The Creation of Wing Chun

  • Written by Grandmaster William Cheung

    Chapter 3 from his book: “My Life with Wing Chun”
    Grandmaster William Cheung  by pation pics
    Grandmaster William Cheung

    During the end of the Ming Dynasty, just prior to 1644 A.D., the Manchu Army from the north east of China was invited to China to curb the civil war. Before, they were allowed to bring an army into China they were made to vow that as soon as the revolution was quashed, the Manchu must leave China. In their vow, the Manchus stated that if they ever broke the promise to leave China they would either serve like horses and cattle to the Chinese people or would perish instantly. With the help of the Tibetan monks, after defeating the revolutionary army, the Manchus broke their promise and stayed on to establish the Ching Dynasty.

    With their freshly made vow in mind, the Manchu Dynasty deliberately designed all the Government uniforms, from the Emperor down to the lowest posts, with hoofs on their sleeves. Furthermore, even their salute and the way they kneeled resembled horses and cattle. It is thought that the reason the Manchus carried out such absurd courtesy and dressed in these ridiculous uniforms was to justify their staying in China so that they would not perish instantly.

    Even though the Manchus made up only 5% of the Chinese population, they took no time to annihilate the Hons’ resistance who occupied about 90% of the total population, because they were entangled amongst themselves in a bitter civil war at the time. By 1644, the Manchus set up the Ching Dynasty which lasted until 1911.

    With the advice of the Tibetan monks, the Manchu Government outlawed all weapons and Kung Fu training. The Tibetan monks also devised a scheme to gain full control of China. Firstly, the Hons were forbidden to marry any Manchus. This law was only repealed at the turn of this century. Further, with the advice of the Monks, the Manchu Government enforced many unjust laws on the Hons. For instance, the Hon female infants were compelled to have their feet bound from as early as the day they were born, so that when they grew up they would be crippled. Their mobility was completely hindered. They would be completely dependent upon their parents while growing up as well as their husbands or other people around them. The Manchus also limited the work opportunities of the Hon citizens. Smoking opium was promoted in the Hon community but it was banned in the Manchu, because through the advice of the Tibetan Monks of the day they knew the addiction would surely tie down the citizens of the Hon people. The Hons were not allowed to inter-marry the Manchus and this law was also repealed in the early 1900s.

    During this time, the training of Kung Fu was banned. Anyone found practicing Kung Fu could be arrested and put away for a very long time. There was one exception. The Shil Lim Temple regarded by the Tibetan monks with the same denomination, was given special privilege. The training of Kung Fu was allowed in the Temple for health and mental reasons only.

    At the beginning of the Manchu Dynasty by the same token, a lot of existing martial artists had turned to work for the Manchu Government. Most of these renegades were the martial artists from the north. They would be mostly masters of Bart Quar (Octagonal Form), Yin Yee (Shapes and Forms), and Tai Chi (Two Extremes) systems. In fact, the Manchu courts had a liking for Tai Chi and it was practiced extensively by the concubines and eunuchs to cure their boredom in the palace. They composed music to go with the Tai Chi movements. This explains why Tai Chi was so popular up north. Down south, the martial artists always regarded the Tai Chi Masters as traitors to the Hon people.

    Along with many strange ways of worshipping, the Tibetan monks brought a unique marital arts system called “God Fighting”. The practitioners went through rituals of chanting and a series of movement’s prior to combat, and they put themselves in a special trance. It is claimed that they could avoid being hurt and feel no pain when hit, and that they could even stop a knife or bullet from penetrating their bodies. In the 1900’s these practitioners were the main conspirators involved in the Boxer Rebellion. The Boxer uprising caused the massacre of foreign missionaries and families of diplomats stationed in China, Their belief of stopping bullets with magic, of course turned out to be untrue, so the Boxers were defeated. China was brought to shame and humiliation again by ignorance and manipulation of the Tibetan Monks on the people and Government of China at that time.

    The Government thus respected the Shaolin Temple as a Buddhist sanctuary. Some Hon “martial artists” began training a revolutionary army in the art of Kung Fu, using the Shaolin Temple as the secret training place. The traditional Shaolin system would take 15 to 20 years to train a Kung Fu “master”. The need to develop a new and more effective fighter became critical when some of the existing Kung Fu masters surrendered to work for the Manchu government. Five of the Shaolin Grandmasters planned to develop a new form, which would have a shorter training time and would be more effective than all the other systems developed before. The five Grandmasters met to discuss the merits of each of their particular systems of Kung Fu and chose the most efficient training method from each system. They developed the principle and training program of Wing Chun that would take only five years to master. They called this system Wing Chun, its name meaning “hope for the future”. However before this new system could be put into practice, the Manchu Government was tipped off and the Shaolin Temple was raided and burned down.Ng Mui, a nun, was the only survivor of the original group of five.

    Portrait of Ng Mui
    Portrait of Ng Mui

    Ng Mui was the only survivor who knew the full system. However, she realized that much of what she had learned was ineffective for a small, frail woman to use on a larger, stronger man. She revised everything she had learned and discarded techniques that were slow or that relied on strength or size. She developed a system of fighting that enabled a smaller, weaker person to destroy a bigger, stronger person within a few seconds. Ng Mui’s new system was well guarded and passed on to only a few, very dedicated students. The style became known as Wing Chun, after Ng Mui’s first student, a woman named Yim Wing Chun.

    Cheung’s Wing Chun Kung Fu Academy
    Level 2, 111 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
    Open 7 days a week between. Tel: 96633588

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