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Internal Martial

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Xin Yi Liu He Quan (心意六合拳 )

“Heart Intention Six Harmony Boxing” is the oldest of the internal martial arts. This art claims a lineage that extends back to General Yue Fei of the Song Dynasty (12th century). However, it is likely that Ji Longfeng of the 17th century is most likely the actual creator of the art. Ji Longfeng’s student, Ma Xueli taught in Henan and Xin Yi Liu He Quan became the secretive art of the Hui people, a Muslim ethnic minority within mainland China. The Hui people used Xin Yi Liu He Quan as their people’s private form of self defense for generations. It remained that way until modern times, never passed on to non-Muslims. My teacher, Qian Zhao Hong, was among the first generation of non-Moslem Chinese to learn the art. It was Master Qian’s good fortune to live across the way from the great master Lu Song Gao who brought the art from his native Henan to Shanghai.

Qian Zhao Hong Xin Yi pictureThe “Heart” of Heart Intention boxing refers to the mind in the sense of a general capacity of being aware. “Yi” is the active mind, focused and directed. It is “Intention” in the sense of the mind focused on a target like a cat focused on a rat. In the Chinese language paired words often form a Yin-Yang pair, and the Yin term always goes first. Thus, “Heart” is the Yin term, a field of activity, while “Intention” is the Yang term, the action itself. Taken together these two words connote that whatever is conceived of in the mind, focused through the intent, becomes manifest.

“Liu He” means “Six Harmony.” Harmony means to come together in a relationship. “He” can also mean “to close” as opposed to “to open” (kai). Becoming more harmonious is a form of coming together, whether it is actual shrinking of the distance between two things, or increasing the strength of the relationship between them.

The six harmonies are: Heart and Intention (Xin and Yi) come together, Intention and Vital Energy (Yi and Qi) come together, Vital Energy and Strength (Qi and Li) come together. These are the three internal harmonies. The three external harmonies are that the shoulder and the hip are in harmony, the elbow and the knee are in harmony, and the hand and foot are in harmony. By looking at the three external harmonies we can get a better feeling for the three internal harmonies. The shoulder should always be close enough to directly over the hip that the two joints feel connected to each other and that the movement of one directly affects the other. The same goes for the elbow-knee relationship and the hand-foot relationship. You will notice that when your elbow is out of alignment with the knee, the spine is also twisted out of its most efficient alignment.

Xin Yi Liu He Quan is also sometimes called “Ten Animal Xin Yi” or “Henan Xin Yi” to distinguish it from the “Xing Yi Quan” (Form Intention Boxing) of Shaan Xi and He Bei which uses 12 animal forms in their system. The majority of movements in Xin Yi Liu He Quan mimic the qualities of ten different animals. This can be a little confusing at times as there are some movements which have no relationship to any animals (for example “suicide on a tombstone”) and at least one animal move which isn’t counted in the ten (“black ox tosses his head”). Details aside, the ten animals are: Dragon, snake, horse, chicken, eagle, hawk, bear, tiger, swallow, and monkey.

Master Qian Zhao Hong’s Xin Yi is characterized by deep relaxation in the movements without being soft or weak. The power comes from correct alignment and energy, more than from muscular strength. Strength is last on the list of internal harmonies, Heart, Intention and Qi all take precedence over physical strength.

Xin Yi Liu He Quan has very few long routines in comparison to other martial arts. Instead the emphasis is on perfecting simple movements which are first done in place, then with various stepping methods, and finally in short combinations. These individual moves and short combinations can be stitched together into longer routines, but the strength of this art is in the fundamentals. Xin Yi also uses the push hands two person exercise.