Xing Yi as a way of life as I see it is certainly not the vulgar path of optimizing one’s ability to do harm as a way of life but rather a method of studying and serving life itself. To be human is to be in relation to others and in relations conflict often occurs. Conflict is a fundamental part of life. There is competition over resources, conflict due to opposing agendas, conflict due to misunderstandings etc.
Xing Yi is a kind of Wu Shu which usually translates as Martial Art. The meaning of the character Wu (武) is composed of two parts: Zhi(止) meaning ”to stop” and Ge (戈) meaning halberd. Shu (術) means art or craft. The simple meaning of Wu Shu is therefore ”the art of stopping violence”. Learning to resolve conflicts effectively is thus a very important thing and Xing Yi is a way to practise conflict resolution. Being in the service of life means to work with birth and death, creation and destruction to support it. Sometimes things need to be destroyed to make room for something new. When structure and order becomes stiff and rigid or is no longer serving life it is time for it to die. Sometimes new things need to be created to fit circumstances better. In order to make progress and to be able to live in harmony with ourselves, with others and with nature we constantly renew and create new things that enables this better than before. The five elements creative and destructive practise set is a way to help us understand the theory of creation and destruction.
In serving life we begin with the study of self preservation in Xing Yi. If we want to preserve ourselves we need to understand who and what we are so we understand what it is that we are preserving. For this reason the study of self and others in the most fundamental sense, is at the core of Xing Yi. Self preservation means strengthening and understanding the body and mind through practise. It also means gaining the ability to efficiently defend ourselves against an attacker. Where some people find the pursuit of martial arts to be the development of the most efficient combat system that can inflict maximum damage to an opponent, we see the necessity of being able to stop violence as quickly and efficiently as possible in Xing Yi but do not stop there. Instead we take this a good first step, connected to development of Ming Jin, and then further develop this martial provenness in the service of life in two dimensions.
The first dimension: Once I have acquired the ability to defend myself against an opponent, regardless of the amount of damage that I do to him, I extend this ability so that I am able to defend my friends and family against evil doers as well. Once I have learned to do this I extend this ability to serve society in stopping evil doers from destroying society for their own selfish aims.
The second dimension: Once I have acquired the ability to defend myself against an opponent regardless of the amount of damage that I do to him, I extend this ability so that I am able to defend myself with a minimum damage done to the opponent. This coincides with the development of An Jin. Once I can defend myself with minimum damage to the opponent I extend the ability to be able to defend myself with no damage to the opponent. Once I can defend myself with no damage to the opponent I extend the ability to dissolve or transform the conflict before it even breaks out into physical action. This practise coincides with the development of Hua Jin or transforming force in Xing Yi. At its ultimate level, no conflicts ever occur as immediately when a potential conflict arises it is transformed into win-win collaboration or cooperation in the service of life instead.
The practise of Xing Yi is not about repeating forms and movements over and over hoping to force some movements into becoming automatic reflexes. It does mean embracing form and ritual to connect with and explore fundamental truths about ourselves and nature and it does mean rigorous practise of movements over and over to discover and remove blockages to allow the movements to be expressed freely and naturally however. Repeating patterns over and over becomes a kind conditioning that is contradictory to the essence of Xing Yi unless we approach it with awareness, curiosity and a desire to go deeper. As much as the practise of fixed form is absolutely necessary be it doing pi quan or beng quan back and forth for hours on end, standing in San Ti, work on a sand bag or practising two man sets, it must be balanced with the practise of free form Quan Wu (shadow boxing) and various forms of free sparring to properly nurture one’s ability to improvise and create. In my mind, Xing Yi without creative improvisation is not even half an art.
Xing Yi as a way of life does not mean rejecting everything else such as pursuing a career or family life for the sake of practise but to make Xing Yi part of all aspects of life. If you can practise Xing Yi 24 hours a day how can you not improve much faster than someone who only practises for a couple of hours each day? Finding a way to always practise Xing Yi includes paying attention to your posture when sitting at your desk at work, or cleaning the floor at home. It means paying attention to how you interact with your colleagues at work and your spouse and kids at home – is it in the spirit of supporting life, transforming each moment towards higher refinement and depth? It means practising awareness of oneself and of the surrounding when going to work or buying vegetables. It means always maintaining integrity, generosity and a search for a deeper truth. It means the practise of doing things whole-heartedly with mind, intent and action as one. It means serving life by listening with your whole system to find harmony, let that with needs to die, die, and engage every moment with creativity and focus.