This is a 220 page 6x9" book with a LOT of photos (the second edition is 189 pages but is not missing any content, it is just in smaller font size). Chinese characters and pinyin pronunciation are given for all movement names and a glossary is provided for all technique names. This book is the first of a three volume set, and describes the theory, pratice, and teaching methodology of the five element techniques.
Volume I. Chapter 1: Background. Chapter 2: Post Standing. Chapter 3: Split; Chapter 4: Drill; Chapter 5: Drive (crush); Chapter 6: Cannon (pound); Chapter 7: Crosscut. (each technical chapter includes standard methods and variations, power generation, breathing methods, and practical applications). Chapter 8: Five techniques connected routine. Chapter 9: Partner Routines. Chapter 10: Teaching and Training (including common problems and corrections, more details on breathing method, teaching progressions, and teaching suggestions. Appendices: I: Relationship between five techniques and five internal organs; II: Glossary of Chinese terms; III: Pinyin pronunciation.
Comments on Di Guoyong's xingyi books and Andrea's translation
"While I can not claim to literally 'have seen them all'; over my 26 years of involvement with xingyiquan I can claim to have seen most of the books published in Chinese or in English on the art of xingyiquan. I just got through reading Andrea Falk's new translation of Di Guoyong's On Xingyiquan Volume One: Five Element Foundation and I think it is an outstanding xingyi book. In fact if someone asked my advice for one book that would go further in helping their xingyi develop I would tell them to buy this one. There are lots of xingyi books out there. Some, such as Sun Lu Tang's, are important from a historical standpoint, others such as Robert Smith's are full of interesting stories but the majority of xingyi books are quite light on practical details of how to practice xingyi. In contrast, Di Guoyong's On Xingyiquan Volume One: Five Element Foundation is full of practical, detailed information that you can use to improve your xingyi. It is kind of odd, given the fact that the 5 Element Fist (splitting, drilling, crushing, pounding and crossing) are the 'heart and soul' of xingyi but most xingyi books give a fairly perfunctory discussion of them. Di Guoyong has devoted an entire volume to them and that is great news for all xingyi students.
The book stands out for a number of reasons. As I have just mentioned, one of the reasons is the details and practical suggestions the book contains, but along with this several other things really stood out in my mind. For example, the photos are clear and provide multiple angles on the postures. This is not a trivial point. A lot of xingyi books I have seen have photos that are little more than black dots resembling humans set against a slightly lighter black backgrounds or the photos are shot from weird angles causing the reader to have guess what is going on. The photos in this book are free from those banes. One thing I have never seen in any xingyi book is photos shot from over head looking down on the posture. This book has them and I thought they were extremely helpful.
The book also stands out for another reason; it discusses the importance of lively movement in xingyi. The book focuses on both proper static posture and on the dynamics of xingyi movement and this is an extremely important and often overlooked point. A lot of xingyi I have seen over the years ends up being a guy (or gal) in a great looking static posture, then kind of cumbersomely (and often fairly slowly) plodding on to the next posture. This approach ignores the fact that martial arts is about movement not just about 'striking a pose' (to steal a line from an old Madonna song). This book addresses in detail the dynamics of xingyi and that is a very valuable contribution.
Another thing that I thought was very special about this book was Di Guoyong's practicality and honesty. Let me give you an example, on page 180 Di Laoshi is talking about common mistakes and how a teacher should correct them. Specifically he is talking about the problem of 'head bobbing' (i.e. the head rising up when moving forward). Now most xingyi books will simply state categorically‚ 'thou head shall not come up or thee have committed a xingyi sin', or something to that effect. But in the real world, at least among the human beings I have seen, everyone's head bobs up a bit. Di Guoyong honestly and helpfully admits this practical reality. He says; 'a certain rise and fall can not be avoided, but it should be limited to 5% of the person's height'. I found that single comment so refreshing in that most books on xingyi just state a formulistic approach that does not reflect the real world of real practitioners. In contrast Di Laoshi gives some practical advice to try and keep the head bobbing down to about 5%. That is advice I can use. And it is advice like that that makes this book so outstanding." Brian Kennedy, Taiwan, author of Chinese Martial Arts Training Manuals: A Historical Survey
"High praise to Andrea Falk for all her hard work translating these excellent books written by Master Di Guoyong. They are packed solid with information and practical advice on learning the entire system of xingyi from five fists through empty hand routines to weapons sets. They can be used on their own or together with the beautiful dvds/vcds of Master Guoyong which can be purchased very cheaply on ebay and other websites. The books detail how to make the techniques martially powerful and not just empty movements. I don't know of any more complete teaching of xingyiquan available to the public, and I have been looking for a few years!" Rob Fenton
"Andrea Falk’s translation of Di Guoyong’s Hebei Xing Yi Quan three volume set “Five Element Foundation”, “Form and Theory” and the latest volume “Weapons and Partner Play” mark a milestone, not only for Xing Yi enthusiasts, but indeed for all serious practitioners of Internal Systems of Chinese martial arts. I have been fortunate, with Andrea’s help and assistance, to invite Di Guoyong to the States for instruction in Xing Yi at my school. Di Guoyong’s understanding of Xing Yi Quan is astounding and his teaching thorough, methodical and precise. Although he is a demanding teacher he works just as hard as any of the students; his enthusiasm, physical and mental vigor are contagious. Master Di is the embodiment of good health, vitality and strength that is the byproduct of his many years of dedication and training in Xing Yi Quan. Having experienced Di Laoshi’s teaching first hand I can attest to the value of Andrea’s translations of these Xing Yi works for my own studies and for the training of my students. Even though Di Laoshi typically visits my school twice a year, months go by before his return visit and this leaves a void in his teaching that is filled by the continued reference that I make to his work on Xing Yi Quan which Andrea Falk has so masterfully rendered into English. I highly recommend all three volumes to every serious practitioner of Xing Yi Quan and other Nei Jia arts as well as to anyone who is considering embarking on a study of this wonderful art." Nick Scrima, Florida, 2008
"Di Laoshi's book is excellent and once again you have done a fantastic job with the translation work. Reading through the book is like having Di Laoshi here personally teaching. I am sure that this work and the ones to follow will greatly help us absorb his ideas, principles and teaching concepts on Xing Yi. All our Xing Yi students have purchased copies of the book and everyone has found the book informative and easy to read." Nick Scrima, Florida
"I enjoy [Di Guoyong on Xingyi, vol. 1] very much. I would say it is the best book and the most brillant translation that I have read during the last 50 years. I would say that I do not a think that a translator can go any closer the mind of the author. I am sure Master Di Goyong is very proud of having you to spread the knowledge of this style. I will read and read it again and each time I will understand better. Many thanks Andrea for allowing my knowledge to increase... Bravo and my congratulations again. Thanks Master Di when you contact him, he is a brillant expert. After more than 50 years in Martial arts (as an amateur) it is the first time I met a team like yours, your knowledge is impressive." Pierre Croullebois, South Africa
"You've done it again! Another outstanding contribution to help those of us in the West who are trying to get to grips with the deeper aspects of Xing Yi. My copy [of Five Element Foundation] arrived yesterday. I hope you won't make us wait too long for the next two volumes! Your commitment to the undertaking is profoundly appreciated." Keith Alker, England.
"I've been waiting patiently (?). Already ordered a copy [of Di Guoyong's volume 2] through your site. I know it will be a superb job before I even see it. Thanks again for the effort you put into these translations." Keith Alker, England.
"I received the books, and I am totally blown away with how in depth and detailed they are. I was just telling a training buddy lately that there were no real books on Xingyi in English, ones that explained the theory, and not just the forms. These books are great." Jesse Conley, USA