Karate Nerd in China (Ep. 2) 🍵


Previously on Karate Nerd in China. I’m on my way to explore
the roots of karate. But this time, I’m not going to Japan. I can’t believe I’ve already been exposed to one of the most important kung fu styles in the history of karate. (speaking Chinese) You can tell that is the
original Bubishi right there. The old masters called
it the Bible of karate. All I have to do is follow the Bubishi, and right now it’s telling me to visit the birthplace of White Crane. Follow along an epic adventure to rediscover the lost roots of karate, as Jesse Enkamp uncovers
the ancient source of karate’s kung fu connection. This is what the history
books never told you. You’re watching Karate Nerd in China. Today it’s time for a road trip. But first, coffee. My jetlag kept me awake all night, and I’ve gotta stay focused today, because, wait. What the heck? Is that a cat backpack? Anyway, as I was saying, today we’re going to Yongchun village where Alex booked a meeting with the White Crane research association. I have no idea what to expect, but I’m super excited. Before I know it, we’re there. It’s obvious that this town
is famous for its kung fu. As we arrive, we’re greeted by the head of the association, Master Tsun. His job is to research,
preserve, and promote the art. Nice to meet you.
Nice to meet you, Jesse. Wow, we’re at the birthplace
of White Crane kung fu. Surprisingly, White Crane
actually has a lot of weapons, but they’re very different
from what we see in karate. The coolest one is a trident, originally used to kill tigers. The secret is to squat down and wait for the tiger to pounce on you. So if you’re
gonna defend yourself against a tiger.
(speaks Chinese) Then as the tiger
comes to you, you squat down, and put it straight up
into his throat as he– Every White Crane school has a statuette of the
woman who founded the style. Her name was Fang, and she came to Yongchun in the 16th century. Back then, southern China
was a lawless country full of bandits and criminals. So, to defend herself, she created her own style of kung fu. And her first student
was actually her husband. White Crane also incorporates lots of strength training tools. This heavy pole, for example. (kiai) Over a cup of green tea, I learn that the oldest White Crane dojo in town belongs to the Pan family. If we’re lucky, we might be
able to visit later today. But first, it’s time to see the most important kata in Yongchun. And the man who knows it best
lives up on the mountain. Hello, nice to meet you. This is Master Zheng. At first glance, he might seem
like an unassuming farmer. But looks can be deceiving. Turns out, Master Zheng
is an expert at Sanzhan In Japanese, we call it Sanchin. This form is considered to be the essence of White Crane in Yongchun. (kiai) (applause)
Wow, thank you. Very impressive. Apparently, there are many
different versions of this kata. But all versions share the same universal principle of body structure. Wow. How do you do it, this way? This way? Is that Sanzhan?
Sanzhan. The key is to align your joints and stack your bones to connect with your center of gravity, thereby becoming virtually immovable. When the principles of
Sanzhan are applied correctly, even a small and weak
person can become powerful. It’s just biomechanics. He’s very strong.
I know, right? Thank you. I hope to see you again. Now there’s only one stop left before we visit the
oldest dojo in Yongchun. This is the White Crane Memorial Hall. Basically, it’s a museum in
the middle of the jungle. Turns out that White Crane
has many different styles, like Flying Crane, Sleeping Crane, Feeding Crane, and Whooping Crane, the style that I learned from Master Yu. Some people even argue that Wing Chun, the style that Bruce Lee practiced, is also a style of White Crane. (whoop) That’s why he made those whooping
sounds, just like a crane. As the history lesson comes to an end, Alex pays his respects and
prays to the statue of Fang before we’re finally
dropped off at the dojo. The school we’re about to
visit was established in 1928. So, Alex, where are we now? It’s Weng Gong Ci.
Weng Gong Ci? Master Pan’s place, it’s a dojo. Very, very old dojo. It’s been said that every master in Yongchun started their journey here. This is the most famous dojo?
Yes. Of the White Crane.
Yes. (speaks Chinese) When I walk in, it feels like I’m in a kung fu movie. This is the birthplace
of White Crane kung fu. This is Master Pan. He’s taking care of the dojo since his father passed away recently. His father was very famous, and had students all over the world. Pan Jr. literally grew up in this dojo. He’s been practicing White
Crane for over 40 years. When I asked Master Pan what’s
written on the whiteboard, he says it’s a list of their forms. But strangely enough, it doesn’t include any of the kata I’d seen
previously on my trip. That’s because the Bubishi stuff isn’t practiced in Yongchun. I’d gone too far back in history. They don’t even do the forceful breathing I learned from Master Yu. The closest thing they
have to classical karate is this old two-person exercise. [Alex] One circle,
and then, do it again. Thank you very much. Very interesting. As we cool down with some tea, Master Pan reveals
something very interesting. Fang Qiniang’s father
learned Southern Shaolin, and then she added the crane movement by mimicking how the cranes move, and she added that into it. I couldn’t believe what I just heard. You see, the Shaolin Temple is mentioned everywhere in the history of karate. According to the research
of Patrick McCarthy, the old karate masters
had up to 13 distinct ways of referencing Shaolin in their writings. Okinawan styles like Shorinryu, Kobayashiryu, Shorinjiryu,
Shoreiryu, and Matsubayashiryu literally translate to “Shaolin style”. And almost every dojo in Okinawa has a picture of a Bodhidharma
hanging on the wall. He’s the spiritual grandfather
of Shaolin kung fu. In fact, half of the
Bubishi is said to be about monk fist boxing, the
style practiced at Shaolin. But Master Pan is not talking about the famous temple you see on TV, because that’s in the north,
and it’s mostly for tourists. This is a smaller,
southern Shaolin temple, and many people don’t even know it exists. Perhaps that’s where I’ll find the missing piece of the karate puzzle. I’m so excited. As we leave the old dojo, all I wanna do is grab the first train to Shaolin. But before we leave Yongchun, Master Pan wants to introduce us to one of his father’s old friends. This is Master Su. He’s been teaching White
Crane for 60 years, so imagine how long he’s been training. Thank you very much. I’m literally sweating tea at this point, and my jetlag is kicking in real hard. Luckily, Will is ready to take some pain. So he’s saying that karate doesn’t have this kind of coil-like grab. So you see, he can, from the middle he can strike
easily from this position. Apparently, Master Su
is an expert on joint locks. He calls this a softer
form of White Crane. The goal is to be like a rod
of steel wrapped in cotton. Strong inside, soft outside. Don’t be tense like that, be relaxed. So these three joints want to be relaxed. Your power won’t come out if you’re too tense, so you want to relax. So this is like the internal power here. It’s like I’m not even using force. Having strength is like having money. Strength is like money, that you can just lose it quite easily. Because he’s saying Crane shouldn’t be hard and tense, because it was founded by a woman. If a woman came up to
him and said, (grunts) you’re not gonna marry her, are you, so it should be graceful and gentle. Before we leave Master Su, we’re treated to a
demonstration by his daughter. Although her performance is lovely, this whole visit just confirms my belief that I’ve gone too far down
the rabbit hole of White Crane. After all, I’m here to
learn karate, not kung fu. Thank you very much. We thank the master and his daughter for the honor, then head back to the city. So Will, how does your hand feel? It’s in pain, like, seriously, I wasn’t exaggerating, I was trying to not react to it,
because I didn’t want him to stop showing anything, right? So I was trying to hold the pain, but I was in absolute agony, I mean– Where did it hurt, like– Like here, it was just
a very tiny movement. What he did was he basically said that you open this joint
by like a micrometer, and that’s the key to the grab, so– Then you can’t resist. Yeah, he hardly did anything, but it just straight down like that, and you just cannot, you can’t do anything
against it, that was amazing. It’s been a long day in Yongchun, and I’ve learned so much. But it’s time to shift gears. There are so many karate things
I still haven’t found here, like deeper stances, more kicks, long-distance movements,
and closed-hand techniques. But I know exactly where to look now. It’s time to visit the
southern Shaolin temple.

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