Monday, August 9, 2010
Review: Hsing-i; Chinese Mind-Body Boxing
When it comes to martial arts, I am an information junkie. I want to see a wide variety of opinions and techniques to evaluate what I am learning and understand why a particular system developed as it did.
Which is what drives me so crazy about Hsing-i (Xingyi). Reportedly one of the oldest of the Chinese Internal Martial Arts, Hsing-i lacks the spectrum of information available in other martial systems.
So what's a guy to do? We go back to an old favorite.
Robert W. Smith is one of the most famous western authors to have trained with Chinese Masters from the 1950's-1980's.
Smith is an interesting cat. According to his Wikipedia bio, Smith spent many years in an orphanage, joined the Marines at 17 and fought in the Pacific. He later graduated from The University of Washington with a M.A. in Far Eastern Studies. After a brief stint in The Red Cross, Smith signed on with the CIA. Smith served as a liaison to the government of Chiang Kai-Shek which fled to Taiwan when the Communists took over the mainland in 1949. He studied with many Chinese Masters during those years, as described in his book "Chinese Boxing; Masters and Methods".
But I digress; back to "Hsing-i".
Smith's book on Hsing-i is the foundation of knowledge for western practitioners. He provides us with a sound history, along with some of his own profound opinions and statements. From page 22:
"If the motivation in learning the art is primarily to gain skill in boxing, then motivation will impede learning. To learn combatives because of their self-defense value is a confession of weakness, of being being unable to resolve interpersonal problems rationally. But if the internal is viewed, as it should be, as a form of meditation that in time bequeaths boxing skill and other useful values, then progress will be more rapid. For the internal emphases meditation and exercise, out of which the combat technique emerges, but the combative is always under control of the meditative".
Now that's a guy who is seeking a very deep level of martial art. Smith's book details early masters, has a pictorial summary of forms and techniques, and concludes with advice from the masters, in their own words.
If you are interested in Hsing-i (Xingyi) or Chinese boxing in general, this is the book you should start with.
Originally published in 1974, the book is in re-print from North Atlantic Books, and available at the website for Blue Snake Books.