Ng mui

Why Wing Chun?

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Why Wing Chun?

Wing Chun, also known as Wing Tsun, Wing Tzun, Ving Tsun, Ving Chun, Wing Tsung, and Young Shun, is a chinese martial art that first started to develop around 250 to 300 years ago. It’s founder (as legend has it) was a Buddhist nun by the name of Ng Mui (also known as Wu Mei, more on her in another article). Ng Mui was also a skilled martial artist having being borne out of a noble household. She had access to the finest education and finest Kung Fu teachers at the time. Ng Mui entered the White Crane convent. Ng Mui was one of Five Elders, survivors after the destruction of the Shaolin Temple during the Qing Dynasty. These five elders has been said to have been working on a style of Kung Fu that would exploit the weaknesses of the Shaolin styles due to suspicion that there may be traitors among the Shoalin Monks siding with the contemporary rulers.

Most Kung Fu styles requires up to 20 years of practice (daily!) in order to master them. This new style that was being developed had to be mastered in a much shorter period of time (it’s been said that Ng Mui intended that it should only take 5 years of daily practice).

After the destruction of the Shaolin Temple, Ng Mui went into hiding and lived unnoticed in various villages. She did not teach her art to anyone out of fear of being discovered until she overheard a conversation between a soy bean patty seller, a young girl by the name of Yim Wing Chun, and her mother. The girl was being bullied by a man, a criminal, who was intent on marrying her by force although she was already promised to another man, Leung Bok Chau. The criminal challenged her in that if she could defeat him in a fight, he’d leave. If the girl lost, she’d had to marry him.

The nun Ng Mui took young Yim Wing Chun aside and offered to help her by teaching her the basics of her fighting art in order to defend herself against the villain. It’s been said that Wing Chun trained with Ng Mui for about 2 years. As the criminal returned to challenge the young Wing Chun, she beat him easily. It’s been said that Yim Wing Chun was only 15 years old at the time. After the marriage of Wing Chun to her promised husband, Leung Bok Chau, she instructed her husband in the new fighting art. Afterwards, her husband offered to name the new art after Ng Mui’s first student, Wing Chun.

Wing Chun is based on physics, body mechanics and not brute strength. It is a “soft art”, but not in the way of Tai Chi Chuan. It is “soft” in the way that it does not pit brute force against brute force as in many other martial arts. You don’t have to be an athlete, nor in top physical condition to learn and practice Wing Chun.

Wing Chun has only 6 Forms (3 Weaponless, Wooden Dummy Form, Double Swords, 9 1/2 Point Pole), while many other martial arts have 1o, 12, 20 or more. Wing Chun has only 3 kicks, and a small quantity of hand techniques. Wing Chun has officially no ground-fighting techniques (the Wing Chun artist wants to avoid being on the ground) but when one understands the principles, one can use the art for the floor as well.

The legendary actor, philosopher and martial artist, Bruce Lee, used Wing Chun as the basis of his own fighting art Jeet Kune Do. The main objective is to use what is useful and discard all that is superficial, just as Ng Mui had done centuries ago.

Wing Chun can be practiced by young and old, male and female, learned and used quickly.

Who was Ng Mui (Wu Mei)?

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Ng Mui (Wu Mei)
Ng Mui (Wu Mei)

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.

Here’s a short video displaying Wu Mei Pai.

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.

Check out this Shaolin Dragon Form video.

Ng Mui
Ng Mui

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.

Tibetan White Crane video.

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.

Keep practicing!