The following writing is not only informative but contains the very essence in many ways of the art known as Xin Yi Liu He (Six Harmonies Heart Mind Boxing). My online course has been expanded this year to include Drunken Boxing, Baguazhang and Xinyiliuhe and this was found and posted by one of my students to the course (The Course). I wanted to share it here as it is a writing from one of Lu Song Gao’s students, teacher of my own grandteacher Yu Hualong. It mirrors the notes I have in my personal gongfu journal throughout all my writings on xinyiliuhe and is a concise and excellent writing on the art. I wanted to share it since knowledge about xinyiliuhe is few and far betwen and my goal is simply preserving the martial arts as well as I can in my lifetime through others learning and understanding them. The writing even mentions the use of the sound of thunder and its importance to xinyi, a skill that even when I learned it was considered ‘rare’ and ‘barbaric’.
The following is written by Líng Hàn Xìng and translated by Bob Lau.
This essay can be found in simplified Chinese characters on Master Qian’s website. It was written by Ling Han Xing. No information is presented about who the author was, but apparently he was a student of Lu Songgao. Lu was Master Qian’s teacher. The essay summarily traces some of the history of Xinyi Liuhe Quan and its evolution into its present form of 10 animals and the transformation of it into XingYi Quan or 12 animals. The author expresses his distaste for these changes. However, within the essay, one will find some of the basic principles underlying Xinyi Liuhe Quan.
The essay makes use of the classical style of writing that was prevalent in China at the time. Classical Chinese is difficult even for natives of China. I have endeavoured to keep the flavor of the original, but at times, I used modern English to make the translation more readable and understandable. Finally, there were some difficult passages for me, so parts of the translation will still need to be pondered upon. As always criticism is welcomed.
Tradition has it that Xin yi Liu he Quan was created by the Song Dynasty general Yue Fei (1103 -1141 CE). As a youth, Yue Fei was already a good martial artist. Later on, Mr. Zhou Dong, a famous teacher at the time, handed down his skill to Yue Fei. Yue Fei excelled at both civil and military matters.
Yue Fei selected the best skills and techniques that he had learned and wrote them in his book “Xinyi Liuhe Quan Jing,” which translates as Mind Thought Six Cooperation Boxing Classic. Another possible translation is Mind Intention Six Harmony Fist Classic. However, it can be simply called the “Old Manual.”
The manual disappeared sometime during the the Yuan and Ming dynasties. Then at the end of the Ming and beginning of the Qing dynasties (1640 -1642) , Ji Long-feng (1602-1683) , a man known for his excellent martial skills with a spear, found the Old Manual while traveling in Zhong-Nan Mountain. He thoroughly studied the manual and thus mastered its contents.
According to the manual
This art is easy and simple as it only consists of six forms: Chicken Leg; Dragon Waist; Bear Shoulder; Eagle Talons; Tiger Covers Head; and Thunder. These six are the body methods of the art of Xin-yi Liu-he Quan. When beginning an attack, every posture should be like a tiger pouncing, and every grasp like an eagle’s talons.
The eagle reaches long, while the bear keeps close to exert restraint and control, thereby manifesting both attack and defense. This is called eagle-bear fighting spirit. The sages of the past looked to the movements of birds of prey and other predators to grasp their intent, by grasping the intent they were able to create this boxing method. Doing their utmost, they selected the best parts to supplement what was lacking.
The name of the art is Xin Yi Liu He Quan: mind, movement and thought follows one another ( ????xin dong yi sui), the inside and outside act in response to open and close, and the mind is always in charge. If one is able to understand ????, and the meaning of completely moving the whole body from head to foot, then you have given the path of martial arts considerable thought (????).
From this point of view, the early sages conservatively practiced to obtain profound results. This art is easy and simple, when facing an enemy — move agilely and unexpectedly.
However, for no apparent reason, the number of forms were increased from six to 10, thus the art contained: dragon; tiger; eagle; bear; chicken; monkey; swallow; hawk; horse; snake; with thunder being relegated to a mere addendum. Then the art was changed again in which alligator and pigeon were added, and thunder deleted. Furthermore,the name was changed to Xing-yi ??, meaning shape and thought. What was simple became complicated. Moreover, the deletion of thunder made no sense as the art was now deficient in a method to startle. Consequently, Xinyi Liuhe Quan became muddled and its true essence was lost.
Prior to these changes and additions, xin-yi liu-he quan was easy to teach to the masses and ordinary people could be enlightened to its principles. However, now, later generations are unable to know and see its intrinsic nature. It is like “painting a snake and then adding legs.” (???? huàshétianzhú, a Chinese idiom or “cheng yu” meaning to ruin the effect by adding something superfluous).
Is this not true? The only difference between a dragon and a snake is in size; a monkey and a bear both keep things close and don’t reach out long; and are not hawks and eagles similar? Theses natures being interchangeable. What is the difference between swallow snatches water and eagle snatches prey? Horse gallops and tiger tramples, are in fact the same. How does adding alligator and pigeon matter? If from the basic form, one can arbitrarily add or delete forms, then an infinity of forms can be added, e.g., “carp stands defiantly” can be the basis for fish form, or “black ox waves its head” is the basis for ox form, “red phoenix looks at the sun” for phoenix form, “tabby cat climbs the tree” for cat form and so on. Why stop at only 12 forms?
As for deleting thunder, this was a myopic modification. It was assumed that shouting was vulgar and uncouth. Rather the deletion of thunder was a misunderstanding of its theory and practice (ti-yong ??), i.e, extending Qi, discharging force, the technique of startling an enemy. Thus those who abandon thunder cannot be said to be practicing Xinyi Liuhe Quan.
The special characteristic of Xinyi, as mentioned above, is that it is easy and simple. Its practical application is not in the slightest based on fantasy, but rather science. Science confirms that matter can exert physical force. As stated in the boxing manual: “fighting method must first focus on the torso, then foot and hand can arrive.” . . . “The whole body equally arrives without hindrance.” Upon knowing this, then boxing is not just waving a fist or sending out a foot to surprise an enemy, but using whole body power to respond to a situation, and having the dan-tian command the body.
How can the mass of a single fist or a single foot contend with that of the whole body? Take for example a small and skinny person, who only weighs about 50 kilograms, if he or she utilize this mass of 50 kilograms as quickly as lightening and strikes the opponent appropriately, even a big and stalwart opponent could not maintain his balance and stability! This is the same as using a 50 kilogram hammer to attack someone; how can one withstand such an attack. Therefore, Xinyi Liuhe Quan’s power is very fierce. It has numerous methods to strike with the body, the dan tian is the commander, and the limbs are the assistants.
In xinyi liuhe quan, the energy or jin (?) must be balanced, neither too hard nor too soft. Above and below are to have both contraction and expansion power, left and right possess the jin of open and close. Contracting (the quality of the bear) is closing, thus, chest and waist are internally contained, the shoulder and hip (?kua) are tautly wrapped, the Qi of the spirit is held back, the body is like a bow that is fully drawn, whose potential energy is ready to be released. Expanding is opening, thus, chest and waist rise directly, shoulder and kua extend and unfold, the Qi of the spirit follows the power that is discharged, and the body is like a bow that has just been restored to its original shape after releasing the arrow and the fist is like the arrow.
I was taught this boxing by my teacher Lu Song-gao. Lu Shifu was from Henan province. [Lu Song-gao was Qian Zhao-hong’s shifu]. When Lu was young, his teacher was the famous Yuan Feng-yi, a direct disciple of Mai Zhuang-tu. At the time, Yuan shifu taught, he had 63 students, of that number he passed on the art to only three students, namely, Shang Xue-li, Yang Dian-qing and Lu Song-gao. Lu shifu was the youngest of the three, and his gong-fu was the most shallow, only his hand techniques were nimble and agile. Now Lu shifu is already over 79 years old, and I am afraid that after Lu shifu passes away, the art will not be passed on, or it will not be authentic and consequently it will still be lost.
Accordingly, in the future we will publish photographs of the postures and try our best to carefully explain, making everything open and clear, thereby, eliminating any misconceptions, errors and flights of fancy so as to faithfully exhibit this art.
In the winter of 1953 in Shanghai, Mr. Ling Han Xing wrote the following to explain Xinyi Liuhe Quan:
Xin (mind) and yi (thought) cooperate this is called Shen (spirit);
Yi (thought) and qi cooperate this is called Jing (essence);
qi and li (strength) cooperate this is called jing (power);
shoulder and hip cooperate, this is dragon folding and unfolding the body;
elbow and knee cooperate, posture will be upright and correct;
hand and foot cooperate, attack and defense will be complete;
“Form Accord” in the beginning obtain the external cooperation, when foot and hand are matched then you have achieve the true art;
“Spirit Resemblance” the whole body merges into a single power and you are without peer;
In each posture, the side of the body or shoulder leads and is forward,
hand, foot, nose tip are along a single line;
head as if pushes the sky, the foot tramples the ground;
the vision faces forward, and your consciousness covers everywhere else (literally your thoughts are without boundaries)
The tip of the tongue touches the upper palate;
the essential qi flows through the top of the head, swallow your salvia;
contain the chest raise the spine (some people translate as back);
distinguish right and left;
the qi sinks into the dan tian, the center of gravity will be stable;
Hang the shoulder, hang the elbows protect the center line;
the waist is “song,” the hip is weighted down, you can agilely turn;
The shoulder urges the elbow, the elbow urges the hand, the hips urges the knee, the knee urges the foot;
Although the hand and foot have front and back, they must evenly rise and fall. When extending the hand, everywhere must be in the form of an arc, when stepping cover the crotch;
The body must go first before hand and foot move, the yi must be first before the body moves.
When contact is a little hard exhale, and on the return softly inhale; soft is not weak otherwise your attack will not smash the opponent; hardness does not give rise to stiffness otherwise this will be rigid. When moving be empty, discharge in fullness, breathing long or short is the boxing classic;
Those wishing to learn know these central principles, must be diligent in figuring this out!”
Shifu Neil Ripski