Xingyiquan (形意拳) is one of the Wudang styles of Chinese martial arts (the other two are Taijiquan and Baguazhang) and is translated as “Form of the Mind Fist.” It is an extremely aggressive style, preferring to “wedge” into the enemy’s attack and literally run over him while delivering crushingly powerful blows.
According to legend, throughout the Jin, Yuan, and Ming Dynasties few individuals had studied this art, one of them being Ji Gong (also known as Ji Longfeng or JiJi Ke) of Shanxi Province. After Yue Fei’s death Yue Fei was a very famous General and he is credited with developing several styles of gong-fu), the art was ‘lost’ for half a millennium. Then, during the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Shanxi Province’s Zhongnan Mountains, Yue Fei’s boxing manual was said to have been discovered by Ji Gong. It is more likely, though, that JiJi Ke had created the art based on prior martial arts experience, or passed on an art that had already existed.
The earliest written records of Xingyi can be traced to the 18th century, and are attributed to Ma Xueli of Henan Province and Dai Longbang of Shanxi Province. Legend credits the creation of Xing Yi to renowned Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD) general, Yue Fei, but this is disputed.
Yang Jwing-Ming (who is not a practitioner of the art) argues that aspects of xingyiquan (particularly the animal styles) are identifiable as far back as the Liang Dynast at the Shaolin Temple. According to Jwing-Ming, Yue Fei could not have strictly invented the art, but synthesized and perfected existing Shaolin principles into his own style of gong-fu, which he popularized during his military service.
Nonetheless, according to Jwing-Ming, Yue Fei is usually identified as the creator because of his considerable understanding of the art (as shown in the work The Ten Theses of Xingyiquan, credited to Yue) and his cultural status as a Chinese war hero. It ought be noted that in Chinese culture, it is common to attribute the creation of great traditions to legendary individuals. In such a way, the art of Táijiquán is attributed to the legendary Zhang Sanfeng, and Daoism to Laozi, even though as in the case with Yue Fei, there exists no proof for such claims.
Other martial artists and Chinese martial arts historians, such as Dan Miller, Tim Cartmell, and Brian Kennedy, hold that this story is largely legendary; while Xingyiquan may well have evolved from military spear techniques, there is no evidence to support that Yue Fei was involved or that the art dates to the Song dynasty. These authors point out that the works attributed to Yue Fei’s role long postdate his life, some being as recent as the era of the Republic, and that it was common practice in China to attribute new works to a famous or a legendary person, rather than take credit for oneself.
Once renowned as a very formidable fighting art, Xingyiquan seems to have gone the way of Taijiquan and Baguazhang and become, for the most part, a sterilized version of what it once was. Many (perhaps most) Xingyi practitioners nowadays tend to buzz through their training routines much too fast, sacrificing power and effectiveness for the illusion of speed. Xingyiquan has become more of a curiosity than maintaining its place as an efficient martial art. And many modern practitioners intellectualize too much about, and rely on, what I call the “Star Wars” approach to utilization of qi rather than studying and learning how to apply proper principles of biomechanics and physics.
The “Star Wars” approach to Qi is to rely on some sort of magical power “the force” to take care of everything and imbue its followers/believers with all sorts of supernormal powers. There is no such thing. Use of Qi (correctly) requires that we master certain principles of biomechanics (some of which are very special) and physics. Without the proper use of such principles, emission of Qi is impossible.
There’s no magic.