Xing Yi is a fascinating subject. Because it’s such an old martial art, there are so many different branches of it. These different branches have tended to focus around geographic location. So, there’s a Shanxi branch, a Hebei branch, a Henan branch, etc.
Ultimately, while they’re all different, they’re all part of the same family, so it can be useful to investigate how other branches train and how it relates to what you were taught in your branch.
Will of the Monley Steals Peach YouTube channel has put out a lot of content recently on various different styles of Xing Yi and Xin Yi. (The arts have slightly different names, but to me they’re all part of the same family).
What I’ve found most interesting is seeing his videos on Xin Yi Lie He (6 Harmony Heart-Mind boxing). This style is practiced mainly amongst the Muslim community in Henan province in China, but also elsewhere. As Will says “There are two main branches of Xinyi Liuhe, one in the city of Zhoukou which you can also find in Shanghai, and the Luoyang style which is incredibly rare. In this episode, we meet Ma Zhi Ping in the local Mosque to learn about the Luoyang style of Xinyi Liuhe.”
If you look at XYLH it initially looks quite different to my style – Hebei Xing Yi – there are lots of jumps, big movements, extended arms and long stances. None of these things you could say are characteristic of Hebei Xing Yi. Have a look:
However, if you look closer you will find that the principles behind the art are closer to what I was taught by my teacher than versions of Xing Yi in other places.
My teacher did not empahsise the dantien, but instead talked a lot about the Dragon Body. You find the same explanation in this second video on the Shanghai branch which looks at the fundamental body movements behind XYLH:
- Dragon coiling around tree
- Chicken step
- Thunder sound
These principles so easily map onto what I was taught that I can undertand them straight away.
Let’s take Chicken Step as an example: while the Chicken Step exercise in XYLH (in the video above) is a different stepping pattern to what you commonly see in Xing Yi the principles behind it are the same –
- Constant motion,
- Using your stepping for defence not blocking
- Twisting the body so there’s always power available
- No “pushing off” the ground – more like a hovercraft.
While my Hebei Xing Yi doesn’t look like XYLH on the surface, I find it interesting that in terms of principles it’s much more similar to this style (which mine branched off from 100 years of years ago!) than even some of its more closely related Xing Yi styles based in Shanxi, which seem to specialise in a type of shaking power or the more dantien-rotation-centric styles like Dai style Xin Yi.
You can never hope to even try to learn all of the different Xing Yi/Xin Yi styles. The art is just too big! But you can at least see how they do things and spot similarities which help you reflect on your own practice, thanks to YouTube, and thanks again to Will for making the videos and doing all the traveling for us! Check out his channel, it’s full of content.