Updated: Apr 18, 2020
I want to try and clarify the idea of Yi in our Xingyi. On my web site there is a brief discussion between Chen Quangong and Bai Jianyun. it is a bit hard to understand but is essential for grasping how to cultivate the inner body.
Bai Jian Yun: “After listening to the explanation on the concept of Xing Yi Quan from School Uncle, can we understand it this way?: the “Form” in Xing Yi Quan is the physical shape in the boxing art, but not completely the same as the physical shape presented by the body in an ordinary boxing art, because in Xing Yi Quan there is an intention contained inside the body. Only when this intention is manifested in the physical shape of the body, can it become Xing Yi Quan. Yi (mind) is also the ideological consciousness, but it is the ideological consciousness to command the internal sensation of the body. Only when this consciousness commanding the physical shape is sensed inside the body, can it be the ‘mind’ in Xing Yi Quan. The intention inside the body is used to command the movement of the physical shapes. The movement of the physical shapes are used to express the purpose of the conscious thought inside the body. Only by a high integration between the consciousness inside the body and the movement of the physical shape can there be Xing Yi Quan.”
Here is another translation from Google translate that in some ways is a bit clearer:
Bai Jianyun: "Is it possible to listen to the interpretation of the concept of Xingyiquan? The shape of Xingyiquan is the form of boxing, but it is not exactly the same as that of the general boxing body, but the body contains consciousness. According to this kind of consciousness, it can become the shape of Xingyiquan. While 'Yi' is also ideology, it is the ideology of sensory command inside the body. Only this kind of consciousness of body command can be inside the body. It is the 'meaning' of Xingyiquan when you experience it; use the meaning of the body to command the formation of physical movement, and use the physical movement to express the purpose of the ideology within the body. This kind of boxing that combines the meaning of the body and the movement of the body. Can become a Xingyiquan.
School Uncle Chen: “That is ok. Therefore, the form and mind are emphasized and the high integration between the form and mind are trained in Xing Yi Quan. So, Master Li said: ‘In training the standing posture, the vision should be far and the eye expression should be released outward. In striking with the fist, it is necessary to stare at the finger tip or fist root, looking around with the posture, but the split vision should still look forward to the far distance --- this is the training method to release the mind externally.’ This exactly talks about the integration between the consciousness inside the body and body form. He also said: ‘How to have the body form contained internally? This is the stuff the senior masters would not readily instruct.
Part of the difficulty is to understand what is meant by "Ideological Consciousness" since that is not a meaningful phrase in English. In Chinese it is Yěshì sīxiǎng yìshí 也是思想意识. Which can also be translated as "Ideological Awareness" (which might be a better way for us to think of it). "Ideological" however does not make sense but is the closest one can get in English it seems. According to Baidu it means: people apply the knowledge stored in the brain to the activities of thinking about the various feelings of life. Of course that is not clear either. In the sense of Xingyi it does not mean that the brain is controlling the body but rather that the body has its own consciousness. There is a type of Yi which is different from the type used in chi gong where the conscious mind, or the brain is used to direct the qi throughout the body. It is a type of "unconscious consciousness" that is an awareness of the internal sensations of the body. This body consciousness when developed or cultivated is what than commands the outward body shapes, the forms and techniques of Xingyi Quan. Chen Quangong answers him and gives this example: Master Li said: ‘In training the standing posture, the vision should be far and the eye expression should be released outward. In striking with the fist, it is necessary to stare at the finger tip or fist root, looking around with the posture, but the split vision should still look forward to the far distance --- this is the training method to release the mind externally. This is a method of getting the mind in a state where the internal body consciousness can be observed. My external mind needs to be quieted in order to do this. Once I can do this the internal body will begin to cultivate.
Another method which is very powerful and not mentioned by Chen Quangong is Tu Na Si Ba. The reason Song Zhiyong says not to use Yi (meaning the normal kind of Yi) is so you can cultivate and follow the sensations in the body, that "internal body consciousness" is what commands the internal shapes of the body and that is what determines the external shapes. it is very important to understand that this practice is not about "imagining" the movement of energy throughout the body. it is about the actual sensations and movement of the internal body in the same sense that I don't imagine my foot moving but I actually take a step. The sensations can be quite small for a long time but with the proper awareness they become stronger and stronger.