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Master Chen Quan Gong on Xing Yi Quan Theory and Training – Part 5

Part 5 of a discussion of Xing Yi Quan theory and training by Li Gui Chang’s senior disciple, Chen Quan Gong. Master Chen talks freely and openly about how to train Xing Yi correctly and the subtle changes that take place in the body in the practice of San Ti Shi and the Five Fists.

Originally posted online in Chinese, this English translation is offered by Huang Guo Qi, Tom Bisio and Martin LaPlatney. The original discussion can be found HERE:



Xing Yi Quan Yang Sheng [47]

School Uncle Chen: “Nei Jia Quan is a kind of Wu Shu, and naturally fighting is the primary goal. However, Nei Jia Quan is also unique Yang Sheng art. This Yang Sheng function is increasingly advantageous as times change. The advantage of Nei Jia Quan mainly comes from its unique internal movement. It is a unique Yang Sheng art, based on Daoist philosophy, which draws upon Daoist Nei Dan Gong. [48] But, how does Nei Jia Quan become a Daoist Yang Sheng art? People’s understanding of this is vague.

“Master Li said: ‘many people know that Xing Yi Quan is Nei Jia Quan, and this Boxing is linked with ‘Daoism’, but in the boxing manuals, there are only Quan Fa (boxing methods), and quotations excerpted from Daoist scriptures. As for how boxing is linked with ‘Daoism’, they are not clear. Regarding this link, Master Li answered this question from his own physical practice. He said: ‘‘body respiration’ is precisely the approach that links Xing Yi Quan with ‘Daoism’.  Cloud steaming and misting (evaporation) from the pores of the whole body is the respiration. This Gong Fu is none other than the true respiration of the Jing-Shen. [49] This ‘Taoism’ cannot be easily approached without real instruction and cannot be easily realized without persistence. When studying Daoism, students must do their best.’

[47] 养生 Yang Sheng: “nourishing life.” A term used to refer to many types of Nei Gong and Qi Gong practices. The implication is that these practices help to improve health and prolong life.

[48] 内丹功 Nei Dan Gong: Literally “Internal Cinnabar Achievement”, but Nei Dan is generally translated as “internal alchemy”.  Daoist Nei Dan involves spiritual, mental and physical disciplines, including meditation and breathing exercises designed to transform the body internally. In Neidan the human body acts as a “cauldron” in which the Three Treasures – Jing (essence) , Qi and Shen (spirit) – are cultivated for the purpose of improving health, prolonging life, and ultimately merging with “the One”, the Dao – also known as “transcendence” or “becoming an Immortal”.

[49] 精神 Jing-Shen: “Essence-Spirit”; “Refined Essence”; “Refined Spirit”


“Therefore, Master Li requested: ‘in boxing, training, Jin is not enough. [One] must train to transform Jing (essence) into Qi, train to transform Qi into the Shen (spirit) and train to transform the spirit into emptiness.’ ‘Training to transform essence into Qi, Qi into the spirit and spirit into emptiness’ uses language and terminology from Daoist Nei Dan Gong. It is very difficult for the average person to understand this. So, Master Li simplified: ‘the changes and transformations should take place within the body and mind. Then it is possible to explain this great truth “training the essence into qi, training qi into spirit and training the spirit into emptiness”. These change and transformations in the body that Master Li spoke of are rich in meaning.



Deng Feng: “Does this mean changing people’s character?”[50]

School Uncle Chen: “Correct! Master Li said: ‘In Xing Yi Quan [one] must train to transform essence into qi, train to transform qi into spirit and train spirit to return to emptiness. Qi does not (only) refer to qi of respiration, for instance, the handsomeness and elegance of man and gracefulness and beauty of women are simply functions of the vigor and vitality of qi.’ This is the way Xing Yi Quan transforms the character/disposition. The way that Xing Yi Quan transforms the character/disposition of a person is through changing and transforming the body.

For instance, those who do not train these skills look unenergetic, they tilt their head backward and their shoulders are hunched listlessly. Those who do train in Nei Jia Quan Zhan Zhuang uplift their heads and stretch and integrate the tendons, bones and Jin-Li of the whole body. Moreover the Jing-Shen is hale and hearty and full of vigor, the thought and senses agile and quick, the movements nimble and lively. These are all manifestations of a transformation in character/disposition. Jing (essence), Qi and Shen (Spirit), these physical substances are constitutional manifestations of changes and transformations of the ‘Qi’ which is “Qi Breath” [51]

As a result, Master Li believed, that from this perspective, Zhan Zhuang and Pi Quan (Splitting Fist) are supposed to train Qi breathing. Master Li said: Pi Quan is to train the breathing. Qi breathing can become increasingly continuous, deep, long and profound, so that the Jing-Li is abundant. The movements of the hand stimulate the whole body, little by little you sense the arousal of the Qi Breath and the pores of the whole body open and close.’ For Master Li ‘breathing’ holds two meanings: one is ‘qi of the respiration, termed ‘breathing’. The other is informed breathing. Qi breathing ‘stimulating (arousing) the pores of the whole body to open and close’, the material foundation of the body’s to feel the external sensory information. When Xing Yi Quan is trained to a high level it trains the breathing. You are seeking to obtain the “informed breathing.” The opponent reveals himself, the informed breathing arriving, and you know what you need to do.

[50] 气质 Qi Zhi: literally “qi nature” or “qi quality”. Usually translated as “character”; “temperament”;  or “disposition”.

[51] 气息 Qi Xi: Can also mean ”Qi Breathing”.

[52] 精力 Jing Li: “energy/vigor”







Deng Feng: “Can this condition [the whole body breathing and body awareness described above] be achieved in boxing training?”

School Uncle Chen: “Right. Are you sure you are active or not, while training to achieve this state? This is Zhan Zhuang. In boxing training, it is necessary to know the key points, but it is not understanding with the brain, but understanding with the body.”

Deng Feng: “Understand with the body?”

School Uncle Chen: “That is right.”

Deng Feng: “I’m a little bit confused.”

School Uncle Chen: “Keep training Zhan Zhuang, and train the boxing, and in the course of time, you will understand and no longer be confused.”





Bai Jian Yun: Is the respiration of the Dantian in the body-respiration related to the respiration of the pores in rhythm, and is the frequency and direction of the movement identical? [ 53]

School Uncle Chen: “Certainly. Most people breathe with the chest breathing at the beginning. Then though training [they] learn abdominal breathing , and finally how to breath with the pores. The ultimate [stage] is to  forget breathing. But, “to forget breathing” does not mean there is no breathing.”

Deng Feng: “Is the whole body like the lungs?”

School Uncle Chen: “Right! Right! Right! That is the meaning. Therefore, in our school, we attach great importance to Pi Quan being (embodying) this idea. Master Li said: ‘In training Qi breathing in Pi Quan, [you] must first expel diseases, and further, strengthen the body. Through training Qi breathing, [Qi] is built up in the body, and then, through inspiration, [it] constantly rises up to the brain. At that moment, learning boxing becomes infinitely fascinating.’

[53] 相互联系的,一致的 Xianghu lianxi de, yizhi de: “inter-related and consistent”


“In the above, I have talked about Master Li’s experiences with the self-cultivation, actual combat and Yang Sheng (life nourishing practices) of Xing Yi Quan. Next, I will talk about Master Li’s views  on moral behavior in Nei Jia Quan training. Master Li said: ‘I’m not sure which of the ancients said:  “If those who learn the martial arts easily fall into the trap of right and wrong, then it would be best for them not to learn the arts at all.  Even if they did learn them it would be best if they kept it a life long secret. Because once there is a piece of reputation there will be a piece of worry.” ‘In boxing training, it is not suitable to train in a place with lots of people. Train in the evening, so nobody will know. Do not occupy another people’s place. In encountering others who create situations [i.e.: make trouble], do not contest the martial arts. You learn how to understand other people and to convince people with morality and reason. It is necessary to schedule time to train the martial arts, and not waste precious time in arguments’. Master Li’s general idea is that the energy and strength should be put into training the martial arts, not competing with others or striving for fame.”


“Master Li also had his own concepts on how to manage the affairs in the school. He said: ‘In olden times, the masters asked the disciples to learn from Confucius. Confucius had Zi Gong to help him in associating with those in authority, Yan Hui to help him pass on his knowledge, and Zi Lu to help him manage people. If there are such three people in the school, the school will inevitably flourish.’ ‘It can be seen clearly from “The Analects of Confucius” that when others raised questions, Confucius would patiently give explanations in simple and precise language. This is the ability to teach the disciples, convince people with a simple sentence, and manage other disciples.’ It is worth learning from these experiences for our own development.”


After the lecture, all of us asked to buy the Pushing Hand CD recorded by School Uncle. School Uncle was very happy, saying modestly: “I have to say my level of skill is less than half of my late master’s, and I feel unable to pass down his complete skill. [54] But, I take comfort that I can leave something behind.” Listening to School Uncle’s speech, I think of how School Uncle concluded his article: “I practiced the martial arts with my late Master, for dozens of years, constantly seeking perfection, without slacking off for even one day. Nowadays, I am old, looking at the past and thinking of old times, Master’s smile and speech seem like just yesterday. Time goes by so fast. My late Master has been gone for over ten years now. Being filled with regrets, I pick up my pen and hastily write this article in memory of my late master.”


[54] 技艺 Ji Yi  also can mean: “artistry”

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