What’s Xingyiquan?

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Xingyiquan is a Chinese martial art known for its aggressive and straightforward style, focusing on quick and efficient attacks. It is primarily unarmed combat but can be used with weapons. It emphasizes simultaneous attack and defense, with few kicks or grapples. The origins are unknown, but it has been used effectively in large-scale combat. Techniques fall under the ten animals or five elements styles.

Xingyiquan, also known as xing yi quan or hsing yi ch’uan, is a Chinese martial art that is distinguished by its aggressive and straightforward style. It’s a relatively simple system, without the flashy kicks or maneuvers of other martial arts, and instead focuses on subduing an opponent quickly and decisively. This martial art is primarily a form of unarmed combat, but is built around similar principles as spear fighting, and xingyiquan can be used with a weapon such as a sword, spear, or staff.

Certain characteristics make xingyiquan distinct as a martial art form. The word xingyiquan roughly translates as “boxing of form and will,” which means that the shape or position the body assumes depends on will or intent. The style is linear, with limbs held close to the body and strokes advancing.

Use few kicks and grapples, emphasizing quick, powerful, and efficient attacks. Practitioners walk forward while attacking, using this forward momentum for additional power. Attack and defense are simultaneous.
Rather than a form of self-defense, xingyiquan is more accurately described as an aggressive form of attack. The system does not favor redirection, deflection or other defensive positions. Instead, practitioners combine defense with offense and strike rapidly to end the fight efficiently, making this martial art particularly brutal.

This fighting style has the unique distinction of being proven effective in large-scale combat. Focusing on quickly dropping opponents without wasting time grabbing, looking for weaknesses, or evading, xingyiquan practitioners have used their skills in open battle. Even when facing armed opponents, soldiers using this martial art have been useful on the battlefield and can often strike before the weapons can be used.

The origins of this martial art are unknown. The creation of xingyiquan is commonly attributed to the 12th century general Yue Fei, but there is no evidence to support this claim. The earliest historical references to the fighting style date back to the Ming Dynasty in the early 17th century when Ji Long Feng is named as the first to teach the style.

Numerous xingyiquan techniques are practiced, each of which falls under one of two styles: the ten animals and the five elements. The ten animals refer to the spirits of the tiger, monkey, dragon, hawk, horse, snake bear, chicken, swallow and eagle, with maneuvers and techniques modeled after each animal. Five Elements is based instead on the forms Splitting, Drilling, Crushing, Pounding and Crossing.

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