In this post I will introduce my training in Niseikai, a style which combines Naha Te (Goju Ryu) with Shi He Quan (Feeding Crane).
Although I consider myself a Shoto Ryu stylist, one of my main teachers of the last 10 years has been Reiner Parsons of the Niseikai school, a very interesting style which combines Goju Ryu Karate with Feeding Crane Kung Fu.
Reiner’s teacher, who I have also trained with is master Tadanori Nobetsu 9th Dan Hanshi.
Nobetsu Sensei was born in 1935 in Kyushu and in 1965 he established Niseikai in Ageo, Saitama Prefecture, based on his studies with masters like Yamaguchi. Significantly he has also put the “ju” back into “Goju” through his studies in Feeding Crane Kung Fu with his teacher Liú Chin Long.
Basically put the principle of Niseikai, as it is imparted to me by Reiner is:
– Always stay relaxed. Reiner’s strkes, in common with those of Nobetsu, use no strength but transmit a shockwave of power
– Breathe. The breathing method used is a type of hard Chi Kung that generates power and hardens the body
– Use the waist. Power is generated from the centre. The arms – like the crane’s wings – simply “flap” from the waist power
– Two directions. This principle will require further discussion in a post of its own.
– Train slowly for precision. Move slowly when defending. I will elaborate in a future post!
In my post about the origins of Bassai Dai I mentioned that Okinawans Matsumura and Kojo went to Fujian in 1828 and disovered a master called Iwah who taught all sorts of forms including Lion Boxing and is the origin of our Shorei (“Southern Shaolin”) family of forms like Seishan (Hangetsu). Seemingly after this visit, there is a trend for Okinawan masters to go to Fukien and learn the Shorei forms.
Aragaki Seisho (pioneer of the forms Niseishi, Unsu, Sochin and Wankan) trained there with Wai Shinzan and Aragaki’s student Higaonna Kanryo, (founder of Naha Te and teacher of Goju Ryu founder Chojun Miyagi) also trained there under someone called Ryuryu Ko.
As a child Higaonna Sensei trained under Aragaki Seisho Sensei. Later he briefly trained with Kojo Taitei Sensei of the Kojo Ryu. He traveled to China where he became a student of Ryuryu Ko with whom he trained for about 15 years before returning to Okinawa. After his return to Okinawa he eventually began to teach what became known as Naha Te, as contrasted with Shuri Te and Tomari Te.
A second Okinawan may have trained with Ryuryu Ko and that is Nakaima Kenri who founded the Ryuei Ryu style.
Koryu Uchinadi pioneer Patrick McCarthy has suggested that Ryuryu Ko was none other than Xie Zhongxiang, the founder of Míng Hè Quán (Whooping Crane Kung Fu).
Whooping Crane (also called Calling Crane or Screaming Crane was based on the Fujian White Crane he learned from his teacher Pan Yuban who’s teacher was Lin Shixian (who was a student of Fāng Qī Niáng, the originator of the first White Crane martial art). He had to conceal his name and aristocratic lineage and took on the name Ryu Ryu Ko, under which he worked, making household goods from bamboo and cane. He has been teaching martial arts at his home to a very small group of students, which included Higaonna Kanryō, who they say stayed with Ryu Ryu Ko from 1867 to 1881. Ryu Ryu Ko expanded his class to an actual public school “The Kojo Dojo” in 1883, running it with Wai Shinzan possibly a student of Iwah.
So one theory is that Naha Te and the Shorei tradition were developed from Whooping Crane, one of the five branches of Fujian White Crane.
Another branch, the one studied by Nobetsu Sensei, is the Feeding Crane tradition.
The lineage of this school is as follows:
1. Fāng Qī Niang
2. Céng Sì Chū
3. Zhèng Lǐ Shū
4. Cài Zhōng Shū
5. Cài Gōng Jǐng
6. Lín Dé Shùn
7. Liú Gù
8. Liú Yín Shān
9. Liú Zhǎng Yì (Liu Chin Long – Nobetsu’s teacher)
In 1922 four masters of Crane Fist from China’s Fujian arrived in Taiwan They were Er-Gau, Yi-Gau, A-Fong and Lin Dé Shùn.
After his arrival in Taiwan Lin Dé Shùn started to work for a sugar company and in 1927 Liú Gù (1900-1965) heard about the skills of that master, and immediately invited him to be his teacher, offering some expensive gifts. Liu learnt thee full syllabus and became the next grandmaster.
Liú Gù was succeeded by his son Liú Yín Shān and he by Liu Chin Long who is Nobetsu Sensei’s teacher.
An interesting aspect of Liu family Shi He Quan is that the family had a book called “The Secret Shaolin Bronze Man Book” – apparently almost identical to the Bubishi.
In his commentary of the Bubishi, Patrick McCarthy recalls:
“Having met Liu Yinshan’s brother, Liu Songshan in Fuzhou, I came to learn of a “secret book” on gongfu that had been in the Liu family for the last seven decades. After meeting him in Fuzhou, hosting him at my home in Japan and visiting him in Taiwan, I have become familiar with that book, entitled The Secret Shaolin Bronze Man Book and can testify that it is, in almost every way, identical to the Bubishi. Master Liu’s Bubishi is dvided into 17 articles in three sections, whereas the Okinawan Bubishi contains 32 articles. However the same data is covered in both works though it is categorized differently.”
We know that the Bubishi – an anthology of Fujian Quan Fa – was considered the Bible of Karate and we see its link with Whooping Crane (through Ryuryu Ko and Higaonna) and with Feeding Crane (through the Liu family) – but could there be more to the crane family than meets the eye?
The founder of White Crane is said to be a woman called Fang Qi Niang.
The founder of Wing Chun is said to be a woman called Fong Chut-Neung (alt. Fong Wing Chun or Ng Mui)
In Hung Gar stories, the Tiger Fist master Hung Hei Gun marries Fong and she teacheshim
In White Crane stories, the Tiger Fist master Ceng Si Chu (Zeng Cishu) meets Fang and she teaches him
Could it be that all the three southern Kung Fu styles of Tiger Fist (Hung Gar), Wing Chun and White Crane are all related?
On the surface at least it seems that the idea of a man using Tiger Fist and a woman using White Crane Fist are perfect analogies for the hard and the soft or Yin and Yang.
Another tiger style that influenced both Karate (Uechi Ryu) and Feeding Crane was taught by Zhou Zi He.
Following in the footsteps of Aragaki and Higaonna, Uechi Kanbun arrived in Fujian and like them settled at the Ryukyukan, a Okinawan enclave of buildings including a boarding house, homes and businesses established for those who visited and lived in the area – including the famous Kojo Dojo.
Uechi didn’t like training at the Kojo Dojo because he was bullied so Uechi eventually became the student of Shu Shi Wa or Zhou Zhi He.
Uechi’s teacher, Zhou Zhi He (1874-1926) originated from Minhou, Fujian. He reportedly studied martial arts under Li Zhao Bei and Ke Xi Di and was proficient in a variety of Quan.
Zhou reportedly practiced Crane and Tiger boxing, in addition to hard and soft qi gong and was noted for his iron palm technique. It has also been speculated that Gokenki aand Tang Daiji were students of Zhou.
In conclusion, if Shoto Ryu is descended from Chang Quan, Hsin-I Quan and Bazi Quan then Nisseikai is descended from He Quan (Crane Fist) and Hu Quan) Tiger Fist.