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Master Chen Quan Gong on Xing Yi Quan Theory and Training – Part 3

Part 3 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.



Theoretical Understanding of Zhan Zhuang

School Uncle Chen: “I have now talked to all of you about how to understand and practice Zhan Zhuang and about methods of dealing with the discomfort that can occur in Zhan Zhuang. Then, how long [should one] train Zhan Zhuang to achieve results? ‘Is there any standard for success in Zhan Zhuang? No. Generally, after standing for two hours, when you have a floating sensation in the body, it means you have achieved something. There is another sign to show the skill is being achieved, e.g. keep standing until you have the cells throbbing in the whole body (high-density and high-depth trembling), from throbbing to no throbbing, repeatedly until the jing-luo [17] are unobstructed and free. Then, the Gong Fu emerges.’ However, these phenomena cannot be generalized and are not inevitable  for each person. In short, if you can feel the ‘body respiration,’ you will succeed in Zhan Zhuang.”

[17] 经络 Jing Luo channels and collaterals (meridians)


“Moreover, all of you should understand from what was mentioned about the Zhan Zhuang method that in Zhan Zhuang, the body basically does not move, but it is not completely immobile. Master Li said: ‘all of these methods for training the standing posture are mobile, but it is very slow and minute, and outsiders can not discern it. Zhuang Gong [18] is  ‘slow training’. These are the ingenious ways to enter the door. [19] Training [it] will produce effective results.

[18] 桩功 Zhuang Gong: stake [standing] skill/achievement
[19] 入门 Ru Men: literally “enter door” – fundamentals






Deng Feng: “To seek motion from tranquility?”

Chi  Shao Bin: “The standing posture is a relatively tranquil state, but it is not motionless at all, not wooden. Nei Jia Quan Zhan Zhuang has internal motion inside the body.”

Bai Jian Yun: “Slow training is also supposed to intentionally regulate the bones, in order for the Jin-Li to be smooth and unhindered.

School Uncle Chen: “Of course! All of you are correct. Therefore, Zhan Zhuang is not a completely tranquil gong. Using intention (Yi) not strength means not to use awkward strength. When the spirit (Shen) [21] is in the right place, the intention can use the inner energy [22].”

Bai Jian Yun: “Does awkward strength mean to use intentionally use the local muscle strength?”

[20] 劲力 Jin Li: energy-force 0r energy-strength
[21] 神 shen – spirit; numinous
[22] 劲Jin – strength, energy, spirit


School Uncle Chen: “It is difficult to avoid at the very beginning. Therefore, Master Li said: ‘If you keep the body absolutely still in Zhan Zhuang, this will cause the muscles to suffer and the spirit [23] will be frustrated. The standing method is alive and mobile, not static, it is rather a slow training. Slow training is a marvelous method to increase the strength. Slowly, gradually spirit and intention guide the movement, opening up and extending the four limbs. The standing method is mobile – only the movement is very slow. Outsiders can not discern it this slow gradual movement of spirit and intention. Seven characters are worth ten thousand gold.’ Therefore, in standing gong the external body form does not move. With intention as the basis regulate and adjust internal movement.”

[23] 精神 Jing Shen (spirit-essence; mind/consciousness)



Results of San Ti Shi Zhuang Gong [24]

School Uncle Chen: “San Ti Shi Zhuang Gong is an important form of Xing Yi Quan self-cultivation Gong Fu whose function is enhance constitution and physical capacity. Master Li said: Zhuang Gong is difficult to learn. The standing method can help the development of the cerebellum, kidney and gonads. Therefore, ‘to kill person with one year training of Xing Yi’ does not mean the method is terrible and harmful, it means that Xing Yi Quan can change [a person]  from being weak to being strong in a short period of time, with inexhaustible refined strength (jing-li) , and formidable physical capacity.’ Concerning the effectiveness of Zhuang Gong to enhance the constitution, he concluded: Zhuang Gong can make Zang-fu [26] organs clear and unobstructed, the meridians open and smooth, the bone marrow full, the essence sufficient, so that the nerves are sensitive and keen.’

[24] 桩功 Zhuang Gong: Literally “Pile/stake Skill/Achievement”
[25] 修炼 Xiu Lian: Xu – cultivation or study; Lian – smelt; refine; temper; Xu Lian can also mean self-cultivation as in practicing asceticism
[26] 脏腑 Zang Fu: organs and bowels – the viscera.



How to Train the Boxing (Fist Frame) [27]

School Uncle Chen: “Of course, Xing Yi Quan Gong Fu is not only Zhan Zhuang. Zhan Zhuang, is an important method of Gong Fu and also a vital foundation, but, it is not a substitute the training of the methods application. Furthermore, training methods of application is principally developed by training the fist frames (postures) and techniques. Therefore, Master Li said: ‘The standing methods must be dissolved into the fist methods.’ ”[28]

[27] Jia: Literally  “frame; shelf; rack” but also “support; prop up; erect; withstand.”

In context: the external body shapes, postures, forms and applications – the “framework” of the boxing. However, Jia can also mean to fight – for example 打架 Da Jia means to come to blows, so 拳架 Quan Jia can also mean “fist fight” or “boxing.” Here it seems to refer to the forms and training methods.

[28] 拳法 Quan Fa: Literally “Fist Methods,” but also a terms for boxing in general. So the sentence could read “The standing methods must be dissolved into the boxing.”


“In the fist frame of Xing Yi Quan, there are Five Elements (Wu Xing), twelve shapes (Shi Er Xing– 12 Animals), and also many single training drills and two-person training drills. Then, what is the training of the fist frame and techniques? Of course, it is necessary to learn the basic forms. But, what should be trained after the fundamental forms are known? Master Li said: In Xing Yi Quan, ‘teach ‘moving energy (Jin)’ first and when the energy moves correctly, it is easy to discover the  the Shen Fa (body methods).’ Namely, the Jin-Li (energy-strength) should be cultivated in the various fist frames. Furthermore, there are many fist frames and techniques in Xing Yi Quan. So where to begin? Begin with the mother fists of Xing Yi Quan, ‘five element fists’. Further, the mother fist of the five element fists is also Heng Quan (Crossing Fist). Master Li said: ‘the mother of Xing Yi Quan is five elements, and the mother of five elements is Heng.’ But, it is necessary to understand this ‘Heng Quan’. This Heng Quan is not simply the external form of Heng Quan, but rather the Dantian area. Therefore, the five-element fist can never be separated from the Dantian area. In terms of the modes of Jin-Li, there are actually only three types of fists. The Jin-Li in Zuan Quan and Heng Quan are basically similar – outward rotation on the straight line. Both Pao Quan and Beng Quan are basically similar – inward rotation on the straight line. Therefore, what is sought is basically the Jin-Li of Pi Quan, Zuan Quan and Beng Quan.”





“How to train Pi Quan? Master Li believed: ‘Pi Quan is exactly to rise and fall. Performing Pi Quan with the trunk of the body is the combined form of bear and eagle. Need to drill while rising; need to turn while falling; rise like a blocking file; fall like a hooked pole. Rise and fall like a wave. [29] In striking with Pi Quan, [one] must not just use the trunk of the body, but even more the inside of the body’s trunk when training this skill. Do not train only the fist.’”

“In addition, he also taught a concrete method to train Pi Quan, e.g. ‘strike with Pi Quan is like pushing a mountain, with the body moving forwards, pushing slowly one fen by one fen (a millimeter at a time), pushing gradually, bit-by-bit, pushing as strenuously as possible. In this way one develops Gong Fu.’

“For the method of training Beng Quan, the demands are comparatively simple: ‘The striking fist and comes and goes straight and revolves circularly to strike straight. This is the training method for Beng Quan.’

“In training Zuan Quan, he mainly stressed: ‘Zuan Quan is drilling with the fist, it is drilling with the body.’

[29] 水翻浪 can mean “wave” or “the tide” depending upon context.


“Master Li emphasized that the main points in these three fists focus on the overall Jin-Li. Do  not ignore the overall Jin-Li. This must be understand correctly. In passing, I will talk about the overall Jin-Li in the  training methods of Tai Ji Quan, Ba Gua Zhang and Xing Yi Quan. It is necessary to know this because in our school we train Nei Jia Quan, and Tai Ji Quan, Ba Gua Zhang, Xing Yi Quan and Southern Shaolin are the basic fists of Nei Jia Quan. Therefore, Master Li said: ‘in martial arts circles there is one sentence that caricatures the body patterns [30] of Xing Yi Quan, Tai Ji Quan and Ba Gua Zhang, saying Tai Ji is like catching fish with the hands, Ba Gua is  like pushing the millstone, and Xing Yi is like catching shrimp. This is explained as follows: ‘Tai Ji is like catching fish. it is necessary to explore the water with the hand and move slowly. Tai Ji Tui Shou (push hands) is like catching fish with the hands. The hand must ‘listen.’ In training, it is also necessary to have ‘Jin’ (energy, strength, spirit) in order to catch a fish in the water. Once you have such an intention, the Gong Fu emerges.’ In Tui Shou  ‘listening hand’, the hand must carefully test and discern the Jin-Li of the opponent. When practicing boxing one listens to the reaction of one’s own body.”

[30] 姿势 Zi Shi: Zi = appearance gesture, posture. Shi= power, compositional force or movement, appearance, configuration. These two words either together or separately are often translated as posture. However, Shi, in particular has a much more profound meaning referring to both the external alignments and the internal energetic configuration as well as the forces and movements (internal and external) which make up these alignments. Hence “pattern” may be a better one-word translation. Examples: Ding Shi Ba Gua refers to the body patterns, forces and alignments in circle walking while holding “fixed” postures and in Xing Yi much of the above discussion has concerned San Ti Shi (Three Body Pattern), in which a there are slow hidden movements and forces operating while an apparently “fixed” posture is held.


‘Ba Gua is like pushing a millstone, besides pushing forward, it is also necessary to push downward with a grinding Jin. While striding outward in Ba Gua Zhang, there should be two strands of Jin, that can change at any time. When this principle of the two strands of energy is understood, it is possible to understand Ba Gua Zhang’s one thousand changes and ten thousand transformations. Two strands of Jin refer to Shu Jin (vertical energy) and Heng Jin (transverse energy). The forward-pushing is the transverse Jin, and the downward-grinding strength is the vertical Jin. These two strands of Jin function reciprocally.


‘In training Xing Yi Quan, like catching shrimp, the hand goes out very quickly, to take ‘the thing [the creature]’ in the hand and return. The four character boxing formula: ‘going out lightly; coming back heavily is valuable.’ “Going out lightly” refers to the stretching and pulling force of the tendons and bones, a straight-forward striking filing Jin. ‘Coming back [31] heavily’ refers to the inward-contracting energy of the tendons and bones, the tugging-pulling Jin [32] of a hooking pole.

[31] 收 Shou: gather; collect; take in; take back
[32] 拔河 Ba He: can also mean “tug-of-war”


“From Master Li’s exposition on boxing training , we can understand that in cultivating [33] Xing Yi Quan Gong Fu and also in the cultivation of Nei Jia Quan Gong Fu, it is not a question of knowing as many techniques as possible. Rather one must primarily understand the fundamental Ji- Li of the basic fist frame. With this foundation, the techniques can be added. Therefore, in boxing training you must ‘know yourself’, and understand what is lacking. This is very important. As a result Master Li said: ‘In boxing training, the first step in going forward is to be aware of your own faults.’ After understanding this, if you feel ‘lack of  progress in training, it is necessary to stand again, adjust the fist frame, and figure out each method and also movement and stillness (tranquility). Otherwise, motion cannot come from stillness.’ Only by this way, can one develop Gong Fu. Therefore, the fist frames (boxing framework) and techniques should be trained slowly and carefully pondered.”

[33] 修炼 Xiu Lian: Xiu = study/cultivate; Lian = refine/smelt/temper. Like tempering steel or cultivation. Xiu Lian can also mean asceticism as in Daoist self-cultivation methods.

The original discussion in Chinese can be found at:

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