Wing Chun, also known as Wing Chun Kuen, is a style of Chinese Kung Fu that has become popular all over the world. The martial arts training Birmingham teachers give is based on the fundamental Chinese principles.
Kung Fu itself is a term used in English to refer to Chinese martial arts, although the term in Chinese can mean any skill that is acquired through learning and practice – which of course applies to a martial art. However, the Chinese term “wushu” means martial art, and is also used in English to generally refer to Chinese martial arts.
The introduction of fighting arts to China is attributed in legend to the Yellow Emperor, part of the Xia Dynasty, over 4700 years ago. However, the first recorded references to Chinese martial arts were not until around 2500 years ago in a document mentioning “hard” and “soft” techniques. Wing Chun Kung Fu is considered a soft technique, but that is not to say it is ineffective – it works with the natural bend and flow of the human body to enhance resilience and bounce back in an effective manner.
Around 1500 years ago, a Shaolin temple was built in Song mountain where an Indian monk known as Batuo taught Buddhism to Chinese disciples. These disciples had strong martial arts skills, and Shaolin temples over the following centuries became known as places where martial arts training was part of the way of life.
In the 1500s and 1600s, many texts recorded that Shaolin monks practiced martial arts as the techniques were handed down through the monasteries.
According to modern grandmaster Ip Man, at some time around 1730, the Fujian Shaolin monastery was destroyed, with the abbess Ng Mui escaping into the mountains. Subsequently, she frequented a tofu shop owned by Yim Yee, who had a daughter named Yim Wing Chun. Ng Mui taught Yim Wing Chun the techniques of her Shaolin Kung Fu, which Yim used to help prevent a forced marriage to a local warlord.
Yim’s training completed in 1790 and she married Leung Bok-Chao, who then passed the fighting style on to Leung Lan-Kwai, who in turn taught the style to six members of the Red Boat Opera Group around 1850. The modern Wing Chun style comes from these six.
An alternative telling of the story indicates that Yim Wing Chun’s father was a disciple at the Fujian temple, and escaped persecution by taking his daughter with him to Guangxi. The father teaches the daughter the martial art, and after she marries Leung Bok-Chao, the couple begin teaching the style to others.
Other stories exist, but many feature the Red Boat Opera Company members.