Wing Chun - A Traditional Kung Fu System

by Rene Ng

Wing Chun Revealed

Bruce Lee PhotoWhen a person thinks about martial arts in the movies, the name "Bruce Lee" pops up almost immediately. Bruce was the actor who made martial arts movies such a big hit during the seventies. Even to this day, nearly twenty years after his death, Bruce is idolized by many martial artists all over the world.

Although Bruce founded and practiced his own techniques called "Jeet Kune Do" ("The Tao of the Intercepting Fist"), his martial arts background was based on the Wing Chun system. Up until the death of his teacher, Yip Man, in 1972, Wing Chun was taught in secret to only selected students and was not open to the general public. Bruce's abilities made the public aware of the existence and devastating power of the Wing Chun system. After Yip Man's death, his students opened the school's doors to the public. As a result, Wing Chun has become one of the most popular and sought after Kung Fu systems in the world today.

The History of the System

The roots of the Wing Chun system can be traced back to the famous Shaolin Temple on Mt. Song in the Honan province of China. About three hundred years ago, one of the survivors of the infamous "Fire Destruction of Shaolin," Ng Mui, fled to the White Crane Temple on Mt. Tai Leung at the Yunan-Szechuan border. During one of her daily walks into the surrounding wilderness, she observed a fight between a snake and a crane. She was totally captivated by the simplicity, effectiveness, and directness of the techniques of both the snake and the crane. A Kung Fu master herself, she proceeded to research and develop a new fighting system based on the movements of the snake and crane. The resulting system formed the foundation for modern day Wing Chun.

Yim Wing Chun, a peasant girl who sold bean curd for a living at a nearby village, was the first inheritor of this new system. Ng Mui taught her the system to enable her to protect herself and her family from a powerful bully who lived in the village. In the actual confrontation, she destroyed her opponent (who was much stronger and bigger in size than she, and also much more experienced in martial arts) with much ease. Her husband, Leung Bok Chau, named the system "Wing Chun" after her.

From there, Wing Chun was passed down in secret to a select few, and eventually settled down in the city of Futshan in the Canton province in southern China. There, it gained prominence through a doctor of traditional Chinese Medicine by the name of Leung Jan. Then, in the earlier part of this century, it was brought out of China and into Hong Kong and hence the world by the late Yip Man who was the seventh successive inheritor of the system. Today, the tradition of Wing Chun being taught as a secretive art and only to a selected few, is still being practiced in many places all over the world.

An Introduction to the System

Wing Chun GraphicWing Chun is basically a "soft style" system that utilizes the opponent's power against himself/herself. The following sayings best describe the characteristics of the system:

"Soft, yet hard." "Relaxed, yet explosive." "Peaceful, yet intimidating." "Uses four ounces to move one thousand kilos."

Wing Chun training focuses on developing the proper body structure and posture so that the most powerful techniques may be delivered using the smallest amount of effort. The student learns to develop "soft power" which maximizes the delivery of power with the muscles relaxed. The Qi (internal strength/energy) is sunk to the lower body which acts as the generator of power during delivery. The upper body, meanwhile, remains relaxed at all times. All fighting is done in extremely close range using very soft but effective and strong techniques. Economy of techniques is stressed, so that there are no fancy, circular moves like those that exist in other systems. Because of its nature of using relaxed power rather than brute strength, Wing Chun is considered to be an ideal system for women and small-sized people.

In the school itself, every student is treated as part of one whole family, with the teacher as the parental figure. There are no belts nor ranking system, and each individual progresses at his/her own pace. Every person respects one another as brothers and sisters, with seniority determined only by the date one was accepted into the school.

The system itself is very small, comprising of only three empty hand forms, one wooden dummy set, and two weapons sets. Despite this, it takes a lifetime of learning to master the system. There is a Wing Chun saying that goes, "Many know the system; few master it."

Aside from the fighting nature of the system, there is also a philosophical side to it. As part of their training, Wing Chun practitioners learn more about who they are, what they can achieve, and who they can become. They learn to accept themselves and other people as they are; they learn to be humble; they gain confidence and find inner peace and harmony.

My teacher once told me, "Wing Chun is not just a fighting system, nor is it merely an art - it is a way of life!"

Rene Ng, a San Diego-based practitioner of the Wing Chun system, studied the system in Macau under Ho Kam Ming, one of the closest and most respected disciples of Yip Man.

San Diego Wing Chun Kung Fu Club

Martial arts articles of interest by Jade Dragon Online:
Part 1 of our two-part series Martial Arts:   An Overview
Part 2 of our two-part series Martial Arts:   An Overview
The Roots of Martial Arts
Profile:   Sifu Share K. Lew
The History of Kung Fu San Soo
Dragon Style Kung Fu
100 Years of Fighting Films
Chi and the Martial Arts
The Art of Arnis

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