By Heather McLean, instructor, Southern Crane Kungfu
We recently held a grading for children and adults up to the level of fourth pattern in Tiger Crane style and second pattern in Yong Tai Tiger Boxing.
Overall, the grading was one of the best we have had in some time. Every student, particularly those in the lower grades, did exceptionally well.
What we feel made students stand out was their focus during performances; the first Tiger Crane pattern, San Zhan, or Three Wars, is about learning to bring together mind, body and breath. That sounds simple enough, but how often do you watch your instructor show you a movement, think ‘I’ve got it!’, attempt it and fail to make your body do anything like theirs did? And that is just the first of the two wars.
The third war, breath, also called spirit and sometimes referred to as Chi, is the hardest to explain to people and also the hardest to attain. Putting it very simply that final war is what makes a pattern come to life, not just to watch, but subjectively for the performer. When you ‘get it’ (and that can take years,) it is like a door to somewhere amazing has been opened, and it changes everything you do, every movement, not only in patterns, but every attack, block and step.
We often get students performing the San Zhan and San Zhan Lie Ma Tiger Crane patterns with the mind and body engaged, but rarely with breath, which is the most important and hardest war for a beginner to martial.
What we saw at the last grading, especially with two students who performed their first Tiger Crane patterns, was the start of that understanding of the third war, which is normally not present in students at this level.
We have a good group of students moving through the ranks now, and it seems the added focus on pure Yong Tai Tiger Boxing has motivated people even further, since we announced we were adding it to the main curriculum back in June this year.
Tiger Boxing is a great style for increasing muscle, tendon and bone strength, and teaching students to move fluidly. It also teaches focus; a tiger is an aggressive, single-minded, clever animal, and the personality of the tiger must be present when performing the patterns of the style in order for them to be complete.
In summary: Keep training hard and stay motivated!