Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Xingyi Boxing Manual: Hebei Style’s Five Principles and Seven Words

By Nick D'Antoni

Jin Yuntang was a student of Shang Yunxiang and Sun Lutang (perhaps better known to modern practitioners).
It is clear after reading his introduction and the testimonials of his students, that Jin’s association with Sun Lutang, “… under whose guidance I traveled for more than ten years” was formative and life changing. First published in 1931, this brief manual is a concise presentation of the essentials of xingyi as presented in the five element fists which Jin calls the Five Principles. Jin uses the traditional “song” form, short mnemonic and evocative verses, to produce a manual that is both spare, and eloquent.

Mr. Groschwitz, the translator, has chosen to include the Chinese text in parallel throughout the book this
will be of help to some. He also includes in each section sketches illustrating each posture, which appear to
be based on the photographs of Jin Yuntang from the original, as well as pages that include reproduction of
calligraphic blocks from the publication in Chinese. The inclusion of this traditional brush calligraphy particularly contributes to a pleasant aesthetic and provides relief from the blandness of the longer sections of Chinese text set using modern typographic font. The end result is a book that is also fairly pleasing to the eye in it’s layout and design and thus a comfortable browsing experience.

The translation includes the traditional numerous forewords, or testimonials, that precede the text of the manual proper. It is supplemented by a lineage chart illustrating Jin Yuntang’s placement in the Xingyi family tree, as well as a short section of biographies “… translated from the Encyclopedia of Chinese Martial Arts published in 1998.” The criteria used to select the biographies presented here is Jin’s Xingyi lineage, and the list includes biographies of: Yue Fei (1103-1142),Ji Jike (1602-1680), Cao Jiwu (1669-?), Dai Longbang (1713-1802), Li Feiyu (1809-1890) “… founder of Hebei-style Xingyi …”, Guo Yunshen (1820-1901), Liu
Qilan (1819-1889), Li Cunyi (1847-1921), Sun Fuquan [Lutang] (1860-1933), and Shan Yunxiang (1864-1937).

The manual is in two parts. The first part, The Five Principles, begins with the “Preparatory Posture”, and
then presents each principle, or fist, in its own section consisting of a three-verse mnemonic "song” accompanied by an illustration of the form. This is followed by a longer passage, the “Discussion on the Rising and Falling of …”, that is a more detailed descriptive passage addressing both the basics and stance as well as principles of movement. The order of the five fists as Jin presents them is: pi quan, beng quan, zuan chuan,pao quan,and heng quan. The second part of the manual is a chapter of five line “songs” Jin calls The Seven Words and Twenty-One Methods of Xingyi Boxing.

This second part ends with a “song” in the longer form, reminiscent of the Song of the Universal Post that is
familiar to Guang Pingers, entitled The Essential Points of Xingyi Boxing’s Harmonies and the Extremities. A
clear and concise illumination of the traditional three internal and three external harmonies.

Though probably not the greatest book, and certainly not the most definitive ever published on Xingyi, this
little volume is an easy and enjoyable read. I believe it can be returned to and appreciated many times over as one’s practice develops and evolves. If you don’t really know much about Xingyi but are curious and
interested in an accessible basic look, I think this book could be useful. If you’re actively studying the art and are looking for deeper understanding, then I believe there is something in the economic language here that can be helpful as well. All in all, a worthwhile exploration.

I’d buy it. Heck, I already did!
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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