There are certain weapons that are synonymous with tai chi practice, and in the White Crane style the first weapon that students learn is the tai chi fan.
However, compared to weapons such as the spear and sword, it is a relatively modern addition to the tai chi arsenal and not all tai chi schools will teach it.
In our style, the form is known as Bai He Shanzi (White Crane Fan), the 66-move form is recommended for those who have completed the first White Crane tai chi (non weapons) form, Shuang Yang, and spent time bringing it up to a good level.
Weapons training is more advanced than open hand (non weapons) and a good basic level is required before starting your training.
For those who are ready, I would recommend spending time on the Fan Basics course, giving yourself the basic skills required to open and close the fan at different angles will help immensely when learning the form.
If you’ve finished Shuang Yang and practiced the fan basics until you are comfortable opening and closing the fan, then it is time to learn the elegant and graceful White Crane fan form!
Types of Fan
Tai Chi fans are generally a standard size and come in an array of colours, usually with designs of dragons, phoenixes, Chinese calligraphy, and they quite often show the taijitu.
The fans are made of plastic, bamboo, or steel. Which you choose will come down to personal preference. Plastic and bamboo are lighter, the metal fans for some older tai chi practitioners, or those with any wrist or hand issues, can be a little too heavy.
Personally I train with both but much prefer metal.
You may not look at a fan and think that it is anything other than a device to help cool yourself down, but the forms are actually very martial and the fan would have been (in a skilled practitioner’s hand) a very effective weapon. Of course, unlike bigger and heavier weapons, it would not have been used on a battlefield but as a civil weapon the blades could have been sharpened and the outer edge coated in a poisonous resin. It would have been used to deceive, parry, trap other weapons.
Especially when using a metal fan, you will feel that it has some weight to it, and when closed the fan could also have been used as a blunt instrument, rather like a short club.
In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) the carrying of fans became popular for both men and women. However, in the 1700s they were banned from being used as a martial arts weapon until the 1800s.
Why Learn the Fan?
Tai chi weapons forms build on all of the benefits that you can expect from tai chi practice… and supercharge them!
The White Crane tai chi fan in particular will hugely improve balance, lower body strength, wrist strength, dexterity, flexibility, coordination, balance, control. The fan feels very ‘white crane’ like – it is graceful and elegant, with flowing movements, a strong and flexible foundation, and precise techniques.
Part of the fun of learning the tai chi fan is the opening and closing of the weapon. It is a very unique weapon based on deception, hidden intent, trapping, and surprise. When you hear the loud crack of a skilled practitioner opening the weapon, you certainly understand the element of surprise!
So if you’re looking for a new way to keep your tai chi practice interesting, build on the skills you have already acquired with Shuang Yang, and hugely improve your health and fitness, you can start learning the fan form on Tai Chi App now, and very soon it will be available here on White Crane Online!