The Story of Wing Chun
As the singular female who ranked as high as the Five Elders, ‘Ng Mui’ escaped the fires of Shaolin and the merciless Manchu soldiers, to the neighboring Canton province. After finalizing the methods and techniques of her newly created, nameless system, she honored it after the Wing Chun Hall back in Shaolin where the Five Elders held debates and conclusions regarding martial arts not so long ago.
As a vegetarian, Ng Mui would wander the town and purchase tofu from a small vendor owned by an elderly man named Yim Yee and his daughter Yim Wing Chun. Coincidently finding the pretty girl’s name in common with her own martial art style, Ng Mui later realized she did not have many years of life left and decided to pass on her creation to an honest, hardworking, well mannered pupil. From here, Ng Mui began to teach Yim Wing Chun her unique style. As a female, the nun was obviously inferior when compared to the strength and speed of men, so rather than rely on raw aggression and power, her style utilized technique to defeat physically superior opponents.
As settlements fanned outwards from the capital, law enforcement became increasingly scarce and corrupt. At the time, the law was spread dangerously thin and taking advantage of this situation, the increase of town bullies ensued. Finding the young girl to be very attractive, one of the wealthier town bullies took a liking to Yim Wing Chun and wanted her to be his sixth and final trophy wife (so he could rest on Sundays.) After repeated attempts, the bully became frustrated with her rejections and used a different approach. At first, he advised her to marry him because she simply had no future in selling tofu. Comparing her meek life to what it could be if she became his spouse: she would immediately have access to a sizeable amount of gold and silver, elegant jewelry, a variety of silks, and obedient servants directly under her command all in a big luxurious manor.
The adjacent witnesses began snickering at the bully’s futile attempts when the young girl turned her back towards him, completely ignoring his declaration. At this humiliation, the bully became very heated and impatiently ordered his lackeys to smash the fragile tofu shop. As the elderly father tried to stop them, the bully stepped forward and beat the old man to the ground who suffered grave injuries. As the tiny vendor was left in ruins, the bully left with the warning, “I’ll be coming back tomorrow! Have your mind made up by then, or I’ll burn down your shop!”
As Ng Mui arrived at the scene, she found her pupil knelt beside her dying father and later learned what had happened. Outraged by the incident, the nun instructed Yim to avenge her father’s death and taught her how to utilize the forms she had practiced for so many months.
True to his promise, the bully returned with the same band of servants the next morning and asked identical questions. Ng Mui had directed Yim to challenge the bully to a brawl with these specific conditions: Yim would marry him if she lost. Upon hearing a seemingly beneficial proposal, the bully happily accepted the challenge and fell into her trap where she avenged her father’s death with great efficiency using the Wing Chun Bill Jee system.
After witnessing her pupil’s progress, Ng Mui recommended that Yim follow her to another settlement away from the law and even changed her pupil’s name to Yim Wing Chun. The two consequently fled to Foshan, a town near Gwong Jow, the capital of Canton. Living among the other monks in exile, Yim faithfully stayed with her instructor until Ng Mui died of old age. Now lonely and sad, she later met and married Leung Bok Cow where the exclusive system was passed from generation to generation.
Now with an Understanding . . .
The myths associated with the origination of Wing Chun will tell many different stories, but quite frankly, they don’t really matter. The name ‘Wing Chun’ is not used to emphasize what material is taught to its students, but rather to label this particular martial arts system with the same name as an honorable tribute to where Ng Mui originated: the Wing Chun Hall of the Shaolin Temple.
Excerpts from the book “Shaolin Grandmasters’
Text: History, Philosophy, and Gung Fu of Shaolin Chan.”