Xing Yi vs Xin Yi
Xing Yi is one of the most popular Chinese martial arts styles in the world today, sitting alongside Tai Chi and Bagua as one of the three major 'internal' styles.
Over the course of its three hundred year history, many different branches of Xing Yi have developed. One of these is known as Dai Xing Yi, named after the Dai family who developed and preserved this particular form.
In 2005, the Wushu Scholar team was fortunate enough to catch up with Master Huo Yong Li, a master of Dai Xing Yi in Shanxi. We took the opportunity to ask him to explain the differences between Dai's Xin Yi and the standard Xing Yi style practiced today. You will find the interview transcript reproduced authentically and in full below.
Q: Can you tell us what is the exact meaning of Xing Yi Quan?
A: In the past, it was Xin Yi Quan during Dai's Xin Yi period. Xin means 'heart'. It's focus was on inner training not caring about what the out appearance looks like. For example, just now Master Huo demonstrated movements which were not nice looking. After heritage by Li Lao Nong, it has been changed to be Xing Yi Quan. Xing means shape of outlooks. It is because the moves look like shapes of some other movements of Wu Xing Quan (five elements style). And also shows the meaning of five elements style. I have demonstrated on the ground site which is Five Element Style. That's the Chinese traditional culture.
Q: Why did the name change?
A: The change happened over quite a long time. In the beginning, the first name is Xin Yi, people in ancient time thought people's thoughts were located in their heart. So use xin, yi also means the result of thinking. In fact xin and yi got close meaning. Afterwards the name changed from Xin Yi to Xing Yi, because xing shows the shape and yi means the thinking and the results of thinking, which made the name of the style show more completely the style's exact meaning. Also the shapes include the 12 animals moves.
Q: What are the animals?
A: Dragon, Tiger, Monkey, Horse, Snake, Chicken, Snipe, Swallow, tai (some people think it is a water animal, some people think it is a bird), tuo (which is a water animal ) Eagle, Bear.
Q: Can you explain the different features of all the animals?
A: Dragon's legs, monkey agility, horse running, snake's set, bear's shoulders, eagle's claw?.
Q: What are the five elements?
A: Five elements is the philosophy; each element will create the other but is also opposed by another. Use one element move to defeat another. From one move to another which is called creating (give birth). Such as pi quan (Cutting fist) is called Gold. It looks like axe cutting wood. Straight fist is called Wood, cutting fist can defeat straight fist.
Q: What about fire?
A: Canon fist (pao quan)
Q: How about water?
A: Screw fist, like spring come out from the earth.
A: Horizon fist. Moves like a catapult
Q: It is said that there are three points in Xing Yi style. What are the three points and how are they aligned?
A: Three points on a line. They think Xing Yi in this way? (Yes.) Basically should say it is correct. The foot is on the same line with my knee. My knee is on the line with my hand. Hand is on same line with the mid of two eyes, which is the nose on the same line.
Q: Why is this important?
A: Basically all theory is based on the fighting purpose. Because the central point needs to be occupied all the time when you fight with people, when you punch in, I focus on the central line, it is easy to defend and that makes me not be in disadvantaged situation.
Q: Xing Yi has many different styles. Is Xing Yi in Shan Xi different compared to others?
A: Xing Yi in Shan Xi, the moves are smaller, the frame is smaller. It is more practical.
Q: Can you show the difference between big frame and small frame?
A: Big frame is because the steps is big and the hands longer. Hands in the middlezuan quan called mid frame, shorter called small frame. Big and small is because the body lower and higher, and the hands longer or shorter.
Q: What is the advantage of the different frames?
A: Small frame is more flexible. Big frame slower but is good for Kung fu training.
Q: What is the difference in the fighting distance of big and small frame?
A: all is about one arm. When you stretch your arm you can touch people.
Q: What foundation training is used in Xing Yi?
A: As Xing Yi training, need to train a lot of 'three parts on one line' (san ti shi) and cutting fist (pi quan). You need to understand gradually and train gradually to move forward. And understand it totally. Need the students to train basic stretch and flexibility. Basically, need to train the standing skill (called san ti) and circling walking. Students need to train san ti and learn it properly, which is the resources of Xing Yi Kung fu. If do not have a good foundation in this, any other could not be good. In ancient time, normally need three years foundation training before learning anything else, but now it has changed.
Q: What are the principle patterns in Xing Yi?
A: There are about five basic patterns: Five Elements, 12 Shapes, jin tui lian huan, si bai, za shi cui, and wu xing lian huan
Q: What makes Xing Yi different to other inner styles?
A: Generally, people think of Xing Yi, Bagua, tai chi, Wudang. The creators are different, but the basic theory for all is based on the Chinese traditional culture. The principles are the same, but the appearances are different. And the hardness and softness are different. Like Bagua going around, Xing Yi going straight. Tai chi is good at softness.
The most important difference between Xing Yi, Bagua, tai chi is that Xing Yi is featured with straight and central, Bagua is featured with changing the central direction; and tai chi is with empty of central (if you feel empty, they will change to be not empty, but if you feel not empty, they will change it to be empty.) This is the basic difference between them.
Q: Compared with the other internal styles, what is the balance of hard and soft in Xing Yi?
A: Xing Yi has more hardness.
Q: Compared with Shaolin, how can you tell that Xing Yi is an internal style?
A: All Chinese culture is more focused on determining the nature, the Western culture more focused on determining the quantities. Normally there are two thoughts about this. Internal style is focused on inner cultivating; and external style is focused on muscle and flexibility training. Some people say monks train internal, and normal people train external, but I don't agree with this opinion. In fact, Chinese martial arts all include inner and external training. The only difference is the different focus and the training methods. We can only say comparably which is internal and which is external.