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Yiheyuan Martial Arts

Real Tai Chi in Leeds, UK

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Hsing Yi Chuan
What is Hsing Yi?
Hsing Yi Chuan ((Form-Mind Boxing) is one of the three main Internal Martial Arts in China, the other two being Tai Chi Chuan and Ba Gua Zhang. Each is a complete system in its own right and yet they share the same principles and, when learned together, complement and support each other. (See the interview with Master Zhu Guang  for his thoughts on this.)

Master Zhu Guang demonstrating "Trinity Posture" (San Ti)

Hsing Yi Chuan (sometimes written as Hsing I or Xing I or Xing Yi) trains forward, powerful, explosive movements. The system is divided into two aspects: the first consisting of five moves or “fists” called the “five elements”, which relate to Chinese Five Element Theory of the natural world as follows:
Pi Chuan Metal


Beng Chuan Wood


Hern Chaun Earth


Tzuann Chuan Water


Pau Chaun Fire


Pi Chuan Metal
Metal helps to create water, which helps to create wood, which helps to create fire, which helps to create earth, which helps to create metal, therefore Pi leads to Tzuann, which leads to Beng, which leads to Pau, which leads to Hern, which leads to Pi.

The five elements of Hsing Yi form a complete fighting system in their own right but, once they are mastered, some students choose to explore some of the twelve animals of Hsing Yi, selecting two or three which are in keeping with their own physique, temperament and natural way of moving, from Tiger, Horse, Monkey, Water Lizard, Swallow, Thai Bird, Chicken, Snake, Hawk, Bear and Eagle, or they may choose the Dragon, which in some schools, including that of our teacher, Master Zhu Guang, is practiced alone and takes many years of hard training to master properly as it includes a very low, coiled posture preceded by three flying kicks in succession without touching the floor.
Master Zhu demonstrating the Hsing Yi Dragon

At Yiheyuan, we also teach Hsing Yi Broadsword and Spear, as taught to us by Master Nigel Sutton.
Hsing Yi training is very demanding, both physically and mentally. The student needs endless patience to stand for long periods in stationary postures, and to repeat the same few movements thousands of times on the way to mastery. In this way, the student gains not only a strong, dynamic body and a powerful fighting system but also potentially gains mastery of his or her own mind.
If you are interested in studying Hsing Yi, we would be happy to discuss forthcoming training opportunities, please contact us at:
 Hsing Yi Tip of the Week - 13.8.10 (From our Facebook Wall)

Squeeze in the thigh. 
As you move forward with follow-stepping, your front foot points forward and your back foot is turned out but don't let the back knee go out with it, creating drag and instability.  Rather than thinking of turning in the knee, which would be uncomfortable and again lead to instability, squeeze in the thigh.  This will add power and momentum to your movements.  You can practice this squeezing, like an invisible hand pressing inwards on the outside of your thigh,  in your stationary postures so that it becomes second nature and you don't have to think about it any more.
Martial Arts Tip of the Week - 24.8.10

Imagine a lead cape. 
This is equally applicable to Bagua, Hsing Yi and Tai Chi.  If your shoulders, upper arms and elbows rise, any power required for a strike will only come from your upper body, shoulders and arms.  Your strikes will then be stiff, awkward and more likely to cause injury to yourself than to your opponent.
If, instead, you relax and drop your shoulders and imagine the weight of a lead cape draped around your upper arms while breathing from your dantien, the power of your whole body becomes available.  You will feel more co-ordinated and able to deliver more accurate and powerful strikes while at the same time maintaining a relaxed sensitivity to your opponent's movements and intentions so that you can deflect and redirect incoming forces.
This is one of the essential keys to the Bagua whirlwind, the Hsing Yi missile and the Tai Chi dragon.  It is also one of the "secret principles" of the Internal Martial Arts which make these arts "internal".
Hsing Yi Classics - Returning to the Origin

Hsing Yi is Form-Mind Boxing.  While the outward focus of the training is on learning to develop fighting skills, the real objective is to train the mind in such a way that the ego disappears and the person becomes grounded in the centre, the Self, the Absolute or "the one principle that pervades all the ten thousand things."  In the Hsing Yi classics, this is referred to as the “grand space" in which man is born, in which there is "no fighting and no competition".
Through the practice of Hsing Yi, we learn to "convert into nothingness" and "return to the origin".  The classics refer to "Jin and Wey rivers not dividing."  One of these rivers is a turbulent stream full of rapids which churn up the mud and make it very murky, while the other is deep and wide and clear as it flows on towards the ocean.  As the turbulent stream plunges into the great, clear river, all the dirt settles and the waters merge into the one great flow .
During Hsing Yi training, the idea is to dissolve the ego and mentally step back into the observing self, in the same way that we do in pure meditation.  There are no particular physical techniques to bring this about but the stationary postures are so uncomfortable and painful at first that to stand in them for a long time is almost unbearable.  By mentally rising above this and finding ways to endure the pain and discomfort, we find mastery of the mind and a quiet place beyond pain where there are no thoughts, just presence in the moment and a kind of detachment from the body and its suffering.
So far as post-birth and pre-birth chi are concerned, we could describe it as the difference between the manifest and the unmanifest, the external and the internal, the physical body with its mental ego and the inner Self or Cosmic Mind.  By studying the interplay of yin and yang and resting in the moment, whether through stillness or movement or the interplay of both, we turn around the normal flow of inner to outer so that the external can be used to discover the internal, the "post-heaven" can be used to access the "pre-heaven".  At this point there is no fear of death, since the cosmic consciousness cannot die when individual bodies dissipate; therefore the practitioner discovers longevity or "immortality". (Which doesn't necessarily mean a longer life just an awareness that the Self is not limited by a human life span).
This is not really about training methods so much as where we choose to rest the attention.   It's also to do with experience and expression.  At first the person is focused on the external and the idea of "doing" things.  But as the training progresses, there is no longer so much doing but more and more feeling, experiencing and expressing, and this shifts from the perception and expression of the ego or individual surface identity with all its grasping, desires, aversions, judgements and ideas, to the deeper self, the quiet stillness within all of us and in everything .  Expression is then the universal creative process and the experiencer is the Self of all things.
"When all is calm, all is combined, two poles assist" - yin and yang help us to see and experience the nature of the universe and reveal our true identity as the "mother" of the opposites.  With the mind calm, the body becomes relaxed yet resilient and moves freely as one unit with explosive forward momentum.
In Bagua and Tai Chi, there are also difficult stationary postures (holding the Bagua "mother palms" or holding still any of the Tai Chi postures such as single whip or white crane spreads wings) which can have the same effect.  When you can move like the whirlwind from your centre, not just from the centre of the body (spine and dantien) but through the expression of the One Self through the instrument of your body, then the Pre-birth Chi is expressing freely through the Post-birth Chi and the two things are not different, like the waters of the Jin and Wey rivers.  It's not really a converting but a freeing up, a clarity of perception, a purity of experience without thoughts and ideas getting in the way.
In Bagua, you can think of the circle walking as a metaphor for the pre-birth state or unity and then the fighting techniques off the circle, such as the linear methods and applications, as the post birth state in which separation and division are predominant, not just in terms of leaving the circle but also in terms of the perceived separation between you and your opponent.
One of the objectives of the pure martial arts is to realise that the opponent is not separate from yourself.  You, your opponent and everything are One.  If you both realise this, there is no need to fight in the first place; if an adversary does not recognise this, self-protection or defence of others may be necessary but with compassion rather than hatred and without violence if possible.  Such decisions cannot be made lightly or in the heat of the emotionally-aroused ego-mind, therefore to remain calm, take a wider view and have compassion are essential ingredients in mastery of the martial arts.
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