forth all over again, the set will consist of forty postures.
Section Three: Application
Boxing methods are based first of all in application. The Continuous Boxing set can be considered continuous application. A hand rolled up is a fist. A hand extended is a palm. Therefore you may adjust the techniques to being continuous palming, if that is what suits the situation in a fight. Or the techniques can all be done using a saber, spear, staff, or sword. The edge of a blade can be used to chop. The tip of a blade can be used to stab. In the absence of edge or tip, the weapon can be used to strike. These are merely variations on the hand postures. Regardless of the characteristics of the weapon – double or single, long or short, large or small – all of these techniques can be included. If you understand the applicability of adaptability, these techniques can be used in all situations.
Section Four: Footwork Diagram
開 beginning posture
一 posture 1 二 2 三 3 四 4 五 5 六 6 七 7 八 8 九 9 十 10
CHAPTER TWO: DESCRIPTIONS OF EACH MOVEMENT
1. BEGINNING POSTURE
The Continuous Boxing set uses the same opening posture as with the individual Five Elements techniques.
2. ADVANCE, CRASHING
From the beginning posture, both hands become fists. Your left leg advances. Your left [right] fist goes straight out, the center of the fist facing to the left, finishing at solar plexus level, and your left fist withdraws straight back, the center of the fist facing upward, finishing at your navel. At the same time, your right leg follows forward so the ankle is next to your left heel. Tuck in your tailbone. Both legs knees slightly stick out.
3. RETREAT, CROSSING
Your right leg diagonally retreats a step, the foot coming down sideways, then your left leg retreats a large step, the foot coming down diagonally. When your right leg retreats, your hands stay as they are. When your left foot comes down, your right hand fiercely withdraws to your navel and your left hand powerfully goes out at solar plexus level. Your legs are making a scissors shape, hence it is called a “scissor step”.
4. STRAIGHT STEP, CRASHING
Your left [right] leg advances, your right fist going straight out, the center of the fist facing to the left, finishing at solar plexus, your left fist withdrawing straight back, the center of the fist facing inward, finishing at your navel. Your left foot slightly follows.
5. WHITE GOOSE SHOWS ITS WINGS
Your left leg retreats. Your fists come together to make an X shape which is lifted until at your forehead. Then both fists arc, each making a half circle, until at your crotch, your left palm and right fist forcefully striking together. When your hands rise, your right leg withdraws to stand next to your left leg, both knees slightly sticking out.
6. ADVANCE, BLASTING
Your right leg advances, your left fist going out at solar plexus level, your right fist turning over as it goes upward to your forehead. This is called “crossed-step blasting”.
7. RETREAT, DRILLING
Your right leg retreats a large step, your right fist lowering, your left fist drilling out from your chest. Your left foot retreats to stand next to your right foot, both knees slightly sticking out. Your palms are placed at your navel, both facing upward, left palm flat, right palm supporting underneath.
8. ADVANCE, DEFLECTING PALM
Your left leg advances, your left palm deflecting outward. Your right leg and right fist both stay where they are. Your gaze is toward your palm. As your left leg goes out, your right leg supports.
9. ADVANCE, DRILLING
Your left leg slightly advances further, your left palm becoming a fist. Your right fist goes out, turning over so the little finger is upward, your left fist withdrawing to your ribs, the center of the fist facing upward, as your right leg slightly follows.
10. CROSSED STEP, CHOPPING
Your left leg advances, both fists being placed in front of your chest, the centers of the fists facing upward, left fist above, right fist below. Your right foot comes down sideways, your left palm turning over and pushes out, your right palm turning over and pulling in. Your gaze is toward your front palm. This is commonly called LEOPARD CLIMBS THE TREE.
11. ADVANCE, CRASHING
Both hands becoming fists, your right foot advances straight ahead and your left leg advances a large step. Your right fist goes out straight ahead, the center of the fist facing to the left, finishing at solar plexus level, your left fist withdrawing straight to your navel, the center of the fist facing inward. Your right leg follows forward so the ankle is next to your left heel. Tuck in your tailbone. Both knees slightly stick out.
12. TURNING AROUND
Your left foot turns sideways to the right,
going along with the turn of your body.
Your right foot lifts up sideways,
your right fist extending with the center of the fist facing upward.
Your left fist is wrapped in, the center of the fist facing upward,
then your hands push and pull with equal force.
Your [right] foot coming down as your hands finish,
your palms turning over to be facing downward.
Your rear palm is at your ribs,
your front palm at solar plexus level.
(This concludes the manual for the Continuous Boxing set.)