Frequently Asked Questions

Xing Yi Academy was founded by Laoshi (Instructor) Paul Andrews and Josef Sykora

Paul Andrews began training in Chinese martial arts with Wing Chun.  When he moved back to Leeds in West Yorkshire UK he began to train in Xing Yi Quan with Sifu Damon Smith.  Paul has trained with Sifu Smith regularly since 2004 and continues to train with him privately when possible.  As well as training in Xing Yi Quan Paul has had experience of training in a number of other martial styles and esoteric traditions under Sifu Smith, the Yongquan Martial Arts Association and others. In 2016 Paul visited China and studied intensively with Yao Cheng Rong (Yi Quan) and Wang Tong Qing (Shuai Jiao – Chinese Wrestling). Paul was first awarded a teaching certificate for Xing Yi Quan in 2006 with the Yongquan Martial Arts Association, he now has a Level 3 teaching certificate for Xing Yi with the Yongquan Association, is recognised as an Advanced Instructor by the Tai Chi Union of Great Britain and is an Instructor Member of the Five Thunder Martial Arts Association.  Paul continues to seek out world class specialist instruction to further his own martial ability and knowledge and as part of this commitment he hosts Laoshi Scott Rodell (Great River Taoist Centre, USA) to teach Chinese Swordfighting in the UK on an annual basis.

Josef Sykora is co-founder of Xing Yi Academy and has trained with Laoshi Paul Andrews and Sifu Damon Smith in Xing Yi Quan and esoteric traditions. Josef is a capable Xing Yi practitioner and teacher and is Xing Yi Academy’s creative director. Josef is a talented musican and composer as well as having a talent for photography and film, he also runs Creative Piano Academy, an online school and YouTube channel to teach piano.

Xing Yi Academy also recognises Laoshi Jon Doveston and Laoshi Alex Sellars as official Xing Yi Academy instructors.

Laoshi Doveston trained Xing Yi with Sifu Damon Smith and is the older classmate (Si Xiong) of Laoshi Paul Andrews. Laoshi Doveston continues to train closely with  Xing Yi Academy but now lives in Japan with his family.

Laoshi Alex Sellars trained with Sifu Damon Smith is the classmate of Laoshi Paul Andrews.  Laoshi Sellars and Laoshi Andrews continue to train together regularly. Laoshi Sellars currently does not teach openly but may take private students in the North Yorkshire region of the UK.

Sifu Damon Smith is now located in the South-West of the UK near to the border of the counties of Devon and Cornwall. He teaches private classes with small groups of experienced martial artists


Xing Yi Academy’s art is often seen as being somewhat controversial or different from many of the more well know Xing Yi Quan lineages.

Xing Yi Quan was developed in the mid to late 1800s by Li Neng Ran, developed from Dai Family Xin Yi Quan in Shanxi province in the North of China.  An aspect of the early Xing Yi Quan was it’s innovation, the style added animals to the Xin Yi system as well as developing further the idea of the Five Element forms.  Practitioners were encouraged to cross train in other arts and develop their own methods.  As such the schools of Xing Yi developed many variations within the animals and applications, some of these became wide spread and well known being set down as set routines and forms and other versions were less known.  Over time many schools selected and reduced their syllabus, shortened forms and simplified methods.  During the 1900s there was less need to use the martial arts practically and with the introduction of the Nationalist led Kuo Sho and later the Communist led modern Wushu movements many arts were further reduced to less practical versions than formerly practiced. 

Sifu Damon Smith, the teacher of Xing Yi Academy’s Paul Andrews, first encountered Xing Yi through a fellow student at university in the UK. This student was a Malaysian of Chinese decent called Yeoung and who had been taught Xing Yi through his family, passed down from the famous Hebei Xing Yi Master Guo Yun Shen.  From this line much of the animal variations taught within Xing Yi Academy come from.  Sifu Smith lost contact with his first teacher after university but then moved to Leeds.

In Leeds Sifu Smith worked at the University and it was here he met Master Zhu Guang.  Zhu and Smith started the Leeds Univeristy Tai Chi and Xing Yi Society together and they trained for a number of years.  After some time Smith left Zhu’s public classes but continued to train with him privately for some time. Zhu then returned to China and has since given up teaching martial arts. Zhu was also skilled in Tai ji Quan (Tai chi), Mei Hua Quan (Plum Blossom Fist) and Bagua (Yin and Cheng Style) as well as other arts.

Sifu Smith later worked in Beijing where he trained with many martial artists but studied most closely with a small group Ba Ji Quan and Xing Yi practitioners in private. This group studied Hebei Xing Yi Quan again from the lineage of the famous master Guo Yun Shen. 

As such Xing Yi Academy combines three lineages of Hebei Xing Yi Quan with links to Guo Yun Shen, two from family lines and the third a more “orthodox” lineage as shown below.  This combination of lineages has a wide range of methods, many can be found within schools from the Hebei and Shanxi styles of Xing Yi but rarely seen collated in a single school.

The Xing Yi Quan taught by Xing Yi Academy is a fusion of three different lines of Xing Yi (see the lineage tab above and the chart below).

Sifu Damon Smith, instructor of Laoshi Paul Andrews, was taught by three main Xing Yi instructors of Chinese decent as well as spending extensive time in Beijing training sporadically with various other Xing Yi practitioners.

Each line had core principles and methods which were common but also contained differences, variations and additional movements, techniques and linking sequences.

The combination of the three lines as well as experience from meeting other Xing Yi practitioners has led to Xing Yi Academy gaining a very diverse syllabus especially within the 12 animals of Xing Yi Quan. Whilst a few other schools do have more extensive animal sets we have not come across any school which openly teaches extensive sets for all of the 12 animals.

Xing Yi Academy also focuses on gaining practical skills. Many of the traditional set forms of Xing Yi Quan are not emphasised in our teaching with a preference to shorter partner sets and exercises rather than long choreographed partner sequences or solo forms.

Finally Xing Yi Academy retains a focus on traditional weapon skills with a variety of weapons used within the syllabus, especially the 12 animals.