Xing Yi’s 12 animals

I’m a big advocate of learning and studying the 12 animals found in Xing Yi as a way of connecting ourselves to nature. Xing Yi’s animals are a vast, rich and often untapped resource for all martial artists. I’ve collected together a few of my posts on the subject here, together with book recommendations.

Books on Xing Yi Animals

Xing Yi Snake – Glen Board (2020).

Xing Yi Snake by Glen Board (2020)

This book takes you on an in-depth study of one of Xing Yi’s fundamental fighting strategies, which is the fascinating methods of She Xing, or Snake. Two different Snakes are studied within the art of Xing Yi, which are the Constrictor and the Viper, where their characters are embodied to use as a very robust fighting strategy. Both of these animal strategies are looked at in the pages of this book, as well as a range of Xing Yi’s other fundamental concepts.

This is a must have book for anyone who has an interest in Xing Yi in particular, or martial arts in general, and who would like to explore the fighting strategy of snakes within a martial context. Amazon link


Xing Yi Quan A Study of Tai and Tuo Xing, Glen Board

Xing Yi Quan A Study of Tai and Tuo Xing, Glen Board

The book covers the history, fighting methods and auxiliary concepts which are rarely presented in books on Xing Yi, and also contains over 500 photographs showing both the applications and potential linking sequences for both Tai and Tuo Xing. This is a must-have book for any Xing Yi practitioner. Amazon link.


Xing Yi Bear Eagle, Damon Smith

Xing Yi Bear Eagle, Damon Smith.

Written by my Xing Yi teacher, this was the first in-depth study of one of Xing Yi’s twelve animals to be published in English. It covers the main Xing Yi weapons methods for Bear Eagle, including straight spear (qiang), straight sword (jian) and needles (tsi), in addition to barehand applications. The book is illustrated with over 450 photographs, and contains a glossary of more than 200 Chinese technical terms. Amazon link.


Blog posts

The Animals of Xing Yi’s San Ti Shi
The San Ti Shi posture is the fundamental standing posture of Xing Yi Quan. You could describe it in terms of angles, vectors and structures, but my interest lies more in reviving the animals of Xing Yi, and trying to move conversations in Xing Yi circles back towards nature and animals.

The importance of Dragon to Xing Yi
The Dragon is unique amongst Xing Yi animals because it is the only mythical one. Yes, I’m aware that some lineages of Xing Yi include a Phoenix as one of their 12 animals, but I think this is simply a mistranslation of Tai, a kind of flycatcher bird native to China. You sometimes also see it mistranslated as Ostrich, which is even stranger. You occasionally see Tuo translated as “water lizard”, or “water strider”, but it’s clearly a crocodile, another animal that is (or effectively was) native to China.

Make Xing Yi Wild Again
Rewilding is an environmental process that brings nature back to life and restores living systems. Apex predators and keystone species are reintroduced and we let nature reclaim parts of the landscape, without human intervention.

The “Make Xing Yi Wild Again” podcast episode
[PODCAST] My last post, “Make Xing Yi Wild Again“, about how the global coronavirus pandemic is offering us a chance to reconnect with nature and change our approach to martial arts practice, inspired the latest episode of our Heretics podcast with my Xing Yi teacher Damon Smith.

Xing Yi Part 7 – Animal strategies for the battlefield
[PODCAST] As a background to our upcoming discussion of late Song Dynasty armour and weapons, in this episode we give a brief overview of a few animal strategies applied on the battlefield at strategic and tactical levels, as well as in individual combat.