Wing Chun History

Wing Chun History in its entirety is a rich mixture of real events blended with a large helping of legend. This is interesting to add just enough spice to shake everyone whose position is too committed. This is not an attempt to make light of our past. This is an attempt to put things into perspective and to take what is important with us and to respect all that has happened before. What is written here is what the Shing Shun Kwoon accepts as legend and what it accepts as history. This is based on almost two decades of my interaction with the Wing Chun Community. The bulk of what is accepted as History is based on the diligent research of the Ving Tsun Museum.

It is not important what has happened before. What is important is what we do with it and what do we pass on.

What will our legacy be?

Will we be known as seekers, teachers and livers of life or will we be too busy bickering or caught up in where we are on the hierarchy food chain. What will we leave behind:  seekers or followers lost without true knowledge?  A system that winds up watered down with a storefront on every corner or a true applicable system that makes it into the hands of those who seek it; Tournaments every weekend advocating ineffective fighting and living skills or Kwoons that train honestly, humbly in combat and live the art as a way of life.

First the Legend then the History…


From this point forward (key word being forward) as in referencing what you see below is what I have accepted as the history of Wing Chun – Some will argue (most, because that is their way – to argue) that this is not the history – that it can not be proven – You know what - they are right (for the wrong reasons – but have a legitimate point) – What does it really matter? - I say to them the history has a legitimate place and it is in the past – even if you have the most “accurate” information what does that mean and what can you use it for? I am a Kung Fu man – I am not an historian – I left that up to others – Who are they? – that is part of their path – I evaluated what I have seen – the evidence – the anecdotal stuff – blah blah blah – I used that information not as something I had collected gathered but as something that gave me confirmation and affirmation of my path and in some instances challenged my path – The big question for me and I extend it to any who takes the time to read this - is this: What are you doing with your Kung Fu today? How will you be remembered? How many lives will you touch or change? How will your life be touched by others?
I have watched for years as people in the Wing Chun community have jockeyed for position as if a truth had a position – truth just is – and you know it when you see, feel, or experience in any fashion.
Looking at the past freed me to live in the present – Finding the past did not trap me there – I do not live there – A part of the past can not help but to live in me though – when I recognize it for what it is – So the history that is listed here is the accepted and acknowledge as such – my question is what will I do now that will allow a true expression of life live in the present that extends to a future – That is the true nature of things – what you do now shapes the moment – a bunch of moments put together cause a movement in direction which by default creates a past – so again the moment – this moment is what you have a “grasp” of – the past lives in a form of the moment but should not be grasped because it is dead in its own existence – the future happens from moments of now so again the present is…

Below is the history of Wing Chun as I have accepted – learning the past – witnessing some of it has freed me to live in the present moment – each moment leads to the next one – (is)
The story that I refer to as legend is just as much of the history as what I am accepting as “true” history – We will never know the complete story as it happened – but we are writing each of our own history as we live – as each moment happens we do know – what will your accumulation of moments say? The only thing that I have control over is me – nothing else – And I only have each and every moment as they happen to do that – I can not control or change the past or the future – I can learn from the past and I can affect the future but I only can live in the moment – I is – I am… 
The Tao is the great teacher – nothing else can substitute for it…

Below is an essay from one of my students – Amani Hicks. 
Amani wrote this for a college course and gave me permission to use this on our website.  Amani used a few different references for his essay – which will be credited at the end. Also for a more in-depth analysis of the history please visit www.vtmuseum.org
I would like to thank the countless Wing Chun people over the years who have given me insight on their lineage and their version of the complete Wing Chun History.
Most importantly I like to thank Benny Meng and the Ving Tsun Museum staff for the countless and sometimes thankless hours of work that they have put into research. Without their research much of what is displayed here would not be possible. Much of what we know as a Wing Chun Community would not be known – This is not to slight any of the other sources that have also dug deep to shine a light on our wonderful and rich past – A huge thank you to all those dedicated historians.
We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before – so if we do see truth or our path becomes illuminated brightly; credit/reverence must be given to those before us – that is the awareness gained, the importance recognized, and the sacredness of the past…
Again enjoy… 

The History - The Legend

The origins of Wing Chun can be traced back to China during the turbulent Ching Dynasty over 250 years ago. This was a period of time when the Manchurians 10 % of the population ruled over the Hons 90 % of the population. The Manchu’s outlawed all weapons during this time. The Hans thus decided to train a revolutionary army in the art of Kung Fu. The Famous Siu Lam temple became the secret sanctuary for preparatory trainings for a classical style that took between 15 to 20 years for each person to master. 
The time it took to train a person was too long so a new form, which would have a shorter training time, had to be developed. Five of China’s grandmasters met to discuss the merits of each of the various forms of Kung fu. The most efficient techniques from each style were taken and developed into training programs that would develop an efficient martial artist. The training programs were created and the training time had been reduced to five to seven years. Before the new form could be applied though, the Siu Lam Temple was raided and burned by the Manchus.
The only grandmaster that survived was Ng Mui a nun. Ng Mui passed her knowledge onto a young orphan girl named Yim Wing Chun. Wing Chun shared her art with her husband Leung Bok Cho, and overtime the style became known as Wing Chun. The name Wing Chun means “beautiful springtime" or “hope for the future.”
The art was passed on to only a few carefully selected students. One hundred years ago Leung Jun was one of those students. Jun lived and ran an herbal shop with his two sons Leung Bak and Leung Cheun in the city of Fatshan. A moneychanger named Chan Wah Soon with a shop next door continually spied on Leung’s daily teachings to his sons. In order to trick Chan, Leung taught a modified version of Wing Chun to his sons when Chan was spying.
Chan’s dedication to spying eventually touched Leung Jun who accepted him as a student. However he only taught Chan the modified version because he felt after his death Chan would dispute the grandmaster position with his two sons. After Leung Jun and his son Leung Cheun died, Chan drove Leung Bak from Fatshan to Hong Kong where he settled. Chan taught his modified version of Wing Chun to eleven students. One day a twelve-year old boy named Yip Man came to Chan with 300 pieces of silver asking for acceptance as Chan’s final student. Chan found that Yip man had saved up the silver, and for this dedication he accepted him as his last student.
Yip Man studied for four years then moved to Hong Kong. Yip Man’s kung fu reputation grew and one day his friends introduced him to an old man with renowned Kung Fu ability. Yip Man challenged the old man and lost terribly despite his good Kung Fu skills. The old man turned out to be Leung Bak the original surviving son of the original Wing Chun system. After the encounter Leung Bak told Yip Man the story of the modified version of Wing Chun and accepted him as his only student.
After studying the original Wing Chun system for four years Yip man returned to Fatshan. He defeated his seniors and became the grandmaster of Wing Chun. In 1948 the Communists took over China and Yip Man left for Macao. Leung Shan a White Eyebrow Kung Fu master found Yip Man in a sad condition and cared for him and took him back to Hong Kong.
Yip Man over the years watched and without malice ridiculed the inadequacy of Shan’s style as he trained students in his school. One Evening in 1951 Shan became fed up and challenged Yip Man. Leung Shan was larger and stronger than Yip Man, but he was easily defeated. After the contest Yip Man revealed that he was the Wing Chun grandmaster and took Leung Shan as his first of few students. 
To explain the Secret Society version of Wing Chun I must refute certain parts of the Yim Wing Chun legend I have explained up to this point. The Legend of Yim Wing Chun and the Buddhist nun who taught her is just that a legend or a myth. The part about Leung Jun and his sons is true. However, the story of Ng Mui and Yim Wing Chun was only a way to conceal the truth about the systems origins and the identities of the political rebels who actually developed it. The interesting part though, is how the feminine qualities that are in the legend help to preserve the essence of the art. Wing Chun is very Yin, meaning soft so it is understandable that a female character was chosen. 
During the time period of 1644 to 1911 the Manchurians ruled China. The 10% Manchu’s ruled the 90% Hons with aggression and oppression. The rebel activity that took place went on in the Buddhist Monasteries. The Shaolin Siu Lam sanctuaries were places for the rebels to hide. They simply shaved their heads, wore the robes, and did chores. The rebels would then gather at night to formulate their plans to overthrow the Manchus. 
The Rebels had a secret way of greeting each other. The left hand was an open palm symbolizing the union of the Green Dragon and the right hand the White Tiger, the fighting animals of the Shaolin Monks. In the Hung Fa Yi Lineage of Wing Chun the hands are reversed. The fist represents the Yat (sun) and the palm represents Yuet (moon). The two characteristics combined meant “Bright” which reads and sounds like “Ming.” In those days when a Wing Chung practitioner or secret society member saluted you with a fist and open palm pushed toward you they were saying “return the Ming, overturn the Ching.” 
Toward the end of the 1600’s the Manchurians became concerned about the Siu Lam Temples rebellious activities and sent spies. The Kung Fu masters realized this and developed a new system that could be learned quickly and effectively and secondly it had to be devastatingly affective against the existing fighting systems the Manchu’s were learning and teaching their soldiers. This is how Wing Chun was born.
The Manchus found that their spy rings were not going to work so they just simply exterminated the Siu Lam Monks. The Southern Siu Lam temple was burned and destroyed. The inheritor of the Wing Chun after the temple burning was Cheung Ng. He established the precious Jade Flower Society Association and provided Wing Chun training to the secret societies. Chung later went into hiding to escape persecution.
A Fuk Gin business family named Chahn hid Chung. He stayed with them for over a decade and taught the family the art of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun. Kept in the family for four generations the last generation of the Cahn family to learn the art was a distant nephew named Huhng Gan Biu who was a high-level secret society leader. This is where history and truth parted and the myth of Wing Chun’s origin was created.
The story of Ng Mui and Yim Wing Chun was created to protect the identities of the creators and the perpetuators of the Wing Chun system. The Yim Wing Chun origin is still widely accepted and believed worldwide. However my school the Shing Shun Kwoon has chosen to accept the secret society version of Wing Chun History and origins. 
As I have undergone my Wing Chun training, as time passes each day I realize more and more how Wing Chun helps me to discover myself. The martial arts are a form of self-expression, which you as a person must actively seek. Wing Chun has allowed me to seek, and still is transforming me spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Every day that I train with my Kung Fu brothers and sisters I can feel it in some otherworldly sense the search for something divine.
I have gained even more self-confidence in myself through Wing Chun. I am more secure within myself because of Wing Chun. In dangerous situations I have the inner peace and security that Wing Chun provides me to rely on. I can say this because all of my strengths, weaknesses, and insecurities come out at the Kwoon where we train. The art of Wing Chun reveals the true essence of your inner being. 
The thing I especially like about Wing Chun is that I am forced to face up to what I am. This process only takes time. I have found that if you can face your true soul then you can face anything. I hope that you have enjoyed my version of the history of Wing Chun and the explanation of the profound effect that it has had on my life.

“Only the mistakes have been mine.” - Malcolm X.


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