Interview with Mr. Xie Peiqi, Yin style Baguazhang expert from Beijing

by Jarek Szymanski

Photos - Jarek Szymanski and courtesy of Mr.Xie (1); J.Szymanski 1999

Mr.Xie Peiqi (left) with his student and grand-disciple, He Jinbao

Mr.Xie Peiqi was born in 1923 in Beijing. He first learnt Tan Tui at the age of 6. When 13, he started his Bagua studies under Men Baozhen (1870-1957), one of Yin Fu's disciples. Mr.Xie followed his teacher for more than 20 years and inherited not only martial art system, but became proficient at traditional Chinese medicine. He is famous not only for fighting skills, but also for massage (Tuina) and herbal prescriptions. Mr.Xie lives and teaches in Beijing, but is often invited to give seminars abroad.

In the last days of September I went to Beijing in business with the intention of meeting some famous people in martial arts circles there. However, since Beijing was getting ready for big celebration of 50th anniversary of the proclamation People's Republic of China, once I had two days off, they closed half of the city for one day because of the rehearsal and it was impossible to travel across Beijing. Hence, out of many planned meetings, I only saw Mr.Xie Peiqi. This visit, although very short, was quite interesting, and I would like to share what Mr.Xie told me:


Mr.Xie Peiqi: We should not talk about branches in Baguazhang, there is only one style and the variations we know come from a different level of attainment of its practitioners. Yin Fu spent more than twenty years with Dong Haichuan and learnt his complete system. Chen Tinghua spent only two years with Dong, while Liang Zhenpu less than one. It is obvious that what they practice is different from Yin Fu's Bagua. It is like attending a school - some are on the primary school level, some are university graduates.


Yin Fu was Dong's best disciple - his skill was best among all Dong's students. Ma Weiqi was next, and Wei Jixiang (from Gansu Province) was third.


The best one was "Wan Tong" Li. Not much is known about him, only that his work was stringing pearls together. The second was Ma Gui (Yin's oldest disciple), then successively Men Baozhen (Mr.Xie's teacher), "Ciqi" Yang ("Porcelain" Yang, Yang Junfeng), Ju Qingyuan, Gong Baotian and Rong Shi of Manchu nationality.


Chinese say that medicine and martial arts come from the same root (Yi Wu Tong Yuan). Although I learnt Baguazhang and some medicine from my master Men Baozhen, most of my knowledge in medicine comes from Wen Peiting, who was Yin Fu's kungfu brother and imperial doctor (Yu Yi). I learnt mainly Tuina (Chinese traditional massage) and some Zhenggu (Bone setting). My kungfu brother, Liu Shoushan, professor at the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Beijing, learnt mainly Zhenggu.

Xie Peiqi demonstrating one of sitting meditation postures


Internal styles develop Qi first and Li (physical strength) later, while external ones start with Li and only then practice Qi. Internal styles reach the goal of full development of Jing (Vitality), Qi and Shen (Spirit) faster then external styles. In internal styles each movement can by broken into parts and analyzed from the applications point of view, which is not possible in external styles. External styles include some movements practiced only for performance.


I did not learn any skill of this kind (like Tieshazhang - Iron Sand Palm, Qinggong - Light Skill, etc.). When Dong Haichuan was returning home from his stay in the South, he passed the method of Qinggong to his students in Jiangsu and Henan Provinces, but I do not know if anybody practices it now.


My Bagua system includes this exercises as one of health preserving methods. (at this moment Mr.Xie started to strike his body vigorously with open palms)

Xie Peiqi in Tuozhu Xianbao Shi (Supporting Pearl and Offering Treasure Posture)


There are no secrets in Baguazhang, your level depends only on how diligent and how hard you practice and if you have a competent teacher. Some tips that advanced practitioners can find useful and apply to their practice will not be understood by beginners.


There are many powers which we develop in Baguazhang, but the most devastating is Zhen Jin (Shocking Power). This is the power that does not leave any brushes on your skin but destroys your internal organs (Mr.Xie told me to relax and pushed my chest with two palms; although the push was relatively gentle, I felt some pain inside the chest. The feeling of power was as if it came first in one wave to the chest, then retreated and then came again penetrating the chest).


The points we use in massage and those we strike or grasp in Baguazhang are not necessarily the same. In Tuina the goal is to heal the patient by using Qi applied to the points on his body. In Bagua we use points to strike or get rid of a grasp. Practitioner should know how to use them. (Mr.Xie asked me to clench my fist as tight as possible and then pressed on a point between ligaments on the back of the fist; it was quite painful. Then, he pressed Hegu point when my palm was opened and it hurt too; however, once he told me to clench the fist, the pain disappeared although he did not release his pressure). For the safety reasons I prefer to teach Qinna instead of striking.


There is Pushing Hands (Tui Shou) practice in my system of Baguazhang. We first practice Tui Shou with one hand, then with two hands. They are similar to Taiji Tushou, but harder.


In my system beginners first learn Zhan Zhuang (Standing Exercises). They are most basic and most important.

Then they learn Zuo Gong (Sitting Methods), Xing Gong (Moving Methods) and Wo Gong (Lying Methods). These methods develop Qi and are crucial to efficient Tuina (Chinese Massage). You will not be good at Tuina if you do not practice these basic exercises. Many foreigners who learn Bagua from me do not practice these exercises, they are more interested in fighting skills. However, I have a foreign student who studies only traditional Chinese medicine from me and he practices them very well.

Xie Peiqi demonstrating one of his Standing Exercises

After learning the basics, one can proceed to circle walking (there are eight kinds of stepping), then routines (Eight Shapes Eight Postures) and free fighting. Practitioners also learn eighteen straight line routines, 72 kicks, Qinna (Grappling Methods), Tuojie (Escaping from Seizes and Locks), self-defense. We also practice many weapon routines (at this moment Mr.Xie pointed at extremely long and big Bagua broadsword hanging by the side of a bookcase; I took it and it was rather heavy. As Mr.Xie said the broadsword's size was exactly the same as the traditional ones used hundred years ago but was not as heavy).


Since it was the day before Mr.Xie was leaving for the USA for three months' visit, I decided to make my visit shorter so that he could spent these last hours before departure with his family. During our conversation Mr.Xie showed ready to publish manuscript of his new book on Bagua. Besides, we were also watching video tapes showing his Baguazhang. His style seems to be very practical, fighting oriented, most of the movements are driven with obvious power. It shows similarities to Yin Yuzhang's branch of Yin style Bagua, Shi Jidong's and Liang Zhenpu's styles, but differs a lot from smooth and "swimming" movements of typical Cheng Tinghua's exponents.

End of "Interview with Mr.Xie Peiqi, Yin style Baguazhang expert from Beijing"; J.Szymanski 1999


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