Xing Yi Quan is classified as one of the Wudang styles of Chinese martial arts. Xing Yi is characterized by aggressive, seemingly linear movements and explosive power that's most often applied from a short range. A practitioner of Xing Yi uses coordinated movements to generate bursts of power intended to overwhelm the opponent, simultaneously attacking and defending. Methods vary from school to school, but always include bare-handed fighting training (mostly in single movements/combinations and sometimes in forms) and the training of weapons usage with similar or identical body mechanics to that used for bare-handed fighting. The most basic notions of movement and body mechanics in the art were heavily influenced by the practice of staffs and spears.
Xing Yi Quan features aggressive shocking attacks and direct footwork. Most of the training and footwork are practiced on straight lines. The linear nature of the art hints at both the military origins and the influence of spear technique alluded to in its mythology. The goal of the Xing Yi exponent is to reach the opponent quickly and drive power through them in a single burst. The analogy with spear fighting is useful here. This is achieved by coordinating one's body as a single unit, and the intense focusing of one's Intent and coordinated power utilizing tight circles (usually in a forward direction). Issuing explosive power in Xing Yi is referred to as "Fa Jin", the same term used in many other traditional Chinese Martial Arts.
Despite its hard, angular appearance, cultivating "soft" internal strength is essential to achieving power in Xing Yi Quan. Also, the advanced practitioner always contains tight spirals within his movements, so even the seemingly direct and linear ones are circular on a very small scale. Such circles and spirals also exist in other martial arts, but Xing Yi (like Southern Praying Mantis) likes to keep them smaller than others.
Efficiency and economy of movement are the qualities of a Xing Yi stylist, and its direct fighting philosophy advocates simultaneous attack and defense. There are few kicks except for extremely low foot kicks (which avoids the hazards of balance involved with higher kicks) and some mid-level kicks, and techniques are prized for their working within key principles rather than aesthetic value.
Xing Yi Quan favours a fighting stance called Sān Tǐ Shì, literally "three bodies power," referring to how the stance holds the head, torso and feet along the same vertical plane (As a Zhan Zhuang method, this stance is trained lower). Though usually held shorter and higher in actual fighting, in training San Ti is more often trained at middle-low heights.
Like other Internal Arts, much of the training in Xing Yi Quan is done in slow-motion. This is true for almost all the movements in the art, though the majority of them can and are also trained explosively.