The Three Jings
As the pandemic continues I found myself thinking about how often Xingyi (and Taijie and Bagua) seem to roughly divide into two camps. There are the practitioners who find the theory to be too obscure and "full of Taoist nonsense". They concentrate on the forms and usage of Xingyi. Others become obsessed with the theory and believe that because they understand it intellectually they have superior skills. I probably won't have much of an effect on either of those groups lol, but for the student who has practiced a lot and would like to better understand some Xingyi theory and what it can offer maybe the following will help a little.
The Three Jings is a fundamental theory of Xingyi Quan that dates to Li Nengran’s disciple Guo Yunshen and is very important in understanding and developing the highest level of Xingyi. Different Masters of Xingyi have different ways of explaining this theory. Some of the explanations require knowledge of Taoism to understand. It cannot just be understood intellectually. Only by the experience of the body itself can a person fully understand what it really means. Master Li explained them this way.
Ming Jing: Ming Jing is getting the body movements to be agile. The rising and falling of the hands and feet must be in good order.
An Jing: An Jing trains the spirit. The qi must expand, circulate and flow. It must not be obstructed.
Hua Jing: Hua Jing trains the whole body. The lively actions of the four limbs, rising and falling, advancing and retreating. Must not use strength.
I want to try and provide a better understanding of what they mean from the perspective of Dong Xiusheng and Master Li’s Xingyi Quan and from my own daily practice of Xingyi for the last thirty two years. Although I am writing about Xingyi the same Three Jings apply to any Internal Art.
Ming Jing refers to the things which can be controlled and developed with the conscious mind; The shapes and forms of Xingyi (or Bagua, Taijie etc.). For instance I use my conscious mind and Yi to learn how to stand in Santi Shi or do Piquan according to the requirements of my style, or to practice the outer movements of Tu Na Si Ba. Some practitioners refer to this as “firm” energy and that might be correct for their style and is often what is seen in Hebei styles of Xingyi. In Master Li’s style we use the conscious mind to develop exterior softness and suppleness as opposed to a more hard firmness. If this stage is accomplished the Five Phases and forms will be agile and smooth. A simple example of what I mean is when I notice too much tension in my shoulder I can use my conscious mind to relax the muscle or if my weight is too far forward I can adjust it. Ming Jing is where we pay attention to many of the sayings and rules of Xingyi such as the Six Harmonies, the Three Harms, the Five Bows, the Eight Words, the Three Extensions, the Four Tips Move Together, and the Twelve Important Points etc. This stage of development is relatively easy and many students of Xingyi never get beyond it. It is however a very necessary stage and there is no martial usage of Xingyi without it. It is also usually the stage of Xingyi that you will see in a wushu contest.
An Jing refers to the things that can be developed with the unconscious mind: The interior of the body which is not commonly subject to conscious control; the fascia and sinews and the nerves inside the body. For instance; when standing in Santi Shi for longer periods of time the original jin may begin to move and the body might begin to move unconsciously and spasm or vibrate etc. Think of it like a bear in hibernation that unconsciously shudders and shakes and so keeps the blood from pooling in the body. Standing this way will remove obstructions of blood and qi. By standing without force or effort and putting myself in a state of just quietly observing my interior the "body inside the body" will begin to develop. Many sensations can happen if you quietly observe the interior, for example an itching like ants under the skin or the hairs on the skin standing up, the waist twisting, etc. This is a stage in which the elasticity, springy-ness and wrapping and twisting in the interior are developed. The ability to issue power is also developed at this stage. This interior development is also done through the practice of Tu Na Si Ba. At first while doing Si Ba a student just tries to learn the movement and then co-ordinate it with the breath. This part corresponds to Ming Jing and is done with consciousness and Yi. Later there is no use of Yi and you just follow the movement of the Jin, which may feel like a breeze or a wave etc. This can also be described as the movement of Qi inside the body and may feel different from one individual to another. It is interior unconscious movement and any attempt to use the conscious mind to cause it to happen will not succeed. No Yi is used during this development.
Hua Jing refers to the stage where Conscious and Unconscious are integrated. It is when Yi bu Yi (Intention no Intention) is truly possible. If I stay at the Ming Jing stage I should be able to use Xingyi and everything may look fine. If my style is firm I may be able to win many encounters by strength and speed combined with the techniques of Xingyi. Master Li’s style is soft and supple and quick and if I am only at Ming Jing stage I may be able to win many encounters with larger opponents by neutralizing their force and using the techniques of Xingyi to defeat them. If I have begun to develop at the An Jing level I may in fact be developing many of the inner qualities of Xingyi. I may have elasticity and springy-ness. I may spontaneously emit force (Fa Li). I may feel in Tu Na Si Ba the interior fullness and a breeze inside my body may cause the movement. I may feel contracting and expanding and I may even feel “body breathing”. But when I do the forms I only feel those things part of the time and when I come into contact with another person while doing a two man form or Tui Shou I lose the feeling altogether. This is a difficult stage because it is a stage of integration and the achievement of instinctual action, like a cat. Unfortunately we are not cats so this does not come naturally. It is the stage of natural boxing and you can’t force it to happen. If you try too hard your progress will be hindered. If I practice a form and only feel the interior causing the movement in part of the form I can use my consciousness to examine those parts of the form where I only feel the exterior moving. Maybe I’m too tense at that point or too concerned with showing force. In that case I can do that section slowly without force until I feel the same sensations I do in Si Ba and Santi Shi. The same thing applies to two man exercises. I can use my conscious mind to feel where I am tense or using too much force and when I ease those places the unconscious movement of the inner body I have developed can express itself instinctively. The interior moves and the exterior will naturally follow. Nothing is separate. The body and spirit react at the same instant. Master Li said the the greatest strength is at the place between intention and no intention where one can issue power without thought and attack without preparation. Eventually the integration is there all of the time and this becomes apparent in just walking.
I think it is important to understand that this theory is not meant to confuse the Xingyi student. It is instead meant as a guide to help recognize the different levels to mastery of the art. Of course when writing things down the Masters wrote what the stages are but not how to really achieve them! That would be taught in person to the disciples and even then they might have great difficulty with An Jing and Hua Jing. However, with good teaching and by practicing self correction a person can achieve the highest levels.