Xing Yi Quan of Li Cun Yi
Tradition has it that Xing Yi Quan originated from General Yue Fei (1103 – 1142) of the Song Dynasty. Recent research, however questions the truth of this. There are some differences of opinion, however the general consensus is that the Xing Yi Quan grew out of Xinyi Liu He Quan.
More specifically, that Xing Yi Quan originated with Li Luoneng (c. 1808 – 1890 aka Li Nengran) of Hebei province, built on the foundation of Xinyi Liu He Quan which originated with Ji Longfeng (1602 – 1680 aka Ji Jike). Ji Longfeng taught Cao Jiwu (1662 – 1722), who taught Dai Longbang (c. 1713 – 1802), who taught Li Luoneng. This has been confirmed by the research of many scholars, most notably Huang Xin’ge. It seems quite certain that Ji Longfeng created Xin Yi Liu He Quan and Li Luoneng in turn created Xing Yi Quan.
Li Luoneng (1809-1890) taught a few famous disciples such as Guo Yun Shen and Liu Qi Lan. Li Cun Yi eventually became one of Liu Qi Lan’s best disciples.
While also studying Xing Yi Quan, Li Cun Yi often visited a longtime friend, Cheng Ting Hua (a disciple of Dong Hai Chuan, the founder of Ba Gua Zhang) and regularly travelled to Beijing to share and exchange fighting techniques. In addition to all this, he was also a friend of Zhang Zhao Dong and although he did practice Bagua Zhang he is best known for his Xing Yi Quan.
Li Cun Yi’s Xing Yi Quan is clear and powerful, fluid and relaxed, with no empty or flowery moves. His teaching is precise, strengthening the body and developing the ability to express force in combat.
The training always begins with static postures and fixed step Nei Gong to develop structure and rooting. Following the basic Qi Gong and Nei Gong exercises the student begins the study of the five fists and their own associated Nei Gong. Each fist is related to several Nei Gong exercises in order to develop the various combined forces that are present in each movement. These practices both build the frame of the body and train the practitioner to express power.
There are also around twenty small fighting forms that combine some of the five fists for different usage. In order to make the practice of the five fists more fluid and spontaneous, there are a series of forms which link them in a natural manner which do not require mental reflection.
After practicing the five fists in order to liberate their expression and developing the eight basic Fa Jing, one is taught the twelve animal forms. Each animal form has three to five variations which develop different qualities and applications. There are also specific Nei Gong for each animal. The animals are the combined Fa Jing of the five fists. This is followed by, if one has acquired the ability to express power in each animal form, several advanced forms. One that is interesting to note is named Xin Yi Quan, which is particular to the Zhang Zhao Dong and Li Cun Yi Schools, which develops fighting combinations. Two-person exercises and fighting applications are trained throughout the learning process.
Li Cun Yi used to say: “Xing Yi Quan develops the forces (through solo training) and the exchange expresses these forces (with partner training). Without the two-person training, compromised of both combat and sensitivity drills, Xing Yi Quan cannot be used.”
In his teaching, Master Li also included in his teaching circle walking and the three essential Bagua Zhang Palm Changes: Single, Double and Fluid Palm Change. As we can see, the Xing Yi Quan is a particularly effective style for the development of strong vitality and real martial qualities.
Ba Gua Zhang of Zhang Zhao Dong
The Zhang branch of Ba Gua Zhang is the evolution of Xing Yi Quan to Ba Gua Zhang.
Already an expert in Hebei Xing Yi, it is often said that Master Zhang Zhao Dong combined both the Fa Jing (power release) of Xing Yi Quan and Ba Gua Zhang. In point of fact, he used more Xing Yi Fa Jing that he adapted to the Ba Gua way of moving. However, the most interesting aspect in the history of this Master lies in the succession of his style and his teaching.
Ironically, given that the style’s master sought to refine it, and make the practice more simple, it inadvertently evolved into a practice with many unnecessary moves, a number of which made little sense. Fortunately, a solid base of his teaching continues to remain alive through a number of discreet and gifted students. Interestingly, a branch which is very faithful to the original style has grown in Japan among the Chinese community. The purpose here is not to say what is good or not, but to see how in just one generation in the purest tradition of Chinese transmission, a style can go from one extreme to the other.
The strength of Master Zhang’s style of Bagua is in the ability to skillfully blend in a practical way, the Fa Jing from Xing Yi and the movements of Ba Gua.
What is at the heart at the heart of the teaching of Zhang Zhao Dong?
The master taught once a week at his school, as well as private lessons. He also had a solid group of students and disciples which were close to him. In his Tian Jin school, the master’s teaching had two facets that complemented each other.
The first facet is exercises for strength (Li Gong) and emitting force (Fa Jing), while the second is the walking and stepping exercises.
The strength Exercises consist of two series, while exercises designed to train For Fa Jing involve three steps – the first is the eight palms, the second the mother palms and then finally the 64 strikes and the 32 techniques.
In addition to this, many exercises in the system develop both the power of the palm and the conditioning of the hand. These exercises bring real changes in the quality of the palm: its strength, structure and ability to listening.
Traditionally, each palm is connected to one of the trigrams of the Yi Jing (while not very useful for martial practice, this is the origin of their name). The palms are then used in three sets of exercises: Nei Gong (for energy circulation), Li Gong (for strength and linking the body to the hand) and Fa Jing (to amplify the impact of strikes). The strike of a well-trained palm will give the ability to penetrate the opponent and shake their structure to its core, giving a very different feeling than that from a punch.
The Mother Palms incorporate the eight Palms and go on to add directional changes onto the circle walking. So, the new aspects at this level are the circle walking and the changes between the different palms in a dynamic motion. The 64 Strikes and 32 Techniques are fast combinations and techniques for fighting. This is only focused on combat and the quick dissolution of any physical confrontation. In the Walking Exercises, there are a dozen of ways to walk the circle with applications in combat.
These are the teaching of the Tian Jin School under the direction of Master Zhang Zhao Dong.
Tai Ji Quan of Li Jing Lin
The Tai Ji Quan of Li Fang Chen, also known as Li Jing Lin, friend of Du Xin Wu (Master of Zi Ran Men), is an ancient boxing style founded by Yang Lu Chan (1799-1872).
Yang Lu Chan was forced to teach his art to an imperial court that he despised (the Manchus) and he altered it to pass on his personal style only to his family. Yang Lu Chan had three sons and the second one, Yang Jian Hou (1837-1917) who took Li Jing Lin as a disciple, was taught the ancient form of this boxing which remained alive but hidden. For his part, the third son of Yang Jian Hou, Yang Cheng Fu (1883-1917), popularized a health exercise based on the moves of the family art.
What differentiates them is quite simple. The modern form of Yang Chen Fu is a martial inspired choreography that is no longer based on Nei Gong, but solely on the movement itself. In the ancient form, as in all internal boxing styles, there are a myriad of Li Gong (strength training), Nei Gong (internal power training) and combat exercises were practiced before even having seen the form.
The health training aspect of the form is essentially the practice of Nei Gong which is not from the form itself and one should also know that the martial aspect cannot be trained with the choreography of the form.
There are three levels of study in the Tai Ji Quan of the Li family, the first being the 13 postures, the second being the linking exercises and fast forms and the third the long boxing. There are four fighting principles: Peng (occupying the space), Lu (Pulling), Jie (Crushing), An(Pushing) and four Supporting Techniques, Elbow, Shoving, Catching and Splitting. These eight concepts of combat are trained in the five directions (forward, backward, left, right, centre), giving 13 postures.
Each principle, like Peng, has a dozen Nei Gong, Li Gong and two-person exercises in order to be grasped and used effectively. Having understood and practiced the basic exercises, one usually moves to the Linking Exercises and Fast Forms.
There are 16 Linking Exercises that contain fighting principles and aim at developing impact power in different angles. The 12 Fast Forms are small combinations three to five movements that test the power and the understanding of the fighting concepts with speed and movement.
Then, and only because we have acquired the knowledge of all these previous teachings, one moves to learning a form that is used as a summary of all that was learnt before: the Long Boxing.
The Long Boxing is a form that is practiced very slowly in the learning phase, but that has to be trained at all degrees of speed as the basics are learnt. Acceleration and rhythm changes develop the stepping qualities for combat. The Spiral Boxing is the “hidden” distinctive characteristic from the Yang family Tai Ji Boxing. It is a form that develops martial qualities and “wrapping the Chi” to develop a strong and healthy body. This is the form that teaches the many Fa Jing of the school. The Cannon Fist is the fighting form of the style, a form that combines internal forces and stepping for effective usage. It is through this form that one learns how to apply Fa Jing in combat applications.
So, this is a short synopsis of the Li Style Tai Ji, it is a complete style of fighting and health in its own right.
Zi Ran Men
The two most notable masters of Ziranmen are Du Xinwu (1869–1953) and his most famous disciple Wang Lai Shen (1903–1992) . Du Xinwu was a student of Xu Ai Zhai who spent part of his childhood growing up among the white monkeys of the mountains.
Natural Boxing is the empty hand fighting concept of the Da Xuan school; a clan and discreet style which is based, like many ancient styles, on the concepts of sword fencing. Its practice fits perfectly with the Wai Gong and Nei Gong of our school, the same movements being used for both energetic and martial purposes, allowing a synergy in the progression of the practitioner.
The practice of the Natural Boxing is too formless for a beginner and we generally use the other internal styles to prepare the student: Tai Ji Quan, Ba Gua Zhang and Xing Yi Quan. These allow an easier understanding of the concepts of the internal fighting arts, enabling a evolution towards the total freedom that this clan boxing system brings.
The basics are movements, attacks and stepping with additional concepts such as dodging, blocking, kicking and limb destruction. Natural Boxing relies, as many old styles, on concepts rather than techniques.
In ziranmen there are what we call the nine circles, which are concepts for fighting, one of these circles being the fluid hands and another being the heavy hands. Each concept of the circles can be trained and worked in different ways such as static practice, power training, movement and mobility exercises and then finally Fa Jing (the issuing of force). These practices are illustrated by applications that lead us to understand the directions and lines of force for each move.
Wan Lai Sheng created a form to express in a simple manner the concepts of Ziranmen, which can be a little hard to grasp for the practitioner. Natural Boxing relies on principles rather than defined techniques and it can thus be hard to understand it without a formal reference. This very Yang and dynamic form allows us to clarify our understanding of Zi Ran Men while strengthening our physical structure according to the “Gong Fu”, the trained qualities, of Natural Boxing Style. The Wan Lai Sheng form also has the quality of being short, easy to remember, and very beneficial for quickly developing vitality.`
Liu He Ba Fa of Chen Tuan
Liuhebafa has been described as containing the fluidity of Taiji Chuan, the power-issuing of Xingyi Chuan, and the variable footwork of Bagua Zhang. And for this reason it has occasionally been assumed to be developed from a mixture of the 3 aforementioned styles. Such a judgement comes from the inability to see and comprehend what Liuhebafa is and what it is not.
You have to know: “mixing those arts could not produce Liuhebafa”. Many others in history have tried to mix the 3 internals but the result was always “a mixture of the 3 styles” and not a unique style. Many of the students and masters of that era made efforts to state clearly that Liuhebafa did not and could not have come from Taiji, or a mixture of the 3 internals.
As Liuhebafa was conceived and developed around “5 hearts and 9 joints force” and dictated by the “6 harmonies and 8 methods”, it simply grew and developed differently in form and function from the other styles.
The most superficial level of Liuhebafa is the external movements and forms. Simply learning the outside movements and techniques does not make one a practitioner of Liuhebafa by any means. What does make one a Liuhebafa practitioner is the study and application of the internal works of the system which was devised before any martial forms or techniques ever came about.
The Six Harmonies and Eight Methods are far more than simple theory, they are the core principles and consolidated understanding of internal martial arts to the highest degree. They were originally conceived and developed by founder Master, along with their applications and techniques.
Later, this understanding was expanded into a physical form by some of the Old Maters. This creation was called Zhu Ji Chuan, which literally means “discovering the foundation”. This form is simply a method to learning and understanding the Six Harmonies and the Eight Methods.