Ziran Wuxing Xingyiquan
Xingyiquan may be the oldest internal martial art of China. It is highly respected for the devastating striking power its exponents deliver. This is a no-nonsense martial art that uses five “Fists” to close directly with and instantly demolish an enemy. Purportedly based on the use of the spear in a military formation, Xingyiquan is an aggressive and vigorous marital art. The simplicity of the five “Fists” allows the student to profoundly explore the essence of combative dynamics.
Natural Form-Intention Boxing is the culmination of the Li family’s deep investigation into the martial arts of Xingyiquan and Yiquan. The practice of Ziran Xingyiquan has given generations of the Li family incredible speed and power while striking and an unsurpassed ability to make the attacks seem to suddenly appear without warning and vanish without trace.
Natural Shape of Will Boxing Course (beginner)
This course reveals the link between body and mind via the elegant simplicity
of the Li family’s Ziran (Natural) Xingyiquan. Read more
What is Xingyiquan?
Xing Yi Quan is also written as 形意拳, Xíngyìquán, Hsing I Ch'üan, Hsing-I, and it is sometimes shortened to Xingyi. Xingyiquan may be the oldest Chinese internal martial art. It is highly respected for the devastating striking power its exponents deliver.
This is a no-nonsense martial art that aggressively uses five different integrated, whole-body actions to close directly with and instantly demolish an enemy. These actions are sometimes called “Fists.” Each “Fist” represents a martial principle that correspond to one of the Five Qualities/ Wuxing (Metal, Water, Wood, Fire, Earth) of traditional Chinese metaphysics. Each “Element,” “Phase,” “Movement,” or “Quality” expresses a method of change, or transformation. “Wuxing,” or the “Five Qualities,” is the core concept of the Li family Natural Xingyiquan.
Purportedly based on the use of the spear in a military formation, Xingyiquan is an aggressive, direct, and vigorous marital art. The simplicity of the five “Fists-Qualities” allows the student to deeply explore the essence of dynamic combative strategy rather than chase endless techniques and forms.
How do you pronounce it?
Xingyiquan is pronounced “shyng,” “yee,” and “chew-an.” Each word can be translated from Mandarin: “Xing” means “shape, movement, posture, appearance,” while “Yi” means “mind, idea, spirit,” and “Quan” means “fist,” thus, implying “martial art.” So, Xingyiquan translates approximately to "Form-Intention Boxing" and suggests a harmonious melding of the mind and body.
History of Xingyiquan
The origin of Xingyiquan is attributed, in legend, to noted archer and spear master, General Yue Fei (1103-1142) who lived during the Southern Song Dynasty. He is renowned in Chinese legend as a folk hero due to his unparalleled loyalty and patriotism despite being executed on false charges of treason. Yīngzhǎopài (Eagle Claw Style, 鷹爪派), Fānziquán (翻子拳, Rotating Fist or Tumbling Boxing), Chuōjiǎo (戳腳, Poking Foot), Tánglángquán (螳螂拳, Praying Mantis Boxing), Xingyiquan (形意拳, Form Intent Boxing), and even Ba Duan Jian (Eight Pieces of Brocade, a Dao Yin method) are some of the boxing methods whose exponents claim Yue Fei as founder, but scholars have found no evidence to support these claims. It is more likely the very common technique of designating the founder to be an unimpeachable, ancient authority to lend credibility to each style is what has been at work here.
Lost Manual Recovered!
Several centuries later, in the late Ming era, a man named Ji, Jike (aka: Ji, Longfeng, Ji, Gong, Divine Spear) (1588-1662 or 1602-1683), from Shanxi province claimed to have discovered Yue Fei’s lost manual, Six Harmony Xin Yi (Mind Intent) Boxing Manual and recreated the martial art of Yue Fei which was, poetically, “lost for half a millennium.” This is about two generations after Lama Zurdwang founded Daoqiquan and began teaching the Li family. The legend of the lost manual full of secret teachings is a common trope in Chinese martial art origin stories. A book by this name exists, but historians are certain it is a much more recent creation. In any case, Ji, Jike is the first person historians agree that both existed and practiced something like Xingyiquan.
Ji, Jike is said to have taught Cao, Jiwu (1622-1722) for about a dozen years. Cao, Jiwu had two students of which we know, Dai, Longbang (1732-1801) and Ma, Xueli (1714-1790). There is some confusion as to how Dai, Longbang could be Cao, Jiwu’ student, if their dates of birth and death are compared. No one has, yet, resolved this mystery.
Dai Family Precursor: Xinyiquan
Dai, Longbang wrote a book called Six Harmonies Fists (1750) and explicitly denied creating the art himself. Liuhe Xinyiquan, Six Harmonies Heart and Intention Boxing, became the Dai family style. Significantly, Dai, Wenxiong (son of Dai, Longbang) was the first to teach outside family. He and/or Guo, Weihan taught Li, Luoneng (1807-1888) of Hebei province (not of known relation to the Daoqiquan Li family). The Dai family arts remained in relative obscurity.
Li, Luoneng & Xingyiquan
Li, Luoneng, aka Li, Nengran, or Divine Fist Li, already knew Tōngbèiquán (通背拳, Spreading Power from the Back Boxing) and Gongliquan (功力拳, Power Fist Boxing), and, perhaps, Qimen Quan (奇门拳) before he learned Xinyiquan from the Dai family. After 10 years of study with Dai, Wenxiong, he is said to have replaced the style’s method called splitting fist with the currently existing palm strike and to have changed the name from Xinyiquan (Heart Intention Boxing) to Xingyiquan (Form Intention Boxing). He wandered Shanxi and Hebei teaching many individuals. Li, Luoneng and many of his students and his students’ students were renowned for their bodyguard and caravan escort skills. His most famous student was Guo, Yunshen (1829-1898). Thus, Li, Luoneng is the starting point for the development of both the Shanxi and, the more commonly practiced, Hebei methods of Xingyiquan.
The Henan Branch
Ma, Xueli is responsible for propagating Ji, Jike’s art in Luoyang, Henan Province among the Muslim community. The art is commonly referred to as Xinyi Liuhe Quan (Heart Intent Six Harmonies Boxing). Due to the closed nature of the community, this style is not as well known but may have the clearest connection to Ji, Jike as it, supposedly, arose independently of the Dai family.
Yiquan Evolves from Xingyiquan
Guo, Yunshen (taught by Li, Luoneng) was an uncle to Wang, Xiangzhai (1885-1963) and, supposedly (again, the historical record does not reconcile well), taught him Zhan Zhuang (站樁, post standing) methods and Xingyiquan to improve his poor health. Wang refined his understanding of Xingyiquan to create Yiquan (意拳, Intent Boxing) around 1928 and was one of the first Chinese teachers to publicly teach the Zhan Zhuang methods.
Li Family Ziran Xingyiquan
Li, Zhangfu (1739-1829), Liuqi Zongshi Lijia Daoqiquan (Sixth Patriarch of the Li Family Martial Way of Vitality), according to Li family Oral traditions, travelled to Emei Shan (Delicate Eyebrow Mountain) and there studied a powerful martial art known as Xingyiquan, likely a derivation of Shanxi-method Xingyiquan. It was not recorded who his teacher was, but considering the dates, and that the Li family was renowned as a caravan escort service, it is possible that Li, Zhangfu learned from Li, Luoneng, himself, or one of his students.
Li, Zhangfu then fused the Hebei-style Xingyiquan he had learned with the Li family Daoqiquan’s Five Circles and Six Stances creating a unique method he called Shǎndiàn Quan, 閃電拳, or Lightning Boxing. This name honoured the principles of suddenness, hiding your actions within your movement and within the enemy’s movements, the immense power of each strike, the instant return to nothingness after a strike, and the blistering speed with which the strikes are delivered.
Generations later, Li, Zhanglai (1850-1946), Baqi Zongshi Lijia Daoqiquan (Eighth Patriarch of the Li Family Martial Way of Vitality), was introduced to the Yiquan (Intention Boxing) methods of Wang, Xiangzhai, most likely in Beijing in the 1930’s. Li, Zhanglai wove the Yiquan Standing Meditation (Zhan Zhuang) methods into the various arts of Li family Daoqiquan system. He renamed the Li family Xingyiquan art Wuxing Ziranquan (Five Qualities Natural Boxing) to emphasize the natural and effortlessly powerful actions that arise when the feelings of the Five Qualities are deeply internalized.
Li, Longdao (1880-1980), Jiuqi Zongshi Lijia Daoqiquan (Ninth Patriarch of the Li Family Martial Way of Vitality), often used to call the art Ziranquan Xingyi. Finally, the name Dr. John Painter (1943- ), Shiqi Zongshi Lijia Daoqiquan (Tenth Patriarch of the Li Family Martial Way of Vitality) prefers is Ziran Xingyiquan as this reminds students that the art has always been an interpretation of Xingyiquan and develops into a natural, intuitive expression of the Five Qualities.