Xie Peiqi and Yin Style Bagua
Written to commemorate the 5-year anniversary of Xie Peiqi’s passing
By He Jinbao
Translation by Matt Bild
In the fall of 2003, by invitation of the North American Yin Style Bagua Association, I visited seven US cities, including New York and San Francisco, to pass on the art of Yin style bagua. Everywhere I went, students were quite enthusiastic, and I was in a good frame of mind as well. As I was teaching in Taos, New Mexico, on what was October 9th in the US, I felt a kind of agitation come over me that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. That night, I received a call from Beijing whereby I got word that Xie Peiqi had passed away on what was October 10th at around 2AM Beijing time. The uneasiness I had felt that day was probably because I’d been around Xie for so long that I had a feeling something just wasn’t right.
Xie Peiqi was known to be clever and smart since his early childhood and was a very quick study with the martial arts. He lived next door to Men Baozhen, and as Xie was well liked by Mr. Men, he had the opportunity to study the true essence of the arts. The Yin style bagua as passed on by Men Baozhen has eight animal systems with methods that accord with the form and meaning of the eight trigrams in the Book of Changes. During practice of the Qian trigram lion system, the fingertips will be at the center of the circle. The length of the outstretched arm and hand set the radius of the circle during turning and forms practice. In this way, the techniques used have a large range of motion and are able to control a large area, all using the strength of the waist. In a fighting situation, these would be classified as long range methods.
Men Baozhen stood at 1.92 meters tall and was a strong, imposing figure - indomitable, appearing almost superhuman. His lion palm sweeping, cutting, chopping, and hooking techniques would rain down on the opponent with extreme power. Xie Peiqi was not a tall or particularly strong man - he looked like your average Joe. But he had very good talent. Under Mr. Men’s careful instruction, he spent as much time as possible practicing and thinking over the art. He was intensive in his study of these skills and always glad to test them out in a fight. The period of training during his youth had already given him a healthy heart, solid abdomen, strong will, hard bones, supple tendons, pliant muscle, resilient skin, and a hard and full strength. The accomplishments of his martial studies had become perfected as he had gone from beginning level to becoming someone who had completely become one with the art.
Xie, according to his personality, body composition, unique understanding and personal taste, became most accomplished at the practice of the phoenix system. He had obtained knowledge of and great achievement in the other animal systems as well.
Yin style bagua phoenix system methods originate from the Xun trigram. The Book of Changes states ： Xun is the wind, Xun is entering. Because of this, it is also known as the windmill palm. The fast speed of the phoenix system is its forte. The center of the circle is at the wrist, the length of the arm from the wrist up is the radius of the circle during turning and forms practice. It is next-longest in fighting range, and has eight types of forms: dodging, extending, chopping, shocking, transforming, removing, curling in, and stabbing. The force of Xie Peiqi’s phoenix strikes was issued from his shoulder - hard, firm, round, and full. The movements of this palm are fast and compact. Like penetrating rains carried in by a gale force wind. It seizes the chance to enter, like a bird whirling above then shooting down into his nest. It opens like the wings of a great roc spreading out and closes up like a luanfeng folding them back in. The left attacks and the right strikes, like two blades whirling and cutting, slicing and dicing ； both hands are used together. Like a windmill whirling and chopping a firefly, its spirit one of rhythmic elegance. Like a spiraling whirlwind suddenly rising up and sweeping past, it is abstruse and profoundly interesting. Like a fine wine that one finds mellow to the taste, yet still deeply fragrant.
Dr. Xie’s proficiency was complete - he was consummately skilled. The techniques of lion, unicorn, dragon, snake, rooster, monkey, bear, etc., palms seeming to naturally well up from within him, all were all readily available at his fingertips, each was his strong suit. You could truly say that he could do as he pleased with his skills, all without breaking the rules of proper technique.
Ordinarily, those successful in martial arts training have three prerequisites ： First is a good teacher, second is a good style, third is good talent. It could be said that Dr. Xie adequately met each of these preconditions. From my thirty-plus years of observation and understanding, I feel that his superb martial skill was embodied in four main aspects ：
I. Quick and Powerful:
Quick and powerful includes two aspects ： one is amount of strength, two is speed. Dr. Xie’s developed strength was very profound; the special characteristics of his strength were heavy, solid, hard, crisp, full, and penetrating through. Heavy refers to a large amount of strength, solid means real, not empty, hard is strong and fierce, crisp denotes clean and agile, full means internal and external united, one part of the body issues strength, yet there is no part of the body that is not using strength. He could strike the front of your chest and you’d be sore all the way to your back. Dr. Xie’s emitting of force was the result of a high degree of unity between his mind and body, with results that would strike awe into the hearts of men. Once, Xie attacked a man with a lifting palm and sent him flying up onto a 1.7 meter high water heater. This is one example out of many of his uncanny strength.
Dr. Xie had undergone a long period of bitter hard practice; all parts of his body were different from ordinary men. Once, he had accidentally stuck his hands into boiling water, ending up unscathed, with no injury to his skin. His palm, fingers, fists, wrists, shoulders, elbows, knees, hips, head, back, waist, and feet, all could be used in attack. When facing an opponent, Dr. Xie would always attack first, taking the first opportunity, with a high degree of mental concentration, never underestimating his opponent. Facing a rabbit no less seriously than he would a lion, with all of his strength rushing forth. It is certainly no accident that when testing his skill he was not defeated. Because each part of his body could execute very difficult techniques while fighting, he would always use the part of his body that was closest to the opponent to attack, trying his best to shorten the distance his technique would have to travel. His techniques were direct and to the point, with no superfluous movement, always trying to take the shortest path to attack. In this way his speed was extremely fast, and he was able to win his fights in a flash.
Dr. Xie’s techniques were clever and highly useful, with a shrewd, ruthless flavor that was the ultimate unity of speed and strength. His fighting skill had speed and power that stood out in martial circles. Dr. Xie’s reputation for “fast hands” was truly well deserved.
II. Cold and Clever
Cold refers to the suddenness and concealed nature of Dr. Xie’s fighting style. In the Art of War, Sun Tzu wrote: Those skilled in attack flash forth as from above the highest heavens. Dr. Xie, as to the essence of The Book of Changes, the flexibility of bagua, the overall gist of martial arts - all these were in his mind and were able to be applied to his technique. Dr. Xie would always start his techniques from an unexpected place, with surprising speed and strength. He would show the left and attack the right, show high and attack low, show the front and attack the back. In Lao Tzu’s Virtue and the Way, it is said that: The Way produced one, one produced two, two produced three, and three produced all things. Each of Dr. Xie’s techniques had, at a minimum, three types of changes: techniques would rush forward, open across, or have a pulling back force; the lines of attack would be level (circles), straight up and down (circles), or angled (circles). Distance would be far, midrange, or close; stance height would be high, middle, or low. His body would move along with the technique, be straight upright, or move against the technique. His footwork would feature opening stepping, advancing stepping, or back stepping. Usually, the combinations of all these different types of changes were too numerous to mention. It was as if at the moment he made contact, he would have a feeling, once having a feeling knowing all reactions, the reactions producing changes, the changes being interlinked. In the middle of this there is that, that being in the middle of this. This ends and that begins. This begins and that ends. The ending indistinguishable from the beginning, the beginning indistinguishable from the ending. The ending becomes the beginning, the beginning becomes the ending. Start and finish are mutual, linked together and mutually producing, endlessly springing forth new, with inexhaustible changes, all according to the situation. Changes that acted alone, also assisting. Forcing and yielding, empty and full, fast and slow, real and fake, moving with and against, hard and soft. All types of changes. These palm changes were especially cold and would appear strange; keeping the opponent occupied and unable to keep up with what was going on - thereby being unable to defend himself. In that instant, victory and defeat would already be decided.
Dr. Xie had a humorous personality. While teaching students he would use witty techniques that would at times bring them to laughter. While guiding students to expand their knowledge and improve their skill, he would exude a unique charm. Whenever exchanging techniques with people, right after the hands had met and strikes would be ready to fall, the tip of his foot would already have arrived at the opponent’s throat. This kind of full demonstration of the cold and clever style of his martial skill was always highly admired.
Dr. Xie’s bagua methods took strength, speed, and changes and fused them together in the same furnace, attaining the same state of purity as the fire in the furnace. To a layman’s eyes, Xie’s techniques did not look pleasing to the eye. But an expert practitioner could watch him and find endless subtleties to ponder. His use of hands, eyes, body, waist, and stepping was carried out with very particular detail, absolutely never accepting sloppiness. At the moment of combat, his expression, positioning, and technique were all very much soundly in accord with the rules of the art. It was in all respects the embodiment of his deep understanding of Chinese martial arts and his thorough realizations that came through practice. He would always have an air of authority while applying a technique. He would cause people to think over his techniques to no end. There was an endless amount to learn from him.Xie was meticulous was his art; he was able to take the long accumulation of Chinese culture and thought and reveal it to people through his martial art in a way that flowed like the fresh and clean flavor of a good wine. Xie’s development was profound and he was skilled in battle. He had arrived at the point of complete unity with his art. Watching him use his art, he was as though giving people a leisurely look at a mountain. In seeing it, it was as though you had feeling of wanting to say something but had forgotten what you wanted to say.
Dr. Xie was a fiercely loyal person, and he had a heroic spirit, with a brave and chivalrous strength of character. All his life, he maintained an exuberant fighting spirit and high level of athleticism. In his techniques, one could see his deep love of Chinese martial arts. In the supreme self-confidence he had in his developed strength, in the way he moved his hands and feet, a kick, a strike, standing and turning, would all make it clear that he put a lifetime of experience, the wisdom of a genius, profound thought, pure and abundant affection all poured into his art. Because of this he achieved high levels of martial attainment, and contributed hugely to the art. Xie was appointed vice president of the Beijing Martial Arts Association Baguazhang Research Association, was named honorary chairman of the North American and European Yin Style Bagua Associations, published the Book of Changes Eight Trigram Acupressure Treatment Methods, Bagua Internal Strengthening Practices, Luohan Patting Method, Yin Style Baguazhang developmental forms DVDs, etc. - in all more than ten different books and videos, most of which have been translated into English and published abroad.
Dr. Xie did his utmost to pass on the art of bagua, and now practitioners of this style both in China and abroad are almost too numerous to count. It can be said that he has students spread all across the globe.
Dr. Xie’s thoughts on martial training and his level of practice were outstanding. He stood out from the crowd as a rare talent, leaving the Chinese martial circles, especially researchers of Baguazhang, a valuable gift. In 1997, I accompanied Dr. Xie to the United States to pass on Yin style bagua, rooming together with him. In spite of his advanced age and the exhaustion from teaching classes all day, he would still go on with his nightly meditation practices. His spirit has continued to inspire me to carry on with the lifelong undertaking that he felt such affection for.
In Lao Tzu’s Virtue and the Way, it is said that: Those who are not forgotten after death live on. Dr. Xie’s deep love and unique understanding of, and high achievement in Chinese martial arts, his efforts in passing on the better parts of traditional Chinese culture, and his devotion to Yin style bagua will not be forgotten. It is in this way that Dr. Xie Peiqi lives on.