Realizing the skills of the internal arts need not be a laborious training process. Sometimes what you need is a mind that is tuned to doing fine arts and reasonable motor skills.
I was telling my student that I noticed that many Xingyi players tend to emphasize the “xing” rather than the “yi” in XingYi. In fact, I dare say most of them seem to have forgotten the Yi part.
I know, I know, you can accuse me of not knowing anything since I am not a Xingyi player. However, the body being the body, the manifestation of intention skills even in Xingyi cannot be that far off from what we do in Tai Chi.
So if you emphasize the Xing part your fajing skills will not be that much different from what you see other external arts stylists do. In this case, how then can you say that your Xingyi is an internal style. Again, its what I call a case of you don’t even know that you do not know that you are not doing Xingyi internally. Rather, your ego has deluded you into thinking that you do and perhaps you are even told that you do; happily back slapping each other thinking that you are in the know when you don’t even know that you don’t know in the first place.
When you see good Xingyi you can sense this intangible feeling of something being different but you can’t place your hand on what it is. This something intangible is the Yi in Xingyi. So if you are practicing Santi then the something intangible is the imagery of eagle seizing (a prey).
In Tai Chi we say that the Yi shapes the Xing. The Xing does not shape the Yi. To say the latter is to say that the PC hardware runs the software when the reverse is the case.
So when your mentality is set to “eagle seizing” properly your body connections will fall into place. At this juncture you need a master to check your posture. If the internal feeling is not correct the master will have to adjust your intention by offering instructions to get your mind to “trick” your body into doing things internally.
Once the intention has correctly adjusted the body your energy will flow easily from the ground to your front hand. At this point you can test using the Santi posture to move forward to bump a training partner. If your internals are correct your partner will just feel a surge of power that knocks him off his feet. If your internals are wrong your partner will feel you trying to muscle him off balance and he will be able to resist you.
The mastery of Santi will allow you to move forward to learn how to use the energy of the 5 Elements Fist. As explained in Liu Cun Yi’s “Five Elements Essentials of Yue’s Intention Boxing” the 5 Elements are the energies from the intentions of chopping, arrow shooting, winding stream, firing a cannon and firing a bullet. Add these 5 intentions onto your 5 Elements Fist practice and you will transform your ability to use internal power as well as realize the true nature of what the Yi in XingYi is about.
Beyond this you can compound your power with the intention training through the use of the 12 Animals. I demonstrated what this meant to my student using the Tiger Fist. I wanted him to see the point that the principles represent the key to mastering the body. The role of a style is just a convenient way to package a particular training method.
So much for my layman’s explanation of the nature of internal arts using Xingyi to illustrate it to my student.