The Bubishi Myth By Shifu Ron Goninan, China Fuzhou Zhenlan Crane Boxing Tao Australia.
The “Bubishi” (Chinese: Wu Bei Zhi) is considered by many to be the “Bible of Karate”.
Part of the ancient Chinese Martial Arts texts in Ron Goninan’s collection”
It is a manual or several treatises on the enigmatic White Crane Style of Chinese Boxing. As such, many have looked to it for answers on the ways of olden times and Warriors long gone.
Naha-shi Okinawa 1995; my second visit to the island, I recall my teacher at the time alluded to the view emerging on Okinawa of a few Sensei that the connection between Bubishi and Karate was more myth than truth. That apart from the famous line of the 8 precepts that supposedly led to the naming of Goju-Ryu, there was very little connection of Karate to the Bubishi (The “Bubishi” Myth).
I have to admit that my own research seems to also point in this direction. Whilst I respect the work of others on the Bubishi, to me, these are less of a translation and more of a personal interpretation based upon mainstream Okinawan and Japanese Karate and not of their knowledge of White Crane Gongfu.
Sadly the majority of translations out there have been by Karate stylists and Karate does not a White Crane stylist make! As such it’s my view that they are on the outside looking in with a Karate based perspective.
It is my feeling the Bubishi cannot be fully translated. To me at least, it must be mastered to be understood.
I also have had several different Bubishi translations made available to me and as a White Crane Wuyi person, I see the Bubishi from an entirely different view. Honestly, I don’t see any real connection to Karate at all!
A friend, Chris Clifford told me that the Bubishi tradition as handed down via the Ichikawa line leaned more towards the Chinese way and that several aspects had been removed or omitted from most copies. Such as the energetics of the Ji Hands, the real aspects of the 48 figures and the fighting energies, the meaning of SanZhan, etc.
There is an old White Crane saying from the poems of the fist that goes: Nà chūqù de quántóu jí zhòng yīgè zuìxiǎo de sān bèi, zuìgāo wèi jiǔ 出去的命中最少三次的拳头和最多九个。“The fist that goes out hits a minimum 3 times and a maximum of 9”. White Crane at its essence is very close quarter fighting, generation of power from minuscule distances, you will not see any telegraphing of intention. Strikes are performed very close, almost or mostly from “touch” range and then the energetics/ kinetics or Fa-Jin is expressed via small yet penetrating motions.
Others support this point of view, including my friend Evan Pantazi of the USA based Kyusho International who has done a great amount of work in the area of energetics.
What of the lessons within this ancient text? Well most have been attracted to its pages because of its mention of the most decisive aspects of Martial Arts … “Pressure Points”, “Dim-Mak” or “Kyusho”. Many have worked hard to make something of this even going to the totally mistaken attempt at aligning that shown within the Bubishi to that of traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture/acupressure! There is no such thing as acupressure points within the pages of the Bubishi!!! I say this because we need to look at the way of attacking the human body with regard to the time of when the Bubishi was written as well as how it was written but also from a common sense viewpoint.
I have looked at the way of Dian Xue from many angles, from the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) viewpoint with the elements, energy, to that of the modern western sciences. So I’ve been around the proverbial “block” more than a few times over the last 43 years!
So what do I believe??? I believe there is no such thing as Dian Xue / Dim Mak / Kyusho or pressure points in the current sense of those words!!!
Why do I feel this way???
Let first look to history. Not one of the old Master’s drawings, illustrations, scrolls, texts or depictions of old actually call these areas to be struck a Dian Xue, Dim Mak or Kyusho “Point”.
No, the charts, scrolls, drawings show only those areas that access the deeper anatomical structures and Blood Gates, where if struck correctly can cause various physical reactions even resulting in death.
In looking at the old charts or drawings they depict areas to be struck or manipulated but these areas can differ greatly from one illustration to the next!
The same is true of acupuncture / acupressure charts.
Another issue is that the acupuncture / acupressure points shown are often far to obscure to be used effectively.
In addition many of the areas struck have both a neurological and vascular effect (there are multiple layers) not mentioned in the nomenclature of acupuncture / acupressure.
Also consider that in acupuncture / acupressure there are hundreds, thousands of points on the human body and yes some do line up with the striking areas, but most often they do not! They represent energy areas, meridians which are not physical areas but lines of energy pathways. Striking nerves, arteries and organs are purely physical structures. not unseen energy lines and points.
You should learn that real striking involves not using “points” but in striking the correct areas of the human body with the correct tool in the correct manner, kinetics, energetics, angle and penetration.
When you remove the idea of “points” and change it with areas to be struck the individual learns quicker as their level of understanding is “hit here, this way, this happens!” No Bullshit, no false assumptions or paradigms based upon TCM or acupuncture / acupressure, just that which works and works well!
The true Martial Arts are by nature are NOT supposed to be complex, fancy and involve “showboating”.
Another factor I feel is many have wrongly associated the Bubishi with that known as “Hakutsuru”, widely known as “Okinawan White Crane”.
Real White Crane is not the “Hakutsuru Myth” (a modern creation). It has no real verifiable connection to Karate of any style, the vehicle and engine is vastly different to the Karate model of then and now. The concepts, principles, techniques and the energetics are so completely different I just “cannot make thestretch” and see any Karate connection!
Regarding that most famous of “Hakutsuru”, the “Matsumura Hakutsuru”, I was informed by Mitsuo Inoue and my teacher that it was not called that but was known simply as “Soken Hohan Hakutsuru” … why? It’s because they felt it was created by Soken Hohan Sensei himself.
Others state that Chinese tea merchant Gokenki taught Crane whilst living on Okinawa. Again the energetics and true core principles are just not there in anything I’ve seen that is attested to be from the Gokenki line.
Complexity is another issue.
I have been doing Martial Arts for over 43 years so I’ve pretty much seen it all (and all types!).
I have been praised to the highest levels and vilified to the lowest (part of what passes for “Martial Arts” in this so called “Progressive Society” we live in).
I am the only Westerner teaching the Zhenlan Tradition of White Crane. I am the only Westerner certified from the birthplace of White Crane in China, Fuzhou to teach this lineage. So those aspects of this art which arise from the Bubishi are important to me.
It’s an art so rich, so deep that it’s awe-inspiring! An art and way of teaching it that is both traditional (not the bullshit that passes for “traditional” nowadays) and progressive at the same time. This art is historically correct, culturally correct and rich, yet highly practical … far more than most of what is passed off as being “Martial Arts” that I see all around me.
And yet to date only a handful really get it. I mean really get it!
Look closely at the Bubishi. It describes an art that doesn’t have 50 to a 100 to 1000’s of techniques. In our own White Crane we only use a handful at best and only two original forms. Why? Well because all the rest is an add-on for marketing or to pad the system out so instructors have something ‘more’ to teach and sell. They make it more and more complex until it is no longer the art they claim to teach and represent! Do you think the original people did this? NO! They had to make their art work from day one, from the very first lesson. This is what we do. All the fancy stuff came later created by street performers and not true Martial Artists! Look to the writings of Prof. Kang Gewu 康戈武, Brian Kennedy, Lee Kong, Stanley Henning, Peter Lorge, Yap Leong, etc and one will soon see most Kung Fu styles history is more “His-Story” than truth!
One does not just translate the Bubishi. To simply translate the Bubishi is like trying to understand the emotions, the spirit and artistry within Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” by merely producing a copy!
I must stress that the Bubishi (The “Bubishi” Myth) cannot be fully translated, as it must be mastered to be understood. One must go deep not wide if one is to unearth the treasures within ……..
“Hidden in obscure places, genuine gold does not lose its weight; buried underground, beautiful jade does not lose its lustre” – Baobuzi
Note: The Wu Bei Zhi / Bubishi, Ming General Qi Jiguang’s Fourteenth Scroll on Boxing, White Crane Point Cutting Veins Ancient Boxing Spectrum & Two Qing Dynasty Boxing Manuals can be purchased by contacting the author care of: Phone: (02) 68452846, Email – firstname.lastname@example.org