“Three Points On a Line”: Three Fighting Methods of Xingyiquan
It goes without saying that ALL Martial Arts, whatever their origin or age, are specific mixtures of multiple categories of Techniques, selected on the basis of preferences in Practical Application. In this piece, we’re going to take a look at three of the most commonly used Strategies of Xingyiquan. Let’s dive right into it.
•借法/Jie Fa – Borrowing Method
Movement used to discipline Stillness is the Borrowing Method
Here is a Strategy that let’s you know you’re dealing with a serious Martial Artists. A Fighter. While an individual pursuing the Dao of Martial Arts is common these days, it is relatively uncommon to encounter one that is willing & able to fight. This Method, Borrowing, is one of my personal favorites. Borrowing involves exactly what the name implies: when the opponent won’t make a move, you use an attack of your choice in order to draw a reaction. You then “borrow” that reaction to Enter the opponent’s guard & strike. It’s very easy to use, once you get the feel for it. And it can be extremely effective against slower or less experienced opponents. But there is also a point where the return drops off. A sufficiently experienced opponent will be able to neutralize the Borrowing Method, at the least. Be careful not to overuse it.
•上法/Shang Fa – Superior Method
Stillness used to wait for Movement is the Superior Method
Perhaps the single most commonly sited Strategy in all of Chinese Martial Arts, at least in name. After the “Martial Arts for Health & National Pride” fad that followed the collapse of the Qing Dynasty, every fool with a busted nose & and attitude problem started to claim their Style was based on this highest of high level strategies. In short, while this is a high level strategy, it doesn’t get the respect it deserves due to this… self-promotion, shall we say… & decades of “teachers” or “masters” who could neither demonstrate nor explain it. The Superior Method is, in a sense, a kind of Responsive-Perceptive Awareness combined with highly refined reflexes, Techniques, & Conditioning. You actually wait for the opponent to commit to an attack. That’s when you make your move, whatever that may be in the moment. It takes time & training to be capable of using the Superior Method, but the return on that investment is well worth it.
However, it is crucial to remember Xingyiquan’s Overall Strategy:
The Borrowing Method is easy & the Superior Method is difficult, however the Superior Method should be first.
This insistence on taking “the long way around” on the journey to competence is rooted in Xingyiquan’s status as the Eldest of the Big Three Internal Styles. Whatever an outsider may think, one of the key unifying concepts shared by the Big Three is a preference for waiting in order to take advantage of a fully committed opponent’s inability to change on the fly. The Borrowing Method is one such way you could take advantage of an opponent’s mental commitment. It’s superior because it gives you the perception & reactions to use any technique that you are physically capable of performing properly.
•捷取人法/Jie Qu Ren Fa – Obtaining Victory Over People Method
The Method for obtaining victory over others is to carefully take the terrain into consideration. The Fist strike rises like the wind, the hands must be quick, the feet must be light, grasp the pattern to walk around like a moving cat, the Xin must be upright, & the eyes gather essence. When the hands & feet simultaneously arrive in place you will win. If the hands arrive but the feet do not arrive, then striking people cannot be subtle. If the hands arrive & the feet also arrive, then striking people is like pulling up grass.
Here it is: the crown jewel. The quote above lays out exactly how & why Xingyiquan can succeed with strategies so commonplace that they’re literal “old chestnuts” that have been in popular circulation for centuries, or even millennia. After recommending that Situational Awareness be maintained at all times, a series of Images are listed, describing the qualities inherent in moving a Xingyi Body in a Xingyi manner. The finally section will look familiar to those who read a previous piece on Xingyi’s conception of coordinated movement. Depending on how deeply you refine the Skill once you’ve attained it, you can almost literally “start later but arrive first” when you combine the Superior Method with the coordinated movement.