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HISTORY OF WING CHUN KUNG FU As a matter of tradition, a student is orally informed about the history of a system of kung fu by his

or her Sifu. Because of this oral tradition, there are differing accounts concerning the history of Wing Chun Kung Fu. The writer has merely recorded below his own recollection of what he was told about the history of Wing Chun by his Sifu, Grandmaster Ip Ching. For further reading concerning the history of Wing Chung Kuen, please refer to Leung Ting "Roots and Branches of Wing Tsun" (ISBN 962-7284-23-8) and Robert Chu and Rene Ritchie, "Complete Wing Chun." Wing Chun is a system of Chinese martial arts developed some 300 years ago. At that time, the Shaolin Temple was one of the premiere martial arts institutions in China. There has been a change of government to the Manchurians (or Ching Dynasty) from the Ming Dynasty. Due to the oppression of the Han people in China at the hands of the Ching Dynasty, there were various rebel groups who wished to overthrow the Ching government and restore the previously prosperous Ming Dynasty. Some of these rebels hid in the Shaolin Temple to study martial arts. Aided by a defector of the temple, Ching Dynasty troops destroyed the temple and killed most of the monks and disciples living and training there. However, Ng Mui, a Buddhist mistress, one of the five elders of Shaolin survived the disaster.

1. The Shaolin Temple

2. Chinese stamp showing shaolin monks training


Ng Mui later settled in a buddhist temple in the Szechuan province in China. Whilst living in the temple, Ng Mui created a system of kung fu based upon the movements of the snake and the crane. It was said that this new system of kung fu was created to defeat the original shaolin system that was now being taught to government troops by the defector monk. Subsequently, Ng Mui met and taught the system to a girl named Yim Wing Chun. At the time, legend tells us that Yim Wing Chun and her family were being bullied by a local warlord who wished to marry Wing Chun. However, her heart already belonged to her fiancee, Leung Bok Tau. On Ng Mui's advice, Wing Chun stated to the warlord that she was not prepared to marry any man, unless he could beat her in hand to hand combat. The warlord thinking that Wing Chun was frail and could easily defeated, accepted the challenge. A further condition that was set was that she'd be allowed one year to train before the contest, which was also accepted by the warlord. Afterwards, Wing Chun studied kung fu under Ng Mui, and easily defeated the warlord one year later and was able to marry her fiancee. Wing Chun subsequently taught her husband Leung Bok Tau, the kung fu that she had learned from Ng Mui. Leung Bok Tau subsequently taught students in the Red Boat Opera Troup. When asked by students as to the name of this style of kung fu, Leung Bok Tau named the style after his wife and teacher - Wing Chun.

Subsequently, the art of Wing Chun was passed from generation to generation secretly. Leung Bok Tau taught a number of students including Wong Wah Bo, Leung Yee Tai. Wong Wah Bo and Dai Fa Min Kum (who were members of the Red Boat Opera Troupe) later passed their art on to Dr Leung Jan. Dr Leung Jan was a herbalist in Foshan and was known for his compassion to the people of Foshan, often treating patients for free. Dr Leung Jan became a legendary folk hero of the Chinese people. He was known as the "King of Wing Chun" and was challenged on many occasions by other martial artists at the time, and was never defeated. Dr Leung Jan passed his art to his two sons, Leung Bik and Leung Chun, and Chan Wah Shun (or Money Changer Wah). Money Changer Wah and Leung Bik subsequently taught Grandmaster Ip Man. The writer also understands from Grandmaster Sum Nung that Dai Fa Min Kum later passed the art to Fok Bo Cheun (Wong Wah Bo also taught Fok Bo Cheun) and Fung Siu Ching. Fok Bo Cheun and Fung Siu Ching later passed on their art to Yuen Kay San. Yuen Kay San passed his art on the Grandmaster Sum Nung (the founder of the Yuen Kay San Wing Chun lineage. Grandmaster Ip Man started learning Wing Chun at the age of 12. At that time, Chan Wah Shun was teaching Wing Chun in the Ip family hall. At that time, Ip's family was very rich and owned a large house. The young Ip Man was very interested in learning Kung Fu and approached Chan for lessons. Chan told Ip Man that people who were rich and came from comfortable surroundings did not make good students of Wing Chun. However, because Chan was teaching Wing Chun on Ip family premises, Chan could not simply turn down Ip's request. So, Chan said that he was prepared to teach Ip Man on the condition that Ip Man paid him 600 silver pieces. In those days, 600 silver pieces was enough money to buy several houses. Chan knew that Ip would not be able to raise such money and this would discourage him. Ip Man took 6 months to raise the money and presented the money to Chan. Chan was shocked and suspected Ip Man of stealing and brought him to

see his father. Ip Man's father explained that he had given the boy the money so that he could study Kung Fu from Chan Wah Shun. From then on, Ip Man became an official student of Chan Wah Shun. Altogether, Chan Wah Shun taught 16 people Wing Chun in his life time. The eldest Kung Fu brother was Ng Cheung So and the lowest kung fu brother was Ip Man. Ip Man learned from Chan Wah Shun for three years before Chan passed away. After that, Ip Man's eldest Kung Fu brother, Ng Cheung So completed Ip Man's training (as he promised Chan Wah Shun). At the age of 17, Ip Man went to Hong Kong to attend High School at St Francis College. By chance, Ip Man met Leung Bik, Dr Leung Jan's son and started learning Wing Chun from him. At that time, Hong Kong was a British colony and the British employed Indian police officers in Hong Kong. One day, on his way to school, Ip Man and one of his school friends witnessed an Indian Police Officer beating a Chinese lady. The boys confronted the officer and told him that if the lady had broken the law then the officer was entitled to arrest her but he had no right to beat her. In fact, she had broken no law. The officer, thinking that Ip Man was only a kid, attacked him. Ip Man responded to the officer's attack with what appeared to his friend to be a very simple move but the officer went down with blood all over his face. Ip Man and his friend quickly ran to school to escape. Ip Man's friend told an older man who lived in the same building as him what had happened that day. The older gentleman who was also from Foshan asked the young man to show him what Ip Man did. When he saw what the young man showed him, the old man asked to see Ip Man. The next day, Ip Man and his friend went to see the older gentleman. The older gentleman asked Ip Man what type of Kung Fu he studied. Ip Man said that it was the best Kung Fu in the world and that if he told him the older gentlemen would not understand. Ip Man later told the older gentlemen that he studied Wing Chun. The older gentlemen replied that he had heard of it and there was a

person named Chan Wah Shun teaching in Foshan. The older gentleman asked Ip Man to perform the Sil Lim Tao form. The older gentlemen kept shaking his head and said "not so good." The older gentlemen then asked Ip Man to perform the Chum Kiu Form and during the demonstration the older gentlemen again kept shaking his head and saying "not very good". The older gentlemen then asked Ip Man to demonstrate the Biu Gee form. At this point, Ip Man was losing his patience and said the I did not feel like performing the form. Then the old man asked if Ip Man would Chi Sau with him. Thinking that he could finally teach this old man a lesson, Ip Man accepted. Ip Man through a punch but the older man simply threw him to the side. He tried again and the same happened. Ip Man stormed out of the room. The next day, the older gentlemen asked to see Ip Man again but Ip Man didn't want anything to do with him and told his friend no. When the friend reported this to the older gentlemen, the older gentleman told the friend to let Ip Man know that he was Leung Bik (the youngest son of Leung Jan). When the friend informed Ip Man, Ip immediately went to see Leung Bik. From then on, Ip Man lived with Leung Bik for 5 years until Leung Bik died and learned the entire Wing Chun system from him. Leung Bik also passed to Ip Man three note books passed to him by his father Dr Leung Jan (these books are on display in the Ip Man museum in Foshan and set out Chinese medicinal herbal formulas from Leung Jan and presssure points). He returned to Foshan after completing his schooling and training. Because Ip Man was rich, he was not required to work. He spent most of his time practising his Wing Chun achieving a very high level of skill in the art. Grandmaster Ip Man started teaching members of the public in Hong Kong in the 1950s. Grandmaster Ip Man had many famous students including his two sons Grandmasters Ip Chun and Ip Ching. Other famous students included Grandmasters Tsui Shun Tin, Wong Shui Leung, Lok Yiu, Moy Yat, Bruce Lee, William Cheung, Dr Leung Ting and

many others. Since that time, Wing Chun has been taught all over the world, and is recognised as being an effective form of martial art for men, women and children.

3. Grandmaster Yip Man training on the Wooden Dummy.