An Excerpt from an Interview with Master Liu Chang I
Interpreted by Anne Lee and Translated by Takako Funaya, M.A.
Feeding Crane Gung Fu is very old and comes from Fuchow in Southern China. It’s actually part of a line of progressively more complex set of styles which make up the White Crane Gung Fu family.
First there is Flying Crane which teaches basic self-defense. Then there is Sleeping Crane which helps the student to develop a very strong stance. Next come Singing Crane which is studied to develop internal energy, and finally Feeding Crane with its emphasis on aggressive, offensive technique.
The training becomes increasingly difficult as the student progresses so only the most dedicated make it to the Feeding Crane stage.
The history of White Crane Gung Fu was said to have started when the Shaolin Temple was burned down by the Ching regime the monks fled and went into hiding anywhere they could. One of them, Fang Wai Shi who was a master of the Shaolin Lohan Fist school took refuge in the Sand Lotus Temple near Fuchow, and it was here that the style developed.
Fang Wai Shi’s daughter, Qi-Niang was a very good boxer having been taught by her father. One day, in the temple compound, while she was hanging out the washing on a bamboo pole as was the custom, she was became concerned about a large white crane perched on a adjacent roof. Fearing the bird would dirty the freshly laundered clothes she attempted to drive it away with the pole, and by throwing stones at it with no success.
When she attacked its head it dodged to the side, spread its wings and trapped the pole. When she hit at the crane’s wings it parried vertically and attacked her with its claws. When she thrust at its body, the crane shrank back, pulled its wings around its body, and counter-attacked with its beak.
Realizing that the crane was in fact her superior in some ways she studied its method closely and came to marvel at its effectiveness. At this moment the concepts that underpin our style were realized. By adding to them what she had learned from her father, and then adding the stepping method known as “kunyan-pu” she created Pai Fu, White Crane Kenpo.
It was believed that Feeding Crane had died out in mainland China. Li Yi Duan the chairman of the Fuchow martial arts association originally asked Liu Yin Shan (Master Liu Chang I’s father) to re-introduce Feeding Crane to the mainland, but instead he sent his brother. From 1989 he has taught in Fouchow for three months at a time. He is the only Feeding Crane instructor in Fuchow at this time.
In the early 20s Rei Shifu was teaching Gung Fu in Taiwan. When he returned to the mainland he told others of the desire of the Taiwanese to learn Gung Fu. Consequently four instructors arrived from the mainland to work and also to teach. All were from Fuchow and all were students of Tsai Gong Son. One was a carpenter, another builder, the third a goldsmith and the fourth was unsure.
In Minkoku 16 (1927) Master Liu Chang I’s grandfather, Liu Gou, heard that the carpenter, Lin Toku-Jun, who was working at that time in a sugar refinery in Kaginanjo, Tainan Province, was a very expert boxer and asked him to become his personal teacher. He paid him a considerable sum of money wrapped in crimson paper to show his respect for the master. So that they could concentrate exclusively on training, Liu Gou also provided him with a house and servants—in fact he made him wealthy. For about five years they trained together very intensely.
At that time Taiwan was a prefecture of Japan and as the war against China had already started, the Japanese authorities were wary of anyone from the mainland. The Japanese military and police suspected master Lin Toku-jun of plotting against the Japanese government. As an act of revenge incurred from being unbeaten, rival stylists reported master Lin as a spy to the Japanese officials. They tried to capture master Lin several times. However, since his martial skills were extremely well developed, they could not subdue him. Finally, he was captured at gun point and was later administered a large dose of anesthesia to facilitate sending him back to Fuchow. However, he was given far too much sedative and as a result, this famous master never recovered consciousness fully and died onboard ship.
Subsequently, Liu Gou became well known as a teacher. So did Liu Yin Shan and Liu Chang I followed in his footsteps. In fact the family name is so closely associated with the Feeding Crane style now that in Taiwan it is referred to as Liu family Feeding Crane
Feeding Crane System
The student is taught in stages and not allowed to progress until he has mastered the level he is studying.
In any martial art, form is normally the first thing taught. In each school and sect of Chinese martial arts you learn basic posture and movement such as stepping form, stepping methods, hand form, hand methods, body form and body methods, and then you learn pre-arranged forms (kata). In Feeding Crane we emphasize the use of natural form and movement. When you practice kata over and over again using natural movement, “kung” (energy, work, power) develops naturally. The Feeding Crane school is constructed on the practice of kata which leads to the development of “kung.”
First teaching are basic movements, stances, the five hand movements (gold, wood, water, fire, earth), and basic kata like Giao Jan and San Zen, (sanchin). The style places emphasis on internal power, so the student is introduced to this concept early in his or her training. To supplement formal training the students do exercises to strengthen their arms but no weight training as it is felt that this can slow movement. Depending on their natural ability the student he will spend about one year at this level.
In the next stage, providing the student has developed sufficient internal power, they’ll teach kata in earnest; a total of twenty one. The best students can learn all the kata in about three years and also develop strong internal power.
Sparring begins as the skill of the student improves, and he learns how to strengthen his body against pain. First the body is rubbed, then slapped and finally beaten until the student reaches the point where it causes him little if any discomfort or pain. To help students reach this level they were applied a preparation that was reputedly brought from the Shaolin temple and that helps strengthen weak areas and combat the pain.
After years of dedicated training the student reaches the final level. He can control pain completely and direct his internal power (gong li) at will. When he fights he does so with his whole body, without the need for conscious thought, using every part of it to strike his opponent, hands, wrists, elbows, palms. At this stage an interest in strategy, philosophy, use of internal power and other related subjects tends to develop.
Master Liu Chang I is also an acupuncture therapist and herbalist. All instructors are expected to have the knowledge of the vital points for offensive and defensive reasons. For example, there are seven points on the body which, if struck, can cause injury from which it is difficult to recover. Actually there are about 4,000 vulnerable spots but only around three hundred are used routinely by doctors.
The knowledge of acupuncture, traditional medicine, and even poisons has been passed down with the art from the founder. Feeding Crane is a complete fighting method.