Modern Xingyiquan, whether Shanxi style or Hebei style, originated from Dai Xinyiquan. My training started in Shanxi style Xingyiquan, and then later started training in Dai Xinyiquan. Based on my training in these two styles, I compare their differences in terms of structure, internal force or power, and practical fighting capability.
In terms of structure, the spine in modern Xingyiquan is kept mostly upright, which result in a stretched big frame structure, while in Dai Xinyiquan, the spine has to create a C shape curvature. This C shape allows for strong compression of the spine and the dantian. The compression of the spine and dantian using the C shape is very unique in Dai Xinyiquan. To my knowledge, no other martial arts use such compression and expansion. Dai Xinyiquan doesn’t require such a big frame, because its fundamental purpose is to create compression and expansion force, and therefore, how the movement or structure looks doesn’t really matter.
What is the fundamental purpose of compression and expansion force? Conceptually speaking, compression and expansion force is used in the creation of all things, the universe. At the point of origin before the creation of the universe, all the mass was compressed into a single point of infinite density, the black hole, followed by an explosion with outward expansion, which created everything in the universe.
In terms of internal force, modern Xingyiquan works with more linear forces or power generation, while the forces or power generation in Dai Xinyiquan are more circular and complex. Linear forces are not only easier to express, but also easier for practitioners to issue such force, and as a result, the display of force is normally fast and explosive in modern Xingyiquan. Circular forces are more difficult to express than linear forces, and to attain circular forces requires practicing movements in slow motion with soft power. Therefore, Dai Xinyiquan is normally practiced in slow motions with soft power. Fast motion and explosive power should only be performed once a practitioner has reached an advanced level in Dai Xinyiquan, but even then, it is still critical to cultivate force in slow motion with soft power.
In terms of practical fighting, Dai Xinyiquan is very compatible with boxing, particularly with the method of close-range fighting and counter-striking using shoulder-roll techniques. However, most Dai Xinyiquan practitioners don’t have the exposure to modern striking arts such as boxing or kickboxing. Also, the expression of Dai Xinyiquan is animalistic in nature, having animal-like motion and intention, making its power extremely wild and primitive, and in comparison, the expression of modern Xingyiquan’s power is more civilized.
Modern Xingyiquan as a structure based style cultivates the strength of the structure, and use it to overcome incoming forces, which means that developing a solid structure in modern Xingyiquan is critical. To neutralize incoming force in modern Xingyiquan requires adjusting the angle of the structure and the weight distribution of the structure. In terms of striking in modern Xingyiquan, the power and speed of the strikes are highly dependent on the strength and connection of the structure.
Through training both Dai Xinyiquan and modern Xingyiquan, my personal take is that the modern Xingyiquan feels like a simplified version of the original Dai Xinyiquan by a big measure. However, simplification doesn’t necessarily imply that it is bad. For practitioners aimed at getting quicker result in gaining martial arts ability, learning modern Xingyiquan would be the better approach. For practitioners who have already built a good foundation in internal martial arts may benefit more from learning Dai Xinyiquan, as the method in Dai Xinyiquan could take practitioners into much deeper layers of internal training.