Historical Information about Wing Chun Kuen

I am looking for historical information from all branches of Wing Chun, especially those outside the Yip Man family.

Wing Chun is the name of a system of martial arts developed in southern China approximately 300 years ago. Its originator, the Buddhist nun Ng Mui, was a master of Shaolin Kung Fu and used this knowledge to invent a way to take advantage of the weaknesses inherent in the other Shaolin systems. This new system was well-guarded and passed on to only a few, very dedicated students. Later, the style became known as Wing Chun, after Ng Mui's first student, a woman named Yim Wing Chun.

In 1949, Yip Man, who was considered to be the grandmaster of modern Wing Chun, brought the style out of China into Hong Kong and eventually to the rest of the world.

The Origin of WING CHUN

by Grandmaster Yip Man

The founder of the Wing Chun Kung Fu System, Miss Yim Wing Chun was a native of Canton [Kwangtung Province] in China. She was an intelligent and athletic young girl, upstanding and forthright. Her mother died soon after her betrothal to Leung Bok Chau, a salt merchant of Fukien. Her father, Yim Yee, was wrongfully accused of a crime and, rather than risk jail, they slipped away and finally settled down at the foot of Tai Leung Mountain near the border between Yunan and Szechuan provinces. There they earned a living by running a shop that sold bean curd.

During the reign of Emperor K'anghsi of the Ching Dynasty (1662-1722) Kung Fu became very strong in the Siu Lam [Shaolin] Monastery of Mt. Sung, in Honan Province. This aroused the fear of the Manchu government [a non-Chinese people from Manchuria in the North, who ruled China at that time], which sent troops to attack the Monastery. Although they were unsuccessful, a man named Chan Man Wai, a recently appointed civil servant seeking favor with the government, suggested a plan.

He plotted with Siu Lam monk Ma Ning Yee and others who were persuaded to betray their companions by setting fire to the monastery while soldiers attacked it from the outside. Siu Lam was burned down, and the monks and disciples scattered. Buddhist Abbess Ng Mui, Abbot Chi Shin, Abbot Pak Mei, Master Fung To Tak and Master Miu Hin escaped and went their separate ways.

Ng Mui took refuge in the White Crane Temple on Mt. Tai Leung [also known as Mt. Chai Har]. It was there she met Yim Yee and his daughter Wing Chun from whom she often bought bean curd on her way home from the market. At fifteen, with her hair bound up in the custom of those days to show she was of an age to marry, Wing Chun's beauty attracted the attention of a local bully. He tried to force Wing Chun to marry him, and his continuous threats became a source of worry to her and her father. Ng Mui learned of this and took pity on Wing Chun. She agreed to teach Wing Chun fighting techniques so she could protect herself. Wing Chun followed Ng Mui into the mountains, and began to learn Kung Fu. She trained night and day, until she mastered the techniques. Then she challenged the bully to a fight and beat him.

Ng Mui later traveled around the country, but before she left she told Wing Chun to strictly honor the Kung Fu traditions, to develop her Kung Fu after her marriage, and to help the people working to overthrow the Manchu government and restore the Ming Dynasty.

After her marriage Wing Chun taught Kung Fu to her husband Leung Bok Chau. He in turn passed these techniques on to Leung Lan Kwai. Leung Lan Kwai then passed them on to Wong Wah Bo. Wong Wah Bo was a member of an opera troupe on board a junk, known to Chinese as the Red Junk. Wong worked on the Red Junk with Leung Yee Tei. It so happened that Abbot Chi Shin, who fled from Siu Lam, had disguised himself as a cook and was then working on the Red Junk. Chi Shin taught the Six-and-a-half-point Long Pole techniques to Leung Yee Tei. Wong Wah Bo was close to Leung Yee Tei, and they shared what they knew about Kung Fu. Together they shared and improved their techniques, and thus the Six-and-a-half-point Long Pole was incorporated into Wing Chun Kung Fu. Leung Yee Tei passed his Kung Fu on to Leung Jan, a well known herbal Doctor in Fat Shan. Leung Jan grasped the innermost secrets of Wing Chun, attaining the highest level of proficiency. Many Kung Fu masters came to challenge him, but all were defeated. Leung Jan became very famous. Later he passed his Kung Fu on to Chan Wah Shan, who took me and my elder Kung Fu brothers, such as Ng Siu Lo, Ng Chung So, Chan Yu Min and Lui Yu Jai, as his students many decades ago.

It can thus be said that the Wing Chun System was passed on to us in a direct line of succession from its origin. I write this history of the Wing Chun System in respectful memory of my forerunners. I am eternally grateful to them for passing to me the skills I now possess. A man should always think of the source of the water as he drinks it; it is this shared feeling that keeps our Kung Fu brothers together.

Is this not the way to promote Kung Fu, and to project the image of our country?

Yip Man

Excerpts from...

Story of My Father - Yip Man the Great Grandmaster of the Wing Chun Style

by Master Yip Chun

The Last Student

From then on, my father became Grandmaster Chan Wah Shun's youngest disciple. He learnt techniques from Grandmaster Chan and practiced with his fellow-students such as Ng Chung So and Lui Yu Chai. He was in fact the last disciple admitted by Chan Wah Shun. That is why when Yip Man grew up and had his own students, he said to them smilingly that his students had only "Elder Kung-fu Uncles", but not "Younger Kung-fu Uncles". From the above description, it became clear that Chan Wah Shun did not make a mistake in accepting my father, for the boy's success in afterwards was really due to his master's un-reserved teaching, and the boy's dedication and effort he put to his studies. His success in his career was not mere luck. Grandmaster Chan died when Yip man was thirteen years old. At his last minutes, Chan said to his disciple Ng Chung So,"Yip Man is a clever boy, and is more gifted than others. If any of my students is to promote and spread our Wing Chun techniques with success, Yip Man is the one. Is is a regret that I could not stay longer. From now on the duty of teaching him rests with you. Please take good care of him". Ng Chung So promised to take up the responsibility seconds before Grandmaster Chan died. So Yip Man studied under the guidance of Ng Chung So, with the company of fellow-students such as Yuen Kay Shan and Yiu Choi.

Blending the Techniques of Several Masters

For two years Yip Man followed Ng Chung So. After that he went to Hong Kong to pursue academic studies at the St. Stephen's College at Stanley in Hong Kong. On one occasion he was introduced to Mister Lueng Bik, the first son of Grandmaster Leung Jan - the instructor of Grandmaster Chan Wah Shun. Leung Bik was then staying as a guest in a famous silk company in the western district of Hong Kong. He was delighted with Yip Man's cleverness and his effort in learning, so he tried his best to teach him all he knew. That is why my father later said to others that he got a good foundation from Grandmaster Chan Wah Shun, but sophisticated techniques from Mister Leung Bik. He further said that when he was small, he paid attention to the external-form of movements, not knowing why certain movements should be applied in such ways, while other movements in other ways. When he grew older, he knew that the importance of mastering Wing Chun techniques rested on the merging of theory and practical application.

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Created: 19 May 1995; Updated: