Wing Chun History-must have 10 minutes spare to read.

Bob Hubbard

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Found this on another forum...thought I'd share.
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Wing Chun History-must have 10 minutes spare to read.
Beat that for a catchy title to a Wing Chun student/Si Fu/Si Bak/Si Gung/Si Jo.
Well to Sihing 73 and others I promised you this.
The Secret History of Wing Chun: The Truth Revealed

By Benny Meng and Alfredo Del-Brocco

"The first casualty when war comes is truth."

-- Hiram Johnson

Preface

Although the world itself has not gotten smaller, life in the Information Technology Age (via the media of email and Internet) has made contact and communication with people around the globe easier. Consequently, it is now harder for information and research to be constrained or concealed, or for only one perspective to be put forward. Most importantly, it means that certain myths will not be perpetuated. The true history of the origins of Wing Chun kung fu is one of them.

Put simply, the harsh truth is this: the myth of the Buddhist nun, Ng Mui and her disciple Yim Wing Chun, the supposed founders of the Wing Chun system, is just that a myth. As the internet has brought information more readily to us, it has come to light that the story of Ng Mui and Yim Wing Chun was merely a way to conceal the truth about the systems origins and the identities of the political rebels who truly developed it.

After almost 400 years, the truth is finally ready to be told. The question is: is the kung fu world ready for it?

There is no doubt that the information about to be disclosed will ruffle feathers to say the least. This is mainly because many Wing Chun instructors throughout the world are naively, and through no fault of their own, imparting a romanticized, fantastical history of the Wing Chun system. They are telling and retelling a story that is little more than a fairytale.

The true story of Wing Chun, however, is even more fascinating. And no less deserving of the term `legendary

Secrets in the Shadows of Shaolin

As near as history can testify, Wing Chun was developed around 400 years ago in a time of civil unrest. Between 1644 to 1911, the Manchurians ruled China, where 10% of the population (the Manchus) ruled over 90% of the population (the Hons). To maintain control over the Hons, the Manchus ruled with an iron fist. Aggression and oppression were the cornerstones of the Dynasty and the Hons were banned from using weapons or training in the martial arts. Thus, in order to overthrow their oppressors, rebel activity was instigated by martial arts masters in hiding.

Rebel activity developed rapidly in the Buddhist monasteries, which were largely left alone by the Manchus out of respect for the Buddhist culture and religion. These Shaolin/Siu Lam sanctuaries were ideal places for renegades to conceal themselves they simply shaved their heads and donned the monastic robes of the disciples of the temple. During the day, the rebels would earn their keep by doing chores around the temple. At night, they would gather to formulate their plans to overthrow the Manchus.

There are some that maintain that Shaolin/Siu Lam sanctuaries possessed no political leanings. They further emphasize that the Buddhist teachings of these monasteries would have prevented their support for rebels and secret societies. Such a position is emotional at best with no grounding in historical fact. Religious leaders throughout history, in both the Western as well as the Eastern world, have influenced politics and government since the beginning of time. Churches have forever harbored political victims sought by authorities believed to be oppressive. In the case China, serious precedent for such behavior on the part of the monasteries had already been set 400 years earlier. As verified by Ving Tsun Museum research, Jyu Yuhn Jeung, the man who led the Chinese revolt against the Mongol and established the Ming Dynasty was himself a Buddhist monk.

Upon meeting, the revolutionaries identified themselves to each other with a secret hand-signal that would come to be the formal greeting or courtesy of Wing Chun. In fact, the traditional greeting or courtesy common to many of todays kung fu styles has two meanings. The first meaning recognizes the styles Shaolin origins the left hand symbolizing the union of the Green Dragon (the left hand) and the White Tiger (the right hand), the fighting animals of the Shaolin monks.

In the Hung Fa Yi (Red Flower Righteous) Lineage of Wing Chun, however, the hands are reversed: the left hand forms a fist and the right hand is open palm. It still retains its significance to Shaolin but it also refers to the secret society. In this context, the fist represents Yat (the Sun) and the palm represents Yuet (the Moon). Combined, these two characters mean "Bright" which reads and sounds like "Ming." This is the name of the previous Dynasty the one overthrown by the Manchurians who formed the "Ching" Dynasty in its place. Hence, during the time of rebellion, when a Wing Chun practitioner or secret society member saluted with a fist and open palm pushed toward you, they were saying "Return the Ming, overturn the Ching." Obviously, this was not a sentiment shared by the Manchus.

Late in the 1600's, the Manchurians became concerned about the Siu Lam Temples rebellious activities and their continual development of the fighting arts. Therefore, they sent spies (many of them Manchu military leaders) to infiltrate the rebels and learn the traditional Southern fist systems as taught secretly in the Temples. The rebel kung-fu masters, realizing this, clandestinely developed a new system that was two-fold in purpose: firstly, it had to be learned quickly and efficiently, and secondly, it had to be devastatingly effective against the existing fighting systems that the Manchus were learning and teaching to their soldiers. Thus, Wing Chun was born.

Their spy rings compromised, the Manchus decided to eliminate the threat of spreading rebel activity by simply exterminating the Siu Lam monks. Eventually, the Southern Siu Lam Temple was burned and destroyed.

Extensive research conducted by both the Ving Tsun Museum and Chinese Historians rebuilding the Southern Shaolin Temple today reveals that the inheritor of Wing Chun following the Southern temple burning was Cheung Ng (referred to as Tan Sao Ng in other texts). After establishing the Precious Jade Flower Society Association (the precursor to the Red Opera and the public name for the Red Flower Society) and providing Wing Chun training to the secret societies, Cheung Ng went into hiding, disappearing from the public eye to escape Qing Dynasty persecution.

He was hidden by distant relatives, a Fuk Gin business family named Chahn. The Chahn Sih Sai Ga (Chan family) were well established and wealthy. Through indirect action they were willing to help Cheung Ng. Staying with the family for over a decade, Cheung Ng taught the family the art of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun. It was preserved by the family for four generations before it was taught to outsiders. The direct members of the Chahn family were never directly involved with the secret societies themselves, resulting in a low profile in Praise Spring Boxing history. The last generation of the Chahn family to learn the art was a distant nephew, a high level secret society leader, Huhng Gan Biu. Huhng Gan Biu was the 4th generation leader of the Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun clan and his Wing Chun descendants have preserved the system through to the 8th and 9th generations in today's modern era.

It was at the fourth generation that history and truth parted ways and the myth of Wing Chuns origins was created.

The Myth of Ng Mui and The Truth About Yim Wing Chun

To protect the identities of the creators and the perpetuators of the Wing Chun system, a smokescreen was thrown up in the form of a story the story of Ng Mui and Yim Wing Chun.

The legend was told that among the survivors of the Shaolin/Siu Lam massacres was a Buddhist nun named Ng Mui. Ng Mui was believed to have been the sole custodian of a streamlined, highly practical and effective martial arts developed within the temples. In turn, Ng Mui is said to have passed her knowledge onto her chosen disciple, an orphaned young girl named Yim Wing Chun. As Yim Wing Chun taught the system to others, it became known as Wing Chun. The story spread and today many versions of it exist around the world.

However, there are three important considerations to make when regarding the story of Ng Mui. Firstly, outside of the legend, there is no other evidence that Ng Mui - in her capacity as a kung-fu grandmaster or founder of a kung-fu system actually existed no records, no historical documents nothing. Secondly, it would have been forbidden for a nun to live in, let alone train within, a celibate monastic environment like the Siu Lam /Shaolin Temples. Thirdly, and perhaps the most important, after escaping from a life and death situation as a revolutionary, it does not make sense that Ng Mui would teach an advanced level fighting system to a local girl with romantic problems and no connection to the revolution.

With regards to the Yim Wing Chun element of the legend, consider once more the relevance of secret rebel societies. Again, as verified by Ving Tsun Museum research, `Yim can be translated to mean `prohibit or `secret. The term `Wing Chun referred to a geographic location the Siu Lam Wing Chun Tong (Always Spring Hall), where the rebels perhaps practiced martial arts and orchestrated their seditious activities. The use of the term Spring symbolized the rebirth of the Ming Dynasty and Always referred to the reestablished dynasty lasting forever. After the destruction of the Southern Shaolin temple and its Wing Chun Tong, the survivors changed the character of Wing from Always to Praise. The term Praise referred to the fact that the revolutionaries had to spread the word about the revolution after the destruction of their base. Thus, `Yim Wing Chun was actually a codename, meaning (protect) the secret art of the Wing Chun Hall.

If we now know that the destruction of the Siu Lam/Shaolin Temples occurred but that the story of Ng Mui was a diversion, the question remains: who were the real custodians of the Wing Chun system?

Enter the Hung Suen

We do know that many (not the legendary five) monks and rebel leaders escaped the Manchurian massacres and that, to aid the secrecy of the system, historical material was passed directly from teacher to student. Thus, the elders told of two Siu Lam monks/rebels who survived the temple raids and were able to keep the Wing Chun system alive. One of these was a monk, a 22nd generation Siu Lam Grandmaster, Yat Chum Dai Si from the Northern Shaolin temple. The other was a rebel training under him in the Southern Temple, named Cheung Ng. Fleeing the Manchurian persecutors, Cheung Ng founded the Kihng Fa Wui Gun (Precious Jade Flower Society), the roots of the (in)famous Hung Suen (Red Boat) Opera Troupe.

Historically, we know that rebel activity flourished in the Red Boat Opera Troupe. The Red Boats allowed talented stage performers, accomplished in kung-fu and gymnastics, to form their own secret societies to overthrow the Manchu Dynasty. The Troupes provided the ideal sanctuary for fleeing rebels as the performers wore elaborate costumes and stage make-up, providing excellent but natural/plausible disguises for them. Additionally, the performers adopted and were known by their `stage-names, further cloaking their secret identities.

When Cheung Ng founded the Opera Troupe he became known as Tan Sao Ng - not only a stage-name but also a sly nod to his skillful deployment of the Wing Chun deflection/striking technique, Tan Sao.

An important fact to note is that so suspicious of the Manchus and their spies were these secret societies, that the true identities of the leaders, members and real nature of their activities were known only to an inner-circle within the society. Thus, genuine knowledge of kung-fu was passed only from a master to select, trusted disciples, thus protecting the purity and origins of the system.

In conclusion

With the development of many different lineages of Wing Chun over the centuries (over 10 are known to date), Wing Chun could simply be seen as a generic name for a style with so many lineages no different to `karate being a generic term to describe the various Japanese arts varying and similar. However, this article has focussed on shedding light on the origins of Wing Chun. Indeed, to chart the development of the various lineages would require an entire book more complete than anything currently written. A complete historical and political analysis of Wing Chuns origins and development is currently being compiled in book form by the Ving Tsun Museum and should be available through major publication sources within the next twelve months.

Myths are often created to simplify something or to disguise the true nature of the subject to make it more palatable to the mind. Consequently, sometimes people want to believe the myths despite scientific or historical evidence to the contrary. A fiction can be more comforting than the truth; a fairytale easier to grasp than a treatise. The legend of Ng Mui and Yim Wing Chun is a great story. It just isnt true.

In light of being told one story for centuries, it will be difficult for some to accept the truth in minutes, hours or even months. But studying the martial arts (and Wing Chun in particular) is a continual quest for truth personal truth, social truth, spiritual truth and yes historical truth.

I trust you have enjoyed your enlightenment on the true origins of Wing Chun.

About the Authors:

Si-Fu Alfredo Del-Brocco has studied Wing Chun for over 15 years, firstly under the guidance of Grandmaster William Cheung then Master Rick Spain. Today he teaches around 400 active students in his Brisbane Kwoon. Si-Fu Alfredo was also the Blitz Hall of Fame 1998 Kung Fu Instructor of the Year. Si-Fu Alfredo can be contacted at http://www.wckfo.com.au or by phone/fax on (07) 3229 8694.

An internationally published author, Sifu Benny Meng is the founder and Curator of the Ving Tsun Museum in Dayton, OH, USA. A practitioner of Wing Chun for over 15 years, Sifu Meng has come into contact with all the major families in Wing Chun. More information is available on the Ving Tsun Museum at http://www.vtmuseum.org or by mail at 5715 Brandt Pike, Dayton, OH 45424, phone/fax (937) 236-6485
 
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pvwingchun

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There are many histories out there. While parts of this may have merit it is really just one lineages version of WC History. I believe there is a little bit of truth in all histories and alot of myth. Don't get me wrong I do find it interesting, I enjoy reading the different versions that are out there. But I look at them all with skepticism even my own lineage. This particular history is extremely interesting.
 

terryl965

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Well if it is true then, Wing Chun is as screwed up as the Korean Arts.:banghead:
 

exile

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Well if it is true then, Wing Chun is as screwed up as the Korean Arts.:banghead:

The TMAs probably are all that screwed up, as far as their histories go... and I have to say, I've always regarded that story about the Buddhist nun teaching that young girl the system to be nothing more (or less) than a kind of pretty folktale. But reading this sort of article, you have to ask the same question: where is the documentation for the claims made here? If you're going to debunk a legendary history, fine, debunk away&#8212;but don't ask the reader to take your version of the story on faith either. Sauce for the goose, and so on&#8212;you have to lay your own evidence out on the table, name your sources, identify your supporting documentation. If you don't do that, well, it's nothing more than another 'just so' story. I'd be a lot happier with this essay if these chaps had provided some reasons upfront to prefer their account of WC to some other competing story.
 

Jai

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Either way this is a very interesting take on the first days of Wing Chun. But like Terry said, they want you to disbelieve what is a popular and have "more faith" in their take.
 

geezer

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The TMAs probably are all that screwed up, as far as their histories go... and I have to say, I've always regarded that story about the Buddhist nun teaching that young girl the system to be nothing more (or less) than a kind of pretty folktale. But reading this sort of article, you have to ask the same question: where is the documentation for the claims made here? If you're going to debunk a legendary history, fine, debunk awaybut don't ask the reader to take your version of the story on faith either. Sauce for the goose, and so onyou have to lay your own evidence out on the table, name your sources, identify your supporting documentation. If you don't do that, well, it's nothing more than another 'just so' story. I'd be a lot happier with this essay if these chaps had provided some reasons upfront to prefer their account of WC to some other competing story.

I absolutely agree. First, don't ask martial artists to be impartial historians...they've got too much invested to be objective. So they debunk one set of legends, that were concocted to promote a particular point of view, in favor of a revised set of legends promoting their own point of view.

My take is that anything that took place brfore the time of Leung Jan in the mid 19th Century is speculation. What is interesting is what happened since then...when most of the current lineages arose. One fascinating book that covers this period is Leung Ting's Roots and Branches of Wing Tsun (Chun). It is full of speculation, it is highly biased, and it is about as carefully assembled and layed out as your typical high school yearbook. But even so, it has genuine information regarding the divergence of the branches of Wing Chun in Fatshan. Although not a great work of historical research according to academic standards, there is material included that only a native Cantonese Chinese with the prestige and connections of a famous Sifu, such as Leung Ting could access. His examination of name confusions based on homophones and similar characters in Cantonese is a case in point. Happy reading...
 

exile

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I absolutely agree. First, don't ask martial artists to be impartial historians...they've got too much invested to be objective. So they debunk one set of legends, that were concocted to promote a particular point of view, in favor of a revised set of legends promoting their own point of view.

And this really the long and the short of it, in the absence of externally verifiable evidence. In the MAs, as in other aspects of life, history written by the participants (or those who identify with the original participants) isn't really about depicting the past accurately&#8212;it's about positioning yourself to advantage, in terms of current arguments and competition for legitimacy, status and the like. Origin myths, in other words... whose bottom line, wherever in the world you look at them, is always 'We were here before anyone else' or 'We drove away the monsters that were here before anyone else' or whatever else works to validate your claims to being where you are. Probably been that way since human beings have been on planet Earth.

My take is that anything that took place brfore the time of Leung Jan in the mid 19th Century is speculation. What is interesting is what happened since then...when most of the current lineages arose. One fascinating book that covers this period is Leung Ting's Roots and Branches of Wing Tsun (Chun). It is full of speculation, it is highly biased, and it is about as carefully assembled and layed out as your typical high school yearbook. But even so, it has genuine information regarding the divergence of the branches of Wing Chun in Fatshan. Although not a great work of historical research according to academic standards, there is material included that only a native Cantonese Chinese with the prestige and connections of a famous Sifu, such as Leung Ting could access. His examination of name confusions based on homophones and similar characters in Cantonese is a case in point. Happy reading...

Great info, especially for those of us without any solid background in the history of the CMAs. Thanks for mentioning this, g.! :)
 
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