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Master Chen Quan Gong on Xing Yi Quan Theory and Training – Part 4

Part 4 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 Applications?

“Once you find the Jin-Li in the fist frame and put it into practice [in one’s own body], you have attained the foundational Gong Fu of Nei Jia Quan. But, when you have attained this Gong Fu, it does not mean you can fight. Therefore, Master Li said: Gong Fu is equivalent to a person with a family fortune. The martial contest is equivalent to whether this person knows to how to invest. Going from Gong Fu to good talent in the martial contest, requires a period of painstaking effort.’ In other words, Gong Fu is just the  foundation. Real fighting requires thinking, and sensing as one tempers [oneself] [34] through practice in order to realize the truth. [35]. However, one comes to realize that this kind of self-cultivation and tempering is muti-faceted. First of all, it is necessary to understand the basic applications of the fundamental techniques.

[34] 磨练 Mo Lian: Mo = rub; grind; polish. Lian = practice, train, drill. Mo Lian in this context means “to temper” or “steel oneself”.

[35] 醒悟 Xing Wu: to wake up, come to realize the truth; wake up to reality.


“First, let’s talk about Pi Quan. Master Li said: ‘the striking method of Pi Quan is like splitting with an axe’. The mountain people split firewood, like swinging a whip, requiring a crisp Jin. Otherwise, the axe can only hack into the wood and cannot split it in two.’ This means that using Pi Quan, requires an initial striking and drawing [36] Jin-Li. Master Li also said: ‘when the hand rises, changes start; shrink the body, prop up the bar [37] and go forward. The hand comes out and does not come back. In fact, the bar goes out afterward, and also there is also a backward bowing movement of the body. This the hidden hand method that gathers Jin and advances the body in Pi Quan.’ This is the application of Pi Quan body methods in actual combat.”

[36] 划 Hua: paddle; row; scratch; mark or draw

[37] Ding, “to prop up”; “carry on the head”; “gore” or “butt with the head”; “to push up from below” is one of the Xing Yi Quan’s “Eight Words.” Propping up the bar or stick probably refers to the San Ding: 1. Press the head upward 2. The tongue touches the upper palate 3. The hands press outward.


“Next, let’s talk about Beng Quan. [38] Master Li said: ‘In the martial contest, Beng Quan is the most convenient. It is there when the hand extends out. Beng Quan is like an arrow. When it goes out it must be well executed. This can only be achieved after painstaking cultivation. The essential point of Beng Quan lies in ‘ring-rotating Beng’. Ring Rotating Beng  is a spear method. In spear methods, there is ring-rotating spear. Namely, when the spear is poked out and parried by the weapon of the opponent, [you] do not need to change the movement. Simply rotate the shaft of the spear and use the momentum to poke out. Rotating a big invisible spear shaft is exactly the ‘ring-rotating Beng’. Beng Quan looks easy, but actually is not easy. It must be sensed and understood from your own Jin-Li in order to be applied in actual combat. Master Li appraised [Beng] as something that is  ‘high-level’,  only attainable through painstaking cultivation.’”

[38] 崩 Beng: means “to collapse”; “fall apart”; “burst” – as in  bursting or popping a balloon. It can also mean execute by “shooting.” Although often translated as “smashing” fist”, “bursting fist” may be more correct.


“Next is Zuan Quan. Master Li said: ‘Zuan Quan is not drilling with the fist, it is drilling  with the body. The front hand suppresses the opponent by pulling and taking, the rear hand drives forward and enters like an awl. Shake away the front hand and you are bumped by the posterior hand. It is like sleight of hand, not a covering up method, [39] but instead changing the body form (In reality, they are not the same). In the winter, when it is cold, there is a heavy cotton door curtain on the door. When a person enters the front hand lifts up the door curtain and the body simply enters [zuan]. [40] The body moves and hand lifts up together, the person enters and the curtain drops. The person simply enters through a slit. In life, this is the change and transformation between the real and the apparent (the true and the false). In Xing Yi Quan this is exactly what ‘changing the shadow’ means.’ In actual combat the Jin-Li of both parties, the enemy and myself, connect (link) and stick, changing and transforming between the false and the real. In fact, this is the same principle as in Tai Ji Tui Shou (push hands).

[39] 障眼法 Zhangyanfa: camouflage, cloaking so someone will not see the truth.

[40] 钻 Zuan: this is the same zuan as in “drilling” fist, but it also means to “bore”; “dig”; “get into”


“In addition, in Xing Yi Quan combat Master Li also had requirements with regards to footwork (Bu Fa), body methods (Shen Fa) and distance in relation to the opponent in the martial contest of Xing Yi Quan, saying: ‘Xing Yi Quan walks the middle gate, its principle, to occupy the middle road and to use slowness to strike quickly. The key lies in the stepping method. Once the striking method (Da Fa) is decided, the body, hand and foot arrive simultaneously. This means that in combat, it is necessary to bring into play the coordinated whole body movement characteristic of Xing Yi Quan. In this way one can bring to bear the advantage Xing Yi Quan’s whole body Jin-Li. He also said: ‘to strike a person is like kissing [a person], e.g. pursue relentlessly without giving up. Therefore, it is said that to train the fist (boxing) is like kissing a person.’ This means that in the combat with Xing Yi Quan and Tai Ji Quan, neutralize the opponent by sticking, linking and following his body, and not letting him extricate himself from the control of my Jin-Li.”


“Also, Master Li believed that there is a difference between the Jin-Li in training and in actual combat. He said: ‘Xing Yi Quan training methods and striking methods are utterly different. For instance, in the training method (Lian Fa)  ‘the body pushes the shoulder, the shoulder pushes the elbow, the elbow pushes the hand, this process flowing without end, while in the striking method (Da Fa), the hand goes outward like throwing a whip.  [One] must throw out the hand like throwing a whip, pursuing [41] the hand with the elbow, pursuing the elbow with the shoulder, and pursuing the shoulder with the body,’ like two hands loudly clapping  together. Using the body to clap the hands is the striking method (fast, sharp sound)’.

[41] 追 Zhui: chase, pursue, trace, seek.


“In the tactical principles [42] of fighting, Master Li had his own understanding. He said: ‘In general, when [we] talk about seeing the [enemy’s] hand, when the hand comes, dissolving [43] and striking are combined. [44] This is exactly ‘the fist method [Quan Fa] intention originates originally from the five elements, their generation and overcoming,  wrapping and drilling, and refined changes and transformations. Knowing and identifying the fluctuations only happens one-inch in front of the eyes. Hand and foot arriving together is genuine [skill].’’ Combining dissolving and striking is the fighting principle. In throwing and striking use the energy and strength [Qi and Li] of the entire body from the bottom to top (ie: coming from below).”

[42] 战术 Zhan Shu: literally: “War Skill”; “Military Skill”, but can also mean “tactics”.

[43] 化 Hua: “to transform”; “to change”; “dissolve”.

[44] 结合 Jie He: “combine”; “unite”; “integrate”; ‘link”.


“Master Li also had his own methods for fostering and developing a sense of actual fighting. He said: ‘How to initiate the intention in boxing training? In boxing training, imagine  a person in the front of you, and release every hand as a real hand, like releasing the real but not releasing the real. One should imagine several opponents and train the fist slowly, and when one fist comes out, you should feel you are knocking down one of them with extremely fast speed, and the rest of them are still just watching you. Do not think about the real martial contest, you need to imagine [that] a person plots against you. In real fighting, the brain should be empty. All techniques must depend upon the opponent’s; waiting for the opponent to offer his techniques. Once the opponent moves, simply get close to strike. This is exactly ‘even before the autumn wind moves, the cicada perceives it.’ The martial contest is just to test who knows first. In Xing Yi Quan, to gain mastery by counterattacking does not mean that after the opponent moves his hand, I move my hand. Instead, as soon as the opponent signals [the impulse] to strike, you need to respond with whatever is appropriate.’ Naturally, this awareness training is a foundation to seek the Jin-Li of the fist frame, and one should not mistake the incidental for the fundamental. [45] The training is conducted based upon awareness of the fist frame applications, foundational training and the training procedure.”

[45] 本末倒置 Ben Mo Dao Zhi: “turn fundamental and superficial upside down” or perhaps in colloquial English: “put the cart before the horse”


In short, there is a process [to go] from the Gong Fu to the actual martial contest. After obtaining the Gong Fu, the ideas, senses and intention [i.e.: physical and mental awareness] are very important. Therefore, Master Li instructed us: ‘At  ordinary times [you] must train diligently, and [your actions] will be appropriate as soon as the hand goes out. Only by considering every aspect of boxing training, can it be possible to instantaneously conjure up something, in the thunder and lightning of the martial contest’.


“Master Li’s experiences on training of skills and actual combat are summarized and come from long term cultivation and training. This is true knowledge. Nei Jia Quan enthusiasts must keep them firmly mind. They need to know that Wu Shu [46] Gong Fu skills are the foundation of actual combat, and that Gong Fu cannot replace actual combat. Only by sensing and realizing Gong Fu in training and practice, can it become useful in actual fighting.”

[46] 武术Wu Shu: martial arts.

The original discussion can be found in Chinese at: