Iron Crane & White Crane

It's always interesting to listen in as my friends argue about the true meaning of moves in a Kata.  The process never ends.  Sometimes new insights surface, sometimes we are left standing at dead ends.   A properly conceived Kata is like a phone call from the past, wherein great Masters are able to symbolically stand in our midst, and whisper their knowledge gained over the course of lifetimes.  Of course, no self respecting master will pass crown jewels into the hands of the undeserving.  For that reason, many of the traditional forms are in "code", constructed in shorthand with symbolic portrayals of more complex movements and even deadly teachniques.  One time a student of six months asked if I would teach him killing strikes.  I refused, explaining I'd only known him for six months, and hadn't decided whether I could trust his judgment.  Another student of ten years also asked the question.  I again refused, explaining I'd only known him for ten years, and hadn't decided whether I could trust his judgment.  Regretably, both students were offended.

From my perspective, knowledge gained over a lifetime comes with great and solemn responsibility.  Put a hammer into the hands of an imbicele, and the world begins to look like the head of a nail.  Put a gun into the hands of an idiot, and birds, cats, street signs, and mailboxes begin dropping.  A little knowledge in the hands of an undeserving martial artist, does great damage.  Ancient Masters didn't want that on their consciences, neither did my teachers, nor do I, nor should you. 

So, the typical Kata, if designed properly, will have many "layers" of lessons, and insights.  But...you have to work to get them.  These layers will open and unfold as you grow and mature, and explore the form.  A great Kata, will continue to teach new things, even to an old student.  But it will reveal nothing to the impertinent. 

The Iron Crane Kata portrays the many moves which characterize the flow of movement in the Iron Crane School.  It was created a a vehicle for that purpose, but also as a vehicle for mastery of complex movement and concepts.  The form is a textbook on joint locks and balance.  Many times within the form, the energy flow changes from soft and pliable to steely hard (hence the name Iron Crane) and then again to soft.  Look closely, you'll find just as the student appears vulnerable, he explodes with new energy, using the unexpected as though it were a brick.

Afte many years of performing Iron Crane, two things became evident:  1) The architecture of the form allowed for the insertion of even more sophisticated albeit obscure striking (and blocking) techniques, and 2) It was possible to revise some of the complex kicking sequences into a more practical flow, facilitating mastery of the form by even the eldest members of our group.  The updated version incorporates some of the internal concepts of Tai Chi Chuan and a somewhat softer flow while maintaing the practical efficiency of the original.

Both forms are intellectually and physically challenging.  Doing ten repetitions will leave a student drained.  They are Black Belt level forms, with students first being introduced to them at Purple Belt.  Learning the forms requires familiarity with a broad range of kicks, stances, hand strikes, and joint attacks.  Mastering the forms takes a lifetime.

Check it out.  No matter what your level, you'll find something of value within.  The more you investigate, the more you'll see.  But don't ask me whether there are killing techniques in the forms.  After all, we've just met, and I haven't decided for sure whether I can trust your judgment.

Iron Crane

White Crane Spreads Wings

 

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