Liu Chang I
Crane Gung Fu
Anne Lee Translation by Takako Funaya, M.A.
Those of us who
had grown weary over the years of the theatrical and generally pathetic demonstrations
of alleged Gung Fu, were delighted to discover recently a very talented Chinese
instructor teaching the original form of Feeding Crane Gung Fu.
When Liu Chang
I of Tainan, Taiwan, made his first teaching tour of the U.S. Iast year with
the noted Kobudo and Goju Ryu instructor Kimo Wall, seminar attendees were
amazed by his speed and power, and his ability to hit his opponents with almost
any part of his body, very hard!
Invited to produce
a video with Tsunami Productions during the taping studio technicians picked
up on their equipment a sort of rumbling, drumming sound that occurred when
Mr. Liu performed techniques. "Oh! that's my gong li (ki)," explained Mr.
Liu to the astonished sound engineer who was wondering what was wrong with
the radio microphone he had attached to the instructor. The mic was removed,
taping continued, and an extraordinary video was recorded that will stun collectors
of Tsunami videos when it is released.
Liu Chang I was
interviewed by Dragon Times just before returning to his homeland recently.
His views are interesting, as a person he is quite delightful, and his fighting
method is both elegant and practical. Moreover, his martial arts pedigree
through his father and grandfather is impeccable, and it is therefore difficult
to imagine a better qualified ambassador or Chinese Gung Fu in general and
feeding crane style in particular.
We appreciate you coming to our office for this interview. Please tell us
a little of the background of your style.
Our style 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 comes Singing
Crane which is studied to develop internal energy, and finally Feeding Crane
with its emphasis on aggressive, offensive technique.
becomes increasingly difficult as the student progresses so only the most
dedicated make it to the Feeding Crane stage.
Is it true that the style was founded by a woman?
That's the tradition. They say that when the Shaolin Temple was burned down
by the Ching regime the monks fled and went into hiding anywhere they could.
One of then, 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
I have seen illustrations of a girl fighting a crane with a bamboo pole. What
is that exactly?
I'm sorry I should have mentioned that, I took it for granted that you knew
the story. 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.
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.
I believed originally that Feeding Crane had died out in mainland China, then
Morio Higaonna the Goju Ryu teacher told me that during the research for his
book on the history of Goju Ryu karate, he visited Fuchow and was introduced
to a Feeding Crane teacher.
It had died out in mainland China and the person he met was actually my uncle.
Li Yi Duan the chairman of the Fuchow martial arts association originally
asked my 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. I am sure that this was the teacher Higaonna Sensei met, he is the
only Feeding Crane instructor in Fuchow at this time.
How did your family become so closely associated with Feeding Crane Gung Fu.
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 a builder, the third a goldsmith, I'm not sure about
the other one.
In Minkoku 16
(1927) my 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, grandfather
also provided him with a house and servants-in fact he made him wealthy. For
about five years they trained together very intensely.
What became of him?
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
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 continued
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 became well known as a teacher. My father followed in his footsteps,
as I did in his.
So you are the third generation?
That's right. In fact our family name is so closely associated with the Feeding
Crane style now that in Taiwan it is referred to as Liu family Feeding Crane
How is Feeding Crane taught.
Much the same as any other style I believe. 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
At first I teach
basic movements, stances, the five hand movements (gold, wood, water, fire,
earth), and basic kata like Giao Jan and San Zen, (sanchin). Our 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 we feel 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, we start to
teach kata in earnest; we have a total of twenty one. The best students can
learn all the kata in about three years and also develop strong internal power.
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 we apply 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.
I know that you are an acupuncture therapist and herbalist. Does this interest
spring from your training?
Yes it does. All instructors are expected to have a 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.
A knowledge of
acupuncture, traditional medicine, and even poisons has been passed down with
our art from the founder. Feeding Crane is a complete fighting method.
I know that your father did a great deal of work in Japan to promote your
style, and now you are travelling around the world continuing the work. What
is your ultimate aim?
Of course I would like to spread feeding Crane Gung Fu widely, but I realize
at the same time that I should not make it too popular, otherwise it's value
could decline. It is a complete martial art that requires a great deal of
effort to learn but one that is tremendously effective and that retains, if
you like, the secret power of boxing, Gong Li.
I hope that the
video I have made will open people's eyes to our ancient art. If it does,
they will be able to learn something very valuable and useful, understand
a little more about the culture of the Chinese people, and also perhaps, expand
their knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine.