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”.

Forms (curriculum)

The formal training forms in our Xing Yi (which is based on Sun style Xing Yi but complemented with elements of Yi Quan and Xin Yi Liu He) are:

Health and body cultivation

  1. Dao Yin Yang Shen Neigong
  2. Power exercises (strength building exercises, Big Pole Shaking (Dou Da Gan))
  3. Iron body exercises (Pai Da Gong, Ling Mao Shang Shu, Xin Yi Da Zhuang)
  4. Running

Zhan Zhuang (Quiet standing) and Zhuang Fa (moving/dynamic Zhan Zhuang)

  1. San Ti Shi
  2. San Cai Zhuang
  3. Da Shi Zhuang
  4. Cheng Bao Zhuang
  5. Hun Yuan Zhuang
  6. Tui Tuo Zhuang
  7. Fu An Zhuang
  8. Fu Bao Zhuang
  9. Ti Bao Zhuang
  10. Ti Cha Zhuang
  11. Xiu Xi Zhuang
  12. Jiang Long Zhuang
  13. Du Li Zhuang


  • Rooster walking (Ji Bu)
  • Mo Ca Bu
  • Spinning root (Pan Gen)

Three fists

  1. Collecting (Guo)
  2. Drilling (Zuan)
  3. Cutting (Jian)

Trial of power (Shi Li)

  1. Ping Tui (flat push)
  2. Fu An (float sink)
  3. Bo Shui (water wave)
  4. Xuan Fa (spinning method)
  5. Pi Fa (cutting method)
  6. Zhang Fa (palm method)
  7. Gou Gua (hook and hang)
  8. Fen Gua (separate and hook)
  9. Pian Fa (separate and push swaying method)
  10. Xia Luo Xuan (downward spiraling swaying method)

Basic strikes (Quan Fa)

  1. Bu Zhi de Zhi Quan (the not straight straight punch)
  2. Zuan Quan (drilling strike)
  3. Gou Quan (Heng Xiang Zai Quan) (hook strike)
  4. Zai Quan (plant strike)
  5. Bai Quan (Ce pi) (outward strike)

Basic kicks (Ti Fa)

  1. Ti Tui (front kick)
  2. Deng Tui (heel kick)
  3. Cuo Tui (side kick)
  4. Bai Tui (outward kick)
  5. Li He Tui (inward kick)

Five elements

  1. Pi Quan
  2. Beng Quan
  3. Zuan Quan
  4. Pao Quan
  5. Heng Quan

Basic version of 5 elements:

Three ways of moving (fixed, live and continous – Ding shi, Huo Bu, Zou Bu).

Three ways of power, obvious, hidden and transformative (Ming Jin, An Jing Hua Jin).

Five elements linking form (Jin Tui Lian Huan Quan)

Dui Lian (partner practise)

Twelve animals

  1. Dragon
  2. Tiger
  3. Monkey
  4. Horse
  5. Alligator
  6. Rooster
  7. Hawk
  8. Swallow
  9. Snake
  10. Tai bird (wedged tailed hawk)
  11. Eagle
  12. Bear

Eagle and bear combined (Ying Xiong Dou Zhi)

Xin Yi Liu He forms

This is small subset of the Mai Style Xin Yi Liu He curriculum that Master Li Zun Si taught but enough to get the essential point and counteract some tendencies that otherwise easily develops in Xing Yi practise such as disregarding proper body mechanics (shen fa) in favor of short power and body momentum.

  1. Dan Ba
  2. Shuang Ba
  3. Yao Shan Ba
  4. Long Diao Bang
  5. Da Pi
  6. Yan Xing Chao Shui, Yao Zi Zuan Tian
  7. Ma Xing Chong Quan
  8. Hu Bao Tou, Hu Tao Xin
  9. Guan Bai Quan
  10. She Xing Zhou
  11. She Bo Cao
  12. Hu Bai Wei
  13. Qi Luo (Dan Feng Chao Yang)
  14. Ren Jin
  15. Huai Bao Wan Shi, Peng Yi
  16. Lan Long Wo Zheng
  17. Si Ba Chui

Xing Yi advanced forms



San Ti Standing (三体站桩, San Ti Zhan Zhuang)

LeftSanTiShi1 In Xing Yi the main standing practice is San Ti Shi – (Traditional Chinese: )

The gate to enter stillness (入靜, ru jing) lays in not doing (无为, wu wei) anything about what is experienced.
The practice of not doing is learning to give up (舍, she). Most importantly it is giving up wanting things to be different.
The practice of giving up is to neither drop nor resist (不丢不顶, bu diu bu ding).
It is not just standing there like a moron, it is completely alert as if the hair was on fire, vitally interested in what is going on and at the same time completely without unnecessary tension and striving.
Here opens the gate to true stillness. In the vital aliveness of spacious awareness where right action (正業, zheng ye) or the action of no action (无为之为, wu wei zhi wei) spontaneously (自然, ziran) arises.

There are two kinds of practice of San Ti – a static practice and a dynamic one. The dynamic one is basically moving back and forth between contracting and expanding from side to side while standing for a short time (10 breaths or so) in each posture whereas the static practice means to stand for much longer time in the San Ti posture. Sun Jian Yun recommended an hour of San Ti every day but said that her father would sometimes stand for 4-5 hours without a break.

In “The true meaning of Martial Arts” Sun Lu Tang says: “And so it is that this boxing art is a single continuum of both internal and external. Movement and stillness have the same source. Form and function have the same method. Hence it is the case that “stillness is the fundamental form and in movement lies the function”. ” 1

The 4 postures in San Ti practise

When practising San Ti you transition between 4 postures i.e.

1. Emptiness stance (無極桩, Wu Ji Zhuang)

SLT-WuJiZhuang WuJiShi

A study of Xing Yi Quan says:

Nonpolarity is the state you are in before commencing practice, without thoughts or ideas, without form or shape, without a sense of “me” or “him”. In the mind, all is without distinction, without intention and nothing being thought about… In the starting position, begin by facing squarely, your hands hanging down, your feet positioned at a ninety-degree angle. This posture goes along with what is natural.

Before we start to direct our intention and create we need to return to our original self, otherwise our actions will be filled with the obscurities of the everyday mind. The emptiness stance is like the “just sitting” of Zen returning to our original face before our parents were born. Sun Lu Tang speaks of this returning as Ni Yun (逆運) whereby turning the mechanism of Qi in post heaven (i.e. the manifested) one can return to pre-heaven (the non-manifested) and from there return to the original source (復出歸元).

2. One Qi stance (虛無含一氣, Xu wu han yi qi)

A study of Xing Yi Quan says:

When nothingness gives rise to a singleness of energy, it is the reversing movement of the genuine pre-heaven Qi. The singleness of energy is not a dead energy, but a lively energy, for within it there is a vitality stored, which is called innate authentic energy. It is the basis of human life, the origin of Nature, the key to creating transformation, the source of life and death. It is the foundation of Xingyi Boxing. When about to move but not yet moving, the mind is empty. One Qi is the primordial chaos (一氣渾然)

Further it says:

From the starting position, turn halfway to the right, hands hanging down, left foot in front and closing toward your right ankle until your feet are now making a forty-five degree angle. Inside, your tongue touches your upper palate and your rectum is lifted. This posture is about grasping the passive and active aspects and getting them to switch, reversing Qian and Kun, turning the energies and thus reverting to the innate true active energy in place of the acquired fake active energy that is so harmful to us.

SLT-XuWuHanYiQi HanYiQi-e1446990577934

3. Fullness stance or Tiger Embracing Head stance (太極桩 or 虎抱头)

A study of Xing yi Quan says:

The body method in the starting position goes from stillness to motion. You must not lean forward or back, or incline to the left or right. You should be balanced and not drift away from balance, standing centered and not leaning away. Your left foot is in front, your right foot behind. Your left heel is close to your right ankle, making a forty-five degree angle, as in the photo. Your shoulders loosen and have an energy of hanging down. Your elbows are close to your ribs. Your hands cover your solar plexus, left hand below, right hand on top. Your left forefinger extends forward underneath and your right middle finger extends forward on top, covering your left forefinger, the two fingers coming together. Your head should be pressing up and your neck should be upright. Your waist has an energy of sinking down. Your hips have an energy of drawing in. Your heels have an energy of twisting outward. Your legs slowly bend downward, as in the photo. The bending of your legs should have a rounded fullness, and must not be a dead bend. Your body still must not have the slightest bit of crookedness, and there must not be the slightest bit of effort in your mind. During this starting position, your intention is to be like a vertical pole that has been placed in level ground. Once this pole starts to stand stably, your mind and energy become naturally calm and still, without inclining toward anything. It is said the mind unites with the intention, the intention unites with the energy, and the energy unites with the power. These are called the “three internal unions”. If your mind is not uniting with your intention, then being off by a hair will make you miss by a thousand miles. Therefore if you want to learn this art, you have to delve deeply.

This posture is the contraction posture which gives birth to San Ti. The contraction is performed by the five bows (arms, legs and spine). The main principle of “elbows does not leave the ribs, hand do not leave the heart” is clearly manifested as is the five characteristics of Rooster leg, Dragon body, Bear shoulders, Tiger embracing head and Eagle claw. The meaning are as follows:
1. Rooster leg: to differentiate the weight and to stand firmly, grasping the ground.
2. Dragon body: The body is folded into sections yet at the same time all united as one. Nothing is stiff but free like a dragon floating in the sky.
3. Bear shoulders: The neck is straight and has vertical power (bai hui i.e. top of the head is pressing up). Shoulders relax down so that Qi sinks to Dan Tian. Back is rounded and chest relaxed.
4. Tiger embracing head: It is like a cat catching its pray i.e. alert and yet relaxed. It is also like a tiger exiting its cave (ferocious and fearless) where the contraction is manifested as the hands embracing each other.
5. Eagle claw: The eagle catches its prey with great power in its claws but without strenuous effort. The strength of the grip is from the Dan Tian.

SLT-TaijiZhuang HuBaoTou-2-e1446990705543

4. San Ti stance or San Cai Stance (三體桩 or 三才桩)

Sun Lu Tang modified the San Ti stance that Sun Lu Tang learned from Li Kui Yuan and Guo Yun Shen after traveling to Shanxi and meeting Song Shi Rong and Che Yi Zhai who both had the front palm more vertical. Sun Lu Tang felt that this way of practising was greatly conductive in developing internal energy and modified it accordingly. The original San Ti is now referred to to as San Cai Zhuang to distinguish the two. There are some other differences between the two postures as well i.e.
1. In San Ti the middle finger and Lao Gong aligns with the centre line whereas in San Cai the index finger and He Gu aligns with the centre line.
2. In San Ti the body is between straight and angular whereas in San Cai the body is turned almost 45 degrees.
3. In San Ti the weight is 60% on the back leg whereas in San Cai it is 70% on the back leg.
4. In San ti the tip of the fingers of the front hand are at the level of the lips whereas in San Cai the front hand is at the level of the heart.

A study of Xing yi Quan says:

 When going through your practice, the myriad techniques all come out of the three-substance posture. This posture is the gateway to the method, the main tool in Xingyi Boxing.”

San Ti Shi
sun_lutang-santi-e1446996228530 SanTiShi1-e1446996301829
San Cai Zhuang
SLT-SanCaiZhuang SanCai

Words of 3

3 verticals

  1. Aligning the front knee with the heel
  2. Aligning the front wrist with the foot
  3. Aligning the buttocks with the back foot

3 Ding

  1. Head presses upward (xu ling ding jin)
  2. Tongue press up against the upper palette
  3. Fingers press upwards (wrist sink down)


3 Kou

  1. Chest (han xiong)
  2. Palms (ying zhuo)
  3. Feet (zhua di)

3 yuan

  1. The spine is round
  2. The eyes are round
  3. The tigers mouth is round

3 chui (三垂)

  1. Qi sinks down
  2. Shoulders drop
  3. Elbows drop

3 yue

  1. arms arc like a bow
  2. Legs arc making the crotch round and balancing the closing inward of the knees
  3. Back is rounder (ba bei)

3 kuai

  1. Eyes percieves quickly
  2. Heart is quickly moved
  3. Hands moves quickly

What is going on in your mind when you practice San Ti Shi?

To me the basic attitude in San Ti is Hu Bao Tou (虎抱头, Tiger embracing head). It is completely aware of what is embraced (the whole body) yet at the same time vibrantly alert and aware of surroundings. When it comes to Yinian Huodong (visualizations), I start with imagining, then once it is established i allow for more and more curiosity and investigation. This makes for a transition from “making it happen” to “discovering that this is so”.

Is there some kind of gradual progression of practise?

Yes, in a sense there is. First you need to be able to stand correctly so focus is just on correct posture. Then the investigation starts. Relax is one, whole body power (6 he), root, opposing forces, 5 charactericstics (ji tui, long shen, xiong bang, hu bao tou, ying zhuo), 5 bows, 3 dantian, 6 gates (bai hui, hui yin, 2 lao gong, 2 yong quan), 3 flows (up-down, down-up, circulating) are some examples of others. It is a dynamic balance between engagement and allowing things to happen, cultivation and natural growth.

What to do about distractions and random thoughts?

The key is interest. It begins with curiosity and that turns into interest. When there is wholehearted interest, random thoughts simply does not arise. However when this is not the case and random thoughts arises just notice that you are distracted and return to the standing practice.