Fujian White Crane
Baihequán translates as “White Crane Fist”. In this context “Fist” ( quán) implies a refined or ‘internal’ martial art, as it does for Tàijíquán. The art, as we know of it, originates from Fujian province in Southern China. As a ‘soft’ martial art our system cultivates mind awareness and intention coupled with muscular relaxation to create synchronised and fluid whole-body movement, instead of relying on raw speed and gross physical power. In this respect, it has more in common with Tàijíquán than it does with Kung Fu or Karate.
Putting it into perspective with Tàijíquán, our White Crane system is based on similar fundamental principles and if we regard it as an uncut diamond, then Tàijíquán is the polished stone. The message here is that White Crane will build a good foundation, enabling the more subtle methods in Tàijíquán to be developed quicker.
Although our system is based on the Whooping Crane tradition, it was Teacher Huang Sheng Shyan’s view that the Feeding Crane, Flying Crane, Sleeping Crane etc, are different aspects of one style, and so within our system, all of them might be found.
Good breathing habits are essential for maximising performance and also for managing stress in any physical activity. In our system, we start with three basic exercises to develop an awareness of breathing and integrate it with the whole body movement.
Swallow and spit – trains the full range in- and out-breath
Swallow – control the in-breath
Spit – training a quick out-breath
Empty arrow palms
Relax, Relax, Relax …
Relaxation is of fundamental importance if we are to develop stability, agility and ‘relaxed force’.
To physically relax is to let go of all unnecessary muscular tension, so allowing the muscles to work properly, and this requires mindful practice. The muscles should never be held tight, or left floppy, but should be free to move and change at will.
Cultivating being upright, centred, balanced and relaxed, allows us to develop stability and agility, and to cultivate relaxed force.
A Form is a pre-defined sequence of movements within which we develop our physical skill.
By applying the basic principles to the repetitive practice of the Forms, we can transition from the normal habit of externally (mis-)coordinated movement to new habits of synchronised whole-body movement.
First, the choreography and accuracy of movement are learned, and then we put the principles into the movements of the Forms to create the substance – stability, agility and relaxed force – and what comes out will be the martial function that can be practised in partner training.
Swallowing and Spitting
Sinking and floating
Springing and lifting
Bursting and rebounding
Fixed pattern practices
Application of the Forms
Free exchange (sparring)
Partner training is essential for developing martial skill, with questions and errors in your movement feeding back into your Forms practice.
In solo training you learn to recognise and understand your own movement. The purpose of the sensitivity training drills, such as ‘Hitting the drum’ and ‘Passing the door’, is to learn how to recognise (‘listen to’) and understand your opponent’s movement. What you learn here is then used in all the partner training, so that you can understand each situation and correctly time your own actions and responses.
Long Staff (‘Kun’) and Walking stick
Forms and partner training
Functionally, the weapons operate as an extension of synchronised body movement, with all the same principles applied. Wielding handheld objects like this can also provide valuable feedback on one’s limitations of stability and agility, hinting at the need for focused practice in the Forms.