The Hebei branch of Xingyi believed that Li Luoneng was a disciple of Dai Longbang and the Shanxi branch has always said that he was a disciple of Dai Wenxun (Dai Erlu). However the Guo family branch of the the Dai style tells a different and probably more accurate story.
Li Luoneng could not possibly have studied directly with Dai Longbang because Dai Longbang died in 1802 and Li Luoneng was born in 1808. According to the Guo family Li Luoneng asked to study with Dai Wenxun was refused but later was accepted as a disciple of Guo Weihan who was a cousin and disciple of Dai Longbang. Guo Weihan supposedly had traveled in 1838 to Shijiadan in Henan with Dai Wenliang and Dai Wenxiong to help manage an Inn owned by Dai Longbang. While there they studied with Niu Xixian (the Yue Fei connection?). Also possibly some study with Li Zhang. The Guo family claims that is was Guo Weihan who changed the name to Xingyi and created the San Ti posture. (However the Guo family calls their art Xinyi and the standing posture they describe is not like Xingyi's San Ti). There is an in depth look into the history of the Guo family and the differences between Dai family Xinyi and Li Luoneng's Xingyi on Jarek Szymanski"s site.
If the history above is true than why do so many practitioners of Xingyi Quan get it so wrong? Why is Xingyi so different from Xingyi? Perhaps it's because the Dai family at that time did not often teach non family members and Li Luoneng may not have had permission to teach their style. He supposidly spent 11 years learning the Dai style, if he had permission then why change the name and teach something else? Li owned and ran an escort service and was very well known for his fighting skills. In order to teach he probably created his own style based on the principles of what he had learned and eventually called it Xingyi Quan. When asked about his past he may have just said "I studied the style of Dai Longbang" and left it at that. Among his students that became "he studied with Dai Longbang". Xingyi Quan certainly differs from Xinyi Quan.
Xinyi and Xingyi have a lot of differences. My expertise is only in Xingyi but if anyone is interested I suggest they go to Jarek's site and read about the technical characteristics of Xinyi. As a long time practitioner of Xingyi viewing Xinyi it is obvious that they are very different both in movements and theory.
My own opinion is that Li himself developed Xingyi combining the Xinyi he was taught with the Tongbei that some believe he already knew (some say that Guo Weihan was also a Tongbei practitioner and maybe combined that with the Xinyi he taught Li). Li Luoneng was already a very accomplished martial artist long before he began the study of Xinyi at the age of 38. I think that, as Dong Haichaun did with Ba Gua, he created an art that expressed his own experience and knowledge and he was not simply passing on what he learned from others and that he is the main creator of what we know as Xingyi. I find it interesting that so many people will refer it Dai family Xingyi and Henan Xingyi and then just refer to Li Luoneng as the "greatest Xingyi Quan fighter" when he is actually the creator of Xingyi Quan.
I have heard the claim by some people that Xingyi is the "easiest" to learn of the three internal arts of Xingyi, Ba Gua and Taiji and therefore should be learned first. Without tackling the wisdom of actually trying to learn all three to any degree of skill, I have to say that I have not found that claim to be true. Perhaps it comes from the fact that even poorly learned Xingyi, using only rough strength, can be applied with some sucess in combat. However to understand Xingyi at a high level of skill is just as difficult, if not more so, than it is with the other arts. Of all of the arts I have practiced I have found Master Li Guichang's expression of Xingyi to be the most difficult to grasp. In my opinion it has much less room for error. It appears simple on the outside but is very difficult and deep on the inside.
Some Xingyi practioners also seem to have the idea that there is no retreat in the art. That it is only about advancing, rolling powerfully throught the enemies center. This misconception may have arisen from when Xingyi was taught to the army in modern times. It was felt that it was best to teach soldiers only to advance so that their mind set would be to go forward until they were told to stop. Maybe that's good for soldiers who are expendable. I don't think it's so good for the individual fighter. Classical Xingyi has always taught strategic retreating, just as you will find in the 36 stratagems of military art. If you face a larger and stronger and skilled enemy it is just foolish to think that you will be able to roll through his center. If you can advance while seeming to retreat, or retreat to gain advantage, then you can overcome him.
Master Li's Xingyi is primarily in the tradition of Liu Qilan although certain aspects of it derive from the Song style through Song Huchen. This is because Master Li's teacher, Dong Xuisheng studied both traditions. (I write more about this in the section on Master Li.) The training given in Master Li's Xingyi can however vary from disciple to disciple. For example some of them teach the Shaolin soft art he also learned from Dong Xuisheng as well as the stick form Master Li created. Generally speaking, the following is a list of what is taught in this style of Xingyi.
Tu Na Si Ba:
Four Methods of Breathing, a very profound neigong set consisting of four sections which prepare the body to do Xingyi Quan. It, among other things, develops the ability to feel the Jin (energy) and follow it as it moves through the body. Over time one can gain control over muscles (particularly in the body trunk, the waist the spine and the ribs) that usually cannot consciously be moved. I have practiced many neigong sets over the years, this one has made the deepest changes in my body. Tu Na Si Ba is very important in the development of the internal qualities necessary to this style of Xingyi. It is sometimes misunderstood as only being about the Yi regulating the breath and having no martial function only a health benefit. This is incorrect. In fact it develops all of the movements of the body that are essential to martial usage as well as developing instinct and awareness. Song Zhiyong with the help of Tom Bisio has written an excellent book on the Tu Na Si Ba which can be very helpful to the student of this method of Xingyi. I would also add that I believe Tu Na Si Ba develops an awareness and control over the fascia. That, along with Santishi, is how the feeling of an elastic body within the body is developed. It is also how the vibrating shock power of Xingyi is achieved.
I was told at one point that this set was created by Dong Xuisheng who was also a noted Doctor of traditional medicine. I have also been told that Master Li created much of it based on Marrow Washing and the Muscle Tendon change classic.