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Shaolin Academy Crane Kung Fu (He Chuan)

Master of Evasion; Allow the Attacker to Defeat themselves.

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On this page you will find information about the Shaolin Crane Kung Fu style within the context of the Shaolin 5 Animal Kung Fu Style. The focus will be on the Physical martial art nature of the style mainly with supporting information and thoughts. Further down is also the complete Crane Kung Fu training information including Video recordings of Techniques and Form; as well as the prerequisites and requirements to grade this advanced level.

But First

It is suggested that you first read the Animal Types of Shaolin Kung Fu to gain a perspective on how the Style works within the context of the 5 Animal System. Much may not be fully appreciated without first perusing this information!


The Crane is a strong symbol in China being a symbol for longevity because of its exceptionally long life span. Historically, Cranes have claimed a special place in the human imagination because of their several distinctive similarities to humans, including their height, vocalization, social nature, and perennial monogamy.

There are many stories about the origins of Crane Style Kung Fu, some citing foundation as recent as the 18th century, some the Ming Dynasty, 15th Century but for the purposes of understanding the Shaolin Crane, we refer to the introduced of the Animal Styles including Crane after the 2nd destruction of Shaolin around 11th Century. Although the source of this Crane style my come from Tibet or even India, both of which had significant influences into China in the form of Buddhism, Martial Arts and Medicine. Following is some detail although the full Shaolin Temple and Shaolin Kung Fu history can be viewed on the Shaolin History page.

When the 2nd Buddhist Purge occurred in the 11th Century CE (1st purge and Shaolin destruction was around 570 CE, many Buddhist and Shaolin Monks dispersed to non Buddhist Monasteries including to the Daoist (Taoist) temple complex on Mount Emai Shan. Emei Shan has been inhabited since as early as 800 BCE. It was originally a Taoist retreat that focused on health, healing and Longevity (Longevity being a preoccupation of Taoist's). During the Ming dynasty Emei Shan's Taoist Temples were converted to Buddhism which gave rise to the idea that it may have been a Shaolin Temple, but it wasn't. It is though this temple that originally used the symbol of the Crane that is thought to also have influenced the Shaolin crane Style if not outright defined it.

A Crane Fable or History?

Fables are stories that can be true but may have been altered or are totally fictional but convey a lesson in some direct or indirect way. The advantage of using such to convey a learning is that it requires a bit of involvement and thinking on the part of the listener/reader which allows usually for a better and deeper understanding. So, here we go into the Fable of how the crane Style came into being.

There was once a young monk who was dedicated to Shaolin. He was brilliant in his studies and healing, courteous in his manners and exceedingly good in his Kung Fu. In all things he excelled though, especially in the healing arts and his martial arts. But when it came to using his Kung Fu skills, even the newest most, inexperienced of novices was able to best him in friendly sparring. It seems that our young monk did not have an aggressive bone in his body and not the mind to cause harm or hit someone for any reason. This was perplexing to his teachers who were trying to teach him the fullness of balance and life and the ability to survive hostile and dangerous environments as well as maintain his health and fitness through Kung Fu. Much was tried, nothing worked.

The young Monk was now ready to begin his journey years but for this one shortcoming he could not be sent into the hostile outside world. So he stayed and continued his studies and training and this was pleasing to him as he really liked this life. His Masters new that to truly be a Shaolin Monk you must re-enter the world unaided and go through your journey years, be exposed to all the temptations of life and still want to come back to Shaolin. That was the only way that Shaolin could become true Monks and then Masters. Much was considered by the temple teachers and Masters but no answer presented itself. So the wisest of the Masters came to a very simple solutions; allow the student to find the answer for them selves. Give them time and guidance to meditate, far away from distractions of the Temple, on just this subject, instead of the usual duties and see what happens. Thus it came to be that after morning meditations and his daily duties, he would go up the mountain, instead of Kung Fu training, and meditate on this matter.

This was also quite amicable to the young man as he was quite an amicable person. he found a peaceful clearing, set up his meditation mat, made him self comfortable on it and meditated. It was quite restive and the monk enjoyed this and the time for more meditation. He made the journey to the same spot every day, fitting himself into the nature of the area well; so well that the animals came to trust him and continued their life close to where he sat, without showing fear or apparently even noticing him. Even a flock of Cranes grazed there for a while on their yearly migration, without taking notice of him and without the young monk really noticing them. All in all, it was peaceful, but the young monk was not getting anywhere with his quest. As it was quite beautiful and peaceful there, and he did not really enjoy sparring and defence, he continue to spending his time at this activity; all was good so, until.

One day, whilst meditating, he felt a change around him. He interrupted his meditation and without moving took stock of the surroundings. The Cranes were still there, nothing seemed to have changed and he herd nothing. And then it came to him; much of the areas natural sound had died down, something was wrong, something was not quite right. The monks knew the area well now and also noted the uneasy feeling around him. So had the cranes some of whom were starting the long run they needed to take off. He was right, he soon saw a Tiger shadowing the flock of Cranes seeking his target, chasing after the slowest of the now all running birds.

The young monk was in a conundrum; his teaching is to be one with nature and let nature be nature; but his sympathy was with the Cranes and the peaceful nature of the area before the Tiger appeared; what to do if anything? Before he could decide though, the Tiger launched into a full run at the seemingly slowest and seemingly fattest of the Cranes, as the bird was big compared to the rest of the flock. The Tiger would be upon the poor crane in a matter of moments!

Surprisingly, the big crane ran at the Tiger, wings out stretched and charging the charging Tiger!! This ever so slightly confused the Tiger and is slowed ever so slightly! Still , the crane was done for. The Tiger leaped up with it's front paws to rip the crane down when the Crane flapped it's wings and jumped/flew over the Tigers head. The monk was surprised, the Tiger was confused and turned around, the crane was hurt it was limping. The Tiger approached the limping Crane slowly and carefully trying to trap it between itself and the trees so that the Crane could not run and get enough speed to take off. The crane was limping apparently right into the Tigers Trap. The Monk observed horrified and intrigued. What really happened and why the bird was not down and captured by the Tiger, was unclear?

The Tiger charged again, picking up an impressive speed. This time it leapt into the air seemingly anticipating the Crane leaping again. The Crane stood still until last possible moment at which time it spread it's wings and again startled the Tiger; who again, somehow missed the Crane! With a burst of wings and speed the Crane had leapt aside just at the right moment and evaded the Tiger. What a surprise and a second surprise when he saw that the Crane was no longer limping even more of a surprise was that the Tigers nose was bleeding and is was panting. All this effort by the Tigers reckoning, should have netted it a full meal of Crane breast and all.

The Tiger being a Tiger, did not wast any time rethinking his strategy but instead, swerved and refocused on the Crane; moved his head side to side to get a new distance and bearing and again charged. Again, at the very last possible moment the Crane spread it's wings and charged at the Tiger and again leapt into the air and to the side with a startling swiftness that belied it's graceful and elegant movements.

This time the monk, ready for the encounter, saw what the Crane did (not moving for fear of being the new target). He also noticed that all the other Cranes were now airborne and gaining hight. The Tiger also had an eye irritation that was to the side that the Crane had jumped to evade him. No matter, the Tiger now in full frustration and/or rage turned and charged at the Crane, although it was not quite as quick or fluid as it had been previously.

As the Tiger started the charge, the Crane extended only one wing seemingly the other was injured. The Brave Crane had done it's duty and saved it's flock for obviously it was the Alpha and had ensured it's family's safety at it's own life's cost. The monk wanted to close his eyes and not see this brave bird die but the whole was so fascinating he was rooted motionless. The Tiger continued his charge. What the monk saw next amazed him; the Crane withdrew the wing at the last possible moment and standing one one leg, used the other lifted leg to scratch/kick/leverage of the Tiger head around the injured eye to leap high into the air out of the Tiger reach, at the same time scratching the Tigers eye again.

The Tiger was hurt and his eye was watering profoundly. It had a problem focusing on the Crane. The Crane was now in a position to run and take off, but the monk judged that the Tiger, even with it's puffed state, would catch and kill the Crane before it could, take off. The Tiger was breathing hard very had. Obviously he had put a lot of effort into his attack as Tiger do and was now out-of-breath. The Tiger plonked down and rested wiping it's eye with it's paw. The Monk found this so absolutely startling that he did not notice his own danger. But as it was, the Tiger was so tired that he had no interest in the monk or anything for that matter and just lay there tending it eye. The Monk stayed very still for a long time until the Tiger got up and slinked away into the bush. At which time the Crane also started his take-off run. The Monk waited a bit longer still after that, just to be sure and to process what he had witnessed.

When he returned to the Temple he waited until the morning to tell his observation to his teacher-master, who listened attentively before stating that this was a significant observation and that he would like some time to also meditate on this.

A couple of days later the young monk was summoned to his teacher who suggested that today they both go up into the Mountain, a different place to where he had been to talk about the experience. Once they arrived the Master asked again to hear the monks account of the events. And as so often from clever teachers, he asked some guiding questions along the way including, what the student had learned from this encounter. Well said the young monk, the Tiger can not be beaten and yet it did not get to win! What else asked the teacher? The student temporized, the Crane focused on not being hurt or killed and preferred to evade and avoid using misdirection and unusual movements. Anything else asked the teacher?

The young monk though about it but could not see anymore so the master suggested; how about the way the Crane Moved and what it did to confuse the Tiger and gain speed? Ah, said the young monk, you mean the distraction by extending only one wing both seemingly to be injured and gaining a bit of distance from the main line of attack? Yes and asked the Master? And the way the Crane used the Tigers strength for it's own purpose, not opposing the power but using it!

And this made sense, as a Tiger was unbeatable; so, as the old saying goes, 'Like Water wearing away at Rock', the Crane focused on keeping the attention of the Tiger on what it did. It then focused on it's own safety rather than attacking the Tiger in any way; only as an after-though would the Crane cause some minor distraction or irritation to the attacking Tiger. Maybe even with a bit of luck causing the Tiger breathing problems through the nasal blood flow or even possible eye irritation with a lucky claw.


This may be a Fable or some sort of adapted true story, it does not matter. Somewhere the strategy of the crane Bird was adapted into the Crane Style which then was included in the Shaolin 5 Animal System. And if you think this all is a bit to far fetched to be true, have a look at the following report! Note that there is not enough space for the crane to take off and that there are three Tigers after it!!!

Shaolin Crane Principles

Again, within the context of the Shaolin Animal Style, five Crane Kung Fu guiding principles were established, five guides that make crane Kung Fu crane Kung Fu; not a style for all situations but a style when confronted with un-winnable situations and seemingly impossible odds;

Absolute Readiness/Absolute Alertness. Anticipate nothing and you can not be surprised. Total dedication to being prepared and ready to react!

Safety and Evasion. Your main focus is not to be hurt, damaged, distracted or slowed down. So first Bluff, Distract, Misdirect, Evade ad Avoid but keep your focus on the attacker; total dedication to the attacker, awareness of the surroundings.

Not Victory, Not Defeat. As a Crane stylist your goal is not to loose, not to be hurt and to walk away from the encounter with good conscience (if possible). Use the attackers own momentum and allow them to defeat themselves if necessary, you may do some damage to teach but all this is incidental not directive.

Peace is the Aim. What ever it takes to walk away without burning bridges and selling your soul. Sometimes inflicting a bit of pain encourages the other to rethink the situation, but be careful, it can also go the other way. Peace!

Escape is the Key. Get away as soon as possible, as soon a feasible, as soon as turning your back on the attacker will not invite them to take advantage. Until this point or some very fortunate circumstance, stay focused on the attacker, be aware of your surroundings.

"A Crane is like a drop after drop of water,
individually/seemingly doing nothing but wearing out over time, inevitably".

The Shaolin Crane Stylist

The Crane stylist prefers a harmonious environment and would sooner walk away from a conflict than even consider partaking in it. The Crane Stylist is a dancer, the most beautiful mover of all the Shaolin Animals. It's forms a beautiful, graceful and full of elegance. All though all movements, each turn and hop, each pause have a meaning, often a Crane stylists practice of form will look more like a dance. They are very light on their feet and can be mistaken for Ballet Dancers at the highest level

Introduction to Shaolin Crane Kung Fu

We need to remember that the Shaolin 5 Animal Kung Fu style is one style of several parts. This allows us to view each part in purity and idiality rather than making it workable for all and everyone. The ideal Shaolin Crane practitioner is slim, light, possibly tall with strong hips and legs. They prefer elegant, sweeping movements that blend and compliment into the environment they are in. The Spirit of the Shaolin Crane Stylist is that of a mother or teacher with a total lack of aggression, no time for power games or posturing. A Crane stylist may even choose not to hit an attacker or even be adverse to hitting. An old Chinese saying goes;

The Crane Stylist has no Weapons; as with the Crane, all body parts are tools. There are no special tools, hand shapes or techniques. Everything results from an avoiding or evasive movement and to the uninitiated may look like an accidental movement. A flung out hand, a tripping foot, a accelerating hand grab, an seemingly accidental brush across the eyes of a stray finger into an eye. All these executed almost as an afterthought as the Cranes ultimate tool is the strength of the attacker and not the effectiveness of it's techniques. The only weakness of the Crane is that is has to stay upright; falling is the cranes death.

The Crane Style Kung Fu

It is elegant, a thing of beauty and grace. From this style we have the concept of Dancing as a form of evasive martial arts. Like a gust of wind blowing through a horde of attackers, touching all but not being touched by any. Like water being punched, offering no resistance but after the initial impact back to how it was and where it was. Crane Kung Fu is aloof, above fear and anger. It is of peace and tranquility and then of sudden motion and beauty. It is....

The Crane Stylist Mind Set in a Conflict Situation

Safety is Paramount of mind and body. The Crane Stylist seeks not to win but to find the solution best suited for all persons even if it is a compromise. The Crane seeks to make friends of enemies and not leave a dangerous situation behind it.

Preparedness in mind, body and spirit. The Crane, in danger, is always alert and seeks never to be surprised not through anticipation but through total acceptance! A Crane Stylist is not a warrior but a diplomat and teacher; a seeker of resolution and compromise. Physical confrontation is to be avoided, but not feared!

Emptiness of expectations, thoughts and preconceptions. The Crane Stylist first seeks to allow all others to have their say and their way before it would make it's own mind and wishes know. It would seek to fully understand any situation before making any contribution unless the situation is conflict and then too, the Crane Stylist would not offer any resistance but would seek to to go with the flow. Through this the Crane Mind most always get's their way.

Water is the way of the Crane, through flexibility and openness of thought and action. The Crane Stylists seeks to emulate "The Way of Water"; be ungraspable and un-damageable but still be able to become a Tsunami, when needed, when no other way is possible.

Skill and Ability are the tools of the crane, reaction and quick understanding of living beings and their ways is the Cranes Style.

“You must be shapeless, formless, like water.
When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup.
When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle.
When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot.
Water can drip and it can crash.
Become like water my friend.” - Bruce Lee †

The Box Matrix seeks to show how the Animal Interrelate with in the context of the 5 Animal Style. Tiger and Panther are Active-aggressive, Crane and Snake are Passive-aggressive; Tiger and Snake have Clear Goals and Motives, Panther and Snake motives are not easily fathomed. Best parings are Tiger with Panther (as Kung Fu Styles and as human Partners) and Panther with Snake. It's all interrelated in the Shaolin System.

The Cranes Stylist MO

The Crane operates by total Adaptation, immersion into the given situation before taking any action. In a way it is the ultimate spiritual chameleon, adapting to the surrounding s and situation almost totally. It seeks to gain a feel for the situation at hand and adapt to the circumstances. It will initially contribute to a situation with intuition and emotion seeking that total immersion, unless it is threatened.

As the Crane is a very social animal (within the context of the Shaolin Crane Kung Fu) it will seek to be a contributing part of the whole, adding in a positive way; being almost totally inconspicuous. If danger threatens it will run with the rest seeking safety and escape, unless it is the responsible parent, adult, elder or feels that it's action can be of benefit to all.

You are a Crane Personality

If you prefer non-violent action and want everyone to get along even if it means severe compromise and work. As a Crane personality you feel that family, friends and work mates are the reason for living, socializing and having fun with other people is your greatest joy. You don't like bullies but do like strong commanding people. You don't like pushy people but do like for someone to take charge. You prefer witty charming and non-threatening people in a know and safe environment, and prefer not to experiment. Normally you would not be into martial arts (that is why most Crane Styles are not really Crane styles in the pure sense but have major Crane elements only) but yoga, aerobics, tai chi or another form of non-competitive sport. You like elegance, beauty, looking good and being relatively well dressed.

Crane Kung Fu

In terms of martial arts, the Crane Stylist is not a seeker of 'action' but will rather leave the fighting to others, supporting them when needed, chiding when they believe it is unnecessary (which is most the time). If confronted directly it will seek to evade, avoid and defuse the situation, seeking always for a non-action solution. Only if the situation becomes unbearable, unavoidable, imminent or they are protecting someone, will they stand and draw the focus onto themselves; still seeking to diffuse the situation, negotiate a peaceful outcome or bargain a solation without violence.

When/If it comes to fighting, the Crane will seek to wear down the opponent, seek to demotivate or educate where possible. It will keep it's distance from the attacker without backing away obviously. It will seek to create confusion to the attacker with words, action or body movement. It will seek to maximize the effort put in by the attacker and minimize it's need for a response knowing that if it can survive the initial few attacks it will still be fresh and safe but the attacker will be a bit worn down. It's main strategy will be to first avoid harm, observing the attacker. it will then 'experiment' with some irritation techniques, a flick here, a sting there, a foot trip or an eye poke. The Cranes aim is to strip the attacker of planning and thought down to it's basics instincts, which are, for the Crane Kung Fu stylist, easily predictable and manageable.

Crane Kung Fu Skills

Evasion, Avoidance and Adaptation. Cranes are elegant dancers charming their attackers rather then beating them. If that doesn't work they try to educate them through small pains, scrapes and trips. Only if both the one and the other does not work will they go to more severe measure such as hyper-extension, bouncing of an object and possibly even minor trap setting (standing in front of something waiting for the attacker to charge and then helping the person to hit this object rather than them.

The Crane does not seek to win; the Crane just seeks not to loose.
It is not competitive or combative (adverserial) but cooperative and contributory (supportive).

Conditions of Use and Training Rules for ALL

Rules allow for Freedom and Safety

The form on the right→ is information presented to all students who enter the Shaolin Academy Venue and wish to try out the training. We expect that they and you follow these rules when training or using Shaolin Academy teachings and Kung Fu!

We expect that if follow the conditions and indemnities set out on the form to the right&rarr: and that you agree to abide by these. Please read the form carefully and if you do not agree with this move on to another site and style. If there are any aspects that you do not understand or are not sure about, please write to us immediately and we will seek to understand and clarify if possible! I have a question about the indemnity conditions and details

In addition to the Indemnity, Blue Form, we also speak to our prospective new members and clarify the important points and rules. Please look at the following closely and again, if you disagree with any point either write to us for clarification or go away!

Safety first and Always. If you can hurt or damage yourself or someone else, do not do it!. Shaolin Kung Fu is a way of life and health, not pain and anger.

Lawful when training, at the Shaolin Academy or in the Shaolin Academy uniform fully or partially. Unless your safety is compromised or the safety of the persons in your charge stay within the bounds of the Law as you know it.

Equality means that all humans are equal even if we sometimes do not see it; treat all with respect and dignity. No, do not treat them as you would want to be treated as this assumes your wishes are everybody's wishes; treat them with respect and dignity considering their special needs if any!

Honor is the way of Shaolin and the Shaolin Academy. Our motto is "Of Word and Will" which means have the will to keep your word and speak the true word of your will; but with dignity and compassion. Be honorable.

Appropriateness means that you only use Shaolin Kung Fu for fitness, competition, fun, development and only when needed for self defence and protection. Never initiate the course of violence. Most importantly, Fun, have fun learning.

Drugs and Alcohol; can be deadly when misused or when the effects are not considered before taking any actions. No matter what type of Alcohol or Drugs, everything has a side effect, some more than others. If there is any doubt, err on the side of caution. Have a look at your eyes in the mirror. If they are blood-shot or there are very visible streaks of gray make sure you are really ready for a good workout; else make it a light session!

Sickness and Unwell-being; It's really stupid to tax your system, when it is trying to heal it self. Gentle exercise may be OK but than again, have you consciously had a 'good look at yourself' and seen how you feel? IF YOU ARE NOT CONTAGIOUS you may be able to come to training and participate in the stretching or even do some light training. But at home, by yourself, err on the side of caution!

Things going wrong Are you having one of those days? Many reason contribute to use 'not being all there'. Stress, bad night rest, oncoming sickness or simply not enough me time. But if it is such a day, again, you can join in to the warm-up but tell the instructor that it has been 'one-of-those-days' and take it easy. If you home training, take a rest and if the feeling persists, see a suitable Medical Professions

Respect the Area Please Bow in and Out of every class and training area where you train. be it with the Academy or at home. Stop before entering and Bow to the Area or to the Instructor. check that all is as it should be. Same when just leaving the training area, even for a few minutes for a bathroom break. Bow in and Out of the training area always!

Interruptions In training Stop means Stop! Or if you are training at home, if someone enters your training area, or there is any distraction, stop and attend to it before continuing training.

Energy Levels if you need to sit or lean during training, your training session is over. Perform the cool-down and call it a day. Leaning and sitting down suggests that you do not have enough (safe) energy to continue training. It is good to recognize when your energy's are down and it is good to act accordingly. If you are too tired to stay standing, then stop training and cool down!

Peace; is paramount, not only world peace but your inner peace where it all starts. Switch of any phones, noise, radio, etc. if you can and remove any distractions during training (if possible, don't throw the baby out the window!). Chatter, comments and such can be very disruptive to those who are concentrating on learning. Unless it is an essential to the technique or a requirement of training . . .shut-up; even at home. This is your Emei Shan moment.

If in any doubt about any of the above Rules, your training, a technique or anything; contact Sijo

If you can not agree to these conditions click on this line, else...

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Shaolin Kung Fu Home training

Kung Fu At Home Program

The material provided on this page, especially that below the warning is as an addition to the Shaolin 5 Animal Kung Fu Academy Students and as a full structured Home Learning/Training Program established in 1994. For a comprehensive explanation of the program with Recorded materials and samples, click here.


The Shaolin Academy only makes this material available, beyond this point, under the provision that you, the user (reader, potential student, interested person, etc.), indemnify the Shaolin Academy, it's Master & Instructors; and any person or persons from any liability arising from you following, learning, using or anything else derived from any Word, Picture, Video on the Shaolin Academy WEB pages! If you can not agree to this please click here NOW.

$20 per Year for Registration & Support (Reoccurring)

If you wish to train the Shaolin Academy Kung Fu/Martial Arts/Self Defence/Weaponry; you must agree to be safe and responsible, indemnify the Academy and Instructors and follow the rules and guides as stated above. Register yourself for only $20/y reoccurring subscription for the Foundation Levels and $35 per year for the Advanced Animal and Specialist Levels with the Shaolin Academy and receive Master Level support when you ask for it. Once you have subscribed you will receive confirming e-mails from both PayPal (almost immediately) and the Shaolin Academy (within 72 hours) with instructions how to proceed. And when you are ready book your for a Assessment or just a Review below at the bottom of this page.

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What you need for your Training @ Home

It is always good to go through a safety check list when you start. If you do this, in later levels you will be used to preparing and being safe and this will save you from unnecessary injuries and accidents and delays and disappointments;

Area of around 2m by 2m or 7ft by 7ft without any obstacles or low over-hangs is best. Most of the training we do can be managed using this space. This size even has a traditional implications when the so called Boxers were training in secret for the Boxer Rebellion, many did so on Junkets, small wooden ships in the bay. the space their was approximately this size but the ceiling was less than 5 ft; so they did exceptionally good hose stances. This is also where we get our Kama Square Pattern.

Preparation is always a good habit to get into. yes, i know the fallacious argument about not being able to prepare when defending in the street but then again, you don't get attacked as often as you train. So, prevent injury with the Shaolin Academy Warm-up; set-up your mindset by putting on a uniform and sash; have a towel and bottle of water ready and review the items you are about to learn or train.

Always be Aware of your self and your surroundings. If you find your energy waning or you wanting to sit and rest, STOP. If a short rest in Natural Stance can not overcome the feeling, sit-down and do your cool down stretches.

Pain = No Brain Pain is a survival instinct and in times of War, Emergency and Danger, by all means ignore it. But you are an idiot if you do not listen to the messages your body sends you and understand what it needs. No, i do not mean the scratching impulse, by all means ignore irritants but not pain.

Training Aids are not essential or even greatly needed. And if you do use something, use something you have or can make yourself. That is the way of Shaolin. Yes, you can improve your quality of training by seeing yourself in a reflected surface but it can just be that and does not need to be a full length mirror wall. Other items that may be of help when the time is right is Impact Mitts and Bag and eventually full Sparring Gear.

As usual, if you have any questions or concerns with the above or anything on these pages, please write to us. We like to be involved and help where and as we can. Click here when you need us.

Overview of Shaolin Crane Kung Fu Techniques

Primarily, side-stepping, redirecting and general avoiding and no major attacking techniques. But there are some 'persuasion' and 'educational' techniques that the Crane Stylist needs to master but more to that below in the 9 tests section. As a Crane learn to move like the wind, dance like Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gene Kelly and learn to adapt.

The Eight Tests of Shaolin Crane Kung Fu

Test 1 - Foundation and Basic Skills

To attempt for the Shaolin Crane Level you need to either be qualified as a Shaolin Academy Red Sash (around 4 to 5 years Kung Fu experience) or be a Certified Black Sash in a recognized Traditional Martial Art Style Style. Why this you ask? Well, Shaolin Crane is an advanced level form and there is scope to hurt yourself if your body and mind is not prepared. To have a chance at succeeding safely in this advanced level you will need to understand the way of Shaolin Kung Fu and Techniques. For this, we have an extensive Cyber Program on line for $20/y. The Tiles below are direct links to the 5 Temple Levels which are the foundation to the Shaolin Advanced levels. The 1st Tile links you to the overview page for the Shaolin Kung Fu Academy Cyber Training Program. Have a look at this first if you have not already done so. Each page will open in a new window so when you finish reading it just close it and you will be back at this page!


Shaolin Academy Temple Kung Fu, the Foundation Levels
Cyber Kung Fu Training Info Gray Sash White Sash Yellow Sash Orange Sash Green Sash
Gray Sash Level 1, Emei Shan Temple White Sash Level 2, Kwantung Temple Yellow Sash level 3, Fukien Temple Kung Fu Orange Sash Level 4, Wudang Temple Kung Fu Green Sash Level 5, Shaolin Temple 5 Animal Kung Fu

To attempt for the Shaolin Crane Level you need to either be qualified as a Red Sash (or senior) in Shaolin Temple Kung Fu or a Black Sash in a recognized Martial Art Style or close to that. As there is no international standard for martial art black sashes we can not set a universal minimum requirement. We 'suggest' that you have at least 5 years of regular Martial Art training; 500 sessions or more before you attempt this level. And there is a second option.

The Crane Style is not an attacking but a countering style which uses a lot of evasion. One of the advanced forms of the Crane is called the Dancing Crane. But in reality, a good Crane Practitioner is a dancer. So if you have some 5 years of Dance Experience this may also be sufficient to try out for this Advanced Kung Fu level.

Test 1 - Complete the 5 Temple Levels of Shaolin Kung Fu or send us proof of your martial art experience;
a - Video of your most senior grading
b - Certificate of Level Achievement and/or
c - Written letter from your instructor verifying your ability/level.

2nd Test - Elegance and Poise

The Shaolin Crane Kung Fu person needs to be Elegant of Stance, Beautiful of Movement, Balanced in Jumping and Light of Foot. Even if you are a heavy and solid person, appreciating the aspect of the Crane will want you finding your your lighter inner nature, a higher center of balance. Thus, the 2nd test we ask you to do the following 5 Exercises;

Shaolin Academy, 5 Animal Kung Fu, Crane Exercise 1, Crane Balance
Balancing on Each Leg for 5 mins in Crane Stance uninterrupted and with Eyes closed and hands in Buddha Palm.
Shaolin Academy, 5 Animal Kung Fu, Crane Exercise 2, Leg Strength
Be able to stand on one leg and go all the way down, only using the one leg and then come back up; demonstrate one each left & right Leg.
Shaolin Academy, 5 Animal Kung Fu, Crane Exercise 3, Crane Walking Exercises
Crane Walking Exercises are over 1000 years old we believe. You will need to demonstrate the 5 Intermediate Crane Walking Exercises.
Shaolin Academy, 5 Animal Kung Fu, Crane Exercise 4, Spinning & Turning
Crane also needs to be able to Spin and Turn; walking in a straight line for 10 steps turn 5 times and then again but turn in the other direction.


Shaolin Academy, 5 Animal Kung Fu, Crane Exercise 5, Balance Beam Walking
Walk on a 2 inch, 5 cm balance beam or a piece of 2 by 4 wood. It need not be far of the ground but you need to walk 10 steps forward without any aids.

Test 2 - Record a good quality well lit video of you performing these exercises 10 time; record 5 from the front and 5 from the side;
a - 5 minute balance on Crane Stance each foot
b - From a standing position
c - Written letter from your instructor verifying your ability/level.

3rd Test - The Essential Systems

Crane Kung Fu need to be very good in it's stances, movement and blocking. For this purposes you will need to learn three Systems of Techniques; and be fairly good at performing them! In this case you need to learn the System of 21 Stances, the System of 5 Stepping methods and the System of Crane Blocks. To help you with the Crane Blocking we have included the full Temple System of Blocks which includes the Crane System of Blocks within it but a bit clearer.


System of Stances

System of Stepping

Complete System of Blocking

Crane System of Blocking

System of Kicking for the Crane

Test 3 - Record yourself demonstration of each from the front and from the side (one each)
a - System of Stances
b - System of 'Crane' Blocking.
c - Your ability to use the 5 different stepping methods.

4th Test - System of Evasions

The 5 Stepping Methods or Ways are underpin the Crane Stylists ability of Movement by channeling this into method and Direction. Like a hand with 4 Fingers and Thumb, Crane Kung Fu masters four Ways of Evasion plus leaping, in essence doubling the methods of evasion to Eight!

Shaolin 5 Animal Kung Fu Crane Evasion 1
Shaolin 5 Animal Kung Fu Crane Evasion 2
Side Stepping
Shaolin 5 Animal Kung Fu Crane Evasion 3
Snake Evasion
Shaolin 5 Animal Kung Fu Crane Evasion $
Circular Evasion
Shaolin 5 Animal Kung Fu Crane Evasion 1
Jumping & Leaping Evasion

In many way the Crane is the antithetical to the Shaolin Tiger. The Tiger only moves forward to attack and has no other direction of motion. The Crane moves in every direction except forward and very limited going directly back.

Above you see that option 1 is not really a good option as you may end up being buried under the charge of your attacker. Most forward movement is much quicker than going backwards; even if you turn and run, the turning delay can be all the the attacker needs and they have your defenseless back. But, let's not mince words, a true Crane Stylist has absolutely no problem running away from a conflict. They will only stand and distract if there is a very good reason for it; else run.

Side stepping forces your attacker to change direction and possibly even attacking sides. For this purpose Side Stepping and Snake Stepping are brilliant. When properly learned these are the best fundamental evasions for most occasions. At this level focus on these initial 6 directions of movement to the exclusion of all else. Avoid ALL backwards stepping (as in option 1).

Circular Stepping is the 4th and at this point the most advanced evasion method that teaches the 1st part of the advanced way of Conflict Management, Shaolin Dancing. Non-linear Movement combined with Circular Path Movement can really confound the senses to the untrained and unprepared eye. Change direction whilst changing speed is something that takes our brain much longer to process than just a Change of Direction or a Change of Speed. If you add to this a semi-circular movement, if you have the skill to combine the three you are well on your way to becoming untouchable. For this is the Cranes Skill.

Finally, considering your strong legs, hip flexibility, movement agility and add to it the occasional hop, leap or jump and you will be slowly but surely starting to understand how the Shaolin Crane makes itself untouchable. There is more.

Test 4 - Record yourself demonstration of each from the front and from the side (one each)
a - System of Stances
2 - System of 'Crane' Blocking.
3 - Your ability to use the 5 different stepping methods.

5th Test - Shaolin Dancing

The Crane's speciality is Evasions. Evasions is a combination of Stepping Methods, Directions and an attitude of lightness. In the Shaolin Crane Kung Fu system you need to combine these seamlessly to understand and use Shaolin Crane Style Kung Fu.

Above you have first the Stances and the System of Stances. As the Crane Stylist you need to be very versed with all stances and seek to master the high 5 stances Guard, Cat, Crane and Eagle front and back. Stressing again though that you need to practice ALL the stances else you will not have the leg strength and stability that you need if you only rely on the high stances. Leg Strength and Agility together with Core Strength and Hip Flexibility are very much the key to this style of Kung Fu.

Possibly, the style of movement is best expressed is you look at it as a Dance; in fact, Shaolin Sparring is actually called Shaolin Dancing. Above you see the Dancer and we feel that is best shows the type of movement you should aim for at this level. A certain lightness, asymmetrical hand extensions (called distracting Cranes Wings), light leaps, very good balance on one leg and the majority of time using the ball of the foot not the heel. Also, rhythmic movement allows an attacker to think they can anticipate you movements, thus rhythmic light swaying movements when waiting for the attack is an alternative to just being still. A very good representation of the Cranes movements up to the point where they turn into an elegant lightning streak when evading a direct attack. But do not give you speed away to soon.

Test 5 - Agility, Evasion and Movement
a - Record yourself Shadow Sparring/Dancing for approximately 3 minutes in your interpretation of Crane Evasion or
b - If available Record yourself evading attacks from a partner for approximately 3 minutes in your interpretation of Crane Evasion.

The 6th Test - The Advanced Evasion

If you are finding that we are spending a lot of time on Movement and Evasion, you are grasping the essence of the Crane. Yes, it seems boring and that is why so many stiles talk about having the essence of the Crane within them but really don't. Tiger is about Power, Panther is about Strategy, Snake is about Avoidance and Crane is about Mobility. Two styles for Attack and two styles for Evasion/Avoidance. That is the Shaolin System.

Only in an Emergency, Evasion Options
Shaolin Crane Kung Fu Stepping/Evading Methods and Directions
Avoid going directly backwards if possible; not good for the Crane Stylist
Shaolin Crane Kung Fu Stepping/Evading Methods and Directions
Avoid stepping back into the Centerline of Attack
Shaolin Crane Kung Fu Stepping/Evading Methods and Directions
A fair option for evading but easy to follow.
Shaolin Crane Kung Fu Stepping/Evading Methods and Directions
Not really gaining a lot of distance from the attacker.
Shaolin Crane Kung Fu Stepping/Evading Methods and Directions
Also, not far enough from the attacker for a Crane Stylist
Better Options
Shaolin Crane Kung Fu Stepping/Evading Methods and Directions
Being where the attacker was is often a good option.
Shaolin Crane Kung Fu Stepping/Evading Methods and Directions
Better would be to the side and then slightly forward.
Shaolin Crane Kung Fu Stepping/Evading Methods and Directions
One of the best evasions if you are light of movement
Shaolin Crane Kung Fu Stepping/Evading Methods and Directions
Again, being where the attacker was is great especially if you have used the movement to turn and face them.
Shaolin Crane Kung Fu Stepping/Evading Methods and Directions
Spinning out and be behind the attacker, when done correctly is a great move.

The Crane Kung Fu style uses a multi directional evasion, a bit like the Knight in Chess or the Pao in Chinese Chess; well actually it can do both at the same time. The issue is that when a Crane Kung Fu practitioner evades he/she always evade with sudden changes of direction between 45 degrees up to 315 degrees after the initial movement. If you think this sounds complex, well it is meant to make the Crane Practitioner Untouchable and Unpredictable. The Panther and Crane are both unpredictable in most every way except where they are different. The Crane will always seek to evade and the Panther will always seek to win.

You will notice that the retreating direction is marked with a Red Arrow. The Crane Stylist tries to evade 'off-line' to force the attacker to slow down and change directions, and then the Crane Practitioner again changes direction. You will notice that the first example above starts with a backward direction and then a 90 degree directional change. This is for the beginner the least advised evasion method. When you are being attacked from the front, your attacker is quicker going forward than you are going backward! That is why initially you choose one of the 6 directions other than directly forward or directly backward and after the initial evasion, you change directions!

Another no-no, initially, for the Crane Stylist, is to move away and then move back to the position they were in or on the same attacking line (as in graphic 2 above), even if this movement takes them a bit further back. Coming back into the line of the attacker and could be worse off than before. Preferred are the stepping combinations from graphic 3 to 8 where by after you initial movement, change directions again by 45 degrees or 90 degrees. graphics 9 and 10 show a more advanced evasion method where you can end up being behind the attacker; this is good if you are really good but not so good most other times.

The graphics below shows the best (green arrows) initial evasions for this level of Crane Kung Fu.

Never directly forward or directly back, assuming that the attacker is directly in front of you. Avoid this as you initial movement almost at all costs. Also avoid stepping back into the Centerline Attack when going sideways.

This is identical to the left one except we substitute round movements as the 2nd direction. Again avoid the red arrow directions and minimize the amber arrow directions. Also, all the arrows can be going the other way around;but it would be to complex a diagram.

And just to clarify, the first movement can be a circular evasion followed by a straight line evasion or even followed by another circular movement with a directional change. Always a directional Change.

Finally,avoid moving back into the Centerline Attack. Never evade directly or indirectly forward or backward; not in Crane Style.

When you start seeing the combinations possible; The straight arrows can be substituted by curved arrows showing that any combination of

  1. Initial Straight-line movement followed by a change in direction and again a straight-line movement (like in Graphic 3 above)
  2. Initial Straight-line movement followed by a change in direction and then a curved-path movement (like in the 2nd side graphic right -->)
  3. Initial Curved-path movement followed by a change in direction and then another curved-path movement (no graphic shown) or
  4. Initial Curved-path movement followed by a change in direction and then a straight line movement (like in the final incomplete graphic to the right below)

Any combination can be used of direction with any combination of Straight Line movements and Curved Path movements except those that;

  1. Go back on them selves
  2. Go back into the path of the attacker
  3. Move in the direction of the attacker.

Bewildering? Good! We are coming closer and closer to the Skill of the Crane, Movement and Evasion above all else! Usually though, as mentioned before, the best combination of evasion is a combination of a straight-line evasion; followed by a directional change; followed by a a circular-path movement or the other way about; the initial evasion is a circular-path movement; followed by a change of direction; followed by a sudden straight path movement!

Note 1 - Graphic 'a' shows all the possible recommended evasion paths in a straight line. Graphic 'b' though only shows half of all the possible circular-path movements, the clock-wise direction. We double all the possibilities by also having anti-clockwise movements. Showing this would make the graphic unreadable (we know we tried..). Finally, graphic 'c' only shows a small portion of the possible follow-up straight-line movements after an initial circular-path evasion. By this point you should have the idea of all the possibilities and what not to do!

Just to be sure, graphic 'd' shows what direction NOT to take! This is not an absolute and later some things will change but at this time, you have 5 initial directions to chose from, NW, NE, E, N, SE, SW; those are you first evasions. As long as you do not retrace your steps with you direction change all should be well.

Note 2 - The Crane can not be caught, found, engaged or allow themselves or pushed into a corner. The first course of action for the Crane in a 'situation' is to search for space. Using obstacles is the Skill of the Panther and Snake not Crane. The Crane prefers open space (as a bird would).

Note 3 - The Crane Stylist will only execute an attacking technique when it is 99.99999% sure that this will not allow the attacker to get a hold of them or strike them.

Note 4 - Although in a real situation a Crane Stylist is not limited to using just the directions shown, to pass the examinations you need to show that you are not just randomly moving but have learned controlled and directed evasion. You initial evasion can only be in the 6 Primary Directions (graphic a, main arrows) and the follow up directions are also usually not more than 6. You will be randomly tested on 10 combinations of increasing difficulty.

Test 6 - You will record yourself demonstration 10 different two-step evasions chosen randomly by your Examiner. When you are ready for this segment, please write to Shaolin Academy Member Examinations & promotions

The Flying Crane Form

7th Test - Shaolin Flying Crane Form

The Shaolin Flying crane is a traditional form and will in some places not quite adhere to the stepping patterns. No problems.

Each member performing the Shaolin Flying Crane Form has the option of adding their own finish. You can do this or not; what ever you present us with, as long as the Core Form is there, we will give you appropriate feedback.

Flow, Poise and Balance are more important than speed; really!

Should you have any physical limitations or special requirements; tell us. Adaptation of the form to your needs is not only possible but necessary. As an experienced martial artists you will know where you need to push your limits and where the limits are no longer push-able.

Test 7 - You will record yourself demonstration the Shaolin Flying crane form twice; once from the front and once from the side.
Please ensure that you capture all parts of the form and in a well lit area. What we can not see we can not give feedback.

8th Test - Theory/Knowledge

As a Crane Stylist you have many options for this test. The Crane usually has a good expressive communication, but not always in words. You can, as with the other Shaolin Animal styles write about an event or person in current events or recent and distant history that you believe best represents your understanding of the Shaolin Crane. But you can also chose to recite a Poem that fulfills the same purpose of representing your understanding of the Crane. You may also stage a short recital, play a Video, presentation, performance or almost anything that YOU believe represents you version of Crane Style. Run your ideas past Sijo to clarify expectations, minimum requirements need to be meet and time allocation to be agreed.

Test 8 - This is flexible and your choice. There are many wrong ways to do this but also many right ways. It is your interpretation and understanding of the Shaolin Crane (Kung Fu) that you will present.
You options are
- Report; on a current event or circumstance that you feel in some way shows the Crane Aspect. Explain your reasoning for this choice.
- Present a Poem on Video and explain after why you feel this is applicable.
- Write about an historical event, person, circumstance that you feel in some way shows the way of the Shaolin Crane.
- Suggest something else to us by e-mail

Need any help? Just e-mail us immediately and we are happy to assist, usually within 72 hours or less.


This will not make an expert out of you, or a Champion or a Warrior; but it gives you are good grounding that will enable you to specialize, if you wish, in a direction you care to take. Some have chose to enter competitions and have done well in All Styles Comps, Kung Fu Comps, Internationally and Nationally. Shaolin Academy students have even been used as action stand-in's in theater, movies, music videos and shows. We even put on a show at the Shaolin Temple in Henan China.

You may choose to want to use the style for Acting, Stage Work, Shows, Street Theater and such but it also applies for everyday life. Recognizing when you are confronted with a Tiger Style personality, you will know what you are up against, be it in the office, at a party, in the street or elsewhere. And the more you immerse yourself in the understanding of your Tiger, you will find that you are able to manage it within yourself better, both to restrain it when it will harm and to use it when appropriate. You will also learn the weaknesses of the each animal and relies that, for example, a Tiger can only be defeated by a Greater Tiger or by a mouse (and you need to work this out).

Grading & Promotion
Any additional Requests please

Level Review Application (and Certification)

Shaolin Martial Art & Self Defence Instruction & Training

Before you attempt the next level, ensure that everything you have learned in this level is correct. As you progress, many, many of the techniques that follow are based around, founded or along very similar principles as the ones from the 1st levels. Fix any problems and details now before you learn new techniques and carry through the errors thus doubling and tripling the effort to fix them later. And as an old and new wisdom stated "It is 5 times more difficult to fix a habit then it is to establish it!

Apply for a Level Review before you commence on the next level! When we receive the PayPal confirmation we will contact you with further instructions.

Links to other Shaolin Kung Fu Academy pages.