Crane kung fu is often depicted in a very specific way when shown in kung fu films: the fingers pinched together as if to form a beak and with the strikes coming from the elbow like pecks.
That style is actually more along the lines of Hung Gar’s crane form and, in reality, crane kung fu, or in this case white crane kung fu, is very different.
In fact, I’d say it has less to do with the shape of the beak and more along the lines of imitating the wings of the crane.
The hands are often left open and the strikes are in the form of finger jabs, blows to the vital areas as well as take downs.
If you watch the clip above, note that in the first application the white crane practitioner brings his hands quite high. It actually looks wrong but his hands are actually at eye level with his opponent, causing a distraction. White crane demands a lot of speed and so transitioning from move to move is quick…but fluid.
Many of the attacks come from the core as well. The style isn’t overly expressive and, instead, tight and expelled in bursts of energy (which sounds like something Professor X would say to Havoc)
With that said, Yong Chun white crane is very much under the radar of the martial arts world and is considered quite a quiet style, not only in regards to its physical application but because of its teaching too.
Very few teachers continue the lineage. Sad really, as it’s quite a beautiful style to watch. It’s also one of those styles that, when demonstrated without a partner, looks a bit silly. Lots of jerky expressions and “wing” movements. It’s only when applied to a combat situation that the moves start to make sense.
If anything, the style mirrors Bagua to some extent as it has a lot of forceful pushes and attacks to throw an opponent off balance.
It’s a lovely style though and one that’s truly unsung in the kung fu world as it’s sadly been outshone by other crane forms.