Hsing-I, Santi and The Five Elements: Developing Internal Power for Martial Arts & Health



Bruce Frantzis demonstrating Hsing-I with Jess O’Brien

In my 40+ years of working with different forms of energy arts I have found that Hsing-I’s (also called xing yi) first form known as Santi is probably the most powerful method I am aware of that integrate all the elements of your body into one whole. Hsing-I practices like Santi also help your chi develop in the fastest possible process.

Considering the number of different martial and chi development forms on the market this is no small thing. I myself have trained and looked at hundreds of qigong styles. In my opinion, Santi is much stronger and more effective at chi development than any of the standing tai chi postures or any of the standing qigong postures…

What are Hsing-I and Santi?

Hsing-I is one of China’s most powerful martial arts. The oldest of the internal methods, it uses standing qigong ( also chi gung) and short, repetitive line forms to fully unify the body and mind as quickly and efficiently as possible. Without fancy or beautiful movements, Hsing-I is all about getting the job done without any wasted motion.

Hsing-I is based on the Chinese theory of the Five Elements where all the different aspects of movement can be boiled down to five different elements.

Santi is the first of Hsing-I’s training methods. The Santi posture is a standing posture where the practitioner begins the process of stretching the body from the inside out. At the same time the mind is trained to submerge itself in a state of relaxed awareness that allows one to be awake to of all that is outside them, and at the same time gain access to the inner workings of their body and mind.

Activating the Five Elements in Your Body


Santi basically starts to work with everything in your body — your breath, your energy, what you’re doing with your eyes, and what you’re doing in mind, all in one package.

From Santi standing qigong (chi gung), one can then begin to develop the rest of the Hsing-I system, which is composed of five different moving forms. Each of those forms correspond to each of the five elements of the body. Each time you practice, you activate an energetic element within your body. Over time you begin to feel and experience the five elements of Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth.

Each element has a specific energetic that manifests in your body. Each of these elements also corresponds to different fighting applications, a different emotion and a different internal organ. The system is very concise and powerful training.

The purpose here is to use those five movements of Hsing-i to give you a practical form that you can practice afterwards. Like the Tai Chi forms, these are martial movements but they are incredibly useful for anyone who does any sort internal martial art or qigong/tai chi practice.

Summer Workshop – Two Paths

During the course I’ll be teaching this summer, I’ll be dealing with not only how to do the movements of the five elements, but also how to activate the energy of each of those elements inside of you.

I will be splitting everyone into two sections. In one section will be those who have no interest in the martial art side of it. If you have interest in the energetic and the mind work in developing the five elements of energy inside their body this is one of the most direct ways to get your mind and the elements to awaken inside your body. It is a powerful way to strengthen and connect all the parts of your body. For the western mind, it is an incredible training if you want to learn to get things done and to go through any obstacle in your way.

In the other group will be people who have an interest in the energetics as well as wanting to learn how the martial art techniques of Hsing-I are used. I would also say that Santi is a great training method for anyone who wishes to learn Ba Gua at a high level. Santi is one of the most solid foundations you can get, and both myself and many of my teachers used Santi in this way.

In China around 100 years ago, it is interesting to note that many of the premier internal martial arts schools taught Santi to their beginning students in order for them to start getting a genuine sense of internal power. This was the traditional path. They would to do Santi for a long period of time with or without the other forms of Hsing-I.

Hsing-I as a Complementary Practice for Bagua, Tai Chi and Qigong

In China, Hsing-I practices were often a prerequisite to learning Ba gua zhang so that a person could actually have the energetic capacity and physical capability to put their arms in precise positions as they walked the Ba Gua circle and not lose the physical or energetic connections when movements become or complex or are done at a higher speed. This is how many of my teachers were trained.

For those who practice Tai Chi and/or Qigong, Hsing-I and five element practices can be useful to learn. They are also an integral part of the foundation training for meditation to develop concentration and focus. So, that will be the goal this summer, and that will be what the essential content of the weekend will be about.

Discovering and awakening the five elements within oneself is a tremendously powerful and enriching training method, no matter what aspect of the Chinese energy arts you want to work with.

I am looking forward to expanding my teaching of Hsing-I and Santi as well as continuing to teach Ba Gua for those wanting to learn it for martial arts, health and meditation. I welcome interest from dedicated practitioners who are committed to their practice and also those starting out wanting to learn the real deal. This course will help you to build a solid foundation for everything that comes after. I invite you to join me this summer at this powerful workshop:

Hsing-I and Santi Workshop, Menlo College, Atherton (30 min south of San Fran, CA), June 11 to June 13th


About Author

Bruce is passionate about teaching the wisdom from Taoism including qigong, tai chi, healing, martial arts and meditation. He has been doing so for over 50 years and is a lineage holder in the Taoist Water Tradition. You can find out more at www.energyarts.com


  1. Hi Bruce,

    I’m looking for a Tai Chi teacher located in the Atlanta, Georgia area and so far, don’t see that any of your trained instructors are located here. Can you recommend a teacher for those of us here in the Atlanta area so we can take advantage of your training? Or would we be better off trying to train alone using your DVDs and written materials?

    With thanks,


    Tai Chi Master Bruce Frantzis Reply:

    The full list of my instructors is found on my site EnergyArts.com

    If you do not see an instructor in the instructor directory then no one in that area has become certified to teach my system yet.

    If this is the case, you would want to study from the materials I have created and attend an event with me when able.


    Tony Ford Reply:

    Bruce i do not know if you remember me i know you teach thousands. I attended Dragon & tiger training in MIAMI FLA. IN 2007. I was one of the two Judo guys there the bigger of the two my instructor was the smaller anyway we had a great timw working and talking with you. Ialso have a background in Tai Chi BaGua and have intention of trying to plug into your training some how. do you have a personel email i could contact you at


    Alberto Fong Reply:

    Hi Ellen:
    I lived in Atlanta for a long time and would recommend the Wu Tai Chi class offered at Callanwolde Arts Center. The teacher I had was excellent. I don’t think anyone is certified in Bruce Frantzis’ system, but you know his training materials are a good start. Best wishes!


  2. Charlie Montross on

    Hi Bruce,
    Would it be possible for you to film the workshop lectures and the class examples? I am unable to leave South Africa at this time to attend the Hsing Yi workshop. It could be the basis of a book / dvd combination “Energetics of Hsing Yi Chuan”. It would also be extremely valuable to me to learn to feel the elements as I practice my hsing yi and bagua. The teachers I have had were either wushu institute graduates with minimal understanding or those who learned from a book and passed on what they have understood. To know what to look for when doing the various elements, to understand the sensations that are experienced will be key to self development.
    If you are doing a book / dvd set, could you also include any appropriate nei gong exercises for the hsing yi, and also the various martial arts applications?


    Tai Chi Master Bruce Frantzis Reply:

    My company will be filming this workshop and will hopefully release it by the end of the year.


  3. What’s your opinion on weight training? Should it be completely off-limits or can some aspects be useful? I’m asking because I do enjoy it and would hate to give it up completely.
    Thank you


  4. Hi master Bruce,
    I coud’nt atent these workshop but Iam practicing your material from the book opening the energy gates of your body and its great, thank you. The filming of the workshop will be very helpfull for me and others that are interest in martial arts, I will be very thankfull if you release these material. I have a question ¿ Do you plan to teach these workshop again next year?


  5. Thank you Bruce for answering my question. I ordered your new Dragon and Tiger DVD and workbook and will begin working with them as soon as they arrive. Hope to take a live workshop with you soon.



    Paul Bradshaw (@pb_monk) Reply:

    HI Ellen… I believe Allen Pittman is still teaching in Atlanta. He was teaching in Europe over the summer. He is an excellent teacher and a very knowledgeable practitioner of internal martial arts (bagua zhang, xing yi quan and taiji). I’m sure Bruce knows Allen… their paths run in parallel. Allen has published several books and you can get a taste of teaching via his videos on you tube. He has also worked as a bodyguard for the Dalai Lama. His web address is http://www.apittman.com/

    Hope that’s of help. Best, Paul B


  6. Hi Bruce ! I’m moving very close to Brooklie taichi and am very interested in Bagua and hsing I . After reading your thoughts and a book by Dr Yang,jwing-ming it seems like hsing I would be excelllent to start with . If a person was to learn hsing I how beneficial would it be to also practice bagua foundational practices at the same time ? What would the interaction of the two practices energys be . Would this create a particular “flavor” or are they ultimately so similar at their core that nothing would be diff . I ask this ? Because it seems like hsing I would be the perfect intro for internal practice .Regardless of martial health or spiritual emphasis of the practicioner ?


  7. I forgot this also . I read a book called Warriors of stillness . It is on I chaun . This seemed similar in some ways to hsing I aside from the almost totally static standing stakes for practice . Is this an off shoot of hsing I ?


    Charlie Montross Reply:

    Hi Jamie,
    Yi Chuan was developed recently based on the energetics and basic principles of Hsing Yi, Ba gua and Tai Chi. If you check the website / google for Yi Chuan, the history given was that it was recently developed but also has ancient roots.


  8. Michael Pillai on

    I am 49 years old and based in Ahmedabad in India. I wish to learn Hsing -I. Is Hsing-I relatively a simpler Internal Style, as compared to
    Tai Chi and Pa Kua ?

    Is there a Hsing – I teacher in India.




    Tai Chi Master Bruce Frantzis Reply:

    HI Michael,

    Hsing-i is relatively simpler in terms of moves and complexity, but just as powerful for health and martial arts. I don’t know any teachers in India, however, we are working on a DVD set and aiming to release it middle of the summer so that can help.



    Gurinder Reply:

    You can email me back if ud like, i train in xingyi and other internal arts and can help you.


  9. Victor Stokes on

    Hi Bruce,
    I have been studying Cheng style bagua for about a year and recently started learning some of your qigong (energy gates and marriage of heaven and earth) syllabus with one of your certified instructors, Both of these place great emphasis on the opening and closing of the kwa. I have also started learning Xingyi (from a different instructor). My question is does Xingyi put the same emphasis on the use of the kwa to generate power

    kindest regards



  10. Hi Bruce,

    Thanks for all the teaching and resources. The one thing I was wondering about was the 70/80 percent rule in Qigong, Tai Chi and Bagua – does this also apply to Xing Yi?

    Thanks and best regards,



  11. Hi Master Bruce,

    I notice in the photo above holding San-ti that your stance appears to be balanced as far as weight distribution. I tried holding San-ti years ago with the 70/30 distribution but was unable to continue as I have cancer-eaten hips and football/karate knees. My teacher Rami Rones taught me the Embrace the Tree/Hold the Ball posture back in the early nineties and it helped me beat four nasty bouts of bone cancer. Because it’s double-weighted I can find a comfortable place between joint instability and a bit of pain. Am I mistaken in my interpretation of your weight distribution? I ask because I’d like to practice the posture to add to my current postures.

    Many thanks,



  12. Basil Rozells/Sijo kuntao martial arts on

    after practising many styles of martial arts,for many years,hsing-I is one i still pracitise.My hsing-I teacher,Mr.Mark Lee,taught me in Ipoh,malaysia,& was a very humble,non egoistical man.I regret not knowing where he lives now as such masters are HARD to come by.Maybe,Bruce when u come to perth,australia,I could catch up with u,minus the ego of many I have trained with,basil rozells


    Azahar Aziz Reply:

    Hi Basil, I’m from Malaysia and used to live in Ipoh. I’m looking for a xing yi teacher and would like very much if you could help me on this. Do you still have Mr. Mark Lee’s last address and his contact number? Your help is very much appreciated.


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