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he three main styles of Xinyi Quan (Shanxi, Hebei and Henan) and its major branch, Yi Quan, are distinctly different in terms of training and practice. The Shanxi and Hebei methods are based upon the five elements and the twelve animal styles. The Henan style does not emphasize the five elements, and practises only ten animal styles. Yi quan and Dacheng quan, both styles founded by Wang Xiangzhai in the 1930's, call upon neither the five elements nor animal styles. In addition, each teacher and practitioner place their own unique character to their training and methods, making Xinyi quan a martial art with unlimited varieties.


Shanxi style, Five Element Xingyiquan is characterized by tighter postures-with the arms held closer to the body; vigorous, quick and powerful movements; a guarded, light and agile footwork; a relatively "softer" approach to applying techniques; and the abundant release of fah jing energy. This style places greater emphasis on evasiveness than the other styles. Training is based on the twelve animal structures: Dragon, Tiger, Monkey, Horse, Chicken, Hawk, Snake, Bear, Eagle, Swallow, the Tai (a mythical bird) and the Tuo (a type of water lizard, akin to the alligator). The Shanxi style is considered to be the most complex of the four styles in both theory and practice.

Hebei Xinyi's training is also based on Five Elements and the Twelve Animal structures. Hebei style, Five Element Xingyiquan emphasizes larger and more extended postures. In contrast to the Shanxi style, movements are exacting and more precise, but appear slower. The techniques include powerful palm and fist strikes. The stances are more open than they are in the Shanxi style, and there will be less manifestations of fah jing energy in the practice of the forms. The Hebei style is said to be a variation of the Shanxi method, but this link remains unclear. The Hebei style is the most popular of the three style being practised today.

Training in the Henan style involves only ten animals. Henan Xin Yi Liu He Quan is characterized by simple, aggressive, straightforward movements, with a powerful swinging of the arms and the ability to strike effectively with every part of the body. The Ten Animal structures are extremely simple with only one or two movement forms. The basic movements are designed to condition and develop the striking ability of the "Seven Stars" (the head, shoulders, elbows, hands, hips, knees and feet) so that the practitioner can attack with any part of the body. The ten animal forms are: Dragon, Tiger, Monkey, Horse, Chicken, Hawk, Snake, Bear, Eagle and Swallow. At more advanced levels, practitioners include weapon forms (including the straight sword, staff and spear).

In the Yi Quan of Wang Xiangzhai, the five-element theory and the twelve animals are abandoned and represented by various Zhan Zhuang (static stances). Practice is focussed on the mind (intention) rather than on any external techniques.

Training for the Five Element-based styles of Xingyiquan (Shanxi and Hebei) starts with the static posture of "San Ti" (Three Bodies) or "San Cai" (Three Powers, referring to heaven, earth and man). After stance training, the student begins to learn the Five Elements (Wu Xing). The Twelve Animals and associated forms are taught after the student reaches a certain level of proficiency with the Five Elements. After the Twelve Animals, there are also two-person combat forms, which teach the student the correct methods of attack and defence and the applications of the techniques practiced in the solo forms, as well weapons training.

In summary, the basic course in Hsing Yi can include any of the following:
  • Stance Training
  • Xingyi Chi Gong
  • 5 Element Form
  • 12 Animal Forms: Dragon, Tiger, Monkey, Horse, Turtle, Chicken, Eagle, Snake, Swallow, Owl, Bear, Hawk
  • Weapons form: Broadsword, Straightsword, Staff, Spear and Ax
  • Xing Yi Fighting Sets: An Shen Pao, Sanshou Pao and Jiu Tao Hu


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Last update:03/31/2002