Snake and Crane in Taiji

Discussion on the three big Chinese internals, Yiquan, Bajiquan, Piguazhang and other similar styles.

Snake and Crane in Taiji

Postby Andy_S on Tue May 13, 2008 7:00 pm

We all know the old story of the Taoist hermit inventing Taijiquan after watching a snake and crane fighting. Now I don't personally have much faith in the veracity of this tale, but it is a nice little parable, and very Chinese. I assume that this tale is told as it holds some important lessons for us grasshoppers. So what are these lessons?

Questions:

FIGHTING:
Why a snake and a crane? What do the fighting methods of these two creatures, and the interaction between their two styles, tell us about Taiji fighting techniques?

MOVEMENT:
In Taiji form (I practice the Chen style, which has a lot of coiling-uncoiling type movements) where does the Crane come in? Obviously, there is "White Crane Spreads Wings" and several one-legged stances, but the overall movement of the art seems much more snake-like than crane-like. Comments?
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Re: Snake and Crane in Taiji

Postby shawnsegler on Tue May 13, 2008 7:38 pm

Crane is more linear and it's energy is crisper, snake is more sinuous and soft.

It's just another refernce to polarity. Wing Chun is snake crane too.

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Re: Snake and Crane in Taiji

Postby Mut on Tue May 13, 2008 8:16 pm

crane: balance and deflection... structure?

snake: suppleness and responsiveness
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Re: Snake and Crane in Taiji

Postby affa on Sat May 17, 2008 1:05 pm

if i may indulge in a little doggerel...

Snake:
the body’s ripple twists as one
in piercing strike or coiling squeeze
hand is mouth on leg-spine-arms
and eye’s mouth-hand weaves through the trees

Crane:
the rooted one twists rippled twists
to separate the wings and legs
to run-jump-fly from tree to tree
where snakes must fall and crawl instead
16, 76, 81, 88, 93
21, 28, 38, 52, 78
7, 40, 56, 73, 87
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2, 6, 10, 46, 95
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Re: Snake and Crane in Taiji

Postby klonk on Sat May 17, 2008 2:14 pm

Hey, this is fun! Let me play!

it is very hard
to catch a twisting serpent
see the crane do it
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Re: Snake and Crane in Taiji

Postby Bao on Sun May 18, 2008 4:14 am

Snake/Crane is another way to describe, or get flavor into the, "kai/he" thinking. Every movement should have a kai/he aspect: gather-expand, release-connect etc. In taiji, you flow from a big wide movement into a smaller linear, or from a small circular movement you expand into a big circular movement. You can describe these aspects as snake/crane aspects. From a snake move you flow into a crane move or vice versa. Some people thinks that the picture of snake and crane help them understand these taiji-principles as it makes the art less abstract and more concrete.
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Re: Snake and Crane in Taiji

Postby Ian on Sun May 18, 2008 4:20 am

shawnsegler wrote:Crane is more linear and it's energy is crisper, snake is more sinuous and soft.

It's just another refernce to polarity. Wing Chun is snake crane too.

S


Snake movement is plenty linear and crisp. Depends on the species of snake.

FWIW, I have no idea why it's crane and snake.

Did you hear about the Christian hermit inventing BJJ? He apparently conjured the style out of thin air after watching an octopus eat a shark.
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Re: Snake and Crane in Taiji

Postby Walk the Torque on Sun May 18, 2008 7:02 am

I always thought it was Crane = unified movement
Snake = Amorphous nebulous coily wrappy thing
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Re: Snake and Crane in Taiji

Postby river rider on Sun May 18, 2008 10:21 am

why a snake and a crane? what other animals could we be choosing from? tiger leopard snake crane dragon? xingyi's 12 animal shapes? it does seem that techniques proper to the snake and crane (softness, indirection, coiling, arcing circular movement, short strikes to vital areas, yielding to force etc) are very like how we try to operate in taiji as opposed to methods relying more on strength or speed. and who knows, maybe its not just a metaphor... maybe there's a little extra meaning hidden somewhere in this choice, this story
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Re: Snake and Crane in Taiji

Postby kreese on Sun May 18, 2008 11:11 am

At least in the Chen I practice, a lot of the open/close movements of the arms (really chest and back) involve an aspect of shen fa akin to that of a crane and its wings. I believe B.K. Frantzis gives a good breakdown of the crane (and probably snake) elements in taiji in The Power of The Internal Martial Arts. Both animals are not relatively large and powerful compared to say, a tiger, so they rely more on precision, redirection, balance, and finesse than raw power and ferocity.
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Re: Snake and Crane in Taiji

Postby Royal Dragon on Sun May 18, 2008 11:14 am

It's probably a Taoist sexual thing, and has nothing to do with martial arts at all.
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Re: Snake and Crane in Taiji

Postby Bao on Sun May 18, 2008 2:08 pm

river rider wrote:why a snake and a crane? what other animals could we be choosing from?


The crane is a symbol of long life, and therefore blends well with the taoist tale of zhang sanfeng. The snake is, well, something opposite to the crane but still has a very soft and flexible character. It is a story about a taoist, so it would seem logic that the animals have some connection to taoism or to the character of taijiquan. Another taoist animal, like the turtle would be a bit odd I think.
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Re: Snake and Crane in Taiji

Postby klonk on Sun May 18, 2008 2:19 pm

In the natural world, cranes eat snakes when they can catch them. This may have some bearing on the matter.

I think you need the qualities of the snake (evasive, twisty) and the crane (abrupt, direct) in your taiji, both the curving and the straight. But Chinese parables aren't my strong suit.

If the crane is doing a really good job at the crane business, he eats the snake for lunch. If the snake is really good, he can decline the lunch invitation. The two animals are in a sense complementary opposites...
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Re: Snake and Crane in Taiji

Postby Ron Panunto on Mon May 19, 2008 9:25 am

I believe the snake/crane origin is from the later Yang and Wu prtactitioners who came up with the Chang Senfang myths. As far as I know, there is no reference to the snake/crane in the Chen system.
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