Hsing-i's Five Elements are in effective the five energies that, according to Taoist cosmology, comprise the energy matrix of the universe. In traditional Chinese medical theory, these five dynamic energies:
Working with the elements balances the internal organs of the human body.
"There are many paths to cultivation of the body, but if you are seeking one that is simple and suitable for all ages, there is none like Xingyi (hsing-i) boxing, because this art specifically takes qi (chi) cultivation as its foundation. Splitting, Smashing, Drilling, Pounding, and Crossing correspond to metal, wood, fire, and earth and divide externally into the five postures. Internally they fill the five organs and are the natural, profound way to health."
Sheng Jin, Forward to The Xingyi Boxing Manual [year 1923]
Each of the following Hsing-i Five Elements utilize a particular hand technique that moves power along a specific physical force vector.
Each individual Hsing-i Five-Element technique or fist has a slightly different way in which it is done: high (to the opponent's heart or above), middle (between the heart and the lower tantien), and low (to the opponent's hips, groin or legs).
The Hsing-i Pi Chuan technique, physical motion goes from up to down, utilizing pushing downward internal energy. This fist is linked to the Metal element, and Pi Chuan focuses on makeing an extremely strong spine and hands as hard as steel.
The Hsing-i Tsuan Chuan technique, physical motion goes from down to up using expansive energy. It is linked to the Water Element, and focuses on making the hands able to move around the opponent's defense like water moves around a rock.
The Hsing-i Beng Chuan technique uses straight-ahead physical motion along. It is linked to the Wood Element, and focuses on making fists "grow" out of the body. It is often compared to the force of a powerful plant growing and expanding through concrete with a steady, inexorable force.
The Hsing-i Pao Chuan technique focuses on diagonal physical motion. It is linked to the Fire Element and focuses on explosive and rapidly oscillating releases of power. In Pao Chuan, one hand initially contacts and shifts the opponent's center of balance, while the other explodes into their body.
The Hsing-i Heng Chuan technique focuses on the inside of the fist moving horizontally. It is linked to the Earth Element, and focuses on tightening the cross-linkages between the left and right sides of the inside of the abdominal cavity.
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A must read for those who are new to qigong, those who are already practitioners, and anyone interested in complementary medicine or self-help.