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Master Chen Quan Gong on Xing Yi Quan Theory and Training – Part 2

Part 2 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. Read Part 1 of this discussion HERE.








How to Train Zhan Zhuang (Standing)

School Uncle Chen: “Therefore, to train the gong fu, first begin with stake standing (zhan zhuang). But, there are many methods of stake standing. Each fist form can be a kind of the standing method. So how to stand correctly? For beginners, it is better to stand in San Ti Shi.”

Xu Xin Min: “Should one stand in Hun Yuan Zhuang?” [3]

School Uncle Chen: “No. The gong fu will not be produced. One must train correctly and not take a circuitous path.”

Xu Xin Min: “Is it possible to train effectively without zhan zhuang?”

School Uncle Chen: “I have never seen it.”

Deng Feng: “School Uncle Chen just now explained that the gong fu of Xing Yi Quan is dependant on Zhuang Gong, slowly training until the body breathes. Is Zhan Zhuang also for training  the breath?

[3] In Chinese cosmology, this is literally the “primeval chaos,” before differentiation into yin and yang. In Daoist  meditation it is standing holding the “void”, “empty” or “natural” posture.










School Uncle Chen: “Correct!”

Deng Feng: “Is the purpose of stillness and quiescence in Zhan Zhuang to train the respiration? Should one use conscious intention to regulate respiration?

School Uncle Chen: “Use the body form to regulate respiration! But don’t do it with conscious intention.

Deng Feng: “Is the gong fu of Xing Yi Quan the same as Si Ba [4] and Yuga (yoga)?”

School Uncle Chen: “In fact, Si Ba is really to regulate respiration. Yoga is also for regulating respiration. Si Ba and Yoga are the healthcare movements, beneficial to the gong fu of Xing Yi Quan.”

Bai Jian Yun: “So then Si Ba and Yuga are a kind of health nourishing movements, different but in harmony with martial arts, without which one cannot develop Xing Yi Quan techniques and gong fu. Cultivating and refining respiration is different. Moreover, Si Ba and Yuga adjust and regulate respiration through conscious intention and Xing Yi Quan regulates respiration through the body. Is this correct?

School Uncle Chen: “Correct! Next can anyone tell us how to train Zhan Zhuang?”

Xu Xin Min: “Void, tranquil and natural, without thoughts.

Deng Feng: “Loose, smooth and natural, as in the Eight-Character poem: Ding (prop, butt, carry on the head, 顶), Kou (button together, buckle, 扣), Yuan (round circular, 圆), Min (quick, smart, nimble, 敏), Bao (hold with both arms, embrace, 抱), Chui (hand down, droop, 垂), Qu (curve, bend, 曲) and Ting (stick out, straighten up, 挺).” [5]

[4] 四把法吐纳  Sì Bá Fǎ Tǔ Nà: Four Method Breathing Exercises.
[5] Ba Zi Jue 八字诀: The Eight Word Song

三顶 The Three Uplifts, Prop-ups or Out-thrusts (San Ding)

1. The head presses upwards 2. The tongue touches the roof of the mouth. 3. The hands press outward.

三扣 The Three Hookings or Clampings (San Kou)

1. The shoulders clamp or hook 2. The backs of the hands and feet clamp 3. The teeth clamp together

三圆 The Three Circles or Roundings (San Yuan)

1. The back is round  2. The chest is round 3. The Hukou (Tiger’s Mouth) is round

三敏 The Three Sensitivities  or Perceptivities (San Min)

1. The heart is sensitive 2. The eyes are sensitive 3. The hands are sensitive

三抱 The Three Holdings or Embraces (San Bao)

1. Embrace Dantian 2. Embrace heart qi 3. Embrace the ribs

三屈 The Three Bends or Curves (San Qu)

1. The arms are curved 2. The knees are curved 3.The wrists are curved

三垂 The Three Sinks or Drops (San Chui)

1. The qi sinks 2. The shoulders sink 3. The elbows sink

三挺 The Three Erectings or Extendings (San Ting)

1. The neck extends 2. The spine is extended 3. The knees are extended


School Uncle Chen: “What all of you have said is basically correct. But, to be loose, smooth and natural does not mean that in Zhan Zhuang you do not think at all. Be empty and tranquil in Zhan Zhuang, not thinking about anything beyond the standing posture. Attention should be focused on your own body. Therefore, Master Li said: ‘Xing Yi Quan is supposed to think with the body, to understand does not mean the brain understands, instead the body should understand. When the body is able to understand, [the body] would respond when hearing anything, like while whipping the horse, the energy [of the horse)] would immediately break out.’ Therefore, whether  training Zhan Zhuang or practicing boxing, it is necessary to sense inside the body, and the experience of the teacher, the boxing manuals as well as oneself, as opposed to nothing at all. This is the  ‘Yi’ (intention) of Xing Yi Quan.”


“Eight characters are correct, and are the body requirements, but, to try to grasp and remember the meaning of each character seems complicated. The correct requirements of Zhan Zhuang Shen Fa [6] according to Master Li seem easy to grasp and more vivid and concrete. He said: ‘have you ever embraced a lady?

This word, ‘embrace’ does not mean to use force in the two arms, but that the two arms embrace and cherish and, with the whole body going forward to welcome and receive. This is the correct metaphor for Zhan Zhuang grasping energy (Na Jin). [7] If one can grasp this Jin, then when one stands [the body] is nourished. Then, stand like this, simply keeping standing, then gradually enter into standing. Standing until, to a certain extent, the body will simply open’. What does this mean?  It means Zhan Zhuang is not just standing by naturally following the body.

Tendon and bone must support the Jin-Li. [8] and stretch and prop-up the entire body, and in particular hold up the Tail Gate (Wei Lu). [9] But this Jin-Li must not be the clumsy strength of the muscles and flesh, but instead is  the combined force of the tendons and bones. However it is not easy to achieve this. It requires painstaking effort.

[6] 身法 Shen Fa: “Body Method”. Usually the term refers to techniques of maneuvering the body in self-defense, or in the martial arts.
[7] 拿劲 Na Jin: Na = grasping; holding and Jin = spirit , strength and energy
[8] 劲力 Jin Li: Energy –Force
[9] 尾闾 Wei Lu: Literally “Tail Gate” – the sacrum and tailbone. In Daoist inner alchemy the qi-vapor and Jin and move up the spine through the tail gate. 


“In addition, Master Li also had his own profound experience and secrets for training the spinal vertebra in the standing posture, i.e. ‘in training the standing posture, it is necessary to straighten the coccygeal vertebra, and prop up the spinal vertebrae one by one from the coccygeal vertebra, all the way to the back of the head. So the spinal vertebrae can be naturally arched backward and the brain can be naturally lifted, and the two arms can be naturally extended forward. Then, with the chin hooked and hands pressed downward, (the intention) comes down one by one through the spinal vertebrae. If trained this way repeatedly, magic effects will appear. The spinal vertebrae are like a big dragon. When it has energy and strength, ‘magic changes’ can occur in contest of the martial arts.’ Of course, this can be done, only after the whole tendons and bones of the body ‘open’. Therefore, it is not an easy thing. But, we must know it is the goal all of our efforts.”


“Also, it is necessary to know how to move in the Dantian area in training the standing posture. Master Li said: ‘In talking about the Dantian area, it does not mean qi sinking into the Dantian area, it is necessary to twist the Dantian area. Once the anus is lifted, qi can sink downward – without that it is an empty phrase to say “qi sinking into the Dantian area.” To lift upward and sink downward is exactly to twist Dantian. There are many merits in twisting the Dantian area. If one does not know how to twist the Dantian area, it is not possible to achieve the skill (Gongfu). The training will be fruitless.’ This quotation tells the method of ‘qi sinking into the Dantian area’, and also emphasizes the importance of the Dantian area for success in training the internal arts. People always say that skill cannnot be built up without real instruction in the standing posture, and that you might even develop problems. In fact, the demands of Master Li to ‘grasp the energy (劲 Jin) of the spinal vertebrae and Dantian area are exactly the secrets that are not easy to teach.”


“At the same time, (we should) to some extent have an outward intention, when training Zhan Zhuang. Master Li said: ‘In Zhan Zhuang one needs to train the expression in the eyes. If the eye expression is scattered, one cannot do anything, and all is meaningless. In Zhan Zhuang, the eye expression should be piercing [10] but it does not mean making a ruthless expression, it is more like a tiger staring at its prey, waiting for an opportune moment to move. That is perhaps also not correct, because it is too tense [keyed up]. It should be neither too tense and nor too slow [in order] to be skillful. If the muscles are too tense the Gong Fu will not come out and if the Jingshen [11] is too keyed up the Gong Fu will not come out. In Zhan Zhuang, the muscles and Jingshen should be ‘tough within softness’, and the eyes should be void. That is the proper way.’

[10] 眼毒Yǎn dú, a piercing poisonous expression in the eyes.
[11] 精神 Jing Shen (spirit-essence; mind/consciouness)



“To Some extent, it is also necessary to have consciousness of fighting in Zhan Zhuang. Master Li said: ‘in Zhan Zhuang, it is also necessary to have the intention to move forward and dodge sideways. The outside does not seem to move. In fact the body form changes in the interior. It is necessary to be tranquil as much as possible, to have long expiration and long inspiration, and to be empty in yourself in standing.’ ” Master Li also had requirements for the state of mind in training the standing posture, saying: ‘It is necessary to stand with inspiration without action, and to stand in order to purposely empty yourself.’


“Thus, after training Zhan Zhuang for some time, changes will take place in the body, naturally giving birth to some phenomena. Master Li described: ‘In winter, the insects drill into the ground like they are dead, and when the spring comes and vitality rises in the ground, the insects will live again. In the Zhan Zhuang posture, [we] want to stand so that this vitality arises, like the insects recovering and revitalizing, so that the body possesses refined strength.’ [12] Master Li also said: ‘[After training] Zhan Zhuang for a while, naturally (one) cultivates and senses a flowing sensation, smooth and unhindered in some areas of the body and unusual in some areas. Then gradually [you] turn and shift or perhaps tremble and shake, until the whole body is smooth and unobstructed. In this way the outside body form regulates the internal (intrinsic) functions.’ Master Li described that in Zhan Zhuang, this phenomenon occurs naturally and spontaneously in the body, and this insect-creeping and flowing sensation is instinctive, not produced by imagination. In Zhan Zhuang, [one] must to stand so that the creeping, sensation comes naturally. It is only natural that  the initial period of Zhan Zhuang is painful and arduous. The type of suffering varies from person to person. Older people feel more pain and those in young age feel less pain – more painful if the muscles appear obvious [13] and less painful if the muscles are not obvious. But, this pain will decrease gradually and is periodical. After going through this period, (you) will feel comfortable, and then (you) have a beginning and finally (you) will enjoy Zhan Zhuang a great deal and will walk lightly and freely, after training . [This is] a very clear benefit.

[12] 精力 Jing-Li: refined strength
[13] Are well-defined



Bai Yun Jian: “During Zhan Zhuang, can we understand that the painful sensation comes from incorrect skeletal structure, and disharmony in the blood vessels and tendons, and that through adjustments it will be smooth and unhindered without pain.?”

School Uncle Chen: “Therefore, if discomfort occurs during Zhan Zhuang, at the right moment [you] can slowly turn slightly and shake a little bit. Master Li said: ‘In Zhan Zhuang there is one important point, often tremble and shake the whole body. It is said that bears in hibernation in the winter, will spontaneously shake and tremble all over every few days. Otherwise, the body is stagnant and does not move, and a problem will occur. Similarly, why are [you] unable to maintain (hold) the standing posture? It is precisely because this shaking is lacking. By shaking the body delicately and slightly, (you) can enjoy the standing gong and nourish life. [14] In fact, when issuing force [15] during a martial contest, it is also this type of shaking.’ The truth of this ‘shaking’ is to relax your body, when any problem occurs during in Zhan Zhuang. Therefore, Master Li requested, ‘After training the standing posture, it is necessary to stroll a lot. This strolling  is also an important Gong. Strolling is the final settling [16] of Zhan Zhuang”.

[14] 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.
[15] 发力 Fa Li: literally “emitting strength” or “issuing force.” Often used interchangeably with Fa Jin 发劲
[16] 归宿Gui Su:” returning home”; “ final settling.”

The original discussion in Chinese can be found at: