A Hsing Yi Axe Hand Internal Iron Palm strike to a telephone pole, that is bowed by the force of the strike.

The three main styles of Traditional Chinese Internal Martial Arts are Tai Chi (Taiji), Ba Gua (Pa Kua) and Hsing Yi (Hsing-i, Xing Yi).

The 'I' or 'Yi', is the same as is used in the word I Chuan (the Book of Changes). Hsing Yi, is mind boxing: the energies the acupuncture five elements and fighting essences of twelve animals.

    Pi Quan is like an axe,
    rising and falling; it hits downward and forward;

    Zuan Quan, is like a bubbling spring, or lightning.
    Rising, drilling, falling, overturning; yin & yang turning.
    Horizontal waist circles in a Horse Stance, with palms of the hands over the lower back, and thumbs pointed down; strengthens the kidneys.

    Ben Quan, is released like an arrow,
    and hits with a crushing fist.
    Similar to the Tai Chi move 'Brush Knee'.

    Pao Quan is like a cannon
    with diagonal movements, it evades.

    Heng Quan is like a ball, with circle energy,
    internal movement, like tearing cotton cloth.


• Ji Long Feng
• Cao Ji Wu
• Dai Ling Bang
• Li Nen Ran
• Kuo Yun Shen & Li Kui Yuan
• Sun Lu Tang
• Kuo Yu Chang
• Yim Shan Wu
• Wong Jack Man

There are three basic branches of Hsing Yi: Honan, Hupei and Shanxi. Sun Lu Tang learned Hupei

(Hubei) branch then added his theories and modified the sets so it is like a sub-branch of Hupei.

The elements are fundamentally the same between the different schools but the applications are different.

The Xingyi detailed in the book Axe Hand; Hsing-i & Internal Strength Workout has some additional internal properties of the consecutive moves. One move will feed into another. The first move can conceal the intentions of the second move like chess. In chess, a discovered attack is an attack revealed when one piece moves out of the way of another. Discovered attacks can be extremely powerful, as the piece moved can make a threat independently of the piece it reveals. Like many chess tactics, they succeed because the opponent is unable to meet two threats at once.

Hsing Yi Tiger

At the arms full height, the backward draw of the foot energy is transferred to the rear leg, which is lifted and catapulted with the step forward. The former front leg becoming the new rear leg.

This down and forward movement of the now front leg; carries the body with it, in the same fashion. This downward body movement is centered and directed by the Lower Dan Tien into the palms, which are facing outward and depending on application of a block or dynamic strike-block; into the ridge hands. The ridge hands can slide along the opponent’s striking or outstretched arms, or directly; terminating inside the opponent’s chest, or beyond.

The fingertips up, palm outward hand pair is directed down and forward to the opponent’s chest or collarbone area.

Tai Chi and Hsing-i Differences

The above picture of Sun Lu Tang standing in Hsing Yi San Ti Shi, shows the strong Yi connection on top line, the slight forward inclination of the shoulders as in leatherneck is shown in the second line, and the bottom line showing the energy connection of the Qi being focused from the Lower Dan Tien through the rear hand to focus the power and connect with the striking hand.

I do not see this emphasis in Tai Chi.

  • In Tai Chi the head is held as if slightly suspended from above, whereas in Hsing-i, the crown of the head gently presses upward, the bai hui point at the crown part of the head, has the feeling of being sucked inward;

  • In Hsing-i, the teeth are slightly clenched but Tai Chi has them only touching;

  • Hsing-i has a unique scissor step for directing earth root and whole body power;

  • the so-called emotional mind, Xing, is not to be suppressed in Xing-i but guided by the thinking mind: this emotional mind. Animals use this emotional based mind because it is quicker; senses to the thalamus, then to the amygdale in 12 milliseconds, most 'civilized' people use the cortex which takes twice the time at 24 milliseconds.


"Outside of combat, Hsing-i will improve your ch'i, enlighten your mind opening it to wisdom, refine your nature, and improve your temperament."

Chinese Boxing, Masters and Methods, by Robert W. Smith, page 100, published by North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA, 1974, 1990

Most Tai Chi practitioners issue Qi for martial force, Hsing-i will use Qi also, but focus on Fa Jing (quick explosive internal power).

A good example of Fa Jing was when Kou Yu Chang slapped the back of a horse, and exploded the horses internal organs without any damage to the surface skin.
See: Internal Iron Palm

A major difference of Hsing-i, is that the first mind, the so-called emotional mind, Xing, is not to be suppressed, rather it is cultivated since Xing Yi imitates the animal form, mind and spirit. Most men in a fight; cannot match a wild animal half their weight.

In some other internal martial arts, and Qi Gong; the emotional mind is suppressed and dominated by Yi, the wisdom mind. This emotional mind is the fastest, as it is travels from the thalamus, then to the amygdale.

The renown researcher of the neurology of fear, Dr. Joseph DeLoux of New York University, in his book The Emotional Brain, found that there are two kinds of fear in the brain: fast fear and slow fear.

Fast fear travels the low road of the brain: senses to thalamus, then to the amygdale, which is located deep within the brain on the temporal sides; time 12 milliseconds. Traditional philosophy represents this separation as horse mind (slow) controlling the monkey mind (fast).

Slow fear travels the high road of the brain: senses to thalamus which sends it to the cortex (higher up); time 24 milliseconds. Both systems occur simultaneously, with the same sense data, the theory being that you cannot have speed and accuracy on the same circuit. Bear in mind, this is not the time to process the information, or physically move to react.

12 milliseconds or 1 hundredth of a second might not seem like much difference, but consider that there are some people that can beat a flash. Beating a flash is blinking your eyes when a photo is shot with a flash. The difference in speed between the flash, and camera shutter is one fiftieth of a second, or 2 hundredths. I and others can beat it trying, and by surprise, some just by surprise. Memory and choice have to go to the cortex, so they are slower; test your reaction theory with the flash.

With the foot steps, the true idea is to not fall into emptiness. Disperse the breath. The issuing is totally in the rear foot. Store up the intent. You need to protect the groin. If the beginning posture is good, then use ‘Sweeping the Ground Wind’.

Rooted steps are the scissor handles of the scissor-stepping that are driving the martial motion through one’s Lower Dan Tien (scissor’s axis pivoting point), that focuses the strike forward (scissor’s cutting tip).

For more on the unique Martial Walking see
Hsing-I Scissor Stepping

In every movement, watch your Yi. When Yi generates the idea for movement, the Qi will be immediately led to the end section, starting the movement of the end section. The middle section follows and the root section urges the movement. This is not the same as Tai Chi, because the body in Hsing-i is more like rattan than water. Even though it is flexible, the body is hard so when the Yi is generated on the target, the tip can move first, and the power is pushed from the body and the root section.

Stomp while advancing; as a one would off a trampoline to launch a strike. This has a pedaling action forward, with the front foot directing and shaping the force issued by the rear foot.

The eyes must be venomous: acute, sharp and stern, with a mean and serious look. Your original Qi must be full and abundant in order to have these. Therefore, when practicing fist methods, it is training Qi and Li. Training Li is able to strengthen the body, and training Qi is able to enhance the spirit of vitality. Those whose Kung fu is deep, are able to gather the Qi at the Lower Dan Tien and the five internal organs are comfortable and expanded.

Hsing-I Concepts used in Internal Iron Palm

The highest level of achievement: the mind is mindless; you do nothing and have done everything. In the emptiness we find prenatal bodies. If you try too hard, it will elude you. Instead of trying to achieve it, pretend you already have it. The mind embodies your actions: therefore, Hsing-i is mind boxing.

This can not be reached through force or simply imitating.
Empty Qigong, click here `

To be at one with the teacher, and have your movements flow with him without words, is the highest form of learning, this is called entrainment.


When it is time to be calm, it is quite and transparent. In this position, you are steady like a mountain.

In the beginning of the movement, the body remains soft so Qi can be led to the limbs. Hsing-i Jin is similar to rattan, soft and bending, yet hard when it strikes. The power is manifested like a cannonball exploding.

Internal Hsing Yi Differences

Some say upper body power comes from the returning hand; when the body is connected the back hand generates the power and moves like a wave through the torso and out the striking hand. The theory thinks that when only using the attacking arm, your power will be limited to the strength in the arm and your forward momentum.

This works fine for external karate. Internal Hsing Yi does not have to be limited to the torso.

Internal Hsing Yi has more emphasis in the internal concepts of Qi (Chi) being generated and focused by the Lower Dan Tien and the Sacrum. Attacks do not rely on forward momentum, externally puncture or break can be done within 2- 4 inches, and internal strikes of 2 inches or less that can kill. Power for increased by the raising and lowering of the body, which is quicker and more stable than momentum based potential power, and relying on distance acceleration.

The returning hand can add limited power through basic Newtonian physics of an opposite reaction, through the torso, but this eliminates the connection to the Lower Dan Tien, the ground, and the center of the body's mass and Qi.

Qi is the differrence between basic Karate, boxing and external Hsing Yi. Learning what Qi is and feeling it; is a fundamental foundation of the higher levels of all Internal Martial Arts, like Hsing-i (Hsing-Yi, Xing Yi).

What is Qi?

One embarking on learning a new method should not attempt to teach it, without 1,000-10,000 correct repetitions. Even this is not enough when one wants to make a qualitative leap, since a new method involves a total picture gained over multiple moves and forms, forged through years of practice, integration, testing and combat.

What is sometimes referred to as bioelectric energy, encompasses more than an understanding of Newtonian physics, and electricity. This is an entirely different energy, philosophy, and energy theory. One would do better to immerse themselves in the new concepts, imagery, and theory; rather than translate it.

A good teacher is critical to learning new perceptions, and new cognitive processes. These combine with the 'shared lived experience' and 'shared history' of the new Martial Art's language, focus, perceptions and mastery. Phenomenology and Buddhist meditation will aid this greatly.

Hsing-i is unlike most other martial arts. The fundamentals of Qi, Fa Jing and Hsing Yi, are not translatable in a few words, for a background in these, see:
Axe Hand; Hsing-i & Internal Strength Workout
(click for more info)

Newtonian concepts of opposite reactions, are not necessarily a contributor to most moves, but some. Even within this narrow range, the effects in Traditional Chinese Internal apply to more than one plane. For most westerners, and sports buffs; this plane is further limited to the upper arm shoulder pivot, which is overly top heavy and Yang. Some of the other planes are Ying Yang opposites, and gravitational. Fluid dynamics comes closer to explaining internals than Newtonian.

In Classic Hsing Yi, the opponent does not see the legs coming. One studying in Hsing Yi for up to the first five years; tends to over emphasize the arm's relationship.

Learning Hsing-i:

  • in the beginning it will appear simple and easy,
  • when first trying the move it will appear complicated and difficult,
  • after mastering Hsing-i, it will become direct and simple easily executed.

Characteristics of Sun Shi Xing Yi, by Lei Shi Tai

Sun Shi Xing Yi was created by Master Sun Lu Tang, on the basis of what he had learned directly, since the age of 15, from Grand Master of Xing Yi, Guo Yun Shen. Compared to the other schools of Xing Yi, Sun Shi Xing Yi has a style that is simple, solid, discrete, reserved, flexible and light. This specific style is the result of the following features :

1. Center of gravity on one leg.

In the basic position as in the movements, the principle of Sun Shi Xing Yi is that the weight always falls on a leg. One does not find the horse riding stance or bow and arrow stance. This principle makes possible an apparently contradictory requirement – the body is at the same time stable, heavy like a mountain, and flexible and light like a bird. Indeed, the axis which supports the weight must be stable and heavy, it is Shi (full), the remainder of the body must be flexible and light, it is Xu (empty). Shi is the base, Xu is the tool, and both are made possible mutually.

2. The position is relatively high.

The angle with the knee should not be lower than 135 degree. The steps are relatively small, the principle being that the movements should not be difficult. Thus, contrary to many other schools of Xing Yi, Sun Shi Xing Yi does not seek the large steps and the low position. Two advantages arise from this characteristic: on the one hand, the natural position of the human body is respected, the wear of the knees is avoided; on the other hand, the balance between flexibility and stability is accomplished.

3. The striking force is a turning force, on three dimensions.

In Sun Shi Xing Yi, the striking force is based on the axis of gravity (head – back –supporting foot which supports the weight). All force is accumulated in the middle of the axis, i.e. with the bottom of the back and the hip. When one strikes, there is at the same time a force generated by advancing the axis, and a force generated by the rotation of the body around this axis. The two forces help to create a force of three dimensions. For example, contrary to much of another Xing Yi, in Pi Quan within Sun Shi Xing Yi, in the movement of Pi, the rear leg does not follow step, with a result that the force directed forward has decreased; but the rotation of the body gives the striking an additional dimension , the result is thus strengthened.

4. The position of the hands is vertical.

Hand and arm form an angle of 90°. It is a major modification which Sun Lu Tang introduced during his last years. Front, the hands are positioned horizontally. When the hands come into a vertical position , the muscles/tendons are lengthened and the force of the arms and the feeling of Qi on the hands increase considerably. This position of hands is also adapted to the needs of true combat.

5. Two different kinds of exercises: exercises on thickness and solidness; and exercises on lightness and flexibility.

In Sun Shi Xing Yi, Wu Xing Quan (five xing) are the basic exercises. They require thickness heaviness, the five Quan correspond to the exercises of five different forces; while Shi er Xing (Twelve Xing) are the exercises of application; they require lightness and flexibility. In true combat, it is firstly necessary to seek not to lose, by flexibility; and then to seek to gain, by using force. Thus, how to go about with Wu Xing and Shi er Xing are different and should not be mingled.

6. The use of the force must be reserved and discrete, flexible outside and hard inside. Sun Shi Xing Yi requires the muscles and the articulations to be relaxed, while the axis head – back – supporting foot must be solid and stable. The force must be preserved inside the bones; the Qi descends to the Dan Tian. The power is felt inside, but does not show itself outside.

7. The gestures are simple and practical.

In Sun Shi Xing Yi, there are no movements of decorations, nor movement of transition or preparation. This comes from the principle that the simplest gestures are the most effective.

Internal Hsing Yi (Xing Yi)

Many Hsing Yi practitioners will tense their muscles toward the end of a Hsing Yi block or strike, this is external Xing Yi. Although much is written about the general internal concepts of Hsing Yi, little is available on specifics of individual moves, and/or sensations.

A common internal concept is keeping feeling in the rear foot. This feeling, should be based toward the heel, and relates to rooting; and the propagation of the wave energy from the ground, through the legs, directed by the Lower Dan Tien via the scissor-stepping unique to Hsing Yi.

Hsing Yi Metal, or Axe-Hand, will also use an internal 'axe handle' connection, from the Lower Dan Tien to the striking hand.

Martial Qi flows like mercury.

Some Traditional Internal Chinese Martial Arts, will heat and redden the practitioner’s palms, Hsing-i can heat the entire room!

This heating can turn the hands red for a breif instant,just before they impart the Internal Martial Strike of Fa Jing.
To see the reddening of the hands, click here.

See the book: Axe Hand; Hsing-i & Internal Strength Workout, for learning how to feel and adjust Qi yourself, meditations, rooting, exercises, tests and self adjustments. Instruction goes from the individual’s known, to his related unknown. Taught with the common ground of the 'shared lived experience' .

Wrist and fore-arm stretches for energy flow: these can help with tendonitis, typing hands, carp-tunnel, and muscle knots; preventing injury and learning wrist locks as well as teaching grappling seizures and locks, and will help you transfer it more effectively.

Five move Tai Chi form, Hsing I Five Elements detailed with step by step photos, Twelve Animals steps written descriptions.

Standing Pole (Embrace the Moon) moving Qigong: 'shifting the water' and 'rising-expanding/sinking-contracting'.

Hsing-i San Ti: standing and moving for Qi and Fa Jing.

Fore-arm Throw double set, dynamic drill, adjusting moving root, responsive blocking enabling the same move for offense and defense, center of Qi as it moves through oneself and the center between two people.

Workout Manual available at publisher Lulu.com or at at amazon.com

More on Traditional Internal Martial Training in my book
Axe Hand; Hsing-i & Internal Strength Workout
(click on for more info)

Contact email at: jadedragonalaska@gmail.com

Phone # 907-957-9589
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