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 ~

Thursday, September 21, 2023

XingYiQuan Monkey

Below is an excerpt from an article that appeared at Tai Chi Notebook, which takes a detailed look at the XingYiQuan Monkey form. The full post may be read here.


I had the good fortune to guide a group of people through some Xing Yi Monkey recently, which made me focus on it more and practice it a bit harder in the run up, which was a good thing. (I’m also available for children’s parties and Hen parties too, btw). Anyway, I wrote some notes about it, which I’ve typed up below.

A unique animal

When it comes to the animals in the natural world that we can look at for inspiration for martial methods the most obvious place to start is with one of our closes cousins, the primates. Like us, monkeys can stand upright, if only for short periods in some cases, they have hands that can grip and even a bit of limited tool usage. However, monkey is not a good place to start your journey into the 12 animals of Xing Yi.

The first thing to realise about monkey is that it breaks a lot of the ‘rules’ of Xing Yi Quan, which is one of the reason why it’s often taught last amongst the 12 animals. My teacher taught the animals as almost self-contained mini martial arts – each one had a different strategy and techniques, but Monkey wins the award for being the most unique amongst them. It really does stand up on its own as a complete martial art.

Almost all of the rest of Xing Yi Quan can be performed in formation, standing in a line with other people, since you generally move forward and backwards along a straight line (except for the turns, obviously). Whether this really harks back to an ancient heritage of soldiers moving in formation is speculation of course, but it should be noted that a row of people holding a spear and standing side by side can perform the 5 elements and most of the first 11 animal links while all facing in the same direction without impending each other, provided they all turn at the same time. That’s possibly one reason why Xing Yi is so obsessed with keeping the elbows near the ribs.

But Monkey doesn’t follow these rules – it’s breaks the line. Or more accurately, it’s what you do when the line has been broken. Attacks in monkey are reacted to and defended at diagonal angles – there’s footwork you don’t find in the rest of Xing Yi and there are changes in tempo, bursts of speed and jumping. It’s as if your nice orderly line of soldiers has been broken up and the battle has become more of a melee situation.


Monkey Pi

Pi (splitting) is the main energy from the 5 elements that is used in monkey, but while in Pi Quan the arm uses the elbow joint as a pivot point for delivering the downward chopping strike (a bit like the swing of an axe), in monkey it’s the wrist that is the pivot point. The monkey Pi is more like a slap, but don’t think that makes it ineffectual. A relaxed and loose slap delivered using good body mechanics to the head can easily result in concussions.

Monkey also tends to eschew single strikes – everything is done in quick flurries of 3. This is called a triple palm. Often the first strike is to open up their guard, or intercept a strike, the second is to hit the head, and the third can be done as a grab and pull on their limb or head, leading to your own head butt or knee strike – an action called ‘wrapping’. The back of the hand can also be used as an upward deflection to the opponents arms, for when the monkey wants to enter deep.

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