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Wing Chun and Its Origins

Translated - 'Wing Chun Kuen' reads 'praise-forever springtime boxing'.

There are variations in the oral history of the art, and indeed several lineages exist, but all trace their origins back to the southern Shaolin temple during the ruthless Ching Dynasty. During this period of oppression of the Ming rebels by the Manchus, oral tradition suggests that five particularly notable Shaolin elders escaped the temple after fighting bravely. Bak Mei, Fung Do Dak, Mui Min, Jee Sin and an abbess named Ng Mui, each highly skilled in their own styles of combat, went their separate ways.

Ng Mui (who some suggest was already a 'Bil Gee' master and 'Dim Mak' expert) developed the practical aspects of Wing Chun Kung Fu. (She is also considered, by some, to be the founder of 'Dragon shape boxing' and 'Wu Mei boxing'). She concentrated on the most essential, direct and effective techniques and training methods in her instruction of a young woman who needed to defend her honour, Yim Wing Chun.

Wing Chun then married Leung Bok Cho, who had been a student of Kung Fu at the Honan Shaolin Temple and they moved to Siu Hing where the Red Junk Opera Company had been established. The members of this troupe were trained in performing and martial arts from an early age.

Another elder, the abbott 'Chi Sim' also from Shaolin temple was an 'Iron Head Qi Gong' master, 'wooden dummy' expert, weapons expert, and believed by some to be the the founder of 'Hung Gar' kungfu.       

Wing Chun is said to have come into contact with the abbot Chi Sim and the famous Red Junk Opera troupe – the skills of the 'long pole' are thought to have been acquired by Wing Chun during this interaction. Wong Wa Bo (Leung Bok Cho's nephew), a highly skilled practioner of the troupe also learnt the six-and-a-half-strike pole technique from Chi Sim.

The story has it that Wong fought Leung using a pole against Leung's butterfly swords and Leung won resulting in Leung teaching him the art of Wing Chun. With Wong mastering the art the principles were integrated into the technique of the Dragon Pole.

Leung Jan (Iron Palm Technique) learnt from Leung Lee Tai who had learnt from Leung Lan Kwai. Chan Wa Soon soon learnt the system from Leung Jan along with his two sons. Chan eventually accepted Yip Man as a disciple, but he was only taught a modified version of Wing Chun. After Chan's death Yip moved to Hong Kong and there learnt the whole unmodified system from Chan's surviving son.

Although the various Wing Chun traditions vary somewhat in their oral histories, it is clear by the structure of their forms that they share in a common origin. Some schools consider that Wing Chun represents the 'internal' way of Shaolin. Many schools do not recognise this fact; However, to get a full appreciation of the art, the practitioner should be aware that 'Wing Chun' was based on 'internal' Shaolin.