About White Crane Boxing
There are several non-related styles of martial arts that are based around the crane bird in existence today, such as Tibetan White Crane, Northern Chinese White Crane, Yong Chun White Crane from Southern China and the various styles that have branched out.
We teach Yong Chun White Crane from the Weng Gong Ci Wushu Gym and a variation of it from the Ang Lian Huat lineage of Singapore. The movements are direct and precise with an emphasis on a strong stance and relaxed arm techniques. The Yong Chun styles of White Crane were famously created by a woman named Fang Chi Niang, whose story can be read below.
The Tale of Fang Chi Niang
Behind most great martial arts there is at least one great legend. There are a few legends behind White Crane but the most popular is that there was once a skilled fighter of Monk Fist Boxing named Fang Zhong Gong who was deceived and fatally beaten by scoundrels from a neighbouring village.
His daughter named Fang Chi Niang, vowed to one day vindicate the family name by taking revenge on her father’s attackers. One day whilst in her village of Yongchun pondering on her intent, she was alerted by the loud noise of two cranes fighting nearby. Grabbing a bamboo pole Fang Chi Niang took it upon her self to shoo away the ensuing commotion. However, each time she advanced upon the two birds they evaded any strikes with ease and grace.
Inspired by the elegant and relaxed movements of the birds, Fang Chi Niang began incorporating similar elements with her father’s Monk Fist Boxing and created her own unique style of woman’s self-defence that has become Yongchun White Crane (Yongchun He Quan). After years of training and adopting relaxed, fast and fluid movements, Fang Chi Niang began to understand the principles of hard and soft and the benefits of yielding to force. She acquired skills that enabled her to evade and defeat adversaries that were much bigger and muscularly stronger than her self.
Fang Chi Niang’s reputation spread and she received many challenges from other martial artists. One day she accepted such an offer from a fierce fighter named Zeng Cishu, a hard-boxing practitioner whose hands were like iron and whose body was like rock. Fang Chi Niang’s fluid and skilled movements were able to evade and defeat the slow and cumbersome efforts of her challenger. Inspired by his experience, Zeng Cishu begged to become a student of Fang Chi Niang and so went on to become the second generation teacher of Yongchun White Crane.
The Reality of Fang Chi Niang
As with most traditional Chinese martial arts, the tales surrounding them are difficult to authenticate due to the aural nature of the teachings. Monk Fist Boxer Fang Zhong Gong and his daughter Fang Chi Niang did appear to have arrived in Yongchun in the mid 17th century however. Gong Fu practice at the Shaolin Temples was flourishing by this time and may have been present as early as the Tang Dynasty ( AD 618-907 ). How much of the early Yongchun White Crane was developed independently as opposed to being influenced by a Shaolin Temple is unclear as are any other influences which may have established the style. During the Song Dynasty ( AD 960 - 1279 ) Fujian became a hotbed of Buddhist Temple building and it was fashionable to give over farmland for temple construction. The Five Animals system of Shaolin Gong Fu practiced today still includes a Crane style and although it differs from Yongchun White Crane styles some similarities can be seen. The Crane bird was and still is very popular and highly revered in China, so it is no surprise that it has inspired a style of martial arts, for whatever reason.
When the Manchurians took over power in China in AD 1644 to begin the Qing Dynasty, Ming loyalists fled to the south in fear of execution, many of which found refuge in the Shaolin monasteries. It was at this time that Ming loyalist martial artists founded underground organisations to rebel against the Manchurians which ultimately led to the destruction of the Southern Shaolin temples. This was also a melting pot of martial arts which formed the creation of many of the Southern styles still practiced today. The exact details of how, when and who remains difficult to answer with any certainty and are the topic of much discussion. All we know for sure is that the system of Gong Fu we teach is a true gift and White Crane is one of the most highly respected martial arts in the world in all its various branches. It is widely accepted that it was a fundamental component for the foundation of Okinawan Karate which founded Japanese Karate in more recent years.
From the documentation that has survived it can be seen that the same principles exist in what we teach today, having been passed down from one person to the next over the years. Through the repetition of exercises the student develops a relaxed whip to their movements like an unleashed spring. Relaxation and fluidity using physical efficiency to gain mechanical advantage are key to White Crane whilst understanding the interplay between hard and soft. Introspection, understanding and mental fortitude must balance the physical in order to remove oneself from ego-related distractions and understand the principles of yielding.
This is how White Crane gives the student a means to transcend the basic strategies of engagement and develop skills that benefit all aspects of life and the world around us. On the most basic level however, we think it is great fun. This is why we continue to train regularly. If you do not enjoy what you are doing, the chances are you will not continue with it, life's too short. We hope the sense of community within Bai He Alba comes across to the onlooker. We are all here to train together and to push ourselves to improve, to share the highs and lows of traditional martial arts and to share our knowledge and learning.