Xing Yi

Xing Yi Quan (Hsing I)

Xing Yi is an Internal Kung Fu system, meaning it prioritises the control and use of internal Qi energy. (By comparison, External Kung Fu systems such as Shaolin Kung Fu teach students muscular control first.) Another internal system which is closely related to Xing Yi is Ba Gua (aka Pa Kua).

The recognised founder of Ba Gua, Dong Hai Chuan, was reputed to have fought Xing Yi Master Guo Yunshen with neither able to defeat the other – though it is possible that they were training together. It would have been controversial at the time for Dong Hai Chuan to have studied under Guo Yunshen, since Dong was the older of the two. The most neutral viewpoint would be to say that they trained together, which may explain the stylistic similarities between them.


Treating the story of Dong Hai Chuan and Guo Yunshen as allegory, however, reveals a common training protocol among Xing Yi and Ba Gua practitioners. Often, because Ba Gua requires significantly more time for a practitioner’s skill to mature, it is acceptable to learn Xing Yi first or simultaneously. Such a practitioner develops a tactical vocabulary that is more readily apparent than the core Ba Gua movements. Thus to this day, the teaching of the two is closely intertwined.

Xing Yi practitioners use the five elements as an interpretative framework for reacting and responding to attacks. This follows the five element theory, a general combat formula which assumes at least three outcomes of a fight; the constructive, the neutral, and the destructive. Xing Yi students train to react to and execute specific techniques in such a way that a desirable cycle will form based on the constructive, neutral and destructive interactions of five element theory. Where to aim, where to hit and with what technique—and how those motions should work defensively—is determined by what point of which cycle they see themselves in.

Each of the elements has variant applications that allow it to be used to defend against all of the elements (including itself), so any set sequences are entirely arbitrary, though the destructive cycle is often taught to beginners as it is easier to visualise and consists of easier applications. Each of the elemental forms corresponds to the ancient Chinese Five Elements; Earth, Metal, Water, Wood and Fire. The student uses each of these forms as if they were that element. For example, in the Water form the student moves as if they were an eddy of rapidly-flowing water. You will also learn the Five Elements Linking Form.

After learning the 5 elements, Xing Yi students begin learning the twelve animal forms. With the twelve animal forms, students learn to mentally transform themselves to suit the circumstances of combat. They may transform from the agile and tricky monkey, into a strong and ferocious dragon. The transformations are not simply movements to be learned as physical mimicry. The student learns to become the element or animal in manner and spirit.

Xing Yi itself is a form of meditation. The mind wills, and the body responds. Through the forms, you will learn to transform your body’s internal energy; Qi, to respond to your conscious thought. The goal for which Xing Yi practitioners aim is to be able to exert Qi without any apparent physical force.

This history and the above description of Xing Yi is based on

Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts, Drager and Smith, 1980.
Xing Yi: Chinese Internal Boxing, Smith.
Kung Fu Fighting Styles, Hallander, 1985.


Our internal class includes Tai Ji, Xing Yi and Qi Gong techniques and forms. Our advanced Tai Ji routines involve Ba Gua elements as well. We hold evening classes around Brisbane in several locations each week. Your primary instuctors will be Shifu Kevin The and Shifu Richard Nicholls. We cater for all paces and levels, from beginner to advanced. Please click here for our timetable. Your first lesson is free.