The Story of Wing Chun

Shaolin Temple.  Birthplace of all martial arts styles. Divided into chambers, or rooms, each chamber teaching a certain style, weapon, or skill. The temple was burned down by the Manchu government about 300 years ago, killing many of the monks and nuns. A few escaped, including the Five Elders: five who had mastered every chamber. Only one of the Five Elders was a nun; her name was Ng Mui. Mistress Nu mui (1705-1785) quietly spent here days meditating, reflecting back on the secret meetings to develop a new fighting system.

One day she heard a noise, she turned to witness a fight between a fox and a crane. This inspired her with renewed hope, so she set about the task of formulating this system into a coherent art.

Then one day Ng Moi heard of trouble that Yim Yees daughter was having. YIm Yee was a widower and quite poor. His fifteen year old daughter was betrothed to a man named Leung Bok Chow (1738-1818) Before the marriage between Yim Yees daughter and Leung Bok Chow took place, Da Ta Pea (spoiled son of rich land owner) saw the daughter and desired her for himself. She could see that he was an evil man and she avoided him. Da Ta Pea was rich, so he could afford the best instructors. So he was very accomplished in the arts of Kung Fu.  And it was at this time that Ng Mui took her as a disciple. Secretly meeting with the Lady, teaching her great fighting principles. Within a few months the young lady was an accomplished and fierce fighter. Proud of her accomplishments, Ng Mui named her after the hall at Siu Lim. “Wing Chun” would be her name. Yim Wing Chun (1740-1820) possessed the secrets of Siu Lim. Wing Chun promised to find one loyal disciple to teach.

Yim Wing Chun went back to the village to challenge Da Ta Pea to a fight. She said “If you win, I will marry you”, and if he could not defeat her, he was to never bother her again. So in front of many people, Wing Chun defeated Da Ta Pea, not once but three times. So after these set of events, Yim Wing Chun was free to marry Leung Bok Chow. They moved to his home town Fatsan GwangDang. It was then that Yim Wing Chun wanted to show her husband the fighting system that she used to defeat Da Ta Pea. But Leung Bok Chow didn’t want anything to do with it because he was a martial artist himself, and didn’t want to hurt her. Finally after much persuasion and finally squaring off, Leung Bok Chow attacked Yim Wing Chu, but couldn’t break through her defenses. Instead, Yim Wing Chun defeated her husband throwing him to the ground. He was so impressed with his wife’s system. She then taught him the art which he called “Wing Chun.”

Leung Bok Chow is the master who introduced the Bot Cham Doe (Eight Slash Butterfly Knives) into the system. Leung Bok Chow passed this system on to his nephew Leung Lan Kwai. (1755-1835)

Leung Lan Kwai was a quiet man and who was an Herbalist. ( A person who collects or deals in herbs, akin to our modern pharmacist.)  He was the master who accepted and taught Wing Chun to Wong Wa Bo.(1784-1864) At this time there was no long pole form In the Wing Chun system. Wong Wa Bo became an actor on board what was called the Red Junk. Red Junks were flat bottomed, sail driven Chinese boats painted red. That carried Chinese opera troops up and down the waterways on their performing tours.( The same Red Junk that master Chi Shin had taken refuge on years prior.)  Wong Wa Bo met and became good friends with Leung Yee Ta.(1798-1878)

Leung Yee Tai was one of Chi Shin’s students and loved the martial arts. Leung Yee Tai was very interested in learning Wong Wa Bo’s Wing Chun Kung Fu. At that time Leung Yee Tai learned the Wing Chun system. In return he taught the Look Deem Boon Kwon form. (Six and a half point pole.)

Both Wong Wa Bo and Leung Yee Tai taught the famous Leung Jan (Kung Fu King of Fatshan.) Leung Jan lived and ran the Jan Sang pharmacy. (Herbal pharmacy) Not only was he well known, but quite skillful in his profession. He created many things like “Ginseng”, and “Dit Da Jow”.  In his spare time he practiced Wing Chun. His skill brought many challengers and those challengers always found defeat. He refused to teach as a profession. Even so he did accept some students, his two sons Leung Bik and Leung Chan (Chan Wah Shan 1828-1918)  and one who earned the nick name “Wah The Wooden Dummy” because he was notorious for breaking the arms of the wooden dummies. Leung Jan and Leung Chun (AKA “Wah the money changer”) were licensed to convert large Chinese money denominations into smaller currency. As his last student, Leung Jan clearly taught the One-Hundred and eight principles of the Wing Chun system. His students also became masters.

Chan Wa Shun began teaching Wing Chun to Ng Siu Lo, Ng Chung So, and Chan Yu at the Yip family temple in Fatshan.

Ip Kai Man (1903-1972) was born in Fatshan in 1893. His family had money, and he was raised in the fashion befitting a child of wealth, educated but sheltered as much as possible from the turmoil in the country. It was there, where Chan Wa Shun met a twelve year old boy, named Ip man. Ip Man became excited about learning the art of Wing Chun and found the opportunity to have a famous instructor. The master would teach after charging an exorbitant amount of money. The boy came back with the money. Master Chun, thinking that Ip Man stole the money, took the boy back to his parents. His parents replied and said “It was his money.”  So Ip Man started learning Wing Chun from Chan Wa Shun, and later from Leung Bik.

Ip Man later fled China to Hong Kong and jobs at that time were hard to get. He started to teach Wing Chun to the restaurant workers for his employment. Ip Man didn’t like to teach because it tore him from the love of Kung Fu. Ip Man didn’t want secrets to go outside the family door. So he held back moves and principles. Ip Man also taught only the original Wing Chun forms passed down by “Wah the money changer.” In 1972, Ip Man, world renowned Grandmaster of Wing Chun Kung Fu, died of throat cancer.

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