Fukien White Crane and Karate

The origin of Fukien (Fujian) White Crane is derived from a woman known variously as Feng Chi Niang and Feng Qiang Liang who had originally learned Kung Fu from her father Feng Shi Yu (Fung Fei Tze) somewhere in the early Qing Dynasty. Her father had studied at Nine Lotus Mountains Shaolin Temple (which is why Wing Chun White Crane is still considered a Shaolin art today and salutes with the Shaolin salute).

Legend has it that Feng practiced Kung Fu diligently but was also a beautiful young woman who, one day at her toilet, noticed a crane basking in the sun of her garden. The crane, attracted by her shiny mirror, came to her window and tried to snatch it. Feng tried to get it back and they play fought for it. She was amazed at the skill of the crane who persistently countered her energy despite her Kung Fu. This mock battle kept up for three days and interested and disturbed her at the same time. On the third night she had a dream. In this dream the crane adopted the shape of a man and taught her a new Kung Fu based on its crane spirit.

Some versions of the story have a white haired beggar appearing at her front gate the next day. Feng treats him with kindness and in gratitude he teachers her his art, the White Crane. In other versions she realizes that her father's style could and should be modified by the actions of the crane to create a new kind of boxing with her own feminine emphasis on attacking vital spots rather than using power against power. In yet another version a more down to earth Feng was originally accosted by the giant crane when she was planting seeds and, trying to fend it off with a staff, was amazed at the bird's ability to neutralize her skills.

Anyway, Feng married and moved to Wing Chun county, Fujian Province. There she became quite well known for her skills. Her students developed the Five Styles of Fu Zhou White Crane. The crane was also eventually incorporated into the Wu Tzu or Five Ancestor style which has its own San Zhang form and is justly famous throughout South China and Southeast Asia.

White Crane is essentially a counter fighting art. The hands are very "short" in most cases just outlining the shape of the body to be protected. There are flipping and sticky wrist blocks with tight elbow positions. The style is basically frontal not to expose the practitioner but with the potential for immediate shift to either side. This implies a certain degree of symmetry to the skills. Another familiar action is the wave of the hips associated with the strong Karate punch. The movement is essentially the same in White Crane. Hips jerk and send what is known as Coiling and Flapping energy through the arm. There is also a distinct spine wave motion at the same time. The stances, too, are grounded, short and strong in the style of Sanchin. Many of the actions orient to palm strikes and clearing blocks with a sticky hand approach to covering the opponent's actions.

Styles which overtly record themselves as having some White Crane influence have passed through some famous instructors such as Bushi Matsumura, a Royal Bodyguard. Also there was Gonkenki a Chinese merchant who showed White Crane in the 19th century. Crane boxing's influence on forms is evident, obviously, in San Chin (Three Battles) which appears in both Goju and Uechi Ryu styles among others. But there are also such signs as No Hai (Crane on a Rock) and other forms.

Still more influences on Okinawan Karate are the famous military work known in Chinese as the Wu Pei Chih and in Okinawan as the Bubishi. In fact the Okinawan version of this book has 32 chapters dealing with Crane boxing. A line from this contributed the inspiration and the phrase from which the system of GoJu (Hard Soft) was named by Chojung Miyagi. Uechi Ryu takes arm positions and movements from, among other sources, the Praying Mantis style. Many styles were influenced by the almost undocumented style known as the Beggar's or Vagabond style. In fact one of the props for Beggar style deceptions of appearing to be crippled, the double crutch, is far more likely to be the inspiration for the Tonfa than the typical explanation that it was developed from a well handle.

Weapons include some which have definitely become identified with Karate. Among these are:
Kuan Dao
Horse Knife
Tiger Fork
Iron Rod (Sai)
Crane Wing Knife (Elbow or Sleeve Knives)



Plum Publications White Crane Kung Fu Links:
Here are some links to items about the system you may wish to investigate ...
Wing Chun White Crane VCD's
White Crane VCDs
Boxed Collector's Edition of Historical Crane Texts
White Crane Books in English

White Crane Books in Traditional Chinese
Taiwan Special Edition Magazines on White Crane
Fujian White Crane Classified in Chinese


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