An Interview with Paul Andrews
Xing Yi Quan is a Chinese internal martial art. In the same family as Tai Chi and Bagua Zhang, but not as well known. Hopefully, that will change. As a Xing Yi Quan instructor and practitioner, myself, I am always looking to see what is out there for instruction and bringing, what I consider to be a great art for health and self-defense, to a wider audience. Enter Paul Andrews.
Paul is the head Instructor of Xing Yi Academy in the U.K., a Level 3 Instructor with the Yongquan Chinese Martial Arts Association, and an Advanced Instructor in the Tai Chi Union of Great Britain and a lifetime member of the Five Thunder Martial Arts Association. He produces a full range of instructional video content as well as teaching in-person classes. He took some time out of his schedule to talk about the art of Xing Yi.
Xing Yi is not very well-known in the West. How would you describe it to someone?
Although Xing Yi has kicks, takedowns, throws and locks, it is predominately a stand-up striking art. It uses whole-body momentum to generate heavy strikes whilst remaining mobile and evasive.
It is especially known for simultaneous attack and defense making use of slips and close evasions rather than hard blocks or physical control of the opponent. We look to evade with positioning, similar to how a boxer might evade by ducking and weaving.
Have you fought competitively with Xing Yi?
I've competed in friendly but competitive bouts between other members of the Yongquan Chinese Martial Arts Association (there were around four or five separate schools with different martial arts at the time).
A memorable bout was with Matthew Calvert, (a Tai Chi, Choy Lee Fut, and Judo practitioner and a former British Open San Shou champion), in the first round I hit him in the side of the head and knocked him onto one knee, and he called for a temporary stop to the fight. After being checked out we decided to continue and at the end of the second round he caught my leg and took me to the floor with a really nice sweep that knocked the wind out of me. We decided to call that one a draw.
I competed in full contact European Chinese Swordfighting tournaments in 2011 and 2012. We use heavy wooden (hickory) swords with padded armour and masks.
WATCH: Xing Yi Academy Showreel
What was the competitive fighting experience like for you?
I enjoy testing myself against others but no longer feel I have anything to prove. For me, competition and combat are a way to test that my practice is not delusional. I can do that with my training partners or other martial arts friends without having to enter a competition but training and competing with people outside your circle of training partners is good for dealing with the unexpected too.
Now, I see combat more about testing how you can apply your movement and energy, rather than predefined techniques. In many ways Xing Yi doesn't really have techniques it is based on principles. The artistry is the use of and adaptation of the energy and movement, taking what you have learned and expanding upon it. So, testing in non-cooperative situations gives you feedback, if you win you know something is working, if you lose then you know you need to work on something.
What do you think is the most important thing to train whether for competition or just to improve understanding and application of the art?
Most people just want to learn "power generation", how to hit hard. But much more important is not getting hit and being able to connect your strikes. So, for combat, positioning and distancing are the most important and its footwork that gives you these skills.
Secondly, is what I might call shamanic technique, but others might call it anything from Qi Gong or Nei Gong to meditation. This is about training your mind, body, and spirit to work together and unify, bringing discipline, mindfulness, and playfulness into your practice: essential for training both the art and for competition.
Why do you think people should study Xing Yi?
It is an art which bridges between many interests. It is practical but also deeply philosophical, direct and powerful, but also looks to be evasive and use relaxed force. It can be applicable for competition or combat or used to investigate yourself and nature. If you want to go deep with a martial art, I can't think of any other that has the diversity of Xing Yi.
What are your goals for yourself and for Xing Yi?
One goal advanced Xing Yi practitioners sometimes have is to research a new animal Xing not within the 12 standard animals and this is something I may look at myself at some point. I hope to have the chance to return to China and visit more Xing Yi schools and record some of their practices to open up more of the art to a global audience. We are looking to provide more online content and courses from Xing Yi Academy and help others get their arts out there.