Xing Yi Quan’s Top Shelf Forms

Henry Geddes performs Xing Yi Quan in San Rafael, California

Xing Yi Quan’s Top Shelf Forms

Xing Yi Quan (Form and Will Boxing) is known for being a relatively compact style of classical combat oriented Chinese martial arts. Yet it also has awesome longer linking forms that are the Xing Yi Quan’s Top Shelf Forms.

The heart of the Xing Yi Quan system are the “Five Elements” and the “12 Animals”. The “Five Elements” and the “12 Animals” are the names given to the main martial techniques of the art Xing Yi Quan. All of these are relatively simple and short sequences of movements. The Five Elements are each essentially a single strike, with a few variations, and the 12 Animals are in many cases not much more complex. Even the more complex of the 12 Animals are brief compared to the length of the training sequences in most other martial arts. The Five Elements are great for building massively strong striking power in a small, manageable number of techniques, building a physique capable of resisting the opponents blows, and learning the footwork needed to evade and attack. The 12 Animals teach more advanced tactics and combine and evolve the power mechanics of the Five Elements. The movements of the 12 Animals are also more complex, difficult, interesting, and expressive than the 5 Elements.

The Language of Xing Yi Quan

In one simplistic sense you could compare the 5 Elements to vowels, and the 12 animals to consonants in a language. So, where are the sentences, paragraphs, and longer poems or essays? In the art of Xing Yi Quan these are found in the Linking Forms. The Linking Forms combine the 5 Elements and 12 Animals into longer mixed sequences. First, one learns simpler Linking Forms and then longer and more complex ones. These expand one’s potential to rapidly mix and combine the different body mechanics and methods in the various techniques. In reality the 5 Elements and 12 Animals are plenty to learn to fight with or to build one’s health.

Linking Forms – Love the long ones!

Learning and mastering the longest forms may not be possible to many simply because of time limitations. For others, the fact that you need to remember and master only a few movements is a strong selling point and attraction of the art of Xing Yi Quan. For those practitioners learning the longer forms is not a goal. For these reasons, and for the sake of a legacy of marital secrecy the longer forms seem to be rarely taught or practiced now. The longer forms such as “Mixed Forms Striking” at about 60 moves is a top form in many teachers, like Grandmaster Wong Jackman’s, curriculum. Some teachers like Grandmaster Liu Wan Fu knew and taught other additional longer Linking Forms such as the forms known as “77 Grand Linking Chain Form” and the “99 Great Grand Linking Chain Form”. These forms expand the concept of Xing Yi Quan and how to attack and defend and mix your movements freely. Because of their length, these forms show a more symphonic and progressive structure to their composition, patterns, and sequences. By repeating, varying, and evolving a tactical theme these forms teach new strategies, and break simplistic patterns and habits ingrained by previous forms. These longer, more complex Xing Yi Quan, forms when performed with refined body mechanics and martial intent show both the power and beauty of Xing Yi Quan at once.

I am really looking forward to sharing and teaching these forms after the pandemic conditions lift. – Sifu Jensen

Below is one of the shortest of the linking Forms known as “Chain Links” or “Chain Linking”. Perhaps we’ll make a video of the longer ones soon!


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