Much of Chinese history is replete of stories of outstanding feats by martial art masters. One of those masters was Kuo, Yun-Shen, who’s nickname was translated to “half punch defeats opponents.” He taught his hsing-i (xing-yi) to Wang, Xiang-Zhai (Wang, Xiang Xia) who earned the reputation of being the the best ever instructor of hsing-i. The main differences between hsing-i, Tai Chi Chuan, and ba kua is how these techniques find openings in the defenses of their opponent. Hsing-i moves very much in a straight line aiming at the center; ba kua moves in a circular pattern looking for a weakness in defense; Tai Chi uses any direction to dissolve an opponents attack. There is a saying: Where tai chi dissolves, hsing-i destroys.
There are three main types of hsing-i. 1) Originated in the Hebei province. It places emphasis on the practice of the five element techniques (wu xing) and the twelve animal forms, variations of the five elements. 2) Came from the Hunan province. This type changes the five elements to five ways of practicing. 3) Believes that meditation is the key and the forms are a distraction. They say fighting well comes from developing intention, focus and strength in principles. Wang, Xiang-Zhai hails from this type. As practiced by him this form developed into his own style which he called yi quan (intention fist). It does away with the practice of specific sets, rather trying to perfect concepts that will lead the practitioner to react calmly, instantly, instinctively, and spontaneously to a situation. The two most important exercises being meditation and “push hands,” which teaches sensitivity and leverage. As a martial art his da cheng quan (yi quan) was unbeatable and he made martial art history with it. Wang Xiang-Zhai was so famous that at one point he was hired as instructor for China’s Army Martial Arts Center.
Xin-Yi (sum-i, hsin-yi; mind or spirit intention; not to be confused with hsing-i) masters were not easily accessible to the public. In the time before the political upheaval before 1949, they were usually live-in private tutors for wealthy families. Peng-Xi Yu (Peng-Si Yu or Yu Pung Shi) was already a master before he met Wang, Xiang-Zhai, and as a wealthy doctor he could afford to house him and pay nicely for his secrets. While learning from Wang, Xiang-Zhai, he noticed that the master’s students showed few signs of normal aging such as arthritis, shortness of breath, weakness, etc. This was interesting to him because of his interest in medicine. He had traditional chinese and western medical credentials. He was a graduate of the Tongji University, and was a professor at the Shanghai University. His pastime was martial arts and taught students in his home. After his passing, Professor Yu took Wang, Xiang-Zhai’s de cheng quan (hsing-i, xing-yi) system and added Tibetan Buddhist mi zong meditation practices which could bring the students chi down below the navel and into the dan tien (dian tian, tan tian) where the chi channels could be opened completely (tung chi). A Buddhist monk, Norlha Rempoche, made the Professor tung chi and he learned the secrets of tung chi. He went on to become the only student of Wang, Xiang-Zhai to developed and master the “empty force” (ling kong jing- jing being defined as the body’s energy being concentrated in a single point and suddenly released) for which he is so well known. There are three elements that are important in developing empty force 1) sum, the mind; 2) i, intention, and 3) chi, energy. Each need conditioning to work together.
Before WWII, Professor Yu earned his western medical degree in Germany at the Heidelberg University. He specialized in obstetrics and then dermatology. He made great discoveries regarding chi and healing. In 1981 he came to America with his wife to allow a research team headed by Professor Martin Lee of the physics department at the Stanford Research Institute in Palo Alto, California to study his chi. He died in 1983 at the age of 81, leaving his wife of 60 years, a very capable successor. Min Ou Yang had devoted her life to martial arts. As a daughter of wealthy parents, she too had live in teachers including the famous Yang, Chen Fu, grandson of the founder of Yang style Tai Chi Chuan, who also taught that power was at its greatest only when physical strength was combined with intention and focus at the point of attack. She was proficient in Tai Chi Chuan, Shaolin Kung Fu, knife throwing, and western boxing (learned from a russian boxer). She was also an accomplished opera singer in Beijing, China- all before she met her husband. She taught martial arts in China for 50 years before coming to the United States. After marriage, she became Professor Yu’s assistant, teaching under his supervision. After the Professor’s death she went on to carry on his work. She was named the Inside Kung Fu magazine’s, Hall of Fame, Female of the Year in 1988, and has been featured in many martial art magazines. She is quoted as saying, “The only way to ascertain whether the empty force is real and how the power is produced is to learn it. You’ll get to the bottom of it if you persist in practicing for three years.”