Experience with White Crane Spreads Wing Application

ZenMindSword posted an entry on his blog outlining a ‘Pumping Metal Iron’ puzzle. The gist of the puzzle is to try and unbalance someone if a biomechanically and structurally inefficient posture using White Crane Spreads Wing.  The inefficient aspect is the position of the right hand and elbow.  Keeping the right hand near mouth level  and fingers pointing up with a very bent elbow, try unbalancing someone. For more details of the puzzle, do check out his post linked above. I wanted to repost my experience in his comment section here:


Source: Pumping Mental Iron VIII, Comment #22

Finally had a chance to give this a try. I got into position as described above (note, slightly different than how I normally perform WCSW). I then asked my partner to slowly push me and to do this continually while I adjust.

The first thing I noticed was I began to feel tension in my thigh instead of my arms, shoulders, and hips. To me, this is a good thing as I’m able to redirect the energy partially down, though not all the way down into the ground. I had to readjust a bit to get the tension to subside and redirect down through the right foot (weighted side).

As I began to try and push, I noted that I wanted to incline my right hand forward and pull my elbow back. I tried again, readjusting to keep the right hand pointing up. Neither position worked and my partner noted muscular force in my push.

I switched and tried with a weighted left leg. Structurally, I felt more stable but was still unable to shift my partner. I then played around a little and tried pushing shifting the weight from right to left leg. With this, I was able to slightly unbalance my partner, though nothing fantastic. In this scenario, not much muscular tension was noted by partner, however I believe this is mainly due to having a sound structure and using gravity and momentum to do the pushing.

Lowering my stance did not really help with pushing, just assisted in absorbing incoming force. Again, inclining body forward mainly assisted in absorbing incoming force in my own scenario. However, while in this stance, I began to mentally try and project myself forward while maintaining my current shape. I tried picturing myself behind my opponent. While I felt much more stable this way, partner was not unbalanced.

I asked which felt better, with my fingers pointed up or inclined. Partner noted fingers pointed up felt better, meaning felt less isolated muscular force. To me, this make me think the mind intention is able to easily unify the body with the hand in this position. Quite contrary to what I would normally think as it’s structurally less sound than the inclined fingers position!

My main goal was to try and project the push, not from my hands, but from my whole body moving forward. Instead of trying to project energy from hand, I tried to first project energy from both hands forward simultaneously and then connect the projection with the chest and then slowly try to unify projection connecting the legs. This resulted in almost creating a ‘wall-like’ imagery of myself with the whole wall moving forward.

While it was fun, my partner noted at the end, “It’s not gonna help by looking at me that way either” πŸ™‚ I guess in my mental projections I was doing funny looks with my eyes trying to ‘see through and beyond’ them.. heheh πŸ™‚


First off, I never really considered trying White Crane Spread Wings (WCSW) in this manner to try and unbalance my opponent. The normal application is to block a low kick and high punch at the same time, or block a low kick while giving a left shoulder stroke attack. But what about the idea of just holding the posture and then trying to unbalance.

Doing this puzzle caused me to question how I look at applications as I never considered this scenario. How often do we practice the mental applications? We often hear how taiji unified the body and mind, but most of the applications I’ve done and seen only really deal with the body aspect. While it’s true that most of these applications are often considered ‘fake’ as noted by FormosaNeijia’s, The Myth of the Deadly Old Man, but playing around with this whole intention business really opened the doors of possibilities for me.

There’s something about this intention stuff, I’m not really sure what or where it will lead, but there’s something there… The funny thing is my first foray into ‘intention in taiji’ was via Chen Style Silk Reeling. “Where is the Mind?” is a common question asked by student who ask questions. What I mean is, where the mind goes, the qi will follow. In Chen, this results in the mind going from dantien -> back -> shoulder -> elbow -> hand -> elbow -> waist -> dantien and continue. By thinking in this way, the physical shape can be corrected to synch with the mind.

In Yang, for me, there’s less physical shape to work with, resulting in a bit more mind work. Where is the mind? Where is the intention? Where is the projection? Due to the movements being physically simpler than Chen, IMO, there is much room for mind/mental training. Yet another layer is peeled away ….


About wujimon

taiji, meditation and health
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11 Responses to Experience with White Crane Spreads Wing Application

  1. chessman71 says:

    Well, it wasn’t really the point of that post to say that applications like this are fake. My post was to point out that training in the manner shown in the clips is really detrimental to MARTIAL taiji.

    Second, intent is ALWAYS a key component of the IMAs, especially in application. It is absolutely crucial. But this idea that *some* people have that intention is all you need to defeat someone is ridiculous.

    Puzzles like the one above can be good if they provoke insight, but they should never be used to judge the progress of your taiji IMO. This static “can you gently push me over” model of taiji illustrated in the exercises couldn’t be more unrealistic if our main concern is martial.

  2. zenmindsword says:

    but of course you didn’t see the 2nd puzzle which i protected with a password in Pumping Mental Iron X (Final) Part 2 of 2 – this is a puzzle to tickle the mind as to what to do when one is confronted by say a xingyi opponent coming with a powerful horse shape fist πŸ™‚ but if the reader can’t even be bothered to try out the 1st puzzle just to give a reality check on his understanding of intention, should i owe it to everybody to just let them read and go away thinking oh yeah, another unrealistic, cultish BS about using mind that is for the sake of doing it. its not for no reason that masters keep certain aspects of what they do secret. power can corrupt and we can’t have too many people running around with stuff that can do harm to other people do we? πŸ™‚ adolf hitler probably could get his ass handed to him by most martial artists but when it comes to killing his mind force is certainly frightening! (you must be wondering why hitler? – that is because i studied hitler in high school and he certainly is an interesting character in many ways notwithstanding the horrible things that he did later)

  3. chessman71 says:

    Well, that’s okay. You can keep the second part for yourself and the people that already agree with you. I didn’t feel the need to see it, anyway.

    As for me not being bothered to check my understanding of reality, I get my reality checked every week from my teacher in my own paradigm. So I don’t exactly need that from an outside source.

    However, I do totally agree with you about Adolf and his mind power. That’s why I mentioned cults to you recently.

    But don’t worry. I’m going to be posting LOTS about that topic soon, so you’ll know more about where I’m coming from. πŸ™‚

  4. zenmindsword says:

    ha, ha dave, i can understand if topics like intention frightens you a bit and by not wanting to try it out you are actually dare i say it……yes, what the hell, you can scold me later……..retreating into a cultish protective behaviour shell πŸ™‚

    if you tell me my reality check does not include grappling i’ll agree with you to say that if someone can get me on the ground i’ll tap and say uncle right away. i know what i am not capable of πŸ™‚ no reason for me to be frightened of what threat a grappler represents and to run away from it

    i’ll be looking forward to your posts as usual. i may not agree with everything but i still like to read it anyway. i can use some of your reality check too πŸ™‚

  5. chessman71 says:

    You’re funny. Intention is the whole cloth that we work from. We just use a different model of when compared to yours.

    As to me being too “frightened” to try your puzzle challenge…well…I don’t know what to do except grin at that. I needed a laugh this morning. Thanks. πŸ™‚

  6. silkreeling says:

    just started to move house and taking a rest and not gone thru any of the comments. your last para caught my eye.

    in any taiji, once your mind is quiet, intention will surface and you can start to exercise them. it’s like the more you think about the silkreeling qi route the further away you’re from being quiet.

    chen is more physically demanding so yes it also takes more effort to get to being quiet….but if you’re not quiet in your practice, the door of taiji is not even in sight – whatever the style you choose.

    ok, keep up the practice….more in my house needs to be done!!!!

  7. wujimon says:

    Interesting point where you stated: “The more you think about the silkreeing qi route, the further away you’re from being quite”. HOW TRUE!! I know CXW advocates that only 50% of the mind should focus on the qi stuff while the remainder of the mind should focus on being quiet and calm.

    It’s funny, but when I first started chen, I felt way more connected. However, the more I learned in chen, the more I realized how far I have to go in regards to qi path, physical alignment, quietude, etc that it just blew me away. Now I think way too much when I do chen.

    Not sure if it’s just a case of “ignorance is bliss” in my previous days or what.. πŸ™‚

  8. zenmindsword says:

    wujimon, how do you split the mind’s focus? πŸ™‚ try it and you’ll see the reality of this advice

  9. wujimon says:

    Hi ZMS:
    Currently, I am unable to split the mind’s focus. I couldn’t help but to think about the qi paths during movements. As such, my mind is never really quiet.

    I just blamed it on my own level of mental development, thinking I just needed to work harder and force the mind to split.

    Today, I no longer tread down this path. I just enjoy the quietude of the yang path πŸ™‚

  10. zenmindsword says:

    wujimon, i think by now you may have realize or suspect that sometimes it not the student’s problem that he cannot achieve quietude. its simply the way the system is designed! eg. if a car is not designed to take a corner fast now matter how hard you try to drive it you can never do it πŸ™‚ a sometimes the solution is simply to find a car that is designed to perform the task of taking a corner fast and voila! you have your solution πŸ™‚

  11. silkreeling says:

    i think what i said was when you quiet your mind in your practice then you can exercise the intention. It has less to do with the conscious mind, such as trying to do both at the same time. This may be what CXW meant but was not reflected/ translated well in the article; or maybe it is just selective retention which we are all guilty of sometimes.

    to me, this aspect is true for all taiji, as it consistently show up in good magazine articles, books – yes even from obsecure or un-othordox lineages – and teachers of taiji/ internal arts who are open about their teachings.

    Just as a person of advanced age shouldn’t engage in too much strenous phyical activities, a person with a weak heart shouldn’t choose fast cars! Interesting world!

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