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Master Chen Quan Gong on Xing Yi Quan Theory and Training: Part 1

A rare treat!! Li Gui Chang’s senior disciple, Chen Quan Gong, leads an in-depth discussion of Xing Yi Quan theory and training. Master Chen talks freely and openly about how to train Xing Yi correctly and the subtle changes that take place in the body during 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. 


记陈全恭师伯在太原市太极拳协会的讲话 白建云

Master Li Gui Chang On Xing Yi Quan

Speech of School Uncle Chen Quan Gong, at Taiyuan Tai Ji Quan Association

Compiled by Bai Jian Yun

ChenQuanGong with Whipstick
Chen Quan Gong demostrating the whipstick form in 2001.
Photo by Valerie Ghent.



On April 10th, School Uncle, Chen Quan Gong, was invited by the association to give a lecture. As soon as School Uncle got out of the car, he gave me his written manuscript: “In Memory of Late Master Li Gui Chang”. School Uncle Chen is one of the oldest disciples who followed Master Li for a long time and has trained the internal arts for over 50 years. Although School Uncle is over seventy years old, he is still strong and robust, has a cheerful disposition. His expression is open and clear and he does not style himself a senior master. In shooting the Pushing Hands CD recently, he trained continuously for over one hour, and still looked hale and hearty, vigorous and nimble in his movements, firm and forceful in his strength and free in his applications, vividly confirming the life-preservation (yang sheng) effect of training in the internal arts.

The meeting was hosted by Chi Shao Bin. School Uncle Chen lectured to members of the association on the topic of Xing Yi Quan.


Concept of Xing Yi Quan







First, School Uncle Cheng asked: “Do you know what Xing Yi Quan is? Who can give me an answer?

All of us were silent. I was listening to School Uncle’s lecture and also reading his article. In the article, School Uncle quoted his teacher: “For state affairs, the monarch should discuss with the ministers. For family affairs, the father should discuss with his sons. For learning the arts, the teacher should discuss with his disciples.” In the inner school, teachers and school uncles wish for the disciples to put forward questions about training in boxing so that advice can be given accordingly Seeing that all of us were at a loss as to how to answer, Uncle Chen started to instruct: “In order to clarify this question, it is necessary to understand what Xing (form) means, what Yi (mind) means, and what Quan (fist) means.”

Deng Feng: “Xing” means movements, and “Yi” means thinking.”

Bai Jian Yun: “’Yi’ in Xing Yi Quan refers to correctly directing and perceiving the inner body.”


School Uncle Chen: “Your understanding is reasonable, but it is merely theoretical, expressed from the perspective of ideas, and not from what you feel inside your body after training in Xing Yi Quan. Regarding this question, Master Li understood it this way: What is Xing (form)? What is Yi (mind)? What is Quan (fist)? What is released to the exterior is called Xing (form). What is contained in the interior is called Yi (mind). This is the explanation of those two characters of Xing and Yi. How can it become Quan (fist)? Yi (mind) contained in the interior can be released externally, and Xing (form) released in the exterior can be contained internally – Only in this way, is there Xing Yi Quan.


Bai Jian Yun: “After listening to the explanation on concept of Xing Yi Quan from School Uncle, we have this understanding: the form in Xing Yi Quan is the body form, but this is not completely compatible with the body form in ordinary boxing arts, because it is also an intention contained inside the body. Only when this intention is displayed within the body form, can it become Xing Yi Quan. Yi (mind) is also thought and  consciousness, but it is the thought and consciousness which commands the internal sensation of the body. Only when this consciousness commanding the body form is sensed inside the body, can it be the ‘intention’ in Xing Yi Quan. The intention inside the body commands the movement of the body forms. The movement of the body forms displays the intention, thought and feelings inside the body. Only when the consciousness and intention inside the body and movement of the body form are highly integrated and harmonious can there be Xing Yi Quan.”


School Uncle Chen: “Right. Therefore, the form (xing) and mind (yi) are emphasized and are highly integrated in Xing Yi Quan training. So, Master Li said: ‘In the Xing Yi Quan standing posture, the gaze should be far and the spirit should be released outward from the eyes. When striking with the fist, it is necessary to stare at the finger tip or fist root, looking around in accordance with the fist posture, but still looking forward into the far distance — this is the training method to release the intention externally.’ This is exactly the integration between the intention and consciousness inside the body and body form. He also said: ‘How can the body form be contained internally? This is the thing that senior masters cannot readily hand down. Taking  Pao Quan (Cannon Fist) as an example: In Pao Quan, the two arms always go out and advance like a pushing up with a pole. The hand goes out but does not come back. In fact, after going out, the body moves backward vertically. This is a hidden method in Pao Quan. To say it is a movement, is wrong. It is very minute, even to the point of not happening. If it is hinted at, it is sufficient. Once this is aroused, real gong fu emerges.’ This sentence seems to talk about the boxing frame. In fact, it talks about Jin-Li (energy and strength) [1] inside the body, having harmonious and mutual support between the two arms pushing upward and forward and the backward lifting Jin-Li, in order to achieve internal strength. And in the example of Pao Quan, internal strength (Jin) means to display internal intention combined and harmonized with form and structure.”

[1] 劲力 Jin Li: Energy – Force


How to Train Xing Yi Quan




School Uncle Chen: “After the above discussion, all of you have a comparatively clear understanding about the concept of Xing Yi Quan. So, how [does one] train Xing Yi Quan?”

Bai Jian Yun: “First learn the five elements?”

School Uncle Chen: “Right. But, five elements, twelve forms,  single training and technique training train the skill and practical framework of boxing. This framework is superficial; it is only the skin and hair. The root and foundation emerge in the gong fu. Only when one has the gong fu, can the body be strong and healthy and the movements have a foundation. Otherwise it is simply  an empty facade. Therefore, Master Li said: Nowadays in learning the martial arts, more attention is spent in training tricks and techniques and little on gong fu. Those who learn the boxing framework are students, and those learn the gong fu are disciples. Then, why is there a difference between the students and disciples? In fact, this is the difference between entering the door [2] or not entering the door. Therefore, disciples are apprentices who enter the room, and the students are laymen. So, in learning the internal martial arts, the energy and attention should be principally focused on the gong fu. Now how does one train the gong fu?

First of all, in the internal martial arts it is important to have an overview of the formation of the gong fu. Master Li had a very precise description about this issue, about the process of  training in Xing Yi Quan, namely, ‘Standing Gong (zhuang gong), and slow training to follow the proper path.’ That means to induce the changes in the body through training stake (post) standing (zhan zhuang) and slow training in order to realize body breathing and attain the Daoist empty, still and void state.”

[2] 入门 Ru Men: literally “entering the door” can also mean “learning the fundamentals.”


The original discussion in Chinese can be found at: