Wing Chun History

Our lineage here at Mindful Wing Chun can be traced back seven generations directly to Ng Mui. In Wing Chun history Ng Mui is the founder of Wing Chun. The following excerpt from Grandmaster Chu Shong Tin’s book, ‘The Book of Wing Chun’, tells the story of Ng Mui and her creation of this beautiful art.

Wing Chun History Ip Man
Ip Man class 1955 (Grandmaster Chu Shong Tin just behind Ip Man)

Ng Mui and Ip Man

“Great-grandmaster Ng Mui (Wu Mei), Zen Master Zhi Shan, Taoist Monk Bai Mei, Feng Dao-de and Miao Xian are coined as ‘The Five Shaolin Elders’. They were martial arts geniuses during the period of Emperor Kang Xi of the Qing Dynasty; all of them had acquired unrivalled skills. Ng Mui in her later years, created the Wing Chun martial art. It was first taught to Yim Wing Chun from whom Ng’s lineages of Wing Chun started to evolve right down to Ip Man.

Grandmaster Ip Man plays a pivotal role in propagating Wing Chun worldwide and making it vibrant. Its rapid growth demonstrates Wing Chun’s unique features pertaining to its success. So far there has not been any serious effort in documenting the intricacies of its creation – Ng’s conception, theorizing and mental state – so that learners can share the opportunity of appreciating its beauty and being enlightened. Lacking this piece is a defect to perfection.

Wing Chun History and Creation

According to Ip Man, the course of Wing Chun creation by Ng Mui is itself a unique and valuable reference for all of us in respect of deepening our understanding of Wing Chun. For this reason, I took a bold step and decided to document the oral Wing Chun history. So as to cherish the memory and admiration of Ng for learners for generations to come.

Ng Mui had been nurtured in martial arts for decades – she often gathered with various Shaolin elder monks who helped cultivate her deep understanding of martial arts. Being a woman, Ng was not as physically strong as men. Therefore, for her to create a brand-new stream of martial arts, especially in her later years when her physical prowess was declining. Its basic conception would not have been founded on bodily strength, but on the desire to require no brute force at all. Only with this strategy did she have a breakthrough in the creation of what will become Wing Chun.

Foundation of the Ideal Martial Art

One way to achieve this would have been to adopt a perilous combative strategy, such as relying on bizarre moves to win. Although this method could have reduced power consumption. Its inherent weaknesses could still have been detected and exposed by the opponent. Therefore, immediately failing at its purpose. Thus, a serious creator of an ideal martial art should begin by establishing a fundamental and stable structure instead.

If structure is to be used as the foundation for the ideal martial art, it will have to be inspirational and unprecedented. Firstly, it is geared towards efficient power consumption. Secondly, it leverages on an inherent power source to fuel movements. Thirdly, it is equipped with a mechanism that can utilizes the resiliency of the structure. Furthermore, is fuelled by the natural power source to give out massive power for both offense and defence.

A new martial art bearing these three aspects will be regarded as an ideal breakthrough. So, in her pursuit of such an ideal martial art, Ng Mui retreated to dedicate herself wholeheartedly to the contemplation and development of this art. In the end she realised the complete concepts and functions of the the new martial art.

The concepts are:

  • Launch an attack along a straight line as it is the shortest distance between two points.
  • Use the circular/arced shape to form power saving (and redirecting) structures.
  • To leverage the body weight as the propellant.
  • To utilize rotations to accelerate.

These conceptions of Ng Mui were the basis for creating the three empty-hand ‘forms-sets’ of Wing Chun:

  • Siu Nim Tao, or ‘Little Idea’
  • Chum Kiu, or ‘Bridge-Seeking’
  • Biu Gee, or ‘Darting Fingers’

As the forms complying with her concepts were readied, Ng engaged herself in progressive practice so as to verify and improve them until their perfection. As her concepts were gradually being actualized from imagination to reality, she was fully absorbed in the delight of success.”