On this page you will find most of the information that you require to learn, train and pass Post Red Sash level of Shaolin Crane Kung Fu.
The Crane is a strong symbol in China being a symbol for longevity because of its exceptionally long life span. Historically, Cranes have claimed a special place in the human imagination because of their several distinctive similarities to humans, including their height, vocalization, social nature, and perennial monogamy.
There are many stories about the origins of Crane Style Kung Fu, some citing foundation as recent as the 18th century, Ming Dynasty 15th Century but for the purposes of understanding the Shaolin Crane, we have two times of Origin; one when it was (most likely) introduced into Shaolin after the 2nd destruction of Shaolin around 11th Century; and the 2nd is how this source came to be the keeper of the origins, most likely from Tibet.
When the 2nd Buddhist Purge occurred in the 11th Century CE (1st purge and Shaolin destruction was around 570 CE, see Shaolin History for further detail), many Buddhist and Shaolin Monks dispersed to non Buddhist Monasteries including to the Daoist (Taoist) temple complex on Mount Emai Shan. Emei Shan has been inhabited since as early as 8000 BCE. It was originally a Taoist retreat that focused on health, healing and Longevity (Longevity being a preoccupation of Taoist's). During the Ming dynasty Emai Shan's Taoist Temples were converted to Buddhism.
Why is all this relevant to understanding the Shaolin Crane; because it is the main precept of Shaolin Crane Kung Fu to cause no harm or damage, teach yes, harm no. It is also the only style that can cope with Tiger Style Kung Fu practitioners
A Crane Fable or True Story?
There was once a young monk who was dedicated to Shaolin. He was brilliant in his studies and healing, courteous in his manners and exceedingly good in his kung fu. In all things he excelled though especially in the healing arts but not in his martial arts. Even the newest most, inexperienced of novices was able to best him in friendly sparring. It seems that our young monk did not have an aggressive bone in his body and not the mind to cause harm. This was perplexing to his teachers who were trying to teach him the fullness of balance and life and the ability to survive hostile and dangerous environments. Much was tried, nothing worked. The young Monk was now ready to begin his journey years but for this one shortcoming. Much was considered and finally his master suggested that he, the young monk, seek enlightenment in this matter by meditating, far away from distractions.
There is a nearby hill by Shaolin, only 30 minutes walk. The young monk would do his daily duties and then instead of kung fu training he would go up the mountain, into a peaceful clearing and meditate. It was quite restive and the monk enjoyed this and the time for more meditation. He made the journey to the same spot every day, fitting himself into the nature of the area well; so well that the animals came to trust him and continued their life close to where he sat, without showing fear. Even a flock of Cranes grazed there for a while on their yearly migration, without taking notice of him. All in all, it was peaceful, but the young monk was not getting anywhere with his quest. As it was quite beautiful and peaceful there, and he did not really enjoy sparring and defence, he continue to spending his time on ´his´ mountain.
One day when the Cranes were still there, he heard a foreign sound, something was not quite right. None of the animals seemed to have noticed anything, but the monks knew the area well now and had an uneasy feeling. He was right, he soon saw a Tiger shadowing the flock of Cranes seeking his target. The young monk was in a conundrum; his teaching is to be one with nature, but his sympathy was with the Cranes and the peaceful nature of the area. Before he could decide to shoo the Cranes off, the Tiger launched his attacked. The Cranes had not enough time to get away, to find enough speed to become air-born; at least one of the lovely creatures was doomed, he thought.
Surprisingly, one of the Cranes was acting strangely, making a lot of noise and moving in a different direction to the other Cranes, seemingly hurt or confused. The fluttering of this Crane and the load whooping distracted the eye of a Tiger who had set his eyes on a youngling. The Tiger swerved now focusing and stalking the seemingly injured and startled Crane. The the Tiger charged gain an impressive speed and leapt into the air directly at the Crane . . . who with a burst of wings and speed leapt aside just at the right moment not even loosing a feather to the surprised Tiger. What a surprise and even more of a surprise was that the Tigers nose was bleeding from a small scratch.
The Tiger did not wast any time, slowed down, swerved and refocused on the Crane; moved his head side to side to get a new distance and bearing and again charged. Again, at the very last possible moment the Crane leapt into the air with a startling swiftness that belied it's graceful and elegant movements.
This time the monk, ready for the encounter and saw what the Crane did (not moving for fear of being the new target). he also noticed somewhere in the back of his mind that most the other Cranes were now airborne and gaining hight. As the Tiger charged the Crane extended it's right wing and moved to the left seemingly offering a larger target. The Tiger continued to focus on the Cranes center of mass and speed up again leaping at the right moment to catch the Crane center. What the monk saw next amazed him; the Crane withdrew the wing at the last possible moment and standing one one leg, used the other lifted leg to scratch/kick/leverage of the Tiger exposed nose/shout to leap high into the air out of the Tiger reach, at the same time causing a small amount of damage and in the process, gaining hight and taking wing to fly up with the herd that was now full airborne. The Tiger was now bleeding more from the snout and breathing very hard.
The Tiger seemed perplexed with this turn of events and was very perplexed and without his dinner. The Tiger was also breathing hard. obviously he had put a lot of effort into his attack and was now out-of-breath. The Tiger planked down and rested breathing hard. The Monk found this so absolutely startling that he did not notice his own danger. But as it was, the Tiger was so tired that he had no interest in the monk or anything for that matter and just lay there licking it's wounds. The Monk stayed very still for a long time until the Tiger got up and waled away. he waited a bit longer still after that.
A couple of days later the young monk was summoned to the Abbot who asked to hear his account of the events. And as so often from clever teachers, he asked what the student had learned from this encounter. Well said the young monk, the Tiger can not be beaten and yet it did not get to win! What else asked the teacher? The student temporized, the Crane focused on not being hurt or killed and preferred to evade and avoid using misdirection and unusual movements. Anything else asked the teacher?
The young monk though about it but could not see anymore so the master suggested; how about the way the Crane Moved and what it did to confuse the Tiger and gain speed? Ah, said the young monk, you mean the distraction by extending only one wing both seemingly to be injured and gaining a bit of distance from the main line of attack? Yes and asked the Master? And the way the Crane used the Tigers strength for it's own purpose, not opposing the power but using it!
And this made sense, as a Tiger was unbeatable; so, as the old saying goes, 'Like Water wearing away at Rock', the Crane focused on keeping the attention of the Tiger on what it did. It then focused on it's own safety rather than attacking the Tiger in any way; only as an after-though would the Crane cause some minor distraction or irritation to the attacking Tiger. Maybe even with a bit of luck causing the Tiger breathing problems through the nasal blood flow or even possible eye irritation with a lucky claw.
With this they established a Crane Style strategy based around the precepts of;
Avoid any damage or chance of damage
Focus the attacker on what you want them to see and expect
Do not anticipate, be ready for everything
Use the strength and movement of the attacker for your own purpose
Seek not to win but to help your opponent to defeat themselves.
Crane the Animals
Cranes are any of several wading birds comprising the 15 species of the family Gruidae, order Gruiformes. There are;
Black Crowned Crane
Grey Crowned Crane
The Shaolin Crane Stylist
The Crane stylist prefers a harmonious environment and would sooner walk away from a conflict than even consider partaking in it. The Crane Stylist is a dancer, the most beautiful mover of all the Shaolin Animals. It's forms a beautiful, graceful and full of elegance. All though all movements, each turn and hop, each pause have a meaning, often a Crane stylists practice of form will look more like a dance. They are very light on their feet and can be mistaken for Ballet Dancers at the highest level
Introduction to Shaolin Crane Kung Fu
We need to remember that the Shaolin 5 Animal Kung Fu style is one style of several parts. This allows us to view each part in purity and idiality rather than making it workable for all and everyone. The ideal Shaolin Crane practitioner is slim, light, possibly tall with strong hips and legs. They prefer elegant, sweeping movements that blend and compliment into the environment they are in. The Spirit of the Shaolin Crane Stylist is that of a mother or teacher with a total lack of aggression, no time for power games or posturing. A Crane stylist may even choose not to hit an attacker or even be adverse to hitting. An old Chinese saying goes;
"A Crane is like a drop after drop of water, individually/seemingly doing nothing but wearing out over time, inevitably".
The Crane Stylist has no Weapons; as with the Crane, all body parts are tools. There are no special tools, hand shapes or techniques. Everything results from an avoiding or evasive movement and to the uninitiated may look like an accidental movement. A flung out hand, a tripping foot, a accelerating hand grab, an seemingly accidental brush across the eyes of a stray finger into an eye. All these executed almost as an afterthought as the Cranes ultimate tool is the strength of the attacker and not the effectiveness of it's techniques. The only weakness of the Crane is that is has to stay upright; falling is the cranes death.
The Crane Style Kung Fu
It is elegant, a thing of beauty and grace. From this style we have the concept of Dancing as a form of evasive martial arts. Like a gust of wind blowing through a horde of attackers, touching all but not being touched by any. Like water being punched, offering no resistance but after the initial impact back to how it was and where it was. Crane Kung Fu is aloof, above fear and anger. It is of peace and tranquility and then of sudden motion and beauty. It is....
The Cranes Main Principles
of though and expectation. There are always a million possibilities but only one reality; there are a thousand way to misdirect but only one correct action. Never look at the future as the present can catch up with you whilst you are not there. Find peace and inner stillness to be ready for all possible futures.
of your surroundings, items that could cause possible problems and object that could be used to an advantage. Awareness of how to possibly use the redirective force to your advantage against the attacker. Yes, the first two principles seem contradictory but they do not; Emptiness and Awareness are not in opposition but in support of each other they are complimentary like Yin and Yang.
Tricking the eye/mind in small ways to create the little bit extra, that small distraction, the tiny redirection, the key misdirection that will allow the crane to do one thing whilst seeming to do another or be in one place whilst seeming to be slightly somewhere else. Most importantly though, aiding in achieving a successfully evasion every time.
Not being there is the 1st Skill of the Crane. Frustrating the attacker by being there and then not being there when they commit to the final strike, all out attack, the pounce of death. Most importantly, Evasion and not being hurt or killed.
of force, of the attackers strength and power. Using their strength and adding just a little bit of your to send it in a slightly different direction; a direction that suits you much better than it suite the attacker.
The Cranes Stylist MO
The Crane operates by total Adaptation, immersion into the given situation before taking any action. In a way it is the ultimate spiritual chameleon, adapting to the surrounding s and situation almost totally. It seeks to gain a feel for the situation at hand and adapt to the circumstances. It will initially contribute to a situation with intuition and emotion seeking that total immersion, unless it is threatened.
As the Crane is a very social animal (within the context of the Shaolin Crane Kung Fu) it will seek to be a contributing part of the whole, adding in a positive way; being almost totally inconspicuous. If danger threatens it will run with the rest seeking safety and escape, unless it is the responsible parent, adult, elder or feels that it's action can be of benefit to all.
You are a Crane Personality
If you prefer non-violent action and want everyone to get along even if it means severe compromise and work. As a Crane personality you feel that family, friends and work mates are the reason for living, socializing and having fun with other people is your greatest joy. You don't like bullies but do like strong commanding people. You don't like pushy people but do like for someone to take charge. You prefer witty charming and non-threatening people in a know and safe environment, and prefer not to experiment. Normally you would not be into martial arts (that is why most Crane Styles are not really Crane styles in the pure sense but have major Crane elements only) but yoga, aerobics, tai chi or another form of non-competitive sport. You like elegance, beauty, looking good and being relatively well dressed.
Crane Kung Fu
In terms of martial arts, the Crane Stylist is not a seeker of 'action' but will rather leave the fighting to others, supporting them when needed, chiding when they believe it is unnecessary (which is most the time). If confronted directly it will seek to evade, avoid and defuse the situation, seeking always for a non-action solution. Only if the situation becomes unbearable, unavoidable, imminent or they are protecting someone, will they stand and draw the focus onto themselves; still seeking to diffuse the situation, negotiate a peaceful outcome or bargain a solation without violence.
When/If it comes to fighting, the Crane will seek to wear down the opponent, seek to demotivate or educate where possible. It will keep it's distance from the attacker without backing away obviously. It will seek to create confusion to the attacker with words, action or body movement. It will seek to maximize the effort put in by the attacker and minimize it's need for a response knowing that if it can survive the initial few attacks it will still be fresh and safe but the attacker will be a bit worn down. It's main strategy will be to first avoid harm, observing the attacker. it will then 'experiment' with some irritation techniques, a flick here, a sting there, a foot trip or an eye poke. The Cranes aim is to strip the attacker of planning and thought down to it's basics instincts, which are, for the Crane Kung Fu stylist, easily predictable and manageable.
The Crane does not seek to win; the Crane just seeks not to loose. It is not competitive or combative but cooperative and contributory.
Crane Kung Fu Skills
Evasion, Avoidance and Adaptation. Cranes are elegant dancers charming their attackers rather then beating them. If that doesn't work they try to educate them through small pains, scrapes and trips. Only if both the one and the other does not work will they go to more severe measure such as hyper-extension, bouncing of an object and possibly even minor trap setting (standing in front of something waiting for the attacker to charge and then helping the person to hit this object rather than them.
Overview of Shaolin Crane Kung Fu Techniques
Primarily, side-stepping, redirecting and general avoiding and no major attacking techniques. But there are some 'persuasion' and 'educational' techniques that the Crane Stylist needs to master but more to that below in the 9 tests section. As a Crane learn to move like the wind, dance like Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gene Kelly and learn to adapt.
The Nine Tests of Shaolin Crane Kung Fu
To attempt for the Shaolin Crane Level you need to either be qualified as a Red Sash (or senior) in Shaolin Temple Kung Fu or a Black Sash in a recognized Traditional Kung Fu Style. If you are from such another style you will need to learn the Shaolin Academy style of executing techniques. You will not have to learn the Shaolin Academy temple Forms but you will need to demonstrate 5 Forms/Katas/Patterns of your own to prove standard! If you are interested but not sure about anything, contact
The Shaolin Crane Kung Fu person needs to be Elegant and Peaceful. To complete this test you need to choose five of the following the listed Movement Exercises and succeed in doing them. You need to be able to achieve the given exercise and will be marked on how well, how Elegantly and how convincingly you are able to achieve it.
Crane Front Kick
3 Butterfly Kicks
Single Leg Squat
Jumping Backspin Crescent
A twisting Lohma Stepping Routine (90 secs)
Bharatha Natyam style Dance
A Ballet Dance/Routine
Dance a Contemporary Number
Dance a Waltz with a partner
3nd Test - Crane Techniques
Again, we need to remind ourselves that the Shaolin Crane is part of the 5 Animal System and does not need to be a complete system like normal Village or Family Crane Styles. It is especially useful to experience the Shaolin Crane in the purity of an aspect of a whole system. Thus, the Shaolin Crane does not attack, it does not even advance at it's attacker. Even if the attacker is damaged or incapacitated, the Shaolin Crane will not attack but prefer to 'walk' away. This the Crane Techniques here are mainly defensive and occasionally irritating or instructively. Having said that, all the Crane Style Blocks & Stepping have been covered in the pre-red sash curriculum and the only items left to cover are only Crane Specific Techniques (below). For completeness sake following is a brief recount from key Crane Blocking and Stepping before we come to the Shaolin crane Unique Claws.
Crane Palm Blocks
Crane Gate Blocks
The same with Stances; these have already been covered leading up to Red Sash completing the Temple Levels but again for completeness sake, let's list the most relevant to the Shaolin Crane Kung Fu, stances;
5-Eagle (front & Back)
9-Lohma (32 Versions)
Remembering that the Shaolin 5 Animal Styles are built on top of the Shaolin temple Styles and thus all students attempting the grading need to be prepared that any aspect of the pre-red sash can be used in the testing including but not limited to the techniques just mentioned; you can count on that these techniques as well as those below WILL BE TESTED.
Cranes Snapping Beak
is a very effective, quick and interesting technique performed with the thumb and two fingers.
Cranes Taring Claw
is only applicable if you have strong fingernails and uses the Thumb and two Fingers to rake and irritate the skin, often targeting the exposed arms of the attacker, possibly forehead of cheek.
Cranes Redirecting Hook
is used to redirect or indirect an attackers punching or stabbing technique. Hook into just behind the fist at the wrist and directs the technique with the aim of overbalancing the attacker through their own attack
Cranes Front Kick
is a snapping Front Kick usually aiming at the testicles or side of knee but can also be used for an Ear, Temple or even Floating Ribs
Cranes Iron Wing Slap
is as the name implies just a slap to an exposed skin area of the attacker. As the attacker is avoided and goes by you slap them solidly to an exposed skin area, same areas as the Claw. This is a safer method that should not draw blood.
Cranes Claw Snap
is a finger flick, aiming the middle finger, finger nail at a vital spot such as eye, nostril, ear or even an extend arm.
Cranes Iron Wing
using the edge of your hand as the attacker passes by usually targeting the neck are but can also be used for elbow or wrist joint; but to lesser effect.
Cranes Crab Claw
is the Crab Claw but gentler, quicker and usually aiming at an exposed fleshy bit of the attacking arm. But can also be used for Ear Lobe, Neck, and other 'chubby' bits.
Cranes Monkey Hand
needs to be used sparingly. Grabbing the attackers hand or neck for the purpose of on or redirecting requires and experienced and proficient use of style. Using Monkey Claw helps to ensure that your hand in turn will not be easily captured or redirected.
The 4th Test - Exercises
Whereby you focused on techniques to understand how they work, achieve precision and quality, drills are all about usage and delivery. We use drills to practice the practical application of the techniques in combination with other techniques; choosing the most relevant and appropriate 5 from a possible host of hundreds. The 5 Exercises below need to be know well and look effective and practiced. If you do well you may be asked to do others to see how Crane Style suits you!
1-Crane Stance, Upper with Lower Block
2-System of Open Hand Strikes
3-Crane Kama Square
4-Crane System of Blocks
5-Crane System of Wings
5th Test - Safety & Control
The Crane can not be caught, engaged for prolonged periods or pushed into a corner. The Cranes techniques need to be targeted, and executed when it is absolutely safe for the Crane Stylist. You will be tested by a number of individual attacks and how you deal with them. There will be at least three scenarios;
Single Charging Attacker
A lone person will attack you 3 times, your ability to avoid harm will be the key criteria.
will attack you each twice at different time. You management of this and your ability to avoid harm is the key criteria
You will need to navigate your way through a group of sparring students, without interfering with them or being hurt. Your ability to do this quickly, elegantly and without being hurt will be the key criteria (but not the only one).
6th Test - Shaolin Flying Crane Form
Center of Balance, Poise and Elegance are the key aspects in the Flying Crane Form. Agility, Flexibility and Fluidity of movement are the supporting criteria. The Shaolin Flying Crane Form is meant to teach these aspects and allow the student to relies their Crane Aspects. For this level you need to know the Flying Crane Form for frames one to six; only attempt frames 7 to 10 if you can really pull it off. Crane Gradings do not allow for mistakes so, have frames 1-6 done really well rather than all the form so-so.
7th Test Application of Defence
Using parts of the Shaolin Flying Crane Form, you will be expected to show some aspects of the form in the application. Which parts are used how is your choice and you are meant to rehearse the routines with people attacking you. Chose 3 to 5 sets that you feel best represent your Crane Kung Fu skills. practice them and be prepared to show them making them work the 1st time. Again, there are no 2nd chances for the Shaolin Crane.
8th Test - Theory/Knowledge
As a Crane Stylist you have many options for this test. The Crane usually has a good expressive communication, but not always in words. You can, as with the other Shaolin Animal styles write about an event or person in current events or recent and distant history that you believe best represents your understanding of the Shaolin Crane. But you can also chose to recite a Poem that fulfills the same purpose of representing your understanding of the Crane. You may also stage a short recital, play a Video, presentation, performance or almost anything that YOU believe represents you version of Crane Style. Run your ideas past Sijo to clarify expectations, minimum requirements need to be meet and time allocation to be agreed.
9th Test - Sparring
Normally, usually, etc., sparring is an optional aspect of Shaolin 5 Animal Kung Fu Academy but not at this level. But, the Crane Stylist does not 'do' sparring. So, you will be attacked by 10 people or 10 attacks in which you will deal with the situation as a Shaolin crane would do; in your opinion. You may be attacked bare hand or with weaponry, it could be a style based attack (Boxing, Karate, TKD, Judo) or a situation based attack (street, robbery, car-jacking, etc). Again, you have some say in this so talk to Sijo about ideas.
This will not make an expert out of you, or a Champion or a Warrior; but it gives you are good grounding that will enable you to specialize, if you wish, in a direction you care to take. Some have chose to enter competitions and have done well in All Styles Comps, Kung Fu Comps, Internationally and Nationally. Shaolin Academy students have even been used as action stand-ins in theater, movies, music videos and shows. We even put on a show at the Shaolin Temple in Henan China.
You may choose to want to use the style for Acting, Stage Work, Shows, Street Theater and such but it also applies for everyday life. Recognizing when you are confronted with a Tiger Style personality, you will know what you are up against, be it in the office, at a party, in the street or elsewhere. And the more you immerse yourself in the understanding of your Tiger, you will find that you are able to manage it within yourself better, both to restrain it when it will harm and to use it when appropriate. You will also learn the weaknesses of the each animal and relies that, for example, a Tiger can only be defeated by a Greater Tiger or by a mouse (and you need to work this out).
Shaolin Academy Kung Fu Style and Weaponry Training Links
On this WEB site you will find information about quite a number of Kung Fu Styles, Systems and Techniques as well as complete Style Training Programs (Cyber Training). The Colored Tiles Below are direct links to the pages with the Information and training. The Grayed-out Tiles are the Programs, Styles and Information we are still working on bringing to the WEB. If there is anything in particular you are interested in, let us know; we may have some info on the topic. Write to us at Shaolin Academy; Thank you - Sijo Robert Z