Did White Crane Kung Fu Became Karate!
White Crane Kung Fu is a powerful and old Chinese Martial Art. It is said to have been developed by a daughter of the Fang family in Fujian province, but this may not be true. Track the lineage back a little further and there seems to be a definite link to Bak Mei.
To understand this old kung fu style, one should probably analyze such karate kata as Sanchin and Hakutsuru. Sanchin kata, in particular, is present in many Karate schools, but the earliest, and least diluted version can be found in Uechi Ryu Karate. Examining the form in that system and one will see the dependence on the hourglass stance and a similarity of hand motion.
The problem with the Japanese versions, in this writer’s opinion, is that the forms are taught either for dynamic tension (body building), breathing, or just technique. If one looks to the earlier versions of the White Crane Forms, one will see the motions rendered more for development of Chi. The moves are softer, yet the stance is harder, and the mind is thus allowed to instill imagination and will into the movements.
Go back even earlier, to the Bak Mei variation of white crane kung fu, and one will see an explosiveness that is designed for intense combat. The fists don’t come back to the body between ‘launches,’ and the entire body lurches into each movement. The result is a quickness and ferocity that outdoes karate variations of the forms.
The history of this kata can be confusing. There are the Okinawan/Japanese versions, and this is connected to China predominately through the art of Kanbun Uechi. He is said to have spent a decade and a half learning three kung fu forms, all of which have resemblance to Chinese White Crane Kung Fu.
In China, the legend is that this unique kung fu was created by a female of the Fang family. She is said to have studied kung fu with her father, and then to have been inspired by the self defense movements of a white crane that fended off a stick she thrust at it. While there does seem to be a connection, it seems more like a teaching legend, and the truth is probably a lineage, rather than an inspiration.
The strongest likelihood is that these forms were passed down from Bak Mei Kung Fu. Bak Mei is practiced in the Fujian (Fukien) province, and the martial art could easily have been studied by the Fang family. This allows for the likelihood of the Karate connection, also.
In summary, if one examines the structure and moves of the form, paying attention to Uechi Karate versions of Sanchin and the Bak Mei versions of Jik Bo, one can see a definite relationship. The author recommends seeking out all versions of the kata, and defining them for focus on dynamic tension, breathing, technique, explosiveness, or whatever you wish to explore. Such forms as Sanchin, Hakutsuru, and the like are very pure in their white crane kung fu history, and could easily be the missing connection to Karate.
Find out more about the creation of such arts as White Crane Kung Fu, and how to make your Kung Fu system the best it can be. Head to Monster Martial Arts.