Xing Yi fast, Tai Chi slow

I seem to have entered a little phase of practicing Tai Chi in the morning then immediately doing some Xing Yi straight afterwards. I’ve never really been into doing Tai Chi especially slowly, as some people seem to love to do, but the contrast with Xing Yi straight after has really accented the speed differences, and it’s made me think about the strategy of each art.

Reflecting on the reflections at today’s practice spot.

Tai Chi forms are performed much more slowly than Xing Yi links. We all know that Tai Chi should be done slow-ish, but how fast should Xing Yi be? Because it’s an “internal art” (check out my podcast for some thoughts on what that means) people often think that Xing Yi should be done relatively slowly too. My teacher recalled to me a story of one of his teachers who would always shout at them “Faster! Faster!”, whenever they did Xing Yi. The rule was, the faster, the better. They could never be quite fast enough to satisfy him.

Xing Yi works as an intercepting art – ideally you want to be attacking inside the opponent’s attack. It’s a very different approach to standing your ground and trading blows with an opponent. Once you’re ‘inside’ their attack you want to keep on pressing forward, which is why Xing Yi ‘forms’ are generally done in a straight line. The hardest thing is getting that inside position, but once you’ve got it you don’t want to give it up until you’ve got in several decisive blows, all the while moving forward with full body connection. Nobody said it was an easy strategy to achieve, but that is the strategy.

Doing Xing Yi quickly helps you develop that fast footwork you need to rush forward when required, without falling into disaray. It says in the Xing Yi classics somewhere that when standing you want to stand like a mountain – solid, unmoving, but when it’s time to move you want to move like the sound of thunder or a landslide.

Tai Chi – at least the Yang style and its sub-styles – in contrast seems more interested in doing as little work as possible. Relaxing, using natural body motions and letting your body weight do the work are the order of the day.

When you do Tai Chi you shouldn’t really be getting out of breath*, when you do Xing Yi you should. As such the two arts compliment each other nicely.

* Your style may vary.

2 thoughts on “Xing Yi fast, Tai Chi slow

  1. Nicely said, nicely said. I appreciate that many stylists will turn their nose up at this advice [many of the taiji instructors that I have met would, in any case]; but, that’s exactly what I have been doing in recent years. I usually do them back-to-back and see it as an expression of the yin/yang dichotomy, if nothing else… plus it feels good.

    An old man like me shouldn’t talk about fighting; but in terms of keeping any self-defence capability that I may have developed over the decades, it makes sense to me to devote some of my daily training to moving as quickly as possible…. plus it feels good.

    Most often I do a slow Yang taiji form and my favourite version of the Yang long traditional sword set followed by a a few reps of an xingyi empty-hand form as well as a broadsword set from that discipline… add in warm-ups, cool downs and some standing qigong and you have a very pleasant 15-25 minutes that’s good for the soul and the carcass!

    >

    Liked by 1 person

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