“From the crane, we learn grace and self control”. This, the second of the styles of the Shaolin kung fu, traces its ancestry back to the time of Dr. Hua T’o during the Han dynasty. This physician developed a series of exercises for improving health by imitating animal motions, among which was a bird.
Shaolin black crane kung fu, as it has evolved today, constitutes the hand sets of the Shaolin crane. As such, it provides a short range style of boxing useful to tall boxers. Its complement was to include throws and locks but delete intricate forms so that it could be studied by the general populace or military personnel.
Legend has it that an old man was watching a battle between an ape and a crane one day and marveled at the bird’s ability to evade the ape and still connect with telling blows of its own. He meditated daily on this conflict and one day, when attacked by bandits, defeated them by using the moves of the crane. Thus was a new system born.
History tells us that the movements were a collation of the ancient bird style, some tiger and the motion of snake. Because the exercises were intended to teach character and spirit, the style inherited the stork stance long before white crane kung fu itself was introduced into China.
Refined movements called ch’in na (capture holds) were taught to civil police during the 1600s. Near the end of the Ming dynasty (A.D. 1368-1644), Ch’en Yuan-ping traveled to Japan to teach ch’in na, thus creating a basis for jiujitsu. These movements are still practiced today even though they have no organized forms.
In kung fu, Ch’in Na techniques are more or less learned and researched by every style. Among the Southern Shaolin styles of kung fu, which specialize in hand techniques and in short and middle range fighting, White Crane has one of the more complete systems of Ch’in Na. Another Southern style which puts heavy emphasis on Ch’in Na is Tiger. Among the Northern Shaolin kung fu styles, which specialize in kicking and long and middle range fighting, Eagle places heavy emphasis on Ch’in Na.
The Shaolin modified the new ch’in na by adding techniques from white crane (60%) and organizing their creation into 20 forms. In 1968, these forms had been reduced to 8 and have now been condensed to a mere 4. These are an introductory drill (the first form), a balance exercise (crane leaving the marsh, #2) and the combined techniques of black crane (the synthetic fist set and defending the 4 angles, forms #3 and #4).
The names of the black crane forms are as follows:
· crane leaving the marsh
· synthetic fist form
· defending the 4 angles