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A Brief History of Wing Tsun

The Legend of Wing Tsun Kung Fu

The most common story is that of the Buddhist nun (a woman) who escaped the burning of the Siu Lam (Shaolin) Monastery about 300 or more years ago. The Monastery was attacked by government forces. They feared the rebellious unshaven monks inside. The monks were against the ruling Ching dynasty, the Manchus, which had invaded China from the north, and they wished to restore the Ming Dynasty.

The nun, Buddhist Mistress Ng Mui, found a hiding place on Mt. Tai Leung where she was able to meditate and, from her original Shaolin kung-fu system, develop a defense against the government forces, many of whom were also well-versed in Shaolin kung-fu. In order to counter the larger, stronger soldiers, she would need a method that overcame strength with technical skill. She was inspired one day by a fight between a fox and a crane. There have been other versions written in old Chinese kung-fu novels that describe a fight between a snake and a crane or even a monkey and a crane! The important thing is that Ng Mui adapted the techniques to suit the human limbs. The new system would borrow the force of an attacker and not clash with stronger forces, among other attributes.

One day on one of her trips down the mountain for supplies, she met the owner of the store, Yim Yee, where she bought supplies. She discovered that his daughter, Yim Wing Tsun was being harassed by the local landlord, Wong, and was trying to force her into marriage. Having sympathy for the store owner and his daughter, she suggested that the daughter would benefit by learning her kung-fu system. They would proceed up to the mountain top for her training. The father agreed, and this would put his daughter out of reach of the local landlord for a time at least.

A period of time went by, described variously as six months to three years. The day finally came when the daughter, Miss Yim Wing Tsun was forced to confront Wong, the landlord in the town square. She disabled him with one punch straight to the chest. Wong never bothered her again.

Eventually Miss Yim Wing Tsun married her betrothed, Leung Bok Chau. She taught him all the techniques of the system she inherited from the nun. The story that goes along with this is that Chau never gave his wife’s talk about her martial art much credence until one day she goaded him into a fight. She defeated him so convincingly, despite his martial arts skills that he began to learn the art from her. Eventually he decided to name the art after her. It became known as Wing Tsun from that day forward.

In more modern times, the late great grandmaster Yip Man became the focal point of Wing Chun and its development. His most famous student was Bruce Lee.

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