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About Wing Chun
History of Wing Chun
The origin of Wing Chun can be found in the turbulent, repressive Ching Dynasty which flourished over 270 years ago. It was a time when 90 percent of the Chinese people, the Hons, were ruled by the 10 percent minority, the Manchus.
When all weapons were outlawed by the Manchus, the Hans began training a revolutionary army in the art of kung fu. The Sil Lum temple became the secret sanctuary for preparatory trainings of a classical style which took between 15 to 20 years for each person to master.
To develop a new form, one which would have a shorter training time, five of China’s grandmasters met to discuss the merits of each of the various forms of kung fu. By choosing the most efficient techniques from each style, they developed training programs that would develop an efficient martial artist in 5 to 7 years, one third the original time. However, before the new form could be put into practice, the Sil Lum temple was raided and burned by the Manchus.
Ng Mui, a nun, was the only survivor of the original five grandmasters. She passed her knowledge on to a young orphan girl, whom she named Wing Chun. The name represented “hope for the future.” In turn, Wing Chun shared her knowledge with her husband, Leung Bok Cho.
Through the years, the style became known as Wing Chun. Its techniques and teaching were passed on to a few, carefully selected students.
Nearly 100 years ago, Leung Jun was one of the chosen students to receive training in Wing Chun. He lived with his two sons, Leung Bak and Leung Cheun in the prosperous city, Fatshan. Aside from his fame as a martial artist, Leung Jun owned as herbal shop. He was greatly respected by his community as a gentleman and scholar, one who never boasted of his king fu ability.
Chan Wah Soon was a money changer with a shop next door to Leung Jun’s. He was a large, strong man, who admired his neighbor’s Wing Chun ability. When Leung Jun chose to keep his art within his family and not take any outside students, Chan Wah Soon resorted to spying on Leung Jun’s daily teachings to his sons. Leung Jun soon learned of Chan’s spying and deliberately taught a modified version when Chan was watching.
Chan’s dedication to spying eventually touched Leung Jun and he eventually accepted Chan as a disciple. However, Leung Jun continued to teach only the modified version to Chan because he feared that after his own death, Chan would dispute the Wing Chun grandmastership with his sons. Since Chan was a much larger and stronger man, neither of Leung Jun’s sons could have defeated him if Chan had learned the real version of Wing Chun.
Leung Jun’s suspicions of Chan Wah Soon were well founded. When Leung Jun and his son Leung Cheun died, Chan drove the surviving son Leung Bak, from Fatshan to Hong Kong.
Chan Wah Soon wasted little time in teaching the modified version of Wing Chun to his selected disciples. He enjoyed tremendous popularity, but after many years had accepted only eleven students.
Then a twelve year old boy, Yip Man, came to Chan Wah Soon with 300 pieces of silver asking for acceptance as his final disciple. At first, Chan assumed the boy had stolen the money from his parents. He accompanied Yip Man home, confronted his parents, and discovered the Yip Man had indeed saved the silver by himself. Admiring Yip Man’s dedication, Chan accepted him as his last disciple.
Yip Man studied Chan’s Wing Chun system for four years and after Chan’s death, moved to Hong Kong. By the age of sixteen, he had the reputation of an accomplished martial artist. Through some of his martial arts friends, Yip Man was introduced to an eccentric old man with renowned king fu ability. Yip Man challenged the old eccentric and lost dismally. The old man was Leung Bak, Lueng Jun’s surviving son of the original Wing Chun system. After the encounter, Leung Bak told Yip Man the story of the modified version and accepted him as his only student.
Yip Man studied the authentic version of Wing Chun for four years. With his new knowledge, he returned to Fatshan, defeated his seniors in the modified system and became the grandmaster of Wing Chun. All kung fu practitioners of China respected him for his ability, but he never accepted any disciples.
In 1948, when the Communists took over China, Yip Man left for Macao, leaving his fortune behind. In Macao, Leung Shan, a master of White Eyebrow Kung Fu, found Yip Man in an impoverished state and took him to Hong Kong, where he cared for him.
Leung Shan had a kung fu school on the premises of the Restaurant Worker’s Union in Hong Kong. Yip Man was given a small apartment there. Every night, after the restaurant closed, kung fu classes were conducted at the Worker’s Union. Often, Yip Man watched the classes in progress, without malice, ridiculed the inadequacy of Leung Shan’s style.
One night in 1951, Leung Shan became angered by Yip Man’s disrespect. To teach Yip Man a lesson, he challenged the older man. Though Leung Shan was larger and younger than Yip Man, he was no match for the art of Wing Chin and was easily defeated.
After defeating Leung Shan, Yip Man revealed himself as the grandmaster of Wing Chun and took Leung Shan as the first of his always carefully selected students.