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FocusInternal mechanics (neijia), Striking, Takedowns
HardnessBoth hard and soft, depending on application
Country of originChina
CreatorYue Fei, circa 12th century (attributed as the legendary founder). Li Luoneng, 19th century (founder of modern xingyiquan).
Famous practitionersSee under Famous practitioners
ParenthoodThe historical origins of this martial art are thoroughly disputed (see under Lineage chart) and remain unclear. Modern xingyi originated from Dai Clan's liuhe xinyiquan, was heavily influenced by military spear techniques,[1] and was possibly also affected and shaped by other styles as well.
Olympic sportNo
Literal meaningform-thought-fist

Xingyiquan, or Xingyi, is a style of internal Chinese martial arts.[2]

The word translates approximately to "Form-Intention Fist", or "Shape-Will Fist".[note 1] It is characterized by aggressive, seemingly linear movements and explosive power that's most often applied from a short range.

A practitioner of xingyi uses coordinated movements to generate bursts of power intended to overwhelm the opponent, simultaneously attacking and defending. Methods vary from school to school, but always include bare-handed fighting training (mostly in single movements/combinations and sometimes in forms) and the training of weapons usage with similar or identical body mechanics to that used for bare-handed intense fighting. The most basic notions of movement and body mechanics in the art were heavily influenced by the practice of staves and spears.

Historically and technically related martial arts include Dai-style xinyi liuhequan, liuhe xinyiquan and yiquan.



The "Four Generals of Zhongxing" painted by Liu Songnian during the Southern Song Dynasty. Yue Fei is the second person from the left. This portrait is believed to be the "truest portrait of Yue in all extant materials."[3]

The earliest written records of xingyi can be traced to the 18th century, and are attributed to Ma Xueli of Henan Province and Dai Longbang of Shanxi Province. Legend credits the creation of xingyi to renowned Song Dynasty (960–1279 AD) general Yue Fei,[4] but this is disputed.[1]

According to the book Henan Orthodox Xingyiquan written by Pei Xirong (裴錫榮) and Li Ying'ang (李英昂), Dai Longbang "...wrote the Preface to Six Harmonies Boxing in the 15th reign year of the Qianlong Emperor [1750]. Inside it says, '...when Yue Fei was a child, he received special instructions from Zhou Tong. Extremely skilled in spearfighting, he used the spear to create fist techniques and established a skill called Yiquan' (意拳). Meticulous and unfathomable, this technique far outstripped ancient ones."[5][6]

According to legend, throughout the Jin, Yuan and Ming Dynasties few individuals had studied this art, one of them being Ji Gong (also known as Ji Longfeng and Ji Jike) of Shanxi province. After Yue Fei's death, the art was 'lost' for half a millennium. Then, during the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Shaanxi province's Zhongnan Mountains, Yue Fei's boxing manual was said to have been discovered by Ji Gong. It is more likely though that Ji Jike had created the art based on prior martial arts experience, or passed on an art that had already existed.

General history (ancient times – 20th century)

Yang Jwing-Ming, who is not a practitioner of the art, argues that aspects of xingyiquan (particularly the animal styles) are identifiable as far back as the Liang Dynasty at the Shaolin Temple.[7] According to Yang, Yue Fei therefore did not strictly invent xingyiquan, but synthesized and perfected existing Shaolin principles into his own style of gongfu which he popularized during his military service. Nonetheless, according to Yang, Yue Fei is usually identified as the creator because of his considerable understanding of the art (as shown in the work The Ten Theses of Xingyiquan, credited to Yue) and his cultural status as a Chinese war hero. It ought be noted that in Chinese culture, it is common to attribute the creation of great traditions to legendary individuals. In such a way, the art of tai chi is attributed to the legendary Zhang Sanfeng, and Daoism to Laozi, even though as in the case with Yue Fei, there exists no proof for such claims.

Other martial artists and Chinese martial art historians, such as Dan Miller, Tim Cartmell, and Brian Kennedy, hold that this story is largely legendary; while xingyiquan may well have evolved from military spear techniques, there is no evidence to support that Yue Fei was involved or that the art dates to the Song dynasty. These authors point out that the works attributed to Yue Fei's role long postdate his life, some being as recent as the Republican era, and that it was common practice in China to attribute new works to a famous or legendary person, rather than take credit for oneself.[8][9] One source claims that the author of the "preface" is unknown, since no name is written on the manuscript. Most practitioners just assume it was written by Dai Longbang. Some researchers of martial arts believe that it was actually written in Shanxi during the final years of the 19th century.[10] In addition, historical memoirs and scholarly research papers only mention Zhou Tong teaching Yue archery and not spear play.[11][12] Yue historically learned spear play from Chen Guang (陳廣), who was hired by the boy's paternal grandfather, Yao Daweng (姚大翁).[13][14]

Beginning in the late Ming era and Ji Longfeng's time, evidence for the art's history grows firmer. Ji Longfeng, also known as Ji Jike, is the first person which all agree had both existed and practiced the art. Ji Longfeng's contributions to the art are described in the Ji Clan Chronicles (姬氏族譜; pinyin: Ji Shi Zupu). Like the Preface, the Chronicles describes xingyiquan as a martial art based on the combat principles of the spear. The Chronicles, however, attributes this stylistic influence to Ji himself, who was known as the "Divine Spear" (神槍; pinyin: Shén Qiāng) for his extraordinary skill with the weapon. Nowadays, many believe that the style Ji Longfeng was taught had been Shaolin Xinyiba[15] (a style which still exists today, and bears minute resemblance to xinyi liuhequan). Ji Longfeng referred to his art as liuhe, The Six Harmonies, a reference to the most highly developed spear style practiced in the late Ming military.

Some speculate that during that period of the development of the art, either Ji Longfeng or some of his students had a connection with monks at the famous Shaolin Temple on Song Mountain. There exists a martial art called "xinyiba", which is still taught at the general location of the temple, and bears a few similarities to xingyi-related styles. Some claim that Shaolin Xinyiba had been taught to the Shaolin monks by Ji Longfeng's line, while others hold the view that Ji Longfeng was taught martial arts by the monks.

From Ji Longfeng, the art was passed down to Cao Jiwu. From Cao Jiwu, the art split into its two biggest branches. One branch came down from Cao's student Ma Xueli,[16] and became xinyi liuhequan – an art still widely practiced today, which compared to other lineages, have not undergone many changes over the generations.[17] The other branch that came down from Cao Jiwu was through his other student, Dai Longbang.[18] The latter passed the art into the Dai clan, which had made many changes to it, mixing it with several arts and skills that had already existed in the Dai family. The art remains in the Dai clan to this day, but has also spread elsewhere in China and around the world.

The art remained fairly obscure until Li Luoneng (also known as Li Nengran) learned the art from the Dai family in the 19th century. It was Li Luoneng and his successors — which include Guo Yunshen, Song Shirong, Che Yizhai, Liu Qilan and Li Taihe (who would popularize xingyiquan across Northern China).

It is known that Li Luoneng was proficient in other martial arts before studying Dai-style xinyi. Some claim his original art was qimenquan (奇門拳), perhaps his family's style, while others believe he actually studied tongbeiquan and gongliquan.[19] Li came to study under the Dai family either because he heard of their fame in the martial arts and business, or maybe as suggested by others, after having fought and lost to a practitioner of their art. It is generally agreed he then settled in the area of their village, and grew and sold vegetables, which earned him the nickname "Li Laonong" (李老農, literally "Old Farmer Li", but with the connotation of "Respectable Farmer Li"). Initially, members of the Dai clan refused to teach him, but he eventually won over their trust, and he was taught by Dai Wenxiong, Guo Weihan, or both. After learning Dai-style xinyi for a number of years, perhaps over a decade, Li left the Dai territories and traveled across Shanxi and Hebei provinces, teaching for many years his own elaboration on the art, now called "xingyiquan". No reasons were ever recorded for the many changes[20] Li made to the art, but there are those who claim that Li wished to compete with the Dai clan's fame, perhaps because of some grudge. Li and many of his students and grand-students were famous for offering bodyguard and caravan escort services.

Recent history (20th and 21st centuries)

A condensed version of xingyiquan was taught to Chinese officers at the Military Academy at Nanjing during the Second Sino-Japanese War for close quarters combat. This included armed techniques such as bayonet and sabre drills alongside unarmed techniques.[21]

Sun Lutang, a later exponent of the art, became famous in the early 20th century for his skills (chiefly in the Beijing and Tianjin areas), and for the martial books he had written about the Internal arts. During Sun Lutang's lifetime and martial 'career', he and several of his contemporaries began to classify xingyi, together with tai chi and baguazhang, as "Wudang" style of martial arts.[2] Sun also exchanged knowledge with his friend and colleague Fu Zhensong, who subsequently took this branch of the art to southern China (after it had been mostly practiced in the northern parts of the country for centuries). Later, many others have spread the art across China and the world. Yiquan, which had been devolved from xingyiquan by Wang Xiangzhai, became especially widespread during the 20th century, in China and across the world.

Following the Cultural Revolution in China, some xingyi forms have been adapted to fit the needs of modern practitioners of the competitive sport of wushu. This meant that various movement forms from the art were adapted to a competitive format, in which the emphasis was put on aesthetics and flowery movements, rather than on fighting. The style is nonetheless relatively rare in wushu competitions because all wushu practitioners must compete in several mandatory events, which make xingyi, a non-mandatory art, a secondary priority in wushu competitive circles.

As there had never been a single organizational body governing the teaching of the art, several variant styles and sub-styles developed. Although there are classical texts which include specific encoded instructions and general guidelines for practice, many of these are ignored by most modern practitioners, and interpreted in different ways by those who follow their instruction (this is depicted in the lineage chart further down this page). As a result, over the decades and especially over the last few dozen years, branches of the art have considerably differentiated and diverged. This trend was strengthened by the influence of other martial arts and the spread of xingyi to the Western World.

The art began to be taught in the West somewhere along the 1960s–1970s. However, it only rose to prominence among martial arts communities worldwide during the first decade of the 21st century. Currently, it is still not well known among the general public. One explanation for this situation is that unlike other traditional oriental martial arts, xingyi was not a notable style in movies which became popular in the West (and though a modified 'wushu' version of it appeared in The One, starring Jet Li, this was not told or hinted to the viewers as part of that film's script).

Arguably, the most common xingyiquan lineage in the West today is of the yizong branch,[22] which came down from Zhang Junfeng. Many of Zhang's students and grand-students, such as Kenneth Fish (martial artist), Hung I-Hsiang, Su Dongchen,[23] Luo Dexiu, Hsu Hung-chi and others have been teaching his xingyi to Westerners since the 1980s – especially Americans. This branch became the most popular because Taiwan was open to Westerners during the 20th century, while throughout much of that century, the People's Republic of China did not allow Westerners to visit regularly, and thus people were not exposed to branches of the art from the mainland. Contrary to popular belief, spread by some Taiwanese teachers, the art had not 'died out' on the mainland, but was simply inaccessible to outsiders for several decades (proof of this is that many lineages of the art discussed and referenced on this page had survived The Great Leap Forward and The Cultural Revolution). Another popular Taiwanese branch in the West is Wang Shujin's lineage, which was chiefly transmitted by his student Wang Fulai.

There are also several lineages from Tianjin which are nowadays taught in the West, namely in Canada[24] and Israel.[25] Lines of Dai-style xinyi and xinyi liuhe are still rare in the West, and can be said to even be relatively rare in China, though they are not at risk of becoming 'extinct'. In the United States, Dai-style xinyi is taught by Li Tailiang and several of his students.[26] Yiquan, on the other hand, has become exceedingly popular in the West, being taught in many schools, especially in Europe.[27] There are no statistics as to the number of practitioners in any of these arts in either China or other countries.

Disputed history

Ancient Chinese texts, like those which make up the "Xingyi Classics", often contain characters whose meanings are obscure or have disappeared completely from the Chinese language. Specialized terms which describe historically specific concepts (names of ancient weapons for example) are commonly interpreted with regards for their closest, modern linguistic equivalent. The results can be problematic, producing translations which are linguistically correct but inconsistent within a fighting or martial context.

The recognized founder of baguazhang, Dong Haichuan, was reputed to have fought Guo Yunshen with neither able to defeat the other – though it is possible that they were training together. It would have been controversial at the time for Dong Haichuan to have studied under Guo Yunshen, since Dong was the older of the two. The most neutral viewpoint would be to say that they trained together, which may explain the stylistic similarities between baguazhang and the xingyiquan monkey shape. Frantzis[28] argues that this encounter never took place and that Guo and Dong had little contact with each other. Frantzis argues that a xingyi-bagua exchange was more likely to have occurred in Tianjin c. 1900 where xingyi masters Li Cunyi and Zhang Zhaodong, bagua master Cheng Tinghua, and four other xingyi and bagua teachers lived together (Frantzis, 1998, p. 179). Sun Lutang states in his autobiography that the legendary fight between Guo Yunshen and Dong Haichuan never happened.[29] The book states that the truth of the matter is that Guo Yunshen actually fought one of his older xingyi brothers and lost. Sun Lutang was a student of both Guo Yunshen and Cheng Tinghua so this stance on the subject seems to be one of the most accurate. Treating the story of Dong Haichuan and Guo Yunshen as allegory, however, reveals a common training protocol among xingyiquan and baguazhang practitioners. Often, because baguazhang requires significantly more time for a practitioner's skill to mature, it is acceptable to learn xingyiquan first or simultaneously. Such a practitioner develops a tactical vocabulary that is more readily apparent than the core baguazhang movements.

For controversies concerning the teaching of one person by another, see lineage chart below.


From Cao Jiwu, the art split into two branches:

These two branches survive to this day. Later, Li Luoneng developed xingyiquan out of the Dai family branch. From Li Luoneng's time onward, the art has been said to have three main developmental branches:

However, the identification of three separate branches is tenuous because of the extensive cross-training that occurred across their lineages. This suggests that the branches did not evolve in isolation, thus diluting any major differences between them.

Master Yang Fansheng (1949–2014) demonstrating the technique 'Ying Zhua' (Eagle Grasp) from the Si Ba Chui form. The style being demonstrated is Dai-style xinyi liuhequan, the precursor to modern xingyi. Shot at the International Xinyi-Dao Federation headquarters, Taigu County, Shanxi province, China. Year 2004. The student being demonstrated upon is late master Yang's disciple, Sudan Jeffers.

Schools of the Shanxi branch have a narrower stance, lighter footwork and tend to be more evasive. They emphasize the development of relaxation before the practice of intention (yi). Schools of the Hebei branch emphasize xing and yi before developing a higher level of relaxed structure, and have a slightly different evasive footwork. Schools of the Henan branch are typically the most aggressive of the three.

The Henan branch is known as the Muslim branch because it was handed down within the Muslim community in Luoyang to which its founder, Ma Xueli, belonged. Henan branch is sometimes referred to by practitioners as xinyi liuhequan instead of simply xingyiquan. This may be attributed to the fact that the Muslim community of China was historically a very closed culture in order to protect themselves as a minority, thus retaining the older addition to the name of xingyi. Liuhe means "Six Harmonies" and refers to the six harmonies of the body (three external harmonies: wrists-ankles, elbows-knees, shoulders-hips; three internal harmonies: xin-yi, yi-qi, qi-li i.e. spirit or "emotional mind" (xin) harmonises with your intention (yi), intention harmonises with your breath and physical momentum (qi), breath and physical momentum harmonise with your physical strength (li) that contribute to correct posture.) This is not to be confused with the separate internal art liuhebafa.

Both the Shanxi and Hebei branches use a twelve animal system with five elements while the Henan branch uses ten animals. Depending on the lineage, it may or may not use five elements. Due to the historical complexity and vagueness of the lineages, it is uncertain which branch would constitute the "authentic" xingyiquan.

In all of the following sections under this paragraph is chiefly discussed the art of xingyiquan that had come down from Li Luoneng. These sections are not representative of Dai-style xinyiquan or liuhe xinyiquan.

Characteristics and principles

Xingyiquan features aggressive shocking attacks and direct footwork. Most of the training and footwork is practiced on straight lines, but application occurs on all planes of movement. The linear nature of training in the art hints at both the military origins and the influence of spear technique alluded to in its mythology. The goal of the xingyi exponent is to reach the opponent quickly and drive power through him in a single burst, to close in and break your opponent's structure so they can neither attack nor defend. The analogy with spear fighting is useful here. This is achieved by coordinating one's body as a single unit, and the intense focusing of one's Intent (意; yi) and coordinated power (勁; jin) utilizing tight circles usually in a forward direction, but can be applied on all 6 directions of energy (forward, backward, left, right, up, and down). Issuing explosive power in xingyi is referred to as fa jin, the same term used in many other traditional Chinese Martial Arts.

Despite its hard, angular appearance, cultivating "soft" internal strength is essential to achieving power in xingyiquan. Also, the advanced practitioner always contains tight spirals within his movements, so even the seemingly direct and linear ones are circular on a very small scale. Such circles and spirals also exist in other martial arts, but xingyi (like Southern Praying Mantis) likes to keep them smaller than others.

Efficiency and economy of movement are the qualities of a xingyi stylist, and its direct fighting philosophy advocates simultaneous attack and defense. There are few kicks except for extremely low foot kicks (which avoids the hazards of balance involved with higher kicks) and some mid-level kicks, and techniques are prized for their working within key principles rather than aesthetic value.

Xingyiquan favours a training stance called santishi (simplified Chinese: 三体势; traditional Chinese: 三體勢; pinyin: Sāntǐshì),[32][33] literally "three bodies power," referring to how the stance holds the head, torso and feet along the same vertical plane (As a Zhan zhuang method, this stance is trained lower). In actual fighting, a free-form traditional guard should be used in the application of intent (yi) rather than adhering to any aesthetic value, in training santishi is more often trained at middle-low heights.

Like other Internal Arts, much of the training in xingyiquan is done in slow-motion. This is true for almost all the movements in the art, though the majority of them can and are also trained explosively.

Overview of the art and its training methods

Zhan zhuang

Shifu Nitzan Oren, demonstrating a zhan zhuang posture which combines the santishi stance and a hunyuan hand variation

Zhan zhuang is a general name given to postures which one holds in place for prolonged periods of time – anywhere between 2 minutes and 2 hours.[34] These postures are related to postures used in actual fighting, and are sometimes identical to them. Initially, these postures are taught as static training stances. After a short amount of time though, the practitioner would be taught how to move the muscles and connective tissues on a minute level from the inside of the body, making these stances very dynamic internally and more challenging to train. The most common zhan zhuang among all xingyi schools is santishi (it is the stance demonstrated by Sun Lutang in the picture at the beginning of the article). Other common stances are: hunyuan zhuang, wuji zhuang, fuhu zhuang, xianglong zhuang and their many variants. There are many reasons for training zhan zhuang. Among them are, in general:

Some teachers consider zhan zhuang to be the most important practice in xingyi; whereas, others neglect to train and teach them altogether. The use of the santishi zhan zhuang as the main training method in xingyi dates back to Li Luoneng, the founder of modern version of the art. In Dai-style xinyi, the central and most important training method is called 'Squatting Monkey' – a dynamic movement exercise rather than a static posture held in place. In the Geng Jishan/Deng Yunfeng/Rose Li tradition, the phrase santi in santishi is sometimes replaced by "central equilibrium stance".

Since the 1980s, zhan zhuang has become more and more popular in other martial arts; many of which, such as some schools of Chen-style tai chi, borrowed these methods from xingyi schools. Other martial arts sometimes had their own zhan zhuang methods beforehand. Today, the posture hunyuan zhuang in particular has become a mainstay of many styles; its spread probably owing to the growing popularity of yiquan.

Plow stepping

Also called 'friction stepping' (摩擦步; mócā bù), this exercise is meant to ingrain in the practitioner the correct forward-stepping habits and methods of xingyi, which are different from those of other arts (though similar to those found in some styles of baguazhang). Plow stepping is a precursor to xingyi's 'Chicken Stepping', which is the faster and more explosive stepping method in the art. In yiquan, plow stepping had been replaced with 'mud stepping'.

Shi Li/Mo Jin

In many lineages, there is an intermittent stage between the stationary zhan zhuang and the more complex Five Elements (though this stage might also be taught following the Five Elements). The two names above are interchangeable for a few exercises developed to fulfill that purpose. Shi li movements are basically simplified versions of the more advanced body mechanics and circles found in the Five Elements and the Animals. Their focus is on training one's structure and Yi, and can be thought of as "zhan zhuang in movement". They are usually trained very slowly, one movement at a time, repeating the same movement for many minutes on end. The more advanced practitioner many also spontaneously link up and flow between different Shi Li movements, or train them more explosively with fa jin. In yiquan, the original Five Elements and 12 Animals have all been 'condensed' and 'refined' into forms of Shi Li, which replace them as the core exercises in the art (together with zhan zhuang).

There also exists in certain lineages a type of Shi Li drill called Si Bu Pan Gen. It originated from baguazhang, and is a form of tight Circle Walking – encircling a small square rather than a circle. The main purposes of it is to train evasive stepping and stretch the hip and groin regions.

Five Element Shapes

Xingyi uses movements named after the five classical Chinese elements to metaphorically represent five different states of combat.[22][35] Also called the "Five Fists" or "Five Phases", the Five Elements are related to Taoist cosmology although the names do not literally correspond to the cosmological terms. These five movements make the 'base' of the art,[36] upon which all further combative knowledge and skill is built upon. Most schools will teach the five elements before the twelve animals because they are easier and shorter to learn (though eventually more difficult to master). The Five Elements do not appear in Henan xinyi liuhequan, though similar movements and methods exist in that art's curriculum.

The Five Elements of xingyiquan
Chinese Pinyin
Chopping Metal Like an axe chopping down and over.
Drilling Zuān Water Drilling forward diagonally. Like two waves crashing into each other.
Crushing Bēng Wood Like an arrow shot directly forward.
Exploding Pào Fire Exploding outward like a cannonball, while covering at the same time.
Crossing Héng Earth Crossing across the line of attack while turning over.
Master Yang Hai of Montreal (originally from Tianjin), demonstrating a variation of bengquan (崩拳) – one of the Five Fists (wuxing) of xingyiquan.

Each of the Five Element movements has many vectors of movement contained within it. Together, they are used to explore all the useful ways through which one could advance on a straight line. Each of the Elements may be used as a zhan zhuang in-itself, and in some schools this is encouraged.

A common saying originating from the xingyi classics is: "The hands do not leave the heart and the elbows do not leave the ribs".[9] This is most evident in the Five Elements.

Some xingyi practitioners also use the five elements as an interpretative framework for reacting and responding to attacks. This follows the five element theory, a general combat formula which assumes two types of cyclic interactions and three types of adverse interactions. The two cyclic interactions are the mutual nourishment (constructive) and mutual restraint (destructive) cycles. The adverse reactions are lesser known and rarely trained but exist from the understanding that nothing would exist if the mutual nourishment and restraint cycles existed alone, the adverse reactions are mutual over-restraint (overwhelming destructive interaction), mutual reverse restraint (reversal of the destructive cycle), and mutual burdening (unbalancing or reversal of the constructive cycle). Practitioners abiding by these concepts train to react to and execute specific techniques in such a way that a desirable cycle will form based on these interactions of the five element theory. Where to aim, where to hit and with what technique, and how those motions should work defensively, is determined by what point of which cycle they see themselves in. Each of the elements has many variant applications that allow it to be used to defend against all of the elements (including itself), so any set sequences are ultimately entirely arbitrary in real combat but present a frame work for developing a more practical skill, the destructive cycle is often taught to 'beginners' as it is generally easier to visualize and consists of easier applications.

Animal Shapes

Xingyiquan is based on twelve distinct Animal Shapes[37] (of which, ten animals are more common – see table below). Present in all regional and family styles, these animal movements emulate the techniques and tactics of the corresponding animal rather than just their physical movements. Many schools of xingyiquan have only small number of movements for each animal, though some teach extended sequences of movements.

The ten common animals
Chinese Pinyin
Bear Xióng In xingyi, "the Bear and Eagle combine", meaning that the Bear and Eagle techniques are often used in conjunction with each other.[38] There is a bird called the "bear eagle", which covers the characteristics of both forms. The Eagle is a piquan variation. It mimics the downward clawing action of this bird.
Eagle Yīng
Snake[39] Shé Includes both Constrictor and Viper movements.
Tiger[40] Features lunging with open-handed clawing attacks mimicking the pounce of a tiger.
Dragon[41] Lóng The only "mythical" animal taught (except in those family systems where the phoenix is one of the 12 animals). In some lineages it is practiced separately from tiger because they are said to clash (this is a minority opinion).
Chicken[42] Mimics the pecking movement of a chicken and the flapping of its wings. This form also mimics the quick and aggressive combat style of the rooster.
Horse[43] Combination of Pi and Heng movements that mimics the action of a rearing a horse.
Swallow[44] Yàn Follows the swift and random movements of the swallow by rotating position and circling the enemy with strong but quick foot movement. May refer to the purple swamphen.
Goshawk[45] Yào This can mean 'Sparrowhawk,' though the more common word for "Sparrowhawk" used to be Zhān (鸇), which has fallen from use over the years. The Chinese word for "goshawk" covers both the goshawk and the sparrowhawk. Note – in some lineages this animal is translated to mean the grouse or small pheasant, as well as the phoenix. Among other things, trains the ability to penetrate between the opponent's limbs and body with strikes or takedowns.
Monkey[46] Hóu Performed with light, agile and simple striking combined with parrying and deception of distance.
Other animals that may be present in a particular lineage
Chinese Pinyin
Crocodile[47] Tuó The animal it is meant to represent is the Yangtze River alligator. Sometimes referred to as a water-skimming insect, or water lizard. In other lineages, this animal represents the Chinese ostrich, which some sources speculate could actually be the source of the Chinese Phoenix
Tai[48] (𩿡)
see note
A flycatcher bird native to Asia. Due to its rarity, the two characters may be translated as ostrich, dove, hawk or even phoenix. The correct Chinese character for this animal is 𩿡, not two. This character is not in the earlier versions of the Unicode standard, so not all computers are capable of displaying it. For further information, check the Unihan database for complete data on this character.
Turtle Guī Represents the softshell turtle which uses quick head snapping motions to catch fish. Some schools will teach this in combination with Tuó (crocodile), considering them to be the same animal.


The bazigong are eight fighting combinations that exist in some lineages of the art.[49] They emphasize direct combat applicability, and elaborate further on the movements vectors and powers explored and trained with the Five Elements. Sometimes, there exist two variations for the bazigong – one for kung fu development, and another for actual fighting usage. There might also exist in a lineage a linking form for all 8 combinations. The eight bazigong are: Cutting Down/Severing (Zhǎn 斬), Intercepting (Jié 截), Wrapping (Guǒ 裹), Carrying (Kuà 挎), Lifting/Raising (Tiāo 挑), Pushing Upwards (Dǐng 頂), Leading (Lìng 令) and Cloud (Yún 雲).

Linking forms

Master Di Guoyong of Beijing demonstrating a zuanquan application as part of a partner practice form (dui lian).

Additionally to the Five Fists and animal shapes, many lineages employ the training of several additional movement forms – from a handful to a few dozen.[22][50] Some of the more common forms are partner forms, which simulate combat scenarios. Once the individual animal shapes are taught, a student is often taught an animal linking form (shi'er xing lianhuan) which connects all the taught animals together in a sequence. Some styles have longer, or multiple forms for individual animals, such Eight Tiger Forms (huxing bashi). Other forms often link movements from the Five Fists, the different animal shapes, or both, and commonly include additional movements and techniques not found elsewhere. There also exist a bazigong linking form and many weapons forms.


Xingyiquan emphasizes a close relationship between the movements of armed/unarmed techniques. This technical overlap aims to produce greater learning efficiency.

Traditionally xingyi was an armed art. Students would train initially with the spear, progressing to shorter weapons and eventually empty-handed fighting. This gradually changed throughout the 20th century, as the emphasis in most traditional Chinese martial arts shifted from the use of weapons to fighting empty-handed. Weapon diversity is great in many lineages, with the idea being that an experienced xingyi fighter would be able to pick up almost any weapon available (or an object to use as such) irrespective of its exact length, weight and shape.

Common weapons in the art:

Less common weapons:

The Xingyi Classics

Wumuquan Pu (武穆拳譜)

A variety of Important texts have survived throughout the years, often called "Classics", "Songs" or "Theories". These texts use intentionally vague language to describe the principles and methods of practice in Liuhe xingyiquan, Dai-style xingyiquan and xingyiquan. They are less relevant to more modern interpretations of these arts, such as yiquan. In the past, these text were copied by hand, and were kept secret.[4]

The following is a list of the most commonly referred-to classical texts:

Much of these texts can be read in English.[52]

Below is a picture of one book containing the classics, which belongs to Li Bo (李博) from Shijiazhuang, a teacher who claims to be a descendant of Li Luoneng, the founder of the art. This book is titled Wumuquan Pu (武穆拳譜).

The three stages of training power

Generally speaking, it is accepted that in xingyi (at least in Hebei-derived lineages), there are three stages to a practitioner's development of power and overall skill.[22][53] These three stages develop and change in parallel to all other training methods, and dictate the quality of one's training methods. The following is a description of these three stages (a translation of classic texts[54][55][56] by Devlin G. Horrinek):

Famous practitioners

Since the validity of lineages are often controversial, this list is not intended to represent any lineage. Names are presented in alphabetical order using pinyin romanization.

Famous figures
Name Chinese Other names Notes
Bu Xuekuan 布學寬 布子容 Famous disciple of Che Yizhai. He taught Zhao Runting who taught Wang Peisheng.
Cao Jiwu 曹繼武 Reported to have won first place in the Imperial Martial Examinations sometime in the 17th or 18th century. Student of Ji Jike and teacher of the Dai family. From him, the art split into the two lines of Dai-style xinyi and liuhe xinyiquan.
Che Yonghong 车永宏 Che Yizhai 車毅齋 First disciple (kaimen) of Li Luoneng.
Chu Guiting 褚桂亭 Disciple of Li Cunyi. He mastered xingyi, baguazhang and tai chi.
Dai Longbang 戴龍邦 First student of the art from the Dai family. Was taught by Cao Jiwu.
Fu Zhensong 傅振嵩 Chief instructor of baguazhang at the Nanjing Central Goushu Institute. Was good friends with Sun Lutang and exchanged martial arts skills with him.
Guo Yunshen 郭雲深 A famous student of Li Luoneng. A legendary tale reports him as having been incarcerated for killing a man with his Bengquan, and when confined to a prison cell only being able to practice the Tiger shape movements due to his hands being tied by chains.
Han Muxia 韓慕俠 Student of Zhang Zhaodong. Famous Northern practitioner who traveled south to train in Shanxi as well. Great patriot and national hero who defeated a well-known Russian wrestler and strongman in a duel that has since been fictionalized on television and film. Nicknamed Bei Fang Da Xia 北方大侠 (Great Northern Hero). Founder of Han Pai Wushu. Teacher of Ma Jie and Wang Peisheng.
Hong Yixiang 洪懿祥 Student of Zhang Junfeng. Founder of the Tang Shou Tao school in 1960s Taiwan. Teacher of Xu Hongji, Luo Dexiu and Su Dongchen.
Hong Yimien 洪懿祥 Older brother of Hong Yixiang and Student of Zhang Junfeng. Teacher of Allen Pittman.
Ji Longfeng 姬龍峰 Ji Jike (姬際可) The first person to have historically been shown to practice the style that later diverged into Dai xinyi, xinyi liuehequan and xingyiquan. Taught Cao Jiwu.
Li Fuzhen 李復禎 Famous disciple of Che Yizhai.
Li Luoneng 李洛能 Li Nengran (李能然) Nicknamed "Divine Fist Li"; The founder of modern xingyiquan.
Li Tianji 李天驥 Li LongFei (李龍飛) Author of The Skill of Xingyiquan. Was the first Chairman of the Chinese Wushu Association. Helped to preserve the art during the Cultural Revolution.
Li Cunyi 李存義 Li Kui Yuan (李魁元) Famous boxer. Disciple of Liu Qilan and Guo Yunshen (1847–1921). Was the owner of an armed protection services company in which many xingyi practitioners worked, including some of his own students.
Ma Xueli 馬學禮 Founder of the Henan or Muslim branch of xinyi liuhequan.
Shang Yunxiang 尚雲祥 Founder of the Shang or "New Style" of the Hebei branch. Was a disciple of Li Cunyi.
Song Shirong 宋世榮 Founder of the Song Family Style – a sub-style of the Shanxi xingyi branch.
Sun Lutang 孫祿堂 Sun Fuquan (孫福全) Author of several books on internal arts, also known for developing Sun-style tai chi and Sun-style baguazhang. Disciple of Guo Yunshen and Li Cunyi.
Wang Jiwu 王繼武 Born 1891 in Shanxi, Yuci – 1991 in Beijing. Important master of 20th century. Disciple of Wang Fuyuan (王福元).

He also got Dai-style xinyi liuhequan true legacy through his gong fu brother Peng Tingjun (彭廷雋), who also studied from Dai Kui (戴奎). He taught high skilled disciples as Zhang Baoyang (張寶楊), Li Zhongyin (李忠蔭), Pan Zhiyuan (潘志遠), He Shouqi (何守岐), Wang Lianyi (son 王連義) etc... His only one living disciple now is Zhang Baoyang (張寶楊).

Zhang Baoyang 張寶楊 Born 1922 in Hebei – 2016. Disciple of Wang Jiwu (王繼武) and uncle Zhang Xiangzhai (張祥齋). Also studied Qigong and bone-setting/acupuncture with XYQ brother Hu Yaozhen (胡耀貞). Founder and honorary president of the Beijing Xingyi Research Association. Author of the book Xingyi Neigong, written with Wang Jinyu. Still has a few highly skilled disciples in Beijing. One of his top disciples Du Fukun teaches small group of disciples in Prague, Czech republic.
Zhang Junfeng 張俊峰 Founded a major school in Taiwan in the 1950s. Later, via the lineage of his student, Hong Yixiang, his branch became one of the most popular lines of xingyi in the West. Hong Yimien, one of his most senior students.
Zhang Zhaodong 張兆 Zhang Zhankui (張占魁) Famous boxer. Disciple of Liu Qilan. Founder of thexingyi-baguazhang system. Taught many people in the Tianjin area who later became masters in their own right.

Sifu Jose Marín-País Costa Rica (Actualmente el maestro Jose Marín del país de Costa Rica es el único heredero activo del Xing Yi Quan a nivel mundial, sistema heredado por su Maestro ya fallecido Alejandro Fung Yang.

Lineage chart

The following chart, created by Shifu Jonathan Bluestein and Shifu Nitzan Oren, demonstrates the historical connections between most known lineages of xingyiquan, and related martial arts. The chart is a collaborative project between Mr. Bluestein, who created the bulk of it, and several dozen xingyiquan teachers from the West, who contributed information on their lineages and those of others. The chart project is well known in the xingyiquan community, and the information contained in it has never been disputed. An attempt was made to include as many notable teachers as possible, but due to the obvious constraints of space, not all could have been included. Disciples are marked by a direct, full, downward-flowing line. Regular students are marked with a broken line.

The various lineages of xingyiquan
The various lineages of xingyiquan

Herein is a list of references to sources specifying various lineages of xingyiquan, supporting the content presented on the chart.[1][54][57][58][59][60][61][62][63][64][65][66][67][68][69][70][71]

Please note that a few minor details on the chart concerning people who had lived and taught prior to the 20th century are still somewhat controversial. This is due to a lack of profound historical documentation.

One of the more debated questions in this regard is who had been the teacher of Li Luoneng, the founder of modern xingyiquan. It is known that Li studied with the Dai clan, but remains unclear who taught him. Some people and lineages have traditionally claimed that he was taught by master Dai Longbang. However, many others point to the fact that Longbang had died before Luoneng was born, or when Luoneng was quite young. Combined with the fact that Luoneng only arrived at Dai territory as a traveling adult, others argue that it would have been impossible for him to have studied under Longbang, and suggest his teacher was actually Longbang's student, Guo Weihan.[72]

Another historical controversy relates to who had been the teacher of the founder of yiquan, late master Wang Xiangzhai (~1886–1963). Most yiquan oral traditions have it that Guo Yunshen, a student of the founder of modern xingyi (Li Luoneng), had been Wang Xiangzhai's teacher. However, since Wang was not yet alive (or been a young child) by the time of Guo Yunshen's death, others suggest he must have learnt from Guo's other disciples (Li Bao 李豹 is thought to have been his true main teacher). The chart lists Li Bao as Wang's teacher, and Guo Yunshen as an indirect teacher due to the controversy surrounding the matter (until further historical evidence surfaces).

Cross influences with other martial arts

During the course of the late 19th century and 20th century, there had been a lot of cross-fertilization between notable masters of xingyi, and those of baguazhang and tai chi. This has yielded many mutual influences.

Chen Panling's tai chi (originating from Taiwan) has been influenced by xingyi and bagua.

Shanxi-style xingyi in the line of Song Shirong has incorporated bagua's Circle Walking practice, in either a circle, or tight squares or triangles (the latter practice referred to as 'Si Bu Pan Gen' – Four Step Base Encirclement).[73]

Cheng Tinghua, a famous student of bagua founder Dong Haichuan, is said to have taught his Bagua to many xingyi masters (including Gao Yisheng, Geng Jishan and Sun Lutang, of whom is written in the paragraphs below).[74]

Gao Yisheng's Gao-style baguazhang has incorporated a lot of material from xingyiquan, and his lineage, known as "yizong", includes the teaching of both arts.

Sun Lutang, one of the most famous practitioner of xingyi in the 20th century, had learnt Chen-style baguazhang and Wu (Hao)-style tai chi after many decades of practicing xingyi. He then later went to develop his own unique forms of bagua and tai chi, which were heavily influenced by his former experience training in xingyi.[75]

Many martial arts lines, notably that of Chen-style tai chi from Chen village, have begun to practice the zhan zhuang posture known as hunyuan zhuang (or chengbao zhuang) in recent decades. The origin of that posture in modern times is probably either xingyiquan or yiquan, as it is basic in the arts' practices.

Contrary to some modern hypothesis proposed by Karate practitioners,[76] Xingyi was not "created based on Bajiquan and did not "influence greatly the development of Okinawan Karate". Rather, Okinawan Karate was most heavily influenced by southern-Chinese arts.[77] This is well substantiated in historical Karate literature, such as in the works of Patrick McCarthy.[78]

Cultural aspects

Relationship with Chinese culture

Like all traditional Chinese martial arts, xingyi features a strong bond to the military, religious, philosophical and cultural traditions of China.

Xingyi's weapons are mostly ones which were used on Chinese battlefields throughout the centuries, with the dao (sword) and qiang (spear) being the most prominent members of that group. Many consider the style to have originally been a 'military art' (as opposed to a sport like boxing, or an urban self-defense system like Wing Chun).

Xingyi's Five Shapes ('Five Elements') are a borrowed concept from Traditional Chinese Medicine (which in turn had borrowed them from Daoism).

The 12 Animal shapes were influenced, in part, by the Chinese zodiac. The Dragon, being the Chinese mythical animal, begets its supposed physical description and attributes from Chinese lore.

Like all neijia arts, xingyi is heavily influenced by Daoism. Its combat meditation methods (zhan zhuang) existed in similar forms in Daoism before being integrated into martial arts in later centuries. The whole theory behind "using softness to overcome hardness" and similar ideas have their origins in the Dao De Jing. Daoist concepts are readily implemented into actual training in the practice of xingyi. This can be discerned in the following paragraph by Sun Lutang:[79] "Before training, there is no thought or intention, no figure or image, no self or others, only qi exists in the chaos of the body. The state is called Wuji in Xingyi. Without knowing the principle of "inverse motion", people always rigidly adhered to the principle of the "direct motion nature". Hence the internal Qi is restrained and things cannot be properly realized due to an obscure mind that causes the body to be weak. They do not know the principle of health that extreme Yang leads to Yin and extreme Yin leads to death. However, sages can be versed in the way of inverse motion, and control the relation between Yin and Yang, manage the principal of creation, direct Liang Yi (another name for Yin and Yang), grasp the key points, and go back to the pre-natal from the post-natal realm to settle at the original position as the body becomes an integral unit. Its way is nothing more than the principle of stretching and contracting as in post-natal Wu Xing and Bagua boxing. This is called the generation of Qi from WuJi."

Popular culture appearances in modern times

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Xingyiquan has been featured in various media through the years.

See also


  1. ^ The name is pronounced 'Sheeng E Chwen?' in English. The word "quan" has a tone that sounds like one is asking a question.


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Further reading