Introduction to the Structure of Xing Yi Quan
The structure of the art Xing Yi Quan is both compact and practical. There seven main parts to training in the art of Xing Yi Quan:
Foundation Training including holding San Ti Shir – The 3 Treasure Stance. Unless a new student is already fit, strong, coordinated, and flexible they will need to build up their body with supplementary drills in addition to learning the classic forms of Xing Yi Quan. This would include holding the San Ti Shir stance, exercises to develop strength and flexibility, and usually some form Iron Palm and Iron Shirt. Iron Palm conditions the hands for striking and Iron Shirt conditions the body to withstand blows and strikes.
Five Elements – The Five Elements are the main strikes of Xing Yi Quan. These are five simple but subtle and profound lines of techniques that develop striking power and build Qi and strengthen the internal organs. These are usually performed in long lines alternating sides so the techniques can be used equally well with either hand.
12 Animals – The 12 Animals build on the 5 Elements and are more advanced. They are also practiced in lines and are in general rather simple and direct. The 12 Animals reveal many of the tactics of Xing Yi. Each animal also helps to condition the body or develop a specific part of the body.
Linking Forms – Linking forms are sequences combining the animals and the elements. In terms of solo practice, the Linking forms are more advanced the either the animals, or the elements. In particular, the linking forms teach you how to combine the 12 Animal and 5 Elements together in a smooth flow. Compared to the forms or training sequences commonly taught in other martial arts the Xing Yi Quan forms are relatively short.
Two Person Forms – or Sparring Forms, or Partner Forms, are practiced with a partner. These forms help to bridge a student from solo practice to using their moves in a fight. In the sparring forms each person knows what the other is going to do in advance. They also know how to counter each move with their own. Because each player knows what the other is going to do they are much safer than jumping straight into free sparring. In addition, these forms help you learn how to control the distance and timing between your partner. In sparring forms you can also practice techniques that would be too dangerous to use in free sparring.
Free Sparring – Free sparring is essential to learn how to actually use your techniques in a real fight. In free sparring both players use their Xing Yi techniques but don’t actually use full power in striking. The important difference between the two person forms and free sparring is that in free sparring you do not know what your partner will do next.
Weapons Forms – Xing Yi Quan as currently practiced does contain weapons training but does not emphasize weapons. Since people don’t really fight with spears and swords anymore it just isn’t that important these days. However, practicing with spears and swords is fun, good exercise, and will help you develop more power in your empty hand techniques.