There are many versions of the origin of Wing Chun Kung Fu system (Wing Chun is also commonly spelt as Ving Tsun or Wing Tsun). Some believes that a woman founded Wing Chun Kung Fu system; Yim Wing Chun, legend has it that she learned the fighting skills from Ng Mui of Shaolin Monastery during the Kangxi dynasty (1662-1722). After Yim Wing Chun married her betrothed sweetheart Leung Bok Chau, she passed her martial skills to her husband. In memory of his wife after her death, Leung Bok Chau named the combat system Wing Chun in her honour.
Leung Bok Chau later taught the techniques to Leung Lan Kwai who in turn taught his skills to Wong Wah Bo. Wong Wah Bo was a member of a traveling opera troupe working on board the "Hung Suen" [the red junk used by the opera troupe usually painted red] along with his co- worker Leung Yee Tei.
Abbot Chi Shin (or Jee Shim) who fled Shaolin from persecution by the Qing government after the great fire was on board the same boat disguised as a cook. There he taught Leung Yee Tei the Six-and-a-Half Point Long Pole techniques. Wong Wah Bo and Leung Yee Tei were close friends and together they shared and exchanged what they knew about Kung Fu, thus the Six-and-a-Half Point Long Pole techniques was integrated as part of the Wing Chun system.
Leung Yee Tei passed the skill to Leung Jan who's nickname was Foshan Jan Seen Sung or Mr. Jan a famous herbal doctor in Foshan( Foshan is a city in Southern China), because of his fighting expertise, many Kung Fu masters came and challenged him but left in defeat and his reputation grew and he was later known as the Wing Chun King. He taught his skills in Jan San Tong (his herbal store) in Fei Jee Street, Foshan to a number of students including his two sons Leung Bik, Leung Chun, and his disciple Chan Wah Shan who was nicknamed money changer Wah and others.
Another popular version of the origin of Wing Chun was that, Wing Chun was founded by a monk from Songshan Shaolin around Yongzheng & Qianlong dynasty (1723-1795). While the monk was in retreat in Hengshan, Henan he taught Cheung Ng, nicknamed "Tan Sau Ng" for his martial art skills. Subsequently Cheung Ng travelled south to Canton to look for work and settled in Foshan onboard the "Hung Suen".
According to a passage in the book "A History of Chinese Opera", by Mang Yiu, Chuen Kay Literature Publishers 1968. In Daoguang period (1821-1850) Tan Sau Ng, a Cantonese opera acrobatics performer who excelled in Shaolin martial arts, literary, drama and music. He taught martial arts and acrobatics skills to opera troupes working on the "Hung Suen" and later settled and established the "King Fa Wui Koon" or the Chinese Opera Association in Foshan. His students included, Painted face Kam, Wong Wah Po, Leung Yee Tei.
Around Tongzhi dynasty (1862-1874), Wong Wah Bo, Leung Yee Tei were teaching in the "King Fa Wui Koon" in Tai Key Mei, Foshan, one of their student was Leung Jan, a local herbalist. From here on, the two versions of Wing Chun origin are more or less consistent with each other, i.e. from Leung Jan to Leung Bik & Chan Wah Shan, then to Yip Man and to the rest of the world. Irrespective of which version is fact or fiction, one thing for sure is that, Wing Chun has close association with "Hung Suen", also Foshan and Canton was the breeding ground for Wing Chun and where the art matured and flourished under Leung Jan!
Today, the Yip Man's Wing Chun system is most popular and well known; is not the only style of Wing Chun system. There are many different distinctive branches of the Wing Chun system in existence. Most probably evolved from the same root that sprouted from the "Hung Suen", many individuals worked on the boat would have learned the art of Wing Chun. When the red junk disbanded the performers dispersed, taking the skills with them back to their hometown and where ever they settled. Over time different branches of Wing Chun sprang up in varies guises known commonly today as the Yuen Kay San, Gu Lao, Pan Nam, Bak Hok, Jee Shim, Hung Suen, Hay Ban, Yik Kam & Cao Ka system etc.
Yip Man (1893-1972) at the age of seven, studied Wing Chun under Chan Wah Shan and he was the last disciple before Chan Wah Shan passed away. Yip Man carried on the studies of Wing Chun under the supervision of his elder Kung Fu brothers Ng Jung after the death of Chan Wah Shan in 1908.
At the age of fifteen Yip Man left Foshan, China for Hong Kong in 1949, where he met Leung Bik, the son of Leung Jan who was also in Hong Kong at the time, with his help Yip Man's Wing Chun Skills developed further.
Wing Chun was not heard of outside China, until Grandmaster Yip Man started teaching Wing Chun publicly in Hong Kong between 1950-1972. It all started off when Yip Man was working as a secretary for the "Restaurant Employee Association", because of his reputation he was invited to teach Wing Chun to the workers, from there on the number of students just grew! Amongst the many students, Bruce Lee was one of them. Today Wing Chun is one of the most well-known and popular Chinese martial arts in the world.
Master Ip Chun was born in 1924, elder son of Grand master Yip Man, started learning Wing Chun under his father at the age of 7, until Yip Man left Foshan for Hong Kong in 1949, and later join him in Hong Kong in 1962. Learning, helping and observing his father teaching students at their family home after coming home from work. 60 years later Master Ip Chun at the age of 92 still actively promoting Wing Chun and have students world wide!
Siu Nim Tau(Little Idea form) is the first form and the foundation of the Wing Chun system, the name Siu Nim Tau can be interpreted as; concentrate on the small details, be efficient, compact, economical and focus on the task at hand first.
The form teaches the concept of centreline and the development of power, structure and the correct hand movements. The form is practice with a fixed static stance, the "Yee Chi Kim Yeung Ma" or the inward rotation abduction stance, which is design to train the stance and leg muscles.
The width of the stance at the inside heel should be the width of ones shoulder. Apart from the leg muscle, from the waist upward the body should be totally relax, particular at the shoulders, back should be straight, head up, eye look level and the mind should be free from thought other than the form itself.
Siu Nim Tau are divided into three section, the first section is design to develop energy or "Kung Lik", all the hand movement in this section should be done without tension of the muscles, energy is focus at the elbows.
The second section is to train "when" to release energy, the hand movement again is done with total relaxation of the muscle, energy is only applied at the last inch of the movement and the hand relaxes immediately after the dissipation of the applied energy.
The third section is to train the basic hand techniques, both defence and attack technique are practice, these include the use of "Pak Sau","Tan Sau", "Gaun Sau", "Huen Sau", "Bong Sau", "Lin Wan Kuen" etc.
Chum Kiu (Arm-Seeking form) is the second form of the Wing Chun system, the form teaches movement on "bridging the gap", or to reach out to your opponent and intercept the attack, by stepping in to close the distance, "seeking", linking, controlling and breaking opponent's defensive structure.
In Siu Nim Tau, hand movement is practice independently in static position, in Chum Kiu hand and foot movement are co-ordinated, stepping, turning and kicks are introduced. Chum Kiu's main focuses is on the importance of the turning or directional changes in conjunction with the hand techniques such as "Bong Sau", " Lan Sau", "Jut Sau" etc., which are use to neutralize or redirect attacks whilst maintaining one's centreline.
The turning should be pivoted at the heels, arm, body and leg should move in unison. The movement doesn't have to be fast, but should be sharp, steady and rooted. The center of gravity should be at the back leg or supporting leg, allowing front leg to be lifted off the floor when sweep or deploy kicks.
Biu Tze (Thrusting-Fingers form) is the third form of the Wing Chun system, the form teaches movement on "emergency" or "recovery technique" to regain control from over commitment or mistakes in technique.
Biu Tze form helps to develop explosive power within short distance as well as the long bridge "springy" power. In Biu Tze such as finger jab to the eyes and throats are use to defend and keep opponent at a distance, and at close range the elbow strike to the neck and spine are used. Traditionally this form was only taught to disciples and worthy students only.
Chi Sau (Sticking hand) is unique to Wing Chun, and it's the very "heart" of the Yip Man Wing Chun system. Chi Sau exercise allows one to investigate hand techniques, positioning, knowledge of energy used, sensitivity and reflexes. Chi Sau training helps to merge concept with practice, it is a bridge which links the forms and fighting application together with the risk element removed, learning fighting techniques without having to pay the full "street" price!
One can always learn fighting using the trial and error method, that is to have a lots fight to enable one to test out the techniques, in the process there would be a big price to pay i.e. the possibilities of serious injury for every mistakes made, this risks would continue until one had learned how to deal with fighting effectively.
Wing Chun introduces Chi Sau in the hope that one can learn all the necessary fighting skills from it without paying such a price. Think of Chi Sau as some kind of combat laboratory or simulator, where techniques from the forms are applied, tested and refined, only those techniques meeting the specification will be allow onto the front line, this is the bridging function of Chi Sau.
A lot of Wing Chun practitioners have the misconception of Chi Sau, Chi Sau is not the same as fighting, Chi Sau is a learning and honing process, whereas fighting is about winning and losing, about counting blows and knock downs, when one can not distinguish the difference between Chi Sau and fighting trouble will arises. If during Chi Sau process, much of the time is spend in aggressive, heavy handed tic for tac exchange of blows, the mind will be preoccupied with avoiding hit and retaliation which will lead to injuries and ill feelings amongst the participants, instead of concentrating on exploring techniques in relaxed and confident manner.
The aim of Chi Sau is to conserve energy and control your opponent's movements through correct application of technique and sensitivity to another's intentions. Chi Sau is not a contest; there is no winner or loser, the real winner is the one who walked away having learned from the process.
Chi Sau should be treated like a game of chess, where each player trying to outwit each other, continuously feeling for opening, if non existed, one would trick the other to over-commit or make mistakes and taking advantage of the situation. In situation when either player can not neutralized or successfully dissolve an attack, one should pause, analysis and discuss the predicament with your partner, look for possible solutions and try again, until one can response to the techniques correctly and instinctively. This friendly interactive approach will benefit both parties in terms of greater understand in Chi Sau and foster harmony and family spirit.
Muk Yan Chong (Wooden Dummy form) or the "Chong" is a training aid, its has a main trunk, two arms at high level, one arm at mid level and a leg. The dummy is about a man's height and size which act as a "template" for refining techniques.
Contrary to popular believes, the Chong are not meant for conditioning and toughening one's forearm, but as device to help practitioner to understand concepts of body structure, position, angle, energy etc.
There are three stages when training with the Chong; first stage is to learn the form or the set moments in relation to proper placement of hand, position, structure, angle, footwork etc. The second stage is to "polish" the individual techniques from the form through repetition.
The third stage is to "free fight" with the Chong, applying any techniques as if with were attacked by a live partners, the importing thing is to "stick" with the Chong, maintaining proper controls at all times. One should be aware not to pick up bad habits when practising with the Chong, as this will be reflected one's "conditioned reflexes ". The "form" can also be practice without the actual Chong in other ways, one is to practice the form in the air or shadow boxing, and the other is to applied the Chong techniques to a live partner.
Bart Cham Dao (Eight Cutting or Slashing Knives form) Bart Cham Dao is the name of the form and the double knives used in the form are generally referred to as the "butterfly knives". This is because when the double knives open up, it resembles a butterfly hence the name. Butterfly knives are common amongst Southern Kung Fu system.
The butterfly knives used in Wing Chun system have a wider cutting tips approximately 3 inches, tapering down to about 2.5 inches at the hilt which is designed to be tip heavy. The blade excluding the handle generally between 10 to 12 inches long, when the knife is flick back between the thumb and fist finger, it should able cover the entire forearm up the tip of the elbow.
Bart Cham Dao's direct Chinese translation is eight cutting or chopping knife form. As it's name implies the form consist of eight sections which includes: - Cham Dao (chop), Chark Dao (stabbing) ,Tan Dao (palm up), Gaun Dao (insert), Kwun Dao (rotating), Yat Chi Dao ( character "one" ), Man Dao (asking) and Kup Dao (elbow down). The techniques are similar to these found in Siu Nim Tau, Chum Kiu and Biu Tze hand movements, for this reason, one must learn and comprehend the empty hand forms before progress to the Bart Cham Dao. The movements are simple and effective in line with the Wing Chun philosophies.
Luk Dim Boon Kwun (the six and half point pole form) The "Kwun" in ancient time is considered to be the ancestor of all weapons. The pole used in Wing Chun's Luk Dim Boon Kwun form is approximately 95 inches (240 cm) long. Its thicker at the butt and taper down towards the single striking end.
There is no spinning, twirling of the pole or leaps, the form is practice on low wide horse stance for stability and power.
The form consist of six and a half simple movements, again in line with the Wing Chun's objectives: Less is more!