Canadian Headquarters: Gloucester Traditional Karate Association

Yong Chun White Crane Kung Fu and Karate Part 1 by Master Bob Kho

This article is published with the permission of Bob Kho Sifu of the Teck Guan Whitecrane Kungfu School of Calgary, Alberta

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This translation was done by Bryan Har, one of Kho Sifu's top student

Among the many books on my father's shelf, I remember there was a large hardcover text. This book was a compilation of karate literature. Noticing the similarities between our style and the karate systems, my father suspected the karate was derived from the style that we trained in.

About ten years ago, I met master instructor Renshi Ken Harris (6th degree blackbelt), and through him met his Sensei, Kyoshi William (Bill) Hind. Kyoshi Hind had travelled extensively, and had seen many white crane kung fu masters. However, he could not be convinced that white crane kung fu could possibly be related to karate, as he observed very few similarities between the two styles. (These white crane styles were of course not from the province of Fujian). Thus when I met Kyoshi Hind, seeing that the system I taught was likely the origin of Okinawan karate, he sent his head student Renshi Harris to learn more about the white crane style from me. We have continued to research and exchange since the friendship between Chinese Kung Fu and Japanese karate started ten years ago.

Around the same time, I was acquainted with Renshi Hing-Poon Chan, who has been a black belt since 1971. Renshi Chan has had over 30 years of continuous training, with one of his notable mentors being the late Hanshi Richard Kim (9th degree grand master). As well, he is the representative for Hanshi Anthony Mirakian (9th degree grand master). Hanshi Mirakian is the senior student of the late Dai Sensei Meitoku Yagi (10th degree grand master).

Renshi Chan and I are currently researching the interpretation of the text, "Bible of Karate" (called the Okinawan Bubishi). The Okinawan Bubishi shares many details with the Fujian Yong Chun White Crane books from which it was derived. Renshi Chan and I are grateful for Hanshi Mirakian's support and encouragement for our research.

Hanshi Mirakian has done considerable research into the history of karate and marital arts. While traveling out in the East, he visited many great masters, (he was good friend of the famous late Kwan Dak-Hing Sifu, who portrayed the Hung-Ga master Wong Fay-Hung in movies) while learning the Chinese language in the process. As a result, Hanshi Mirakian questioned the belief that the Okinawan names for katas/forms remained unchanged from their original Chinese names. For example, he found that the kata "108 Moves" should be called "ye-pai-lin-bei", but the Okinawan name was in fact "su-pa-rin-pe". While we were discussing this inconsistency, I pointed out that the pronunciation that he used was from the Mandarin pronunciation "ye-pai-lin-bei", whereas the Okinawan used the Fujian pronunciation "su-pa-rin-pe" thus "suparinpe". Sensei Mirakian had a laugh about these linguistic misunderstandings. Thus the mere dialect of a language can cause much confusion.

Within the martial arts systems themselves, I have observed many similarities between karate and white crane kung fu. An example includes the Okinawan kata, Sanchin, and the Yong Chun form, "chi bo Sam Jien" (seven steps Sam Jien), as well as with the form "ngo gi Sam Jian" (five extremity Sam Jien, from grand master Joy-Un Lee of Teck Guan Kung Fu School). The two "Sam Jien" (chi bo featuring more open handed movements and ngo gi feature more closed fist movements) share many features with Sanchin. Other forms with parallels such as the Okinawan kata, Tensho, and the White Crane form ("Bweo kwun" in Fujianese dialect, "Bei Fun Sou" in Cantonese dialect) "Eight Part Hand"

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TM Denotes the trademark of Anthony Mirakian of 151 Mt. Auburn Street, Watertown, MA 02155 USA, used under license by Hing-Poon Chan.