Wing Chun – A Short History

The History of Wing Chun Kung Fu is hard to pin down with any certainty, some tales claim it began in the mid 1600’s and was created by a legendary Buddhist Abbess Ng Mei, but Kung Fu Schools were small businesses and even back then small businesses would stretch the truth to make themselves seem more established or better connected than their competition, so the story of Ng Mei and Yim Wing Chun may be just that, a story.

Most Martial Arts histories were passed down by word of mouth, and many Schools were Private / Family Schools that taught to small groups or even only their immediate Family so verifiable information is very scarce and hard to come by. And after the Boxer uprising in China in 1900 most Martial Artist Sifu’s preferred to be off the Radar. One thing that strikes you after studying Wing Chun for many years is that the Art itself could not of been created by any one person, Male or Female, it is to well thought out and structured to have been just thought up.

Almost perfect. More than likely it began as a hybrid of other Arts and then over Hundreds of Years of constant refinement it arrived at its present shape. Things that are known about Wing Chun history is that in 1905 in the wake of the Boxer uprising a Wing Chun Kung Fu Master called Chan Wa Shun moved into the Clan Hall of the wealthy Ip family in Foshan,

Guangdong Province in Southern China and it was here that the younger son, Ip Man was introduced to Wing Chun Kung Fu. Chan Wa Shun is reported to of had 16 students.

In 1949 the Chines Revolution brought sweeping change to China, especially for the Middle class and wealthy Land owners, like many others Ip Man was disenchanted with the changes and left Foshan to live in Hong Kong. It was here that Ip Man opened what may be the first public Wing Chun School in history, so began the Ip Man Family Wing Chun Lineage, and though there are many other lineages of Wing Chun { his own Sifu Chan Wa Shun had 15 other students, all of whom may of began their own line, and their were numerous other Wing Chun Sifu’s} it was the Ip Man lineage that would spread around the Globe and excite so many people, this of course was not hindered by the fact that one of his junior students became the most popular Martial Arts Actor of all time, Bruce Lee.

Ip Man had many hundreds of students, but four deserve special mention, they where the “Closed Door Students” of the early days in Hong Kong, so called because they where given special “Hands On” training from Ip himself, they were Leung Seung, Lok Yu and Choy Shun Tin who all actually lived with Master Ip in a traditional Master Student relationship and Wong Shun Leung, many others claim this title but these are the only “Real Closed Door Students”, of these Masters only Choy Shun Tin is still alive and still practicing Wing Chun. Choy Shun Tin was the Senior Instructor at Ip Man’s School. Choy Shun Tin has been actively practising and teaching Wing Chun in Hong Kong for over 60 years and has trained many many of todays more well known Masters, among them was Fung Chuen Keung, known in Australia as Jim Fung, in 1973 Jim Fung opened his first School in Adelaide S.A. then in 1984 he moved up to Sydney. He died in 2007. I began training with Master Fung in 1992, I was a Senior Instructor for his Academy and ran a School for him in the Sydney Suburbs until his

passing in 2007. My own training is now overseen by Master Mo Chiu Po, another very senior student of Choy Shun Tin and was the Senior Instructor at his School until recently moving to New Zealand. The line is unbroken all the way back to Ip Man. As Martial Arts go Wing Chun is trimmed down to the absolute Basics, there are only 3 “Empty Hand” Forms, Siu Nim Tao {the Little Idea}, Chum Kiu {Bridge Seeking} and Bill Gee {Darting Fingers} Forms, they are all Bio-mechanical Forms and not Shadow Boxing forms, in this way they deal with the correct way to move and use the Human body, especially for Combat.

There are only 5 governing Principals:
I. Simplicity, all movements are uncomplicated and based on normalHuman movement.
II. Directness, strikes are straight and movements are short.
III. Economy of Movement, no chambering of Punch’s or Kicks, no unnecessary movement or posturing, such as emulating an Animal,
IV. Non use of Brute Strength, if Strength is relied upon a stronger enemy will always win, Wing Chun is skill based.
V. Practicality, Wing Chun is geared towards actual fighting, there is no ritual or elaborate flashy moves, we defend and attack at the same time.

Wing Chun is primarily a Hand Striking form {Chinese Boxing}, the main Hand Weapons are the Punch and the Palm Strike, there are other Strikes of course but these are the Bread and Butter Attacks, we Strike directly in front of ourselves allowing us to easily transfer our Body Mass into the opponent {this requires developing good movement to keep the Attacker in the “Hit Zone” in front of us}, although we do have many

kicks they are usually used to support the Hands, and as such are employed below the waist line, their action is based on “Stepping” and they do not compromise Balance, any kick that does not land becomes a step and advances the Wing Chun fighter forward.

Wherever possible a Wing Chun Fighter will be be front on and “Square” to any potential threat, this allows us to employ Simultaneous Attack and Defence, one Arm poses a defensive structure while the other Arm Strikes a Target, this skill is trained and perfected with the Chi Sau Drill that is distinctly Wing Chun, and through many of the other Wing Chun co-ordination Drills.

In the early stages of training in Wing Chun students are taught various techniques to apply to various attacks, but in truth there are no techniques in Wing Chun, constant practice of the Forms teaches us the correct way to use our Bodies, simply as a Body moving through Space, Chi Sau teaches us how to meet, absorb and redirect incoming Force the result of which usually moves the opponent to an unprotected place where we just hit anything that is available. And usually keep hitting it until the threat is eliminated and we can leave the area. In short someone attacks and without to much thought you just deal with it and move on.

Wing Chun is a counter attacking style of Martial Art, we believe you have more chance of success in a violent encounter if you allow the other person to initiate an attack, Simultaneous Attack and Defence then allows us to Strike them while they think that are actually hitting us, for beginning Students this is a difficult step, to not engage until attacked, but it also allows us a chance to get out without Fighting a lot more often than taking the “Hard Line” would. Kung Fu Styles are usually one of 2 categories, Hard {Physical} or Soft {Non Physical} in this respect Wing Chun uses Hard attacks but Soft defences, in attack we put all our Body Mass into our Strikes {through Body alignment and movement} and accelerate through contact to create even more Force, while in defence we absorb the contact and gently move it {redirect it away} somewhere else where it cannot do any harm. Although there is Weapons training in Wing Chun they are more used as disciplines to improve movement, as they bring added difficuly into keeping your shape when moving and as such teach us to move in a much more stable manner.

And of course there is the Wooden Dummy, the Mok Jan Jong or Wooden Man, contrary to a lot of peoples idea’s the Jong is not used to strengthen and condition the Arms, it is simply a training partner that will stand there all day and allow you to practice the same move over and over and never expect a turn himself, anyone that thinks it is anything other than this has been mislead. Derek Evans has been involved in Martial Arts for over 50 years, and has been training exclusively in Wing Chun for the past 21 years, he runs the School “Wing Chun Inc”. In Liverpool in Southwestern Sydney and is available for Private Instruction and Workshops. He can be contacted through the Web Site or directly

Derek Evans