White Crane Spreads its Wings: how does a crane fight?

As far as I know, the move “White Crane Spreads its Wings” is part of many different Taijiquan forms, e.g. Yang style long form (108). And it truly is a nice movement. I like the openness of it:

White Crane Speads Its Wings - Taijiquan / Tai Chi move

But the move is not that easy, though: the arms move at a different speed which improves your body coordination. And as you end standing mostly on one leg, you work on your balance, too!

However, when the crane spreads its wings in Tai Chi, it is not just about elegance, but it is a fighting technique. And one day I wondered: how do cranes actually fight?

I started searching and eventually found some really interesting videos. Let’s start with this one: a crane falls into a tiger compound and needs to fight against 3 (!) tigers:

Wow, I find it really impressive that the crane defends itself so well.

And if you are looking for the meaning of the white crane: Did you know that in China, the crane is a symbol for longevity and wisdom. (And isn’t that what we all want to achieve?)

However, there is another reason, why the crane is important to all people interested in Taijiquan: it is said that the legendary Zhang San Feng (張三豐) invented Taijiquan after watching a fight between a crane and snake. Now let’s have a look at what at a crane fighting a snake (starts at 0:35):

Not much spreading its wings here, though!

And if you are still not tired of watching fighting cranes, in this video, a crane father chases a bear. It starts getting really interesting at 2:10:

Now you know: you shouldn’t underestimate a ready-to-fight crane! So next time you do the Tai Chi form “White Crane Spreads its Wings”, remember how skilled, agile, and striking a crane is!

Happy Qi


P.S.: If you want to continue reading about “White Crane Spreads its Wings”, I recommend this article from Bruce Frantzis.


  • The White Crane Spreads its Wings is a graceful form and the seventh in the traditional Sun style 73 Forms.
    Perform a single whip
    one hand stays up to protect your head
    while the other hand goes down and in front of your crotch
    then rises for a chin strike.

    So far, I have spent a year with a Tai Chi class learning the Sun 73 form from a experienced instructor that has extensive abilities Tai Chi Yang, Chen and several other marshal arts. His background adds an entire layer of complexity to the class. This was an excellent point to make in your blog.

    I have read several of your other blogs and agree with the blog concerning your experiences with trial classes. Seems that many instructors gear the class content and activities to their interests and needs rather than the students.

    As a former school teacher, I can say that long term planning and goals along with weekly lesson plans help create a good road map for the class.

    Many thanks for taking your time to write about your experiences and insights.

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