Monday, January 26, 2015

Xingyi Quan - Authentic Xing Yi Quan by Gong Zhong Xiang - Book Review

  Authentic Xing Yi Quan by Gong Zhong Xiang (Author), Franklin Fick (Translator) – Book Review

While not being a book to enlighten or deepen the physical or theoretical practice of the long term Xingyi Quan practitioner, it is representative of a Xingyi masters life, practice and accomplishments. This book is what I refer to as a “survey”, meaning it surveys the length and breadth of a specific practitioner’s art without delving to deeply into any aspect of it. These types of books are valuable to beginners and people who want general or high level information about the art and the occasional gem can be gleaned from them by the long time practitioner as well.
The first 20% of the book is about Mr. Gong’s martial accomplishments. There are many pictures of various members of marital organizations he is associated with and pictures of him teaching his students. It also includes an interview with him and a history of his teachers and lineage.
       The following 20% of this book includes a number of translations of the Xingyi Classics. The classics are famous sayings handed down from more experienced practitioners to guide the younger generation. They are supposed to help teach the student to self govern during training and find the postural requirements. This book includes a lot of them, like:
·         Xingyi Quan’s Hand Method and Hand Position
·         Stances and Stepping Method
·         Kicking and Body Methods
·         Xingyi Quan’s Basic Boxing method
 The book continues with detailed descriptions of the five fists, twelve animals, linking forms and two man set. I believe an experienced Xingyi practitioner will enjoy the inclusion of the classics because they are paired with the various forms; from the Ma Xing - Horse shape “The horse steps are quick like flying, it’s called sudden steps. The Horse Form showcases the quality of the horse racing full speed…”.
To round out the survey of Mr. Gong’s art they have included a small section about the Bagua Zhang (8 Changes of the Palm), a sister art of Xingyi Quan, practiced by Mr. Gong. His Bagua Zhang comes from the Yin Fu lineage and while I disagree with the nonsense printed in the “Introduction to Gong Ting Bagua” (it always equals our school is the best school because……..) there is a nice outline of the palm changes and some of the other material included in the system.
       This book is a “survey” and is not meant to document every aspect of the art. Many people complain of the lack of clarity in the pictures or lack of applications. It is my opinion that the pictures in books are to be used as a reference by students receiving hands on training from a teacher. You cannot learn this art from a book; you cannot learn these arts from You Tube. You have to spent time with a real practitioner of the art. You can learn forms, you can even learn applications, but you will never achieve real understanding without the help of a teacher.

Owen Schilling is a 20 year practitioner and teacher of Xingyi Quan, Bagua Zhang and Tai Chi Quan, a lineage holder in the Yi Zong Internal Martial Arts School and the lead instructor at Boulder Internal Arts in Boulder, CO.

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