形意拳術之基本五行拳 / 進退連環拳
XINGYI BOXING’S FIVE ELEMENTS TECHNIQUES / CONTINUOUS BOXING
[expanded versions of Chapters Three & Four of 形意拳術 The Art of Xingyi Boxing (1919)]
by Li Jianqiu
[published within the 2nd edition of The Art of Xingyi Boxing in 1922, which also included many pieces of commemorative calligraphy (among them an extra preface) that may have been originally intended for the 1919 edition]
[translation by Paul Brennan, Feb, 2020]
We now teach according to the Western style of learning: moral education, intellectual education, physical education. Physical education involves developing a spirit of respect for martial arts in order to strengthen the body. When one’s body is strong, one’s morality advances and one’s intellect deepens. Therefore physical education is truly the basis for moral education and intellectual education. This is why ancient Sparta only attached importance to physical education. All boys at the age of seven were brought into the sports ground where they were trained in skills such as jumping, running, wrestling, spear throwing, and discus throwing. Because theirs was a martial culture, their people were all courageous. Let us follow their example in order to rescue China from its long-standing weakness. This would indeed be the best medicine for us.
However, we must not dive into such a project casually. We must have authentic transmission of ancient methods and expert guidance from noteworthy teachers, then we can become “unbreakable arhats”. Although this mode of education is imbued with the influence of Westerners, their methods actually coincide with those from our own Northern Wei Dynasty, because the founder of our martial arts, Damo, already possessed these kinds of skills at that time. They were later passed down to General Yue Fei of the Song Dynasty who transformed the art by using boxing training to complement spear training. What he taught to his officers became known as the “Xingyi” [shape & intention] boxing art.
Although Xingyi knowledge has been passed down through the generations, there is a lack of written works on the subject. So far there has only been Sun Lutang’s A Study of Xingyi Boxing. But now there is Li Jianqiu of Shulu, who is also an expert in this art and has been teaching it at Tsinghua University [at that time actually known as Tsinghua College] for many years. Li examined Sun’s work and admired his knowledge. However, he feared that Sun’s teachings might not become widespread enough, and so he drew upon what he has learned through his own experience to produce this book, further ensuring that the authentic teachings of Damo and Yue Fei will be resurrected in our modern times and become a genuine guide for future generations of students.
- preface by Wang Zhen, called “the man from Mt. Bailong”, 57th year of the cycle, 1st month of summer [i.e. May/June, 1920]
– calligraphy by Ma Liang, called Zizhen, of Shanghai
Rescue the people by strengthening the masses.
– calligraphy by Wu Shan of the National Railway Association
This reveals our nation’s martial spirit.
– calligraphy by Wu Zhiqing of the Chinese Martial Arts Association
Strengthen the people and thereby strengthen the nation.
– calligraphy by Wang Zhuangfei at the Shanghai Public Sports Ground
Martial arts truly have a special place.
– calligraphy by Lu Shuoxuan of the Tokyo University Gymnasium
These are further skills that the Boy Scouts ought to have.
– calligraphy by Gu Zhenglai of the Boy Scouts Federation of Jiangsu
We are developing our hidden talents.
– calligraphy by Hua Haowu [principal] of the Chinese Girls’ Athletic School
Promote martial arts!
– calligraphy by Shuo Guruo of Tokyo
It is in these arts that the soul of our nation resides.
– calligraphy by Liu Chenglie of the Chinese Athletic School
“Its virtue is that it is vigorous and yet civilized.” [Book of Changes, hexagram 14]
– calligraphy by Zhu Zhongming of the Jiangsu Physical Education Research Association
These are ingenious arts for strengthening the masses.
– calligraphy by Xue Minshu of the Chinese Girls’ Athletic School
This is a means of expressing the true beauty of the human body.
– calligraphy by Li Chaoshi & Wu Fading of the Shanghai Fine Arts School
This will help reverse the fundamental weakness of women.
– calligraphy by Ms. Tang Yun of the YWCA Physical Education Program
We are developing our native abilities.
– calligraphy by Shen Youqian
Herein lies a means of staying healthy.
– calligraphy by Huang Fanggang
This fulfills the policy of protecting the nation by strengthening the masses.
– calligraphy by Zhu Hongshou of Liuhang Village [within the Baoshan District of Shanghai]
This is the basis of strengthening the nation.
– calligraphy by An Dinggen of the Red Cross Society of Korea
These are skills that the masses should possess.
– calligraphy by Chen Jing of Nanjing First Girls’ Secondary School
CHAPTER THREE: ON THE XINGYI BOXING ART’S FUNDAMENTAL FIVE ELEMENTS TECHNIQUES
The five elements techniques are: chopping, crashing, drilling, blasting, and crossing. They are explained individually below:
The technique known as “chopping” goes downward with the palm like the chopping of an axe. Begin from standing at attention.
1. Your hands grasp into fists. Your right forearm rises, the center of the fist staying near your body, and extends upward and forward from your solar plexus until the fist is between eyebrow and neck height. Just before the fist has passed your solar plexus, your right forearm has an intention of rotating outward, the upper arm also slightly rotating. While your right fist extends from your solar plexus, the forearm rotates fully so that the curled shape made by the little finger is facing upward, your right elbow arriving in front of and about half a foot away from your solar plexus, the pit of the elbow also facing upward. During the movement of your right arm, your left forearm also rises close to your body, rotating outward, the center of the fist facing upward in front of your solar plexus [though still at the waist in the photo], the fist having an intention of following your elbow to extend forward. Your gaze is toward your right fist, 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. See image 1:
2. Your left fist extends forward from your solar plexus, passing over your right elbow and right forearm, and once your fists meet, they turn over, becoming palms, the backs of the hands facing upward. Then your left palm diagonally lowers, pushing forward, as your right palm diagonally lowers, pulling back until at the right side of your navel. The fingers of each hand are slightly bent and are spread apart rather than touching, and the tiger’s mouth between thumb and forefinger makes a large rounded shape, both tiger’s mouths both facing upward. Your left elbow wraps tightly inward, same as the right elbow in image 1, except in this case the position uses a palm rather than a fist, and your right forearm is tight against your waist. While your arms move in this way, your left foot goes along with the forward push of your left hand by 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. Your right foot in this moment stays where it is [does a follow step]. Your knees are slightly bent, your left knee making a vertical line with your left heel, your right knee making a vertical line with your right heel [toes], your legs making a shape like scissors. Although your left leg has an intention of advancing, it also maintains an intention of hooking back. Although your right 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. See image 2 (which shows a reverse view of the technique because it is being performed on the left side and is thus best seen from the right side so that the position of the right arm is visible):
3. Your left hand withdraws, strongly bending 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, the same movement as the right hand in image 1, as your right palm pulls back, becoming a fist, and finishes at your solar plexus, the same movement as the left hand in image 1. When your left 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. At the same time, your left foot goes along with the forward movement of your left hand, same as before, but in this case the foot turns outward about thirty degrees, same as when you were standing at attention, and then advances with a small step [or “cushion step”]. Your rear foot also goes forward a small step [in that case referred to as a “follow step”]. 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 front foot goes out along with the hand, it is always followed by a follow step. This is the “fist position” in the chopping technique. See image 3 [reverse view]:
4. Then your right hand and right foot go forward, your right hand becoming a palm. It is the same movement as in image 2, but on the other side. This produces the “palm position” in the chopping technique. See image 4 [reverse view]:
5. Your right hand and right foot make the same movement as in image 3, except on the other side [and is thus shown best demonstrated by way of image 10].
6. Your left hand and left foot repeat the movement in image 2, your left hand again becoming a palm.
Continue in this way without pausing. Each time a hand becomes a palm, this is the “chopping” of the chopping technique. If your left hand wants to chop, your right fist and right foot must first go forward. If your right hand wants to chop, your left fist and left foot must first go forward. To turn around, you have to be in the left chopping position. Turn around to the right and send your right hand and right foot forward, your right hand making a fist, then chop forward with your left hand as before. If you would rather turn from the right chopping position, you will have to turn around to the left. Do what is natural for you. Within the chopping technique, your hands and feet always correspond to each other: if your left hand is forward, this means that your left foot is also forward, and if your right hand is behind, this means that your right foot is also behind. Once you have practiced this technique to the point of familiarity, the fist position and palm position can be blurred into a single action, meaning that when you are performing the fist position, it will no longer be necessary for your rear foot to do a follow step and can instead go right into advancing to make the palm position.
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 [although the technique is performed as a forward strike rather than downward]. The exercise begins in the same way as in images 1 and 2, starting by making the fist position and palm position of the chopping technique.
1. Your left hand in front and right hand behind both become fists, the circle made by your left fist’s forefinger and thumb facing upward, the center of your right fist facing upward. Then your left fist withdraws to be placed at the left side of your waist, the center of the fist turning to be facing upward, as your right fist extends from your solar plexus, the center of the fist turning to be facing to the left, instantly switching places with your left fist. 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 in your elbows, your whole body will be kept from feeling stiff, a wonderful characteristic which is obtained through long practice. (See [item 2 of] Chapter Six [which can be found in the 1919 edition].) At the same time, your left foot goes forward along with the striking of your right fist, stepping in the same way as in the palm position of the chopping technique, the toes pointing straight forward, and then your right foot does a follow step. This step needs to a larger step than the follow step of the chopping technique. 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 position of the legs is the same as in image 1. The explanation above is made even clearer by simply examining image 5:
2. Then your left fist shoots out as your right fist withdraws. It is the same as in image 5, except that now your left fist and left foot are going forward, your right foot again doing a follow step. See image 6 [reverse view]:
3. To turn around, you must turn to the right. Your right fist makes the fist position from the chopping technique and your right foot lifts with the sole of the foot turned outward to stomp on the opponent behind you. See image 7:
4. Then make the palm position of the chopping technique – left hand pushing forward, right hand pulling back – as your right leg lowers in front of your left foot, your right foot turned outward to make a sideways line. See image 8:
5. Then your left foot and right fist shoot forward [with your left fist withdrawing and your right foot doing a follow step], same as in image 5 [which in this case is a reverse view].
Continue in this way without pausing. When you finally turn around again, you again have to turn to the right. Because your left foot is always forward, it would not be convenient to turn around to the left.
The idea of “drilling” is to concentrate power. The movement of this technique is like the hand is drilling through – hence the name. As with the crashing technique, the exercise begins in the same way as in images 1 and 2, starting by making the fist position and palm position of the chopping technique.
1. Your palms become fists, the backs of both fists facing upward, your left fist having an intention of pressing downward, your right fist wanting to extend forward. At the same time, your left foot advances and your right foot does a follow step, this stepping action the same as in the chopping technique. See image 9 (which instead shows the back of the left fist facing downward):
2. Then your left arm presses down, withdrawing, as your right fist strikes out over your left arm, making the fist position from the chopping technique, your left forearm finishing against your body at the left side of your navel, the back of the fist facing upward. As your right fist goes out, your right foot advances and your left foot does a follow step, the footwork the same as in the chopping technique. The size of the step depends on what is natural for yourself. See image 10:
3. Then your left fist strikes out in the same way as described before [in movement 1 (image 9)].
4. To turn around, there are two methods:
A. The same way as for the chopping technique.
B. When your left hand and left foot are forward, turn around to the right so that your right foot becomes the front foot, your left fist extending forward. Your left fist then presses down and withdraws as your right fist strikes out over your left fist, your right foot immediately going along with right fist by advancing, your left foot again doing a follow step. See image 11 [repeat of image 10]:
This method is ingenious. When an opponent attacks you from behind, you use your left fist to press down his attacking fist while at the same time using your right fist to strike to his face. (Note: After practicing this exercise to familiarity, you can combine movements 1 and 2 into a single action. When your left foot advances in movement 1, it will no longer be necessary for your right foot to do a follow step and can instead go right into the advancing step in movement 2.)
The idea of “blasting” is somewhat similar to crashing. It is said that the action of the technique is like a cannon firing. Begin by making the chopping posture.
1. Your palms become fists and withdraw, your left fist placed against your body at the left side of your navel, your right fist against your body at the right side of your navel, the backs of both fists facing downward. At the same time, your right foot advances to the forward right and your left foot follows to be close beside your right foot. Your left foot has to be lifted and should not yet come down. Your legs are slightly bent. Your torso is turned halfway to the right, but your head is turned halfway to the left. See image 12 (Note: Your left foot does not actually need to pause close to your right foot. The movement described here should flow right into the following movement, but has been divided into two actions for the sake of showing the technique in photos.):
2. Your left fist rises, staying close to your body, the back of the fist still facing downward, then once the fist passes in front of your face, it suddenly turns over so the center of the fist is facing outward, the back of the fist stopping in front of your forehead, though not actually touching it because the arm is forcefully pushing outward and upward. The purpose of this technique is to deflect an opponent’s attack high while striking beneath it. At the same time, your right fist performs a crashing technique, striking out in the same direction that your head is facing [i.e. to the forward left]. The opponent is therefore being simultaneously attacked by your punch. A marvelous feature of Xingyi is that generally whenever you are attacking an opponent, you are simultaneously able to protect yourself, which means that during the moment that the opponent is attacking and you are defending, you are also able to attack him, rendering him too late to defend himself against it. Its marvels do not end there, for also at the same time, your lifted left foot does an “arrow step”, advancing in the same direction as your right hand striking out, and your right foot does a follow step, similar to the stepping of the blasting technique. Your legs are slightly bent as your right leg hastens forward toward your left leg, and therefore although you are moving forward, you maintain a strong awareness of your stability. During this action, 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. See image 13:
3. Now your torso turns halfway to the left as your left foot again advances and your right foot follows to be lifted beside your left foot, your fists withdrawing, lowering to be placed in line with each other at each side of your navel. See image 14:
4. Your right fist goes upward, turning over, and your left fist strikes out with a crashing technique as your right foot lifts and goes along with your left fist by shooting out to the forward right, your left foot doing a follow step. It is the same as in movement 2 [except on the other side]. See image 15:
Continue in this way without pausing. To turn around, you have to be doing the technique to the forward left [i.e. the position in image 13], then your left leg hooks inward to the right, your body turns around to the right, and your right foot comes in to be lifted next to your left foot. See image 16 (Note: This image is a repeat of image 14 because the position is the same, but it is in this case a reverse view because you have turned around.):
Then your right foot and left fist shoot out, the same way as before, the direction of this advance being indicated [by the final arrow, pointing to lower left] in image 17 (The footwork for the crossing technique will be the same as in this diagram.):
Get into the chopping posture.
1. Go to the forward right.
2. Go to the forward left.
3. To turn around, your left foot hooks inward to the right,
and your body turns around to the right.
The function of this technique is not to go straight forward but to go across, hence it is called “crossing”. Begin by making the chopping posture.
1. Your right foot advances and your left foot lifts, the same as in the blasting technique. (Keep in mind that the footwork for the crossing technique is the same as for the blasting technique.) At the same time, your palms become fists, the center of your left fist turning to be facing upward, the hand remaining forward with the elbow wrapped in tightly, the back of your right fist still facing upward. The rest of this position is the same as in the blasting technique. See image 18 [reverse view]:
2. Your right fist shoots out to the forward left from under your left elbow, your torso turning to the left. The center of the fist is facing upward, the elbow wrapped in tightly, the same as in the drilling technique. At the same time, your left fist withdraws against your body, placed to the left of your navel, as your left foot lifts and steps like an arrow to the forward left, the same as in the blasting technique. See image 19:
3. Your left foot advances a step, your fists not changing their position. (When performing the crossing technique, your first have to advance your front foot in order for the movements of your hands and feet to coordinate without confusion.) Then your left fist goes from below your right elbow, striking out to the forward right with a drilling technique, as your right fist withdraws and your right foot advances. See image 20:
Continue in this way without pausing. Turning around is the same as in the blasting technique, except that when your front foot hooks inward and your body turns around, your fists do not change their position. Once you have hooked and turned, your rear fist then shoots out from below the elbow of your front arm.
CHAPTER FOUR: ADVANCE & RETREAT CONTINUOUS BOXING
This exercise is the linking of the five techniques into a series of eleven movements:
See image 21 [reverse view (repeat of image 2)]:
See image 22 [repeat of image 5]:
3. RETREAT WITH CRASHING
First your right foot retreats and then your left foot retreats behind your right foot as your right fist withdraws and your left fist shoots out. See image 23 [reverse view]:
4. STRAIGHT-STANCE CRASHING
The “straight stance” means that the same fist and foot are forward. It would not be convenient in this moment for your left foot to advance while your right fist strikes out, therefore since your right foot is already in front, let it step forward along with your right punch, your left fist at the same time withdrawing and your left foot doing a follow step. See image 24 [reverse view]:
5. DOUBLE CROSSING FISTS
Your fists cross with your right fist on the outside, your torso turning halfway to the left. See image 25:
Then your fists [rise up and] spread apart, your arms each drawing a semicircle. Your arms must not become stiff, and so they each maintain a slight bend and thereby contain strength. See image 26:
Then your left fist opens and your right fist meets it, your hands coming together at your navel, pressed against your body. When your hands spread apart, your left foot retreats a step. When your hands come together, your right foot goes next to your left foot, your torso turning halfway to the left. See image 27 (Note: This image does not accurately represent the position of the lower body [because it is simply a repeat of image 25] and should instead show the feet next to each other.):
Your left fist and right foot go forward. See image 28 [repeat of image 15]:
7. RETREAT WITH CHOPPING
First your right foot retreats [a full step behind your left foot], your right fist lowering in a semicircle, your left fist withdrawing, and then your left hand chops out, your left foot slightly retreating, but still in front of your right foot. See image 29 [reverse view (repeat of image 2)]:
This chopping technique involves your left hand and left foot still being forward [instead of switching to the other side]. Your left palm becomes a fist, pulling back to your solar plexus and your right hand becomes a fist [and drills out], then your left hand chops out again as your right fist again becomes a palm and withdraws against your body. See image 30 [reverse view (repeat of image 2)]:
Your right hand and left foot go forward. See image 31 [repeat of image 19]:
Your left hand and right foot go forward. See image 32 [reverse view (repeat of image 8)]:
See image 33 [repeat of image 5]:
12. TURN AROUND
After you have performed the crashing technique, turn around, repeat the sequence as before until you are again performing movement 3, then finish.