There are several
Chinese forms of the name "Hakutsuru" in different dialects:
Pai Hao Q'uan, Peh Ho Kuen, Peh Hok, Bak Hok, Pak Hok, Bai He Q'uan
and He Q'uan. Other names of it are the Southern Five Elder Style (Wu
Zu Q'uan or Five Ancestors Fist), and the Yong Chun Style, pronounced
Weng Chun in Cantonese. (1)
The legend about the Yong Chun Style is that of the Five Elders (Ancestors)
of Shaolin. The Shaolin order was politically neutral most of the time,
but in the 1640's, the much-hated Manchu (Ching) dynasty began. The
cruelty of the Manchu made Shaolin reconsider its position. In about
1647, the Honan Shaolin Temple was utterly destroyed by the Manchu.
Most of the monks were killed, but a few monks fled to the Fukien Shaolin
Temple (some believe this took place in 1570. The problem with that
date is that the Ming was still in power at that time. It appears that
it was the Manchu that did it. The reasons that the Manchu would have
done it make a lot more sense. Other legends allege that it took place
not long after the Manchu took over.) Among those that fled to Fukien
Shaolin were the most influential Shaolin masters. They brought the
precious martial art books from the Shaolin Library with them. As a
result of all this, the status of the Fukien temple changed, and it
became the new Headquarters of the Shaolin order. It was a better base
for anti-Manchu activities, because it was a strategic location.
The Fukien Temple became part of the rebellion almost immediately after
the destruction of Honan. The Manchu could not govern very well in the
South. There were many areas near rivers that they could not control,
because the rebels kept them at bay.
Four sons of four Ming generals were sent to Fukien Shaolin to train
in the martial arts. Their names were Chih Shan (Jee Shin or Chi Shin),
Fung Doe Duk (Fung To Tak), Mew Hing (Miu Hin), and Bak Mai (Pak Mei
or Bai Mei). According to legend, there was also a Shaolin nun there
at this same time, by the name of Lui Sei-Leung or Lu Si-Niang. She
took upon herself the Buddhist name Wu Mei (Ng Mui or Five Plums) that
she is more popularly known as. They became the five elders of Shaolin
They analyzed their situation very closely. They needed to come up with
a plan to overcome the Manchu. The combat systems taught in the temple
at that time were based on animal movements. They required that the
monks master tens and hundreds of long, intricate forms, taking ten
or twenty years. There were an enormous variety of techniques, many
of them totally dissimilar to each other, and some of them were not
very useful, because they didn't work very well. The Shaolin grandmasters
recognized that this approach was unsuitable and unacceptable for the
rapid development of an effective and efficient fighting force. A new
training method made to fit the needs of the rebellion was necessary.
In the South, the terrain was different, and there was a need for close
range fighting tactics. Also, they needed a way to fight more effectively
against and exploit the weaknesses of the fighting arts of their enemies.
What they came up with was a radically new approach. The focus for the
new system was on human biomechanics. They refined and modified the
existing animal systems and movements into an essential core of techniques.
Because of these new revisions, there became a split between the Northern
and Southern Shaolin styles. The North retained the original exaggerated
movements and form, and the South adopted the new streamlined and efficient
form. When I say North, I don't mean Honan Shaolin. I mean all the Shaolin
practitioners in the North outside of Honan Shaolin. The reason I make
this distinction is because Honan Shaolin was always in close contact
with Fukien Shaolin, and there was always a heavy interchange. So Honan
Shaolin implemented the new temple style form also. This knew style
was known under the generic title of "Nan Q'uan" or Southern
Now comes the story of Fang Qi-Niang, a Shaolin monk that had fled after
the 1673 destruction of the Fukien temple (some say it was 1674), was
Fang Zhonggong (also known as Fang Zhen-Dong, Fang Zhang-Guang, Fang
Honshu, Fang Shi Yu and Fang Huishi.). His specialty style was the Shi
Pa Lohan Fist (Shi Ba Luo Han Q'uan). He sought refuge in nearby Putian
at the Shalian Temple while awaiting the overthrow of the Manchu government
for a time. Supposedly, this was another temple clandestinely affiliated
with Shaolin. Later, he went to Yong Chun village. It was there that
Zhonggong raised a family. His seventh daughter was named Fang Qi-Niang
(Chi-Niang, Chi-Liang, or Ji-Niang). He taught her the Shaolin style.
She later saw cranes fighting and developed the Fukien
Shaolin Crane style using what her father had taught her for a base,
which was essentially the Yong Chun style created by the Five Elders.
This style in the Japanese language is known as Hakutsuru.
The Shaolin Hakutsuru
over time broke up into many branch styles. The major ones are: Wing
Chun; the Five Ancestral Fist; the Ancestral Crane (Zonghe, Suhe, or
Zanhe Q'uan, also known as Sleeping or Trembling Crane); the Shouting
Crane (Minghe Q'uan, also known as Whooping, Singing or Crying Crane);
the Eating Crane (Shehe Q'uan, also known as Morning Crane); and the
Flying Crane (Feihe Q'uan). The Fukien Jumping Crane is not related
to these. It comes through different roots. (Of course, these are not
the only styles that branch from it. The Okinawan Styles are also branches
of it also, as we shall see.) The Hakutsuru was the "Shaolin style"
referred to by Funakoshi and other sources that Iwah and Wai Shin Zan
taught Bushi Matsumura, although one source says that Iwah taught Bushi
his own form of it.
A unique feature of the Matsumura Shorin Ryu style is the teaching of
the White Crane or Hakutsuru kata, although white crane techniques are
woven throughout most of the kata of the style and are especially evident
in Gojushiho and Kusanku. However, the Hakutsuru kata is one of those
elusive and esoteric kata of karate. Bushi Matsumura learned the White
Crane style while he was in China. He then brought the style back to
Okinawa in the 1860’s. From then on, the system was a secret style
only taught to immediate members of the Matsumura family. The White
Crane style was passed on from Bushi Matsumura to Nabe Matsumura, his
grandson, and then to Hohan Soken, Nabe’s nephew. Hohan Soken
did teach the White Crane to some members of the Ryu. These people were
not family members but were a chosen few. Keep in mind the concept of
a hereditary Ryu is a closed social nexus, like a family or a clan.
Its membership is restricted, whereas a Kai or association is a group
that practically anyone can get into, like a bowling league or a “self
defense” studio. The family blood lineage of Matsumura Shorin
Ryu seems to have been broken though. The White Crane style is of Chinese
origin and its techniques imitate the delicate movements of the crane
or white heron. The Hakutsuru technique manifests the Chinese concept
of the soft fist as opposed to the power-oriented native Okinawan techniques.
The soft fist is defensive and relies on speed and evasion as its primary
tactic. Therefore, the Matsumura family style has both the power oriented
linear Okinawan technique as well as soft circular Chinese techniques.
A perfect combination! Actually there are sets of Hakutsuru kata handed
down that are the jewel of the system. The more fundamental Hakutsuru
Kata is sanchin-line training forms called Hakutsuru So & Ton. There
is another one called Ryuken or dragon fist Sanchin. Finally there is
the Matsumura No Hakutsuru Kata itself. The kata is taught in two forms,
a sort of sho (minor) and dai (major) format. The sho version of the
kata has the same embusen (pattern) as the dai version but it is simplistic
in its techniques. The dai version of the Hakutsuru kata is very elaborate
with many intricate hand techniques which make use of the wing (hane)
of the crane. The wing is used in blocking to either trap, cover or
repel a blow. Spearfinger thrusting to vital points is the main means
of attack and counterattack taught within the framework of the kata
as well. The Hakutsuru kata also features a unique low level kicking
sequence. Its intricate and complex movements make the performance of
the Matsumura No Hakutsuru kata unique among karate kata. It certainly
deserves to be the secret kata of the Ryu.