Principles

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Zheng Ti [整体] – Whole body power

Whole body as one unit (the whole body is a hand). It refers to an active use of body weight and ground connection aligned with stances (positions) and footwork.

Whole body power is achieved by adhering to the Six Harmonies. As such “body” is not just the physical body body but rather referring to the whole system (like the use of the word body in phrases such as “body of knowledge”).

Shu Zhan [束展] – Contracting and expanding

Shu-Zhan is equivalent to opening and closing in Tai Ji. It is the fundamental dynamic in Xing Yi. In the very first movement (Qi Shi) the spreading of the arms is Zhan and the “Tiger embraces head” is Shu which in turn comes out to San Ti which has both Shu and Zhan simultaneously. Pi Quan contains 2 contractions and 2 expansions. The hawk form is an archetypical study of the mechanism of Shu Zhan where Yaozi shu shen (Hawk contracts body) is Shu and Yaozi ru lin (Hawk enters forest) is Zhan.

Just as the saying of open and close i.e. “in opening there is closing, in closing there is opening” so it also in Shu-Zhan i.e. in contracting there is expansion, in expansion contracting.

Although it is easy to start thinking about contracting as store and expanding as release this is too narrow minded and simplistic. Remeber the saying “there is no storing of power (xu jin) outside hitting, contracting (shu) is hitting, expanding (zhan) is also hitting”

Five Bows

The five bows are the back (spine), the two arms and the two legs. The 6 harmonies are an absolute requirement before the 5 bows can be utilized for additional power.

It is very important not to over bend when storing power. Over bending leads to loss of power and breaking of the whole body connection. The pattern will resemble the character > instead of the character ).

The cheetah (Geopard) is using its spine like a bow in a very obvious and nice way to generate power when running. If you watch a cheetah running though you’ll notice that the bending and straightening, though clearly visible, is not very big and that the lower back is moving more than the upper back.

Five animal body

A roosters legs, a dragons body, a bears shoulders, an eagles claws and a tiger embracing the head (雞腿 ji tui, 龍身 long shen, 熊膀 xiaong bang, 鹰捉 yin zhuo, 虎抱头 hu bao tou)

Attack and defence are not separate (gong fang bu fen)

This can be understood in at least three ways: either we block and attack simultaneously with one body part doing the blocking and the other doing the countering; or we defend and attack with the same body part (e.g. hand or foot)  in one movement; or we ”break the fangs of the snake” i.e we attack the hand or foot that attacks us and thereby put it out of combat-able condition.

We never count to two or three – for us it is enough with one.

The art of moving faster than our opponent lies not in moving faster than him but to be more economical and refrain from any unnecessary movement.  We do not use parrying in Xing Yi but blocks, moves and counters at the same time in one movement. We move the body, use a hand to divert the attack and strike at the same time – not like in other styles where you first block and the strikes back (a count to two) or block, move and strike (count to two or three). We also do not fake hit as a feint with and already thought out strategy of following up with the real strike – i.e. like a jab in boxing. That also becomes a count to two – one for the feint and one for the real punch. When we strike, we strike as if it was complete in itself and then continue based on the situation that has arisen after our first strike. We use natural movements that arises spontaneously by themselves in the moment rather than thought out strategies in advance. We stand present and aware in the moment and flow with what is.

Soft but not slack, hard but not stiff (song er bu xie, jin er bu jiang)

Although the whole body relaxes, there are some things that has a certain power. The three risings (san ti 三提) i.e. top of the head lifts, tongue towards the upper palette, the perineum  (hui yin) lifts, are all done with a certain amount of light power that provides stability and firmness that makes relaxation meaningful and functional. Positions held with an exaggerated tension can be statically stable but are slow, makes it difficult to listen with the body, and is counter productive when generating power. Relaxation without correct postures might make it relatively easy to listen but make it difficult to change and to generate power. How much tension is exaggerated tension? – Any tension that is not used to maintain correct posture is exaggerated tension.

Elbows do not leave the ribs, hands do not leave the heart (zhou bu li lei, shou bu li xin)

Leaving the ribs means that the elbows no longer are in a position to protect the floating ribs. Leaving the heart means to loose connection with the center line.

The body must not have the slightest leaning, the heart must not be the slightest upset (Shen bu ke you yi hao zhi wai xie, xin zhong bu ke you i hao zhi nu qi)

Always maintain balance. Leaning means to loose balance.

When practising the forms – though nobody is in front of your eyes, in your mind there is someone. This helps to give you focus and meaning. When actually fighting – though somebody is in front of your eyes, in your mind there is nobody. This is not to say there is no emotional content but anger makes us narrow minded and inflexible so we should train sparring, free fighting and similar practises to learn to stay present and alert even when really challenged and we should practice standing and sitting to find a way to transform our innate anger and resentment into wisdom and acceptance of what is.

Clearly discern empty and full (Xu shi fen ming)

If we do not discern empty and full we become clumsy and incapable of generating any substantial power.

Wuxing [悟性]

WuXing is one of the absolute most important concepts in Chinese martial arts. It stands for a way of learning and researching that bridges skill (in the context of precision of exact repetition) and improvisation in that it deepens formal movements and forms and adds layers and levels of understanding on them. It is a type of on-going interpretative activity that is directly or indirectly checked and balanced by the teacher.

The concept of WuXing is often translated as realization and comprehension but there are som aspects of WuXing that gets lost when translating it like this.

WuXing is used in contexts like:
1. “老师告诉你一, 二和三得自己悟出来.” – Teacher can tell you one, two and three you need to find yourself.
2. ”要找里边的东西,全靠悟性.” – If you want to find the inside, it completely relies on WuXing

In the first sentence Wu is translated with find i.e. the research aspect is emphasized. In the second sentence WuXing has the meaning of “ability to go deep into and find things yourself”.