When the Manchus invaded China in 1644, this ended the Ming dynasty and started the Qing dynasty. During the rule of the Manchus, they made many laws to repress the Hans. One of them was to forbid the Hans to carry weapons.

Han soldiers and sympathizers hid in the Shaolin Temple as Buddhist monks. It became their sanctuary and headquarters to plan a revolution and train their rebel force. Since many of the Shaolin styles were based on animal movements and took as long as fifteen to twenty years to master, the Grandmasters needed to develop a new form to train their fighting force more rapidly. They began to develop a new system of Kung Fu based on human biomechanics rather than the movements of animals, distilling the enormous and disparate variety of techniques, some only marginally useful, of the animal systems into an essential core of techniques which would turn an average trainee into a skilled fighter in five years rather than twenty-five. As the Manchus had outlawed the carrying of weapons by the populace, the butterfly swords, which were easy to conceal in knee-length boots, were chosen as the system's only weapons.

The system was called Wing Chun, named after the Springtime (Wing Chun) training hall in the temple. Some accounts have it that the system was named after Yim Wing Chun, but it seems she may also have been given that name, after that of the training hall, by Ng Mui, the alternative meaning of the name being "Hope for the Future").

The Manchus heard of the revolutionary role of the Temple, and surrounded it, while a traitorous monk set fires within. The monks fought bravely, but were heavily outnumbered. Only five escaped - Bak Mei, Fung Do Dak, Mui Min, Jee Sin and the nun Ng Mui. The five went their separate ways.

Ng Mui took refuge in the distant White Crane Temple in Yunnan. Periodically, she would journey to a nearby village for provisions including bean curd (tofu), which she bought from a shopkeeper named Yim Yee (or Yim Say) and his daughter, Yim Wing Chun.

Yim Yee and his daughter had fled Fatshan province before impending wrongful arrest by the Manchus, and settled in this remote area, selling the bean curd for a living. However, their lives were not yet free from trouble. One day Ng Mui entered the shop to find the young girl in tears.

Wing Chun was a beautiful young woman, and had attracted the unwanted attentions of a brutal gang leader, who had sworn to take her as his wife.

Ng Mui's immediate inclination was to fight off the gangster herself, but realised that such action was likely to attract the attention of the Manchus, from whom she was still a fugitive. Instead, Ng Mui undertook to teach the girl combat techniques, thus allowing her to defend herself and her honour.

Wing Chun told the gangster that she would fight him in one year, and that if he could defeat her, she would be his. The gangster, a master of Eagle Claw Kung Fu, saw this as a fait accompli and agreed, laughing.

Ng Mui took Yim Wing Chun back to the temple with her.

With only months in which to train Yim Wing Chun, Ng Mui concentrated only on the most essential, direct and effective techniques and training methods in her instruction. The techniques would need to allow Wing Chun to overcome the gangster, who was bigger, stronger, and more experienced than she. As the 108 dummies of the Shaolin temple no longer existed, Ng Mui developed a single dummy on which all 108 dummy movements could be practised. Yim Wing Chun trained day and night, and, when the gangster returned, she was ready. Soundly beaten, the disgraced gangster left and never returned.

Shortly thereafter, a salt (or silk) merchant from Shangxi named Leung Bok Cho visited the area. Leung Bok Cho had been a student of Kung Fu at the Honan Shaolin Temple. He stayed at an inn next to Yim Yee's shop, and witnessed Wing Chun practising her Kung Fu beside the tofu grinders. He fell in love with this beautiful and skilful young woman, and soon, with Yim Yee's approval, they were married.

Ng Mui eventually left the White Crane Temple, travelling far and wide. Before leaving, she made Wing Chun promise to adhere to the Kung Fu traditions, to continue to develop her Kung Fu after her marriage, and to help continue the struggle against the Manchus to restore the Ming dynasty.

Wing Chun and Leung Bok Cho moved back to Shangxi, but soon moved on to northern Guangdong to escape constant fighting between bandits and soldiers. Then they moved to Siu Hing, where they would eventually encounter members of the Red Junk Opera Company.

Meanwhile, Ng Mui's fellow grandmaster at the temple, Jee Sin, was also travelling the country. Among other styles, he was a master of the dragon pole. He sought suitable students to train in his continuing quest to assist the overthrow of the Manchus and the restoration of the Ming dynasty. Like Ng Mui, he was hunted by the Manchus and, to evade detection, he disguised himself as a dishevelled beggar. It was in Guangdong that he heard of the Red Junk Opera Company, and its prized performer, Wong Wa Bo.

The Red Junk Opera members were trained in the performing and martial arts from an early age, and Jee Sin reasoned that, with such backgrounds, they could quickly be trained to become formidable fighters. Jee Sin went to see a Red Junk performance, watching Wong Wa Bo very closely. He was impressed with Wong Wa Bo's considerable skills and enormous strength, but noticed a few technical faults which he felt he could correct.

As the performers were packing up to travel on to a performance in Guangzhou, Jee Sin approached them and asked for passage. The poler of the ship, seeing only a filthy tramp in rags, informed him that the Red Junks were not passenger ships, and that the only way that Jee Sin would get to Guangzhou was by walking. The opera staff continued their packing, ignoring Jee Sin, and then boarded the boat, preparing to shove off. The poler saw Jee Sin take up a stance, one foot on the shore and one on the boat. The poler decided that the foolish beggar was overdue for a surprise bath, and began to push with his pole as hard as he could.

Try as he might, he could not move the boat. He summoned the others, who also thrust poles into the river bed, but the boat remained unmoved. Finally, in desperation, the poler summoned Wong Wa Bo, the best poler of all, still sleeping after an unusually long performance the previous evening. Even he was unable to make a difference.

The disguised Jee Sin began to laugh, and with his foot, began to rock the boat, threatening to flood it. Wong Wa Bo realised that the man in rags before him was no beggar, but a man of exceptional power and skill. He respectfully invited Jee Sin aboard and begged to be taught the master's skills. Jee Sin taught the Red Junk Opera members his Kung Fu, which they called Weng Chun Kuen ("Everlasting Spring Boxing") to disguise its Shaolin origins. Wong Wa Bo became his prized student, one of very few to learn Jee Sin's six-and-a-half-strike pole technique.

Meanwhile, Leung Bok Cho sought a worthy student to whom to pass on the Wing Chun system. He had heard about his nephew Wong Wa Bo's reputation as a performer and martial artist, and went to a Red Junk performance to see for himself. Leung Bok Cho and Wong Wa Bo got together after the show, and it was agreed that, if Leung could beat Wong in a friendly match, the Wing Chun butterfly swords against staff, that Wong would become Leung's student and be taught the art of Wing Chun.

The match was fought on the stage of the Red Junk, Wong with a twelve foot Dragon Pole against Leung's pair of eighteen inch butterfly swords. Wong figured he had the advantage, and invited Leung to attack first. Wong found it very difficult to defend against the swift, tight techniques of the swords, and was forced to the edge of the stage. In desperation, Wong used the most deadly techniques of the pole, blocking Leung's double slash at his head with an upward bon kwun, then jabbing low at Leung's leg. Despite the almost simultaneous block and attack, Wong's strike missed, and he felt the cold steel of Leung's butterfly blade against his wrist. He had no choice but to drop his pole and concede defeat, begging Leung to teach him the superior techniques of Wing Chun.

Leung knew from the fight he had chosen well. Wong mastered the art of Wing Chun, and integrated its principles into the technique of the six-and-a-half strike Dragon Pole, thus making that weapon part of the Wing Chun system.

Taken from: http://www.jhu.edu/~kclub



Wing Chun Practitioners

Some of this seems to be slightly innacurate, so I'll add on what I know.

Jee Sin (more commonly Gee Sin Sim See) was not involved in Wing Chun in any way that I have heard of. He WAS involved in the creation of another popular martial art, Hung Gar. Hung Gar and Wing Chun don't really have that much in common though, Hung Gar emphasizes low stances and powerful strikes.

But that's not the point.

Also, Chi Sau is not a form, it's actually a concept/training device. It's key to the system and teaches sensitivity. You never break contact with your opponent, always touching forearms.

My Kung Fu teacher can literally close his eyes and block everything you throw at him, he has so much practice that he can tell if you throw a punch or a kick, with which limb, and where it's going.

Without Chi Sau (Chi Sao) training, Wing Chun would be a FAR less effective system than it is. There is also a less-practised exercise called "Chi Gerk", which is much like Chi Sao only it invlovles the legs and you try repeatedly to kick each other in the nuts. It stings.

-More notes on the forms-

Disclaimer: The IWTA is a very large organization, more than large enough for discrepancies or differences of opinion to occur. You might especially find this to be the case if you train in the United States. However, since Wing Tsun is an art/science fueled by principles, it might be better to always speak in terms of percentages. Whatever the case may be, differing emphases and stylistic flares within the IWTA should only ever be a benifit to the organization. The principles remain unchanged.

The forms of Wing Tsun are somewhere between concise dictionaries and raw poetry. It is their very conciseness which makes them poetic. Rarely is a section of a Wing Tsun form a blunt fighting application, and if it is, that is never all it is. Wing Tsun forms are methods for achieving perfection of posture, stance and motion, and in this way they are like dictionaries. However, they can be analysed on deeper and deeper levels; they're bottomless. And in this sense, they are like poetry. This is not shadow-boxing.

An example: at the beginning of the first three forms, beginning with the feet together, the stylist turns her feet outwards from the heel, then pivots from the balls of her feet to achieve the IRAS (Internally Rotated Adduction Stance). On the top level, this motion is understood to be a simple way of achieving correct distance between the feet and proper adduction. However, on another level of interpretation, these two, simple rotating motions are the kernel for all Wing Tsun footwork.

Like poetry, repetition in Wing Tsun forms has a symbolic purpose. It creates a heirarchy of emphasis and divides the form into sections. In Wing Tsun forms, the transitions between postures are as least at important as the postures themselves. This is because Wing Tsun is a martial art of transition and change, cthonically liquid when properly learnt. Lao-tzu would weep.

The first form of Wing Tsun is often called the most important form of all. It contains core ideas, and is about equally divided between offense and defense. The third section of Siu Nim Tao has Chi Kung applications, and is the most health-beneficial. It is also the most esoteric and important. In comparison to the rest of the form, this section is to be done very slowly, and it is the only form section in all of Wing Tsun Kuen (that I am aware of) to receive a descriptor: "Praying Thrice to the Buddha." It involves a repeated transition from wu sao to man sao, the two positions that make up the hand placement of the wing tsun stance.

The second form, Chum Kiu (my form), is primarily a defensive form, although it introduces three kicks to the stylist's repertoire. The emphasis on defense is obvious when one considers the nature and purpose of such things as footwork and turning. In theoretical purely offensive scenarios (where no defense is necessary), no footwork is needed but the forward step. Bong Sao (the "signature move" of Wing Tsun) is emphasized, as is Fuk Sao. This is also the first appearance of close-range techniques such as the Lan Sao (WT elbow) and uppercut.

The third form, Bui Tze, is the primary offensive form of Wing Tsun. It contains fewer defensive techniques, but has some interesting methods for recapturing the center when one is in a perilous position. I can't comment any more than this, as even the practice of a form (and I'm not practicing this one yet) hardly guarantees comprehension, and there are infinite depths of comprehension to be attained . . .

The fourth form is a true mystery, but it seems to have an emphasis on coordination and cooperation of all levels of the body, as well various defensive and offensive shortcuts. The wooden dummy is not meant to strengthen the hands or arms; it is not a makiwara (padded rectangular board, mounted on a wall). Get a punching bag for that. The form should be done softly, and you'll know you're at a good school if it takes you roughly ten years to even begin this form.

The scope and quantity of the Wing Tsun curriculum is truly mind-boggling, and all of it can be seen as emergent properties and extrapolations of a few simple principles that are, ever and always, the true goal.

A final note: It has been suggested that each of the Wing Tsun forms represents an entirely different martial art. Any WT student can see there is some logic in this. Each form/art has its own core principles (which are extrapolations of the main principles), and a gamut of techniques that spring from them. Each is lightyears better than the last, but the catch is that they must be learnt sequentially . . .

--WT 5th student level, "Vikingist"

As the existing Wing Chun writeups seem mostly concerned with the history of Wing Chun, this writeup will attempt to provide an overview of what Wing Chun actually is.

First, a few words about my experience. Basically, I have been taking lessons in Wing Chun at my college (coincidentally, from the same place that the initial Wing Chun writeup comes from). I have not been doing it for very long, so I will probably be missing some (many) things.

Essentially, Wing Chun is how to beat someone in a fight very quickly. When I was describing it to a friend, I told him that the entire point to Wing Chun was "to get past an opponent's defences, and then hit him in the head, very hard". There are, as far as I know, only 5 kicks used in Wing Chun, and they are used mostly for distraction.

The basic method of attack is to strike, either with palm or fist, straight out. This uses your arm's tricep muscles, which are built to push things. This is also the technique behind the famous one inch punch. I have had this used on me (while I was holding something thick and padded in front of my chest, thank Eris), and it is very impressive. I was knocked over, and knocked over the person behind me who was supporting me.

Update (3-21-2002):I realized I forgot a very important point about offense and defense. That is the concept of keeping control of the center line, the area directly in front of your body. The reason for this is that, obviously, the shortest path between two points is a straight line. So if you can control that area, you can force your oppenent to go around to the side, giving you plenty of time to block their attack.

It is designed to be easy to learn (as mentioned elsewhere), it takes most people 2 to 3 years to learn all the forms in Wing Chun; after that a practicioner spends time refining their techniques. My Sifu has been doing it for about 15 years, and is frighteningly good.

An intersting aspect of Wing Chun is that it is very ugly to look at; the martial arts one sees used in movies like Iron Monkey and The Matrix are much more fun to watch. However, Wing Chun is designed for, and useful at, beating someone in a fight, should you feel the need for that kind of thing.

Bruce Lee studied Wing Chun, and one can see many similiarities between Wing Chun and Jeet Kune Do, the martial art he invented. In fact, I originally got interested in Wing Chun because Spike Spiegel, of the anime Cowboy Bebop, is a master of Jeet Kune Do, and, sadly, there are no Jeet Kune Do studios in Baltimore.

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