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It is said that the White Crane kata are the ultimate expression of karate kata and once mastered, you have mastered karate itself. A group of Okinawan masters, which included Hohan Soken, were taught White Crane kata by a Chinese tea merchant and White Crane gungfu practitioner named Gokenki. Gokenki worked for the Eiko Chako Tea Company and taught White Crane in Okinawa between 1912 and his death in 1940. Gokenki was an occasional member of the 1920's Kenkyukai, and associated with many of Okinawa's great masters during this time.

The Wisdom of the Crane by Terry Bryan.

"The crane's beak is long and pointed, a stabbing weapon useful for self-defense. She is calm and poised, balanced and disciplined. When attacked, she knows she cannot meet force with force. She therefore controls the fight by yielding, until an opening appears, then counters immediately." Fred Absher - Kojosho Kempo

Crane image

Calm, balanced and disciplined, what better attributes could you want in a fighter? The crane is a master of angles. She has learned to wait until the last second and then by making a slight movement or shifting of the body, the stronger and more aggressive attacker simply throws himself off-balance. A tremendous amount of mental practice is necessary to remain calm as a serious attack is approaching, and not physically reacting too soon is the key to success. There is a saying that an attack of 1000 pounds can be redirected by an ounce of energy, if you use proper angles and timing.

Crane kata image

Matayoshi Shinpo performing the Hakkucho kata.

Learning to redirect a superior force with minimum energy, as well as optimizing effectiveness of its strikes based upon proper angles and points of attack, is the key strategy of the crane stylists. She knows that the best defense is "don't be there," and has developed that strategy into a fine science. The crane also has the ability to stand on one leg for hours at a time while she stays motionless and totally aware of her surroundings.

The key to the crane's ability is mental balance, and the ability to be calm and relaxed so as to move quickly and respond. It is the same with us. Watch a seasoned fighter freefighting. Even if he or she is older and not able to move as fast or kick as high, the fighter is relaxed and knows how to respond and use angles and timing to set up an opening or position of advantage. His or her mental balance is always strong.

Each of us must learn to create balance in all areas of our lives and not focus too much on any one area - work, rest, family and business, as well as mental, spiritual and physical training.

We also need to know where the center is. Physically, the center of balance is located two inches below the belly button. Most classical martial arts spend a great amount of time working on kuzushi, or breaking your opponent's balance. And in any endeavor, freefighting, work or relationships, if our mental balance, or spirit, is broken we lose control of the situation.

Mentally, the center is based on one's true values backed by spirit. Once a person has identified what he/she feels is most important in life, then it becomes imperative to make sure that these values are up held in every part of life. Understanding the major purpose in life and working towards that goal while staying true to one's values is what balance is all about. Only then will balance be achieved and the true essence of the crane understood.

Courtesy © www.fightingarts.com

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