There are many different stories regarding the origin of Xingyi Quan. In this article, three of the main ones will be discussed. The first story attributes Xingyi to the Indian monk Bodhidharma, who brought Buddhism to China and spent nine years in meditation, facing the wall of Shaolin Temple. A poem was written to commemorate him which goes: Bodhidharma came from the west without a single word, his heart (Xinyi) was trained (kung fu) completely quiet, if you wanted to write about the essence of Buddhism, it would take as much ink as the water of Dongting Lake.” As the original name for Xingyi was Xinyi, we can ascertain that this poem tells us Bodhidharma created Xingyi. The second version attributes Xingyi to the famous general Yue Fei. In an unnamed pugilism manuscript it writes that Ji Ji Ke found an old manual of martial arts pertaining to the Song Dynasty general Yue Fei. After Ji Ji Ke learnt from this manual, his martial arts became excellent. However this theory has been refuted in later years, as a certain person did much research in the 1980s, and found that there are no records of a manual of Yue Fei’s martial arts having ever existed. The third version states that Ji Ji Ke created the art himself. In the Qing Dynasty pugilism manual it states that Ji Ji Ke was proficient with a spear, however, he needed a way to defend himself if he was weaponless, and so he created Xingyi. Sun Lu Tang wrote that Xingyi was created by the patriarch Bodhidharma, and was perfected by the great general Yue Fei. However, it was almost lost during the Yuan and Ming Dynastys, and was finally resurrected when Ji Ji Ke found the lost manual in the mountains of Zhong Nan Shan. After mastering the art, he passed it on to Cao Ji Wu. Xingyi became widespread in the provinces of Shanxi, Henan and Hebei. Due to the influence of Shanxi merchants, and their need for good bodyguards, the art developed to new heights around this area. Ji Ji Ke spent many years traveling around Henan, particularly Shaolin Temple and Luoyang city, and he finally passed his art on to Cao Ji Wu of Anhui province. Cao Ji Wu passed his art on to Ma Xue Li, a Chinese Muslim, and from him on, the art became known as Xinyi Liuhe Quan, and was only passed on among the Muslim community of Henan. From there, the art was passed on to Dai Long Bang, who founded the Dai Family Xinyi style. He passed his art on to Li Luo Neng, who founded modern Xingyi Quan. Guo Yun Shen eventually learnt the art, who was known as “half step crushing fist Guo”, and he made great developments in the five elements aspect of the style. From him, Sun Lu Tang learnt his art, who after also learning Cheng Style Bagua and Wu Style Tai Chi, created his own Sun Style of martial arts. Wang Xiang Zhai also learnt from Guo Yun Shen, and upon this basis, as well as other styles, he created his own art Yi Quan, later also being known as Da Cheng Quan. Guo Yun Shen and Bagua’s founder Dong Hai Chuan both believed their arts had many similarities, and studied from each other. However, it was their students, Li Cunyi and Cheng Ting Hua, who really formalised this, and they mixed their art together, becoming famous throughout Beijing and Tianjin. Because of this, the arts were often trained together, and Zhang Zhan Kui literally created a style called Xingyi Bagua. Besides this, Shaolin Temple has its own Xinyiba, and Sichuan has Jin Jia Gong, which are both originated from Xingyi. In 1911, Li Cunyi moved to Tianjin, and took his martial arts there, where he made many acquaintances. In 1914, a man named Chi En Guang taught the art abroad for the first time in history. In 1918, a Xingyi practitioner had a fight with a Russian strongman, and brought honour to the Chinese nation. At this time, Xingyi, along with other martial arts, began to be taught in schools throughout the nation. Many martial arts novels were written at this time. During the 1930s, many Xingyi practitioners from Shanxi attended the national Leitai competitions in Nanjing, and defeated many other fighters. However, with the Japanese invasion of China, the art came into decline, as many practitioners joined the war effort.
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