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History of Wing Chun


There have been many speculations about the origin of the Chinese system of fighting known as Wing Chun; how the system was invented and who the inventors and early contributors were. The fact is no one really knows who invented the system. As other writers have done a much more detailed examination of these various stories, myths, and legends, only a brief synopsis will be presented here.

In the mid 1600's, invaders from the north, known as the Manchu, overran the Han people of southern China. After penetrating the Great Wall of China by literally bribing the gatekeeper, they overthrew the Ming dynasty and established the foreign Ching dynasty. The Ching were cruel tyrants and the Han struggled valiantly to overthrow their foreign oppressors. Tradition says the Buddhist priests of the Siu Lam (Shaolin) temples supported the old Ming dynasty and began training counter-revolutionaries in their animal style systems of fighting, which we loosely call "Kung Fu". The Shaolin priests were very good fighters and the Manchu were unable to overcome them for almost 200 years. In the meantime, the Manchu managed to coerce or bribe renegade priests and in that way learned the martial secrets of the Buddhist priests. The priests eventually found themselves fighting against their own arts.

The original Shaolin arts took many years to learn. The movements and characteristics of animals were adapted to form moving meditations and eventually became sophisticated and complex systems of fighting. Of the many animal styles that existed, it might take twenty years or more to master just one style. Until the invasion of the Manchu, the Shaolin kept their fighting systems secret and taught them only to priests. Once the country was overrun, the Shaolin began training well-trusted counterrevolutionaries outside their priestly order. In order to train them more quickly and efficiently, the animal movements were dropped in favor of movements that were simple, direct, and efficient. The priests began work on a system that was relatively easy to learn and didn't emphasize size or strength; a system that was actually designed to counter their own original Shaolin arts and could be taught in five years instead of twenty. This system of fighting became known as Wing Chun, which means, "Beautiful Springtime".

The most popular legend tells about a woman named Yim Wing Chun who learned the system from a Shaolin nun named Ng Mui. According to legend, Ng Mui escaped from the destruction of the Hunan Temple in the early 1800ís. After Yim Wing Chun defeating a local gangster who tried to force her to marry him, she eventually married her true love, Leung Bok Cho, who named the system after her, and together they taught the system to members of the Red Boat Opera.

Our tradition says the system was brought from Shaolin in the north to the southern town of Fatshan during the time of the founding of the Red Boat (Hung Suen) Opera in the mid 1700's. Most stories agree that members of the Red Boat taught the system to an apothecary in Fatshan known as Leung Jan. Leung Jan, in turn, taught his two sons and a neighbor named Chan Wa Shun. Chan Wa Shun taught the system to many students. From Chan Wa Shun the system was eventually taught to Hen Shi Tin who taught it to George Lovio, who is an instructor of Wing Chun in southern California.

Conclusion

Wing Chun is a pure fighting system with a high degree of sophistication and an emphasis on techniques. It is a direct no-nonsense system, yet profound, with depths that will take a lifetime to explore. It is mentally stimulating and physically conditioning. It is an excellent example of a problem solving system. It is the product of hundreds of years of development by some of the finest fighters and most brilliant minds that ever lived. Wing Chun is direct, ingenious, and elegant in its simplicity.

Wing Chun can be practiced by anyone reasonably intelligent with a desire to learn and enrich his or her life.
 


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