Xing Yi Quan - Martial Arts History

Xing Yi Quan's written history dates back almost a thousand years. Many of the well known names of martial arts history are part of the story from Wang Xiangzhai to Sun Lu'tang to Yeuh Fei, a guy who lived hundreds of years before flushing toilets gave mankind a place to sit and ponder things like having a long life or how many pieces of pie are left in the fridge.

This image below is a robust Xing Yi Quan lineage diagram created by Nitzan Oren and Jonathan Bluestein with help from Jon Nicklin, Per Nyfelt, and C. Fritz Froehlich.

A large version of this is included below

The bulk of this diagram starts with Li Luoneng (Li Nengran) who lived from 1807 to 1888. It shows his disciples Che Yizhai, Li Taihe, Liu Qilan, Guo Yunshen, He Yunheng, Bai Xiyuan, and Song Shirong. From Li Luoneng down, you can see seven generations of relationships between teachers and their disciples in addition to a few non-disciple students.

Above Li Luoneng on the diagram, it starts with the legendary General and poet Yueh Fei (1103-1142). The history of what happened nine hundred years ago is still debated, but General Yueh Fei may have been the creator of the first known flavor of Xing Yi. His military experience and proficiency with the spear maybe led him to create for "form intention boxing" or "form-mind boxing", or "form intention fist", depending on who you ask.

Xing Yi Quan is a weaponless martial art based on moves and intentions derived from the skilled use of a spear in military combat.

Whether it came from Yueh Fei or not, a man named Ji Ji Ke (姬际可) (or Ji Longfeng) who lived in the early 1600s is the next widely recognized name in the Xing Yi Quan lineage. He either somehow got his knowledge from Yueh Fei's old teachings or... maybe he just made it up himself with inspiration from the Shaolin Temple.

From there, the lineage appears to be more well defined. However, before it reaches Li Luoneng (1807-1888), it branches off in the early 1700s to form the trunks of Dai Xin Yi Quan and Xin Yi Liu He Quan. This diagram is great in that it also tracks those trunks down through the generations of disciple and student relationships. Some people in the lineage are recognized as being a part of the history for more than one of these styles of the "original" Xing Yi Quan.

There is a fair amount of controversy around who-taught-whom-what and how everything has developed over the past thousand years. A lot of the great masters throughout history learned more than one martial art, so there is cross-pollenation between systems dating back farther than any of us have recorded. Certainly today, we can witness first hand how masters of the arts learn from multiple teachers and incorporate their understanding of "the best of the best" from each.

It is a rich history and will continue to unfold as long as our interest in technology doesn't do too much damage to the dedication of a small group of true masters in each generation.

For further reading on the history of Xing Yi Quan and General Yeuh Fei, you can check out the Xing Yi Quan wiki page (the source of this diagram) as well as these other sources we have found in our travels:

If you want to dig deeper into Xing Yi and its history -- especially if you don't have a teacher of your own yet -- I can personally recommend all of these books available at Amazon. Each of them have interesting and unique stories about the history of the arts along with practical instruction from masters.

Did you answer a Spot Check question today?