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More Xing Yi Paradoxes

Last month we looked at some “Xing Yi paradoxes.” These can also be thought of as “aphorisms” – pithy statements that contain important truths and observations. The use of somewhat mysterious, pity statements often serves to get our body and mind out of the rut of established preconceptions or habitual movement patterns that retard progress in the art.

One Xing Yi aphorism that I find particularly helpful is:

Boxing is like taking a walk or snapping your fingers

A variation of this statement is:

Boxing is like walking in the street

View men (opponents) like looking at straw

Xing Yi is supposed to be “natural boxing” Therefore in the end it should be nothing special, simply a natural extension of the body and the intention. Therefore the boxing should unfold without thought, just as one would walk in the street or snap one’s fingers. However, this statement is also literal to some degree. In the Xing Yi forms, one mostly walks forward (with an occasionally retreating or dodging step), advancing with natural steps as the hands, feet and body attack and defend. Xing Yi partner drills and Xing Yi in application feels very much is like walking forward, and naturally stepping around someone else going in the opposite direction down a street. In application, Xing Yi also has the crisp, somewhat abrupt quality of snapping your fingers – something that occurs suddenly and without thought.

Viewing opponents like straw men is also a very useful concept when applying Xing Yi techniques. Imagining that the person in front of you is like straw allows you to walk through the person, entering swiftly, powerfully and effectively. It removes the natural hesitation of walking through the opponent or the tendency to stop walking, take a stance and apply power, which creates stagnant steps and strikes.

Another way of expressing this concept is:

Practice the forms as if facing an opponent, and face an opponent as though practicing a form.

When training one should imagine there is an opponent that one is moving against. This makes the form lively and crisp, filled with intention and spirit. Conversely when confronting an opponent, it is like no one is there and one is simply practicing the movements. This keeps the spirit calm and allows power and force to unfold naturally, without hesitation, without restriction, and with full follow-through. My observation is that when students can embrace this idea, the techniques unfold smoothly and easily.