The term ‘Hsing I Chuan’ means ‘mind form method’. The mind governs and leads the movement of the body.
The forms are characterised by short, efficient & quick movements. Like all the internal arts Hebei Xing Yi cultivates & employs power of the whole body which is released in one action. A particular trait of Hebei Xing Yi is simultaneous attack and defence.
Hebei Xing Yi Quan looks deceptively simple and can be very tricky to master. The demands on foot work & weight management are particularly exacting. I have found practicing Hebei Xing Yi Quan a very good companion to Tai Chi Chuan, it is particularly useful for helping to manage the error of ‘waving your hands about’ so often the blight of the Tai Chi player.
Hebei Xing Yi Quan style, in contrast to the ShanXi Xingyi Quan style, typically uses much larger frames and can appear slower in practice. Its stances are more open than the ShanXi Xingyi Quan style, and there will generally be less appearance of fah jing energy in the practice of the forms.
The Hebei Xing Yi Quan style is said to delineate from the ShanXi Xingyi Quan method, but this link remains unclear. Many people practice the Hebei Xing Yi Quan method today. And chances are if you meet a practitioner of Xingyi, they will likely be of the Hebei Xing Yi Quan method over any other. Hebei Xing Yi Quan uses expressions of the Five Elements and are more simplistic than those of the ShanXi and the Twelve Animal stuctures are much more simplified by and large.
In Hebei Xing Yi Quan, the Five Elements are taught through the Five Fists form sequence. One then learns the linking form to integrate them. Push Hands in Hebei Xing Yi Quan is also taught using the Five Elements. The 12 Animals forms come next.
The Twelve Animals of Hebei Xing Yi Quan are a combination of aspects of the Five Fists synthesized with the behavior of animals. For example, the Snake of Hebei Xing Yi Quan (above image sequence) combines Drilling (Water), Crossing (Earth), and Splitting (Metal) with movements that are slithery yet graceful, dragging yet rushing, pulling yet explosive.
San Ti Shi (“Trinity Posture” or “Three Body Posture”) is fundamental practice and is essential for building a sound foundation in the art. Standing practice is combined with breathing to develop a root and refine and build the Qi (the body’s internal or vital energy).
From San Ti, training progresses to Wu Xing Quan (“Five Elements Fists”). These five basic fists are: Pi Quan (“Splitting Fist”), Zuan Quan (“Drilling Fist”), Beng Quan (“Smashing Fist”), Pao Quan (“Cannon Fist”) and Heng Quan (“Crossing Fist”). Wu Xing Quan are often referred to as Mu Quan or Mother Fists and constitute the framework of Hebei Hsing I. These fists are governed by the Daoist theory of Wu Xing, or Five Elements (Metal, Water, Wood, Fire, and Earth). Mastery of the five fists and full understanding of the five elements theory is the key to gaining skill in the art, and they remain an important part of practice even at advanced stages.
Once a certain level of proficiency with the Five Elements Fists is acquired, the first fist form, Wu Xing Lien Huan Quan (“Five Elements Linked Fists”) is learned. Usually some basic partner drills are also introduced, such as San Shou Pao (“Three Hand Cannon”) and Jiao Shou Pao (“Entangling Hands”), to start building a sense of Hebei Hsing I’s fighting applications and theories. At this stage, Wu Xing Pao (“Five Elements Fists Partner Routine”) is practiced to render a better understanding of attacking and defensive applications of Hebei Xing Yi Quan.
Hebei Xing Yi Quan incorporates the practice of the Shi Er Xing (12 Animals Forms) to further advance and expand fighting techniques and strategy. The 12 Animals are: Dragon, Tiger, Monkey, Horse, Water Lizard, Chicken, Sparrow Hawk, Wedge-Tailed Hawk, Snake, Swallow, Eagle, and Bear.
Originally Hebei Xing Yi Quan had only a few routines. Over time, many masters contributed to its growth, and today the style contains many empty-hand, weapons, and partner routines that are learned as a student progresses through the training.