I have very little technical information to give about Flying Crane Chi Gung. I actually started off with Tai Chi back in 1977. I was lucky enough to get to study for a short time with the late Master Hubert Lui who, at the time, had been wowing the hippie crowd at Northwestern for some years so I knew lots of devotees. In grad school my Chinese’American roommate wanted to study Tai Chi, checked out who was the best in Chicago and invited me to join her in one of his classes. It only took a couple of months for me to tell that the short form he taught was changing my whole physicality.
When I moved out to the Pacific Northwest I started trying out various classes and teachers, always a little disappointed after the wondrous Mr. Lui. After I’d been in the car accident that messed up my knee, I finally found a Chinese teacher who taught a super bent knee form–literally the whole form done with your knees bent to a 90 degree angle–and I soon discovered that my knee couldn’t take it.
Though I occasionally landed briefly in a class after that, I mostly gave up the practice from 1979 or so until I started reading about Flying Crane in the early nineties.
While living in Marin I found a Flyig Crane class in Mill Valley taught by an American who’d been studying and practicing for decades; so knowledgeable, but he was pretty relaxed about things like keeping your knees bent, which made it do-able for me. He also didn’t really teach us about the meanings of the movements. Since I’d had the previous Tai Chi experience it didn’t take me long to pick up the whole form for Flying Crane and I stopped taking classes as soon as I knew it. I felt I got a lot of benefit without the bent knees and with that modification my knee tolerated it with no pain. I’ve dropped it in and out of my practices over the years since but I always come back to it and in recent years it has been a regular part of my practice rotation.
One of the main things I always notice is that the pattern of the movements winds up rotating all the major joints: shoulders, neck, hips, knees, ankles Wrists and elbows also get a little action. You also build chi and move it from “heaven to earth” at points throughout the five-part form. So you open major pathways by opening the joints, build chi through movement and periodic stops with the hands in front of the dantian (sea of chi; second chakra) and then move it throughout your body.
As I mentioned in the post about the Eight Key Breaths, I like this as the follow to the big energy build in the breaths. It’s so balancing and calming. Since low chi is a long-time issue for me, the two of them give me a chi boost that always feels like just the ticket for me. And any time I want to smooth out a little irritability or worry, a round of Flying Crane can re-balance and soothe so that my mind just flows onto a new track. Next up I’ll give you my take on the Tibetan Rites.
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See also: Thoughts About Energy