Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Monday, October 13, 2014

Introductory History of Xingyiquan

At EJMAS (Electronic Journal of Martial Arts and Science), noted MA author Brian Kennedy published an introductory history of Xingyiquan training manuals. An excerpt is below. The full article may be read here.

An Introductory History of Xing-yi Training Manuals

By Brian Kennedy Copyright © EJMAS 2001. All rights reserved.
A note on transliterations: Although this article uses pinyin to transliterate technical terms, personal names are presented using the spelling by which the person is (was) best known in English. Book titles are likewise presented as on their covers.

The senior students looked anxiously around the table at each other. Not only had the Master been murdered but the secret training manual had been stolen. That manual, which had been passed down from master to senior disciple for over 500 years, contained the key ideas that gave the school’s techniques their frightening efficacy. The manual had to be found and the master’s murder avenged, no matter what the cost. "Secret training manuals" are a stock motif in Chinese martial arts movies and novels. Unlike other stock motifs such as magic swords and flying through the air, "secret training manuals" do have a basis in reality and have a long history in some Chinese martial arts systems. Training manuals are books or manuscripts that teach the principles, techniques or forms of a system, and as such are separate from books that discuss the history of martial arts or works of fiction. Xing-yi quan is one art where training manuals have existed for several hundred years, and that history is the focus of this article.

Xing-yi Quan

Xing-yi quan means "form-mind boxing," and is romanized as xing-yi (pinyin), hsing-i (Wade-Giles), and hsing-yi (Yang Jun-ming’s transliteration). Stylistically, it is one of the three internal Chinese martial arts, the other two being bagua (pa kua) and taiji (t’ai chi). Structurally, it is characterized by its seeming simplicity: the system consists of a limited number of forms and techniques that are drilled in series of short forms. However, whatever the system lacks in variety, it makes up for in depth, requiring the student to make a long and intensive study of the basic motions of combat. It is also undeniably practical, having been the system of choice during the late Qing and Republican periods for people such as convoy escorts and bodyguards who made their living fighting.

Xing-yi has two major subdivisions, the Hebei-Shanxi tradition and the Henan tradition. The Hebei-Shanxi schools are much more prominent both in China and in the West. Their core training consist of the 5 element fists and the 12 animals forms. Meanwhile, the Henan schools, although far less prominent, probably represent a more accurate/faithful version of early hsing-i. Their core training consist of 10 Animal forms that are different from the 12 Animal forms of the Hebei-Shanxi lineage.

The Henan branch is also known as Muslim xing-yi. The reason is that the historical founder of xing-yi, Ji Ji Ke, had two major students, who in turn founded the Hebei-Shanxi branch and the Henan branch. The Henan branch founder, Ma Xueli (1714-1790), was Muslim, as were his family and all his students. Since the Henan branch of xing-yi tended to stay within the Islamic community, it subsequently became identified as a Chinese Muslim ("Hui") martial art.

At any rate, the development of modern xing-yi is attributed to Ji Ji Ke, circa 1750, and the subsequent history of its training manuals can be usefully divided into four periods: the legendary period, the hand-copies period, the Republican period, and the modern period.

1 comment:

Compass Architect said...

In the modern economy, secret training manuals are almost obsolete. You can find most pseudo "secret" sets on Youtube and manuals on some e-book sites.

Some of the real secrets are:
* knowing the pinnacle of achievement from level to level; and
* knowing that the daily perfection of practice is greater than "the practice to perfection"