Pai Lum Tao’s White Crane
by Glenn C. Wilson
The ever-changing movements of white crane keep attackers off balance and confused.
Few systems can match the diversity and effectiveness of Pai Lum Tao's way of the white dragon. This revered system was brought to the public eye in the early 1950s by the legendary great grandmaster Daniel Kane Pai. A time-tested combative art, it proved its worth in the tough back streets of Hawaii. Daniel Kane Pai became legendary for his no-nonsense and highly successful form of fighting which he called, "fighting to survive."
Pai would formulate the teachings of his grandfather's dragon movements, his aunt's white crane style with his kodokan judo, white lotus kenpo, chuan fa and tai chi to give birth to an awesome system of modern Pai Lum Tao. Within these teachings are three disciplines: pai te lung chuan kung-fu; bok leen pai kenpo; and pai yung tai chi chuan.
The Key To Success
Understanding the depth and zones of attack are keys to the combative success of Pai Lum Tao. Depth of short- and long-land boxing becomes the basic categories of study within the system. To know which to use and when becomes the science of the warrior.
The devastating long-hand techniques of Pai Lum Tao teach one to strike like a whip. The body is kept relaxed and supple while the hand emulates a metal ball. This allows the practitioner to move in the "nei," soft and smooth, and strike in the "wei," hard and powerful. Maximum range is the goal of the "long wing" movements. The muscle, tendons and sinew are worked continuously to assure their flexibility at the time of execution. Exercises such as swing arm, horizontal whips and extended wings are practiced daily. Arms become extremely strong yet supple; this ensures good "chi" flow when the technique reaches its destination. The short-hand techniques slice, pierce and crush in circular, vertical, horizontal and figure-eight patterns. These moves are kept close to the body and require countless hours of speed drills to assure the "lightning fast" snapping motion. Such drills as pecking beak, crane's head and spearing the enemy assure pinpoint targetry. These drills are practiced solo for speed and technique and with a partner for timing and targetry. They move quickly in close range and are accentuated by powerful waist whipping. The attacker who runs into the short-range combative techniques will quickly fall or yield back into the long-range zones.
Encompassing both long hand and short hand, a variety of hand and arm arsenals are practiced diligently. Basic hand strikes such as spear, leopard, sun, ram, uppercut, back-fist, heel palm, willow palm, crane's beak and crane's head are the essential utensils. The arm is used to open up or crush anything in its path. Arm strikes begin with white crane's wing, white ape, on-guard, searching rod, and bear. These techniques serve as a battering ram to offset, dislodge and disrupt the attacker's flow.
Back To Basics
Before the Pai Lum Tao practitioner can hope to master his arsenal he will spend countless hours working the basic disciplines of stance, posture, and technique. Then he must understand the principles of distance and depth. This will determine the warrior's "plan of attach" - which technique to use with the long-hand sets and which to use with the short-hand series.
Once the mind has sent the signal, the techniques must be reactionary. With this reactionary response Pai Lum Tao's white crane theories evolve around a speedy, powerful execution of technique. This is a formula that cannot be successful without the ingredients of both lightning and thunder; speed techniques must be spontaneous in nature. One may not have the luxury of time to think of a response to an attack. Speed drills must be practiced on a daily basis. The key to speed is relaxation. The pupil is taught to move in the "nei" soft-smooth movements. Such exercises as picking the fruit, thunder and lightning and elusive wind are practiced diligently to insure that one develops and maintains the lightning speed for which Pai Lum Tao has become known.
Power must be built from the ground up. Stance is the root of the movement. A weak stance may prove disastrous for the practitioner. The three-step formula of "stance, posture, then technique" becomes a "checkpoint" for the student to gauge his success in preparation. The student is trained to understand the full effectiveness of "waist whipping" of the dragon. The waist whipping can triple the power of a punch when executed correctly. With a smooth, fluid motion the waist will preceed the punch then recoil to its "set". With this immense power the punch will then be able to penetrate with a magnified result.
Physical and mental training play a most important role in the success of the outcome of a conflict. Physical training can be complex and dangerous if not instructed by the proper tutor. Iron body training is part of the practitioner's carefully practiced formula. The conditioning of the body to not feel pain when the punch or kick lands is a slow, careful process. Thousands of carefully placed strikes by a trained partner will become routine. Herbal medicine, such as dragon dit da jow, will be essential for protection of external and internal bruises that may occur during rigorous training. With this in mind, partner training such as "seven star," becomes common place.
Finding The Perfect Balance
Balance is just as important as speed and power. The very essence of white crane training evolves around balance. Balance encompasses stance, posture, technique, execution, timing and breathing.
Balance training begins with the cat stance (low and high) and works toward the sleeping crane - on one leg for 15 minutes. This is slow, yet direct training designed to reach the level desired by the students. Mastery of balance is key for any student who wants to become proficient in his art.
Pinpoint striking is a well-known characteristic of the white crane. Knowing where to strike can make the difference between success and failure. The technique will be partially determined by the practitioner based on his target area. Pai Lum Tao's white crane teaches fingers to pierce; blade of hand to slice; palm of hand to stun; and fist hand to crush.
They say that "timing is everything." But as most martial artists know, perfecting "timing" is one of the most difficult training aspects to conquer. Students will practice a cat-and-mouse type of training with a partner. The offensive partner attempts to tag his defensive partner's extended palms with a variety of crane strikes while the palms are moving. The moving palms will be purposely deceptive and evasive to the attack. This teaches one to relax and explode spontaneously with pinpoint accuracy.
Off Balance And Confused
The crane teaches us the epitome of patience. While practicing white crane, a student practices patience as he moves about the floor in a smooth, fluid motion. Once his opponent obligates himself, and ultimately compromises his guard, the white crane explodes with a beautiful flurry of techniques which render the attacker helpless. Such development in one's patience is a time-tested discipline which separates the winners and losers.
The ever-changing movements of white crane keep its attacker off balance and confused. There is a continuous linking of movements in a systematic array of strikes. The Pai Lum Tao practitioner's goal is to develop spontaneous reaction. Movements link into one another with a rhythm of energy release. One will not only begin to read his attacker's moves, but he will actually predetermine them by his own movement.
Pai Lum Tao puts a great emphasis on the combined development of mind, body, and spirit. The practitioner learns that the mind triggers the body, the body awakens the spirit, and the spirit creates the mind. The natural blending of the three creates a true harmony. This is never more evident than in Pai Lum Tao's white crane.