The legendary actor, martial artist and philosopher Bruce Lee not only graced us with his presence on the screen and television, but he left behind his philosophy and fighting art, Jeet Kune Do, for us to contemplate on for decades after such a short life.
“The Way of the Intercepting Fist” was Bruce Lee’s vision of how a martial art should be and how he expressed himself through that philosophy. Jeet Kune Do was meant to be a philosophy rather than a fighting system.
“Absorb what is useful, discard what is not” is the credo of JKD. Whatever is useful or not is dependent on the practitioner himself and not what the founder of the philosophy regulates that to be. JKD is supposed to be about expression of one’s individual self and not a system to be mimicked by others.
It is often said that Wing Chun was Bruce Lee’s first martial art of study. This is not entirely true. Bruce himself said his first martial art instructor was his father. Through him Bruce learned Taiji chuan. During his years in school he learned western boxing and became a school champion. He also practiced the art of fencing.
At the age of 16 he was introduced to Master Ip (Yip) Man and began his study of Ving Chun (as Ip Man named his school). Bruce practiced a number of years and was mainly taught by his Sihing, Wong Shun Leung. Although Bruce Lee never learned the complete Wing Chun system, he incorporated many principles and techniques of Wing Chun into JKD.
Wing Chun’s “center-line theory” is still present in JKD.
The center-line runs directly through the center of the body from the head to the rump. Along this line are all major organs of the body. The head, heart, solar plexus, stomach, bladder and genitals. They are there for you to protect yours and attack that of your opponent. Although JKD uses a lead leg position rather than a squared shouldered position as its basic fighting stance, protection and attack of the center-line is essential.
Simulataneous defense and attack. The simultaneous defence and attack attributes to Wing Chun’s as well as JKD’s devasting speed and efficiency. Psychologically, the attacker expects to land a punch, but not only eventually misses his target, but gets hit himself in the same instant.
Trapping. Trapping of the limbs opens more possibilities for your own attacks while disabling the attacker’s ability to counterattack.
Siu Nim Tao. This first form of the Wing Chun System Bruce Lee maintained in his own arts of Jun Fan Kung Fu as well as Jeet Kune Do. It has been also said that he continued to practice this form several times a day, everyday up until his death.
Wooden Dummy training. Bruce Lee did not learn the Wooden Dummy Form from Ip Man himself and it is not known if he had ever learned it from anyone else. Nonetheless, Bruce Lee developed his own way of practicing on the Muk Yan Jong.
Biu Jee Sau (Darting fingers). The Biu Jee Sau is one of the main techniques of the JKD artist targeting the eyes.
Although Bruce Lee never learned the complete Wing Chun System, he was able to optimise what he did learn into a full-fledged fighting art on the solid principles of Wing Chun and other arts.
Since Wing Chun is not really a style but more a philosophy and a self-defence system based on body mechanics, Jeet Kune Do in essence is another form of Wing Chun.
Bruce Lee was insistent that one needs to develop their own way of interpreting a fighting art as self-expression. JKD/Jun Fan Kung Fu was his Wing Chun. Once you understand and practice to develop your Wing Chun skills and endeavour for self-improvement, you too can develop your own Wing Chun.
Ng Mui is regarded as the creator of the Wing Chun system and is often said that Wing Chun is the only martial art invented by a woman. This article hopes to bring more light on the issue of Ng Mui and the art of Wing Chun.
As legend has it, Ng Mui was born out of a noble household, the daughter of a general in the Ming imperial court. Because of this noble position she had access to the finest education and finest Kung Fu teachers at the time.
Over the years it has been said that she had mastered several Shaolin arts, Wudang fighting arts, as well as Yue Jia Quan. She has also been credited to have founded Wu Mei Pai, Dragon Style, White Crane, Five Pattern Hung Kuen and Wing Chun Kuen.
In the Wu Mei Pai tradition, Ng Mui—the daughter of a general in the Ming imperial court—fully developed her practical style in the Forbidden City. To develop balance and leg strength she trained on upturned logs, in a pattern she invented. She was traveling when her parents were killed in the Manchu capture of the Ming capital. She took refuge in the White Crane Temple (which this legend locates in Kwangsi Province), and became an anti-Qing rebel, teaching her style only within the Temple. The style uses instantaneous counters, and slower movements from Bodhidharma and Qigong.
Modern Dragon style historians relate that the Shaolin nun Ng Mui, who is said to have originated the Dragon style, was one of the last members of the temple before its first destruction.
According to the genealogy of Tibetan White Crane, “Ng Mui” is the Chinese name of the Tibetan monk Jikboloktoto, who was the last generation of transmission before Sing Lung, who brought the art to Guangdong. This account is most different from the others, with a male Ng Mui, the absence of a Manchu menace to flee from and, given the dating of Sing Lung’s relocation to Guangdong to 1865, a 19th-century setting.
It is believed that the Five-Pattern System was jointly created by the Buddhist nun Ng Mui, and Miu Hin, an unshaved disciple of the Siu Lam Monastery. Through careful observation, and imagination, these two kung fu experts imitated the movements of the creatures—how they jump, how they paw, and how they use their wings, beaks, jaws, or claws, how they coil up, how they rush forward and retreat, and finally they created this kung fu system consisting of movements modified from those of the named creatures, and adjusted the techniques to suit human limbs. — Leung Ting, Five-Pattern Hung Kuen, Part I. (1980)
According to the Wing Chun master Yip Man, Ng Mui was Abbess at the Henan Shaolin Monastery and managed to survive its destruction by Qing forces during the reign of the Kangxi Emperor (1662–1722). She fled to the White Crane Temple. (which this account locates in the Daliang mountains between Yunnan and Sichuan) where she met a girl of fifteen named Yim Wing-Chun whom a bandit was trying to force into marriage. Ng Mui taught Wing-Chun how to defend herself by distilling Shaolin martial art knowledge into a system that Wing-Chun could learn quickly, and use without developing great strength.
When we look at these other styles, we notice there is practically NO resemblance to Wing Chun nor to each other! Each style and Ng Mui’s contribution to each shows a development in her own personal kung fu skills. It would be prove to be interesting to investigate further.
It is said that Ng Mui’s new system exploits the weaknesses of the traditional Shaolin Kung Fu styles.
Such”weaknesses” would be;
1 – relying on strength to win a battle
2 – low horse stances, although strong but terribly inflexible
3 – high kicks which usually sacrifice a solid stance and balance
4 – long, circular moves which in close range is much too slow
This is just a short list.
We all know how the rest of the story ends. Yim Wing Chun won the battle against the bandit and married her promised husband Leung Bok Chow. Wing Chun taught the system to her husband and it was his idea to name the art after Ng Mui’s first student, his wife, Yim Wing Chun.
Over several decades the Wing Chun System continued to develop and change. Weapons were added, training methods added and deleted, etc.
Today, we have a colorful array of Wing Chun flavors. Neither system is more “correct”, “authentic” nor “traditional” as the other. Many instructors call their system “traditional” or use Ip Man’s image as a marketing tool. Others claim to have “updated” the system and call it “Modern” Wing Chun or “Street” Wing Chun. Even Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do is nothing other than a flavor of the Wing Chun system. Many will argue against that last sentence, and that’s okay. That is my observation. Yours may be different.