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