Tai Chi Move: White Crane Spreads Wings

In Chinese mythology, the White Crane is a symbol of longevity and patience. It can stand on one leg in complete stillness, waiting almost an eternity for the perfect moment to quickly strike. The fighting abilities of the white crane is said to have inspired the founder of tai chi.

tai chi white crane styles
White Crane Spreads Wings Final Posture. The picture illustrates the final posture of the movement. Note the style-based variations.

Unified Body and Movement. For tai chi practitioners, the White Crane is also a symbol of unified movement. There is a direct line of energy from the foot and lower tantien out to the hand. This mirrors the speed and force used by the White Crane to spread its wings in dangerous situations.

Keep Hands Connected. Throughout your tai chi form, the hands do not disconnect from the body, but remain connected to it. In a handstrike, the force doesn’t come just from the hands, but from the entire body.

In White Crane Spreads Wings, one hand moves dramatically farther and faster than the other. But, the other hand isn’t limp and flaccid. It should also be filled with juice and internal energy. It remains linked to the more active hand, counterbalancing it, and helping to keep the practitioner firmly rooted.

Maintaining this internal connection is a key principle of tai chi.

Test Final Position. The White Crane move is beautiful and elegant. However, it should also be rooted and strong. The strength of your position is easy to test. Simply hold the final position and have someone gently push on your hands and arms. A quick collapse is, as they say, an opportunity for improvement.

Balance. In tai chi, the White Crane move inspires balance. In its final position, the weight is on one foot. The second foot remains on the ground, but is unweighted and poised to move.

Taking some time to hold this position—not for an eternity, but starting with a few seconds and then gradually increasing—improves balance and fosters good tai chi roots.

After holding the position on one side, alternate and change to the other side. By changing so you are standing on the opposite leg, you’ll be better balanced on that side as well.

Martial Application. While its name may not sound fierce, the self-defense applications of the White Crane Spreads Wings move are clear and effective.

The sequence of photos illustrates how the White Crane Spreads Wings move can be used to break free of a choke hold and to counterattack.

white crane app 1

1. The attacker advances with a choke hold.
white crane app 2

2. Begin the Crane movement by shifting the waist. This positions the lower hand for strikes along the attacker’s centerline.

Shift weight 100% onto one leg. This frees the other leg for a kick at any time.

white crane app 3

3. The lower hand moves upward and counterattacks with a groin strike.

white crane app 4

4. Use the other hand to keep the attacker off-balanced. It could also be used as an uppercut under the attacker’s chin or as upward blow to the attacker’s nose.
white crane app 5

5. Finger strike to the attacker’s eyes.

Next: Read about useful warm up exercises for your tai chi practice