Crane (He)

Belt Rank:  Purple (Di Liu Ji)
Elements: Smoke, Shadow, Wind

To some, the crane is the epitome of grace.  In a fight, it prefers to stay away from toe-to-toe confrontations that might be more suited to a tiger or leopard.  Instead, the crane uses its long legs and powerful wings to angle away from an opponent, striking with its wings and beak when an opportunity presents itself.

Despite the relatively fragile nature of the crane, it is still a fierce fighter.  Its higher level of mobility and insistence on attacking from unpredictable angles makes it a tough opponent.  Anybody who as ever been pecked by a goose or duck can attest to the deceptively powerful strikes that beaks can deliver.  Emulating this, the crane-stylist uses a hand formation called the "crane's beak" where the four fingers and thumb are brought together at the tips, mutually reinforcing each other and creating a long striking surface.

The crane develops the tendons and ligaments.  As it is also a chinese symbol of longevity, it is thought to develop the jing (refined chi or libido).  The crane is only a bird but is a bird reputed for its amazing libido and longevity.  Such an excess of libido denotes an abundance of energy within its body.  Also considering its association with longevity it is hardly surprising that the crane was chosen by the old Shaolin Masters to become one of the Five Shaolin Animals.  The chinese believe that jing is the essential energy which is characteristically associated with the spirit of the crane.  The crane is a quiet and calm animal and its powers of concentration are not easily broken, for example, the crane will stand for hours on just one leg without the slightest movement.

The crane style was designed in order for the martial artist to hold energy within the body and increase strength both internally and externally.  This in turn will help develop Qi (Chi) internally and at the same time help to harden both bone and muscle.  The crane is very similiar to the calm and quiet nature of the snake and as with the snake movements, the crane style is extremely useful for over throwing or controlling an opponent with very little effort.  Crane form techniques are soft, relaxed and circular, however, they still have the ability to exude sudden and fast power upon contact with a target.  The techniques can be both long and short.  Many of the shorter movements are usually joint locking techniques to cause disablement to the limbs of the opponent.  The long reaching techniques are usually direct strikes to vital pressure points on the opponent's body.

The "crane's wing" characteristically is a circular sweeping technique which terminates as a striking action.  This action is a representation of a crane spreading and opening its wings.  The technique itself allows the practitioner to utilize the whole of the arm and fingertips as a striking weapon.  There is no doubt that this type of technique if delivered in the correct manner will generate power from the whole practitioner's body.  Crane strikes with its wing is a different technique which actually strikes across the opponent's eyes with a slicing action.

Considering the crane has a long neck, many of the crane style movements terminate with an outstretched movement with the hand forming a beak.  The crane's beak is a very common association when the practitioner is initiating the crane style.  When forming a crane's beak using the hand, the fingers and thumb are pressed together to form a point and the wrist is bent.  Usual targets for this kind of technique are again, as with the snake, focused at vulnerable areas such as the eyes or throat.  It is not uncommon for double techniques to be applied to two opponents at the same time, this is known as "Twin Cranes Raise Their Heads".  A simulation of the crane's neck which forms a hooking hand can be used to pull an opponent off balance and then grabbing at the neck, arms or legs.  This strike, considering the spirit of this animal should be applied using soft relaxed force, however, the fast snapping action of the wrist will focus power to the blow.

Undoubtedly the most common pose associated with the crane is when it stands on one leg, it is these characteristics which have molded the way in which the Shaolin Masters came to understand the stance of the crane style.  "White Crane Stands On One Leg" is a position which the practitioner will assume when evading from a low kick typically to the shin, with this movement the knee is simply raised to a high position.  A split second after the practitioner has assumed the high knee position, the already raised leg will execute a kick to the opponent's body, this is known as "Crane Stretches Its Claw", this is a front kick.  Here you can see the calmness and softness associated with the spirit of this animal as the opponent's energy is dispersed into thin air.

The student can gain a number of characteristics when practicing the style of this animal, they can expect to gain better balance with speed while remaining active, loose with a supple waist and light balanced footwork.