During the Ching Dynasty (1662-1722) Kung Fu was actively practiced in the Siu Lam (Shaolin) Monastery. This caused alarm with the government, fearing the possibility of an uprising. With the help of several Shaolin Monks, the Monastery was betrayed and subsequently burned down. According to legend, the Five Elders, Buddhist Abbess Ng Mui, Abbot Chi Shin, Abbot Pak Mei, Master Fung To Tak and Master Miu Hin managed to escape. Ng Mui took refuge in the White Crane Temple towards the south. While there , Abbess Ng Mui met a young woman named Yim Wing Chun (“Beautiful Springtime“) who was the daughter of Yim Yee, the owner of a bean curd shop that Ng Mui frequented in the local town.
Yim Wing Chun was being harassed by a local bully who was threatening to force her hand in marriage so that he may gain her inheritance. When Ng Mui discovered this situation, she took pity on Yim Wing Chun and agreed to teach her new fighting techniques so that she could protect herself. Already a Kung Fu enthusiast, Yim Wing Chun followed Abbess Ng Mui into the mountains to begin her new training. Upon observing that the traditional Shaolin methods placed too much emphasis on the hard style, consisting of wide stances and emphasizing too much physical force. Ng Mui concluded that a more practical, scientific approach was needed. So, she developed some basic scientific combat theories that could be practically applied with minimal effort. In order to apply energy more efficiently, she devised the chi sau practice, a unique feature of the Wing Chun System in which one learns to flow or follow their opponent, rather than dominate him. Ng Mui developed a system that structurally placed emphasis on complimenting the opponent's strength, rather than trying to dominate it, thus making Wing Chun ideal for women and people who do not necessarily have strong physical attributes. The system is an aggressive one with very compact, economical attacks and defenses that are simple and direct in their application.
According to legend Yim Wing Chun trained diligently night and day for about 100 days, after which time she challenged the bully to a fight and beat him. This caused him to lose face and he left her alone. To honor her student, and, some say to protect her own identity, Ng Mui named this new system after Wing Chun. She instructed Wing Chun to develop her Kung Fu and to help the people working to overthrow the Manchu Government.
Yim Wing Chun later married Leung Bok Chau and passed the system to him. He in turn passed the techniques to Leung Lan Kwai, who passed it on to Wong Wah Bo, who was a member of an opera troupe on board a junk, known to the Chinese as the Red Junk (The Red Boat People). Wong Wah Bo shared his Kung Fu knowledge with Leung Yee Tai who had learned the six and a half point long pole techniques. Leung Yee Tai was taught the long pole techniques by Abbot Chi Shin who was one of the monks that escaped the burning Shaolin monastery and was hiding on the red boat as a cook. Together they shared techniques and incorporated the long pole into Wing Chun.
Leung Yee Tai passed the system to Dr. Leung Jan, an herbal doctor in Fat Shan (mainland China), who was challenged by many kung fu masters, was never defeated, and became known as the “King of Boxers”. Dr. Leung Jan passed the system on to Chan Wah Shun, known as the “Money Changer”. Chan Wah Shun passed the system to Ip Man. From Ip Man, the art was passed to Leung Sheung, Wong Soon Sum, Ng Chung So, Lui Yu Chai, Wong Shun Leung, and many others. One of the most famous of his students was the late Bruce Lee, who did not complete the system, popularized what he knew of the system in the United States, and, later adopted other methods into it, naming it Jeet Kune Do.
Leung Sheung passed the system to Ng Wah Sum, who taught it to Chung K. Chow. Chung K. Chow passed it on to many others, including Jose’ A. Colon of Puerto Rico, who is responsible for introducing system in his native country, Puerto Rico. Sifu Colon passed the system on to John Longobardi and many others.
The late Grand Master Ip Man, fifth generation master of the system, was the foremost authority of the Wing Chun System and was responsible for bringing the system from behind the bamboo curtain to Hong Kong in the year 1949, where he set up his first public gymnasium, admitted students, and taught them the system. He was responsible for teaching the system to the general populace, after hundreds of years of the system being secretly guarded, and had brought up more than a half million students, a large number of which were highly skillful disciples, who all helped to spread the system to many parts of the globe. In 1967, Grand Master Ip Man founded the Wing Chun Athletic Association in Hong Kong as an effort to foster the spirit of Wing Chun Kung Fu with a group of like-minded enthusiasts.
LEGENDARY HISTORY OF THE WING CHUN SYSTEM
Grand Master Ip Man
Master Leung Sheung