White Crane Style (in Chinese: 白鶴拳) is a Southern Chinese martial art that originated in Fujian (福建) province. According to oral tradition, the style was developed by Fang Qīniáng (方七娘; Amoy Min Nan: Hng Chhit-niâ), a female martial artist. It is associated with traditional fighting techniques, including long range, but is most similar to close-quarter or hand-to-hand combat. It is most recognizable by the way the fighter imitates a bird's pecking or flapping of wings. While some white crane styles make use of traditional weapons, others have discontinued the use of weaponry.
Fujian White Crane is a type of Shaolin Boxing that imitates characteristics of the Taiwanese Crane. An entire system of fighting was developed from observing the crane's movements, methods of attack and spirit. It is one of the six well-known schools of Shaolin Boxing. The others are based on Tiger, Monkey, Leopard, Snake and Dragon. Additional, lesser-known schools include Dog, Deer and Bear.
White Crane became a very popular art. It developed a number of different styles within Fujian and it managed to spread itself to both Guangdong and even Okinawa. Of course all of this was happening at the same time that individuals were leaving Fujian and looking for economic opportunity elsewhere in China or Asia.
This inevitably brings us back to the short styles of Guangdong province. Hing Chao notes that Wing Chun, Dragon, White Eyebrow, Southern Mantis and White Crane all share certain specific movements and techniques. More than that, they all have certain strategic and philosophical ideas in common. Nor does it take much imagination to see the reflection of Lady Seven in the Shaolin nun Ng Moy or the young girl Yim Wing Chun. In fact, I have argued elsewhere that these stories are basically modification of the original Fujianese myth.
Conclusion: Why Does Wing Chun Need to Come From Anywhere?
Hing notes that there have been many questions as to where Wing Chun came from, and he thinks that he has finally found the answer. Ultimately Wing Chun is derived from Yong Chun White Crane Boxing. Of course he notes that there are limitations to this to this theory.
Perhaps Wing Chun also contains older local Cantonese material that White Crane cannot account for. For instance he acknowledges that the weapons systems (and I would add the wooden dummy) are quite different from anything seen in Fujian. The six and a half point pole form in particular seems to be an important part of Guangdong’s regional martial arts heritage.
Still, the implications are clear. Wing Chun is a form of “short boxing” (except when it is not). Southern short boxing appears to be a byproduct of the “White Crane Revolution” (except that Shahar has already demonstrated that similar ideas were floating around all over northern China), therefore Wing Chun is descended from White Crane. QED.
White Crane is essentially a counter fighting art. The hands are very “short” in most cases just outlining the shape of the body to be protected. There are flipping and sticky wrist blocks with tight elbow positions. The style is basically frontal not to expose the practitioner but with the potential for immediate shift to either side. This implies a certain degree of symmetry to the skills. Another familiar action is the wave of the hips associated with the strong Karate punch. The movement is essentially the same in White Crane. Hips jerk and send what is known as Coiling and Flapping energy through the arm. There is also a distinct spine wave motion at the same time. The stances, too, are grounded, short and strong in the style of Sanchin. Many of the actions orient to palm strikes and clearing blocks with a sticky hand approach to covering the opponent’s actions.