The early history of Yongchun White Crane is shrouded in legend, with many different versions in existence. Consequently it is hard to say exactly which events were part of the founder’s life.
Fang Qi Niang lived in the late 1600s to early 1700s in a turbulent period in China’s history. The Qin Dynasty was beginning and the Ming was coming to an end. Battles were being fought across China as the invaders made their way south.
Master Fang learnt Kung Fu from her father, Fang Zhong, himself a Shaolin Kung Fu Master, from an early age. She would probably have already been quite proficient when she began to create her new form of Kung Fu.
She developed her new style using her martial background and through observation of the natural world around her. In particular she was fascinated by the graceful movements of the white cranes which inhabit that part of China. She developed a style which used great cunning to overcome bigger, stronger men. Many of these had a lifetime of martial training and fighting experience behind them.
The Legend of the Crane in the Temple
There are several legends from the history of Yongchun White Crane Kung Fu. One tells that the young master was sweeping the courtyard of the temple in which she was staying. A crane flew down and landed not far from where she was working. Wanting to see what would happen, Master Fang tried to shoo the crane away with her brush.
To her increasing surprise, each time she brought the brush towards the bird it danced gracefully out of the way, making it impossible to hit. After a short while the bird appeared to grow bored of the game, and with a single flap of its great wings, broke the brush handle into two. It then flew up onto the temple roof where it could continue its day without being disturbed.
It was this experience that led Master Fang towards founding White Crane Kung Fu.
It is quite likely that only a woman in this kind of situation could have developed such an innovative style. Many of the movements are intuitively feminine, and would have been beyond a man to develop.
It is thought that at least one master who challenged Master Fang later died of the injuries that he received at her hands.
Master Fang ran a thriving school and taught a large number of students. Several of her students went on to become famous generals. Her most famous students became known as the 28 Heroes.
Yongchun White Crane Today
In any case the White Crane System of Kung Fu that remains today is a true work of martial genius. Its movements are both beautiful and graceful. It is a feminine fighting style so effective that Fang Qi Niang remained undefeated by any other Kung Fu master throughout her life. This also propelled the style to great fame and longevity in the martial world.
Today Yongchun White Crane Kung Fu is famous throughout China, and is one of the oldest systems of Kung Fu still in existence. It has remained in the district of Yongchun, being handed down from master to student in the normal way. Today Master Su Ying Han holds the responsibility of passing on and teaching the style to an increasingly international student base.
In his younger days it was still common for challenges to take place between Kung Fu schools in China. Master Su was small and slight for his age, and because of this he was often chosen to deal with challengers. Many of these were bigger and stronger than him. This left him with a wealth of experience of fighting hand-to-hand, and winning, against martial artists from other styles in this type of situation, where he was at a physical disadvantage.
Yongchun White Crane is still highly relevant today. Its principles favour someone who must fight from a position of disadvantage, for example against an opponent who is bigger or stronger than oneself. It allows the subversion of their natural advantages, so is still directly applicable to self-defence today for both men and women.