After the year of K’ang Hsing of the Ching Dynasty (1662-1722), there lived a nun called Ng Mui in Fukien Province. She was a Kung Fu expert of the “White Crane” style, which is quite simple and flexible, yet very practical. For some reason, she went to the border district between Yunnan and Szechuan and settled down in the “White Crane Temple” in Tai Leung Mountain.
Ng Mui was a born reformer in Kung Fu techniques. She even exchanged some Kung Fu techniques with the local people through Kung Fu contests. She always wanted to improve her Kung Fu techniques though she was already one of the topmost Kung Fu experts. Her chance came when she saw some local Martial Arts, which were foreign to her. This soon roused in her a new idea to reform her own Martial Art concepts and techniques. It is this history which was discovered by Prof. Leung Ting, himself a WingTjun expert.
The story that Ng Mui had once seen a fight between a crane and a snake (or a fight between a crane and a fox – depending on which version you read), and that based on this, she founded a new Kung Fu system, was dreamt up by Kung Fu fiction writers, which merely added to the fantasy origins of Wing Tjun to make it more dramatic and romantic.
However, Ng Mui did secretly teach her own brand new Kung Fu movements to Yim WingTjun, who later passed the techniques on to her husband, Leung Bok Chau. Leung Bok Chau then taught the new style to Leung Lan Kwai, who might have asked him the name of this style of Kung Fu. As Leung Bok Chau learnt the techniques from his wife, Yim WingTjun, as a rule, he would have said that it was ‘WingTjun’s Kung Fu.’ Perhaps the early Wing Tjun consisted of only one set with some sticky hand training, some practical fighting techniques, as well as some primitive double knife techniques – and that was all. Meanwhile Leung Lan Kwai started to teach WingTjun Kung Fu to Wong Wah Bo, a Martial Art Opera actor of the Red Junks, who was also an expert of the ‘six-and-a-half point long pole’ techniques, and he liked WingTjun Kung Fu very much. On the other hand, Wong Wah Bo also dreamt of learning the splendid long pole techniques from Leung Yee Tai, and they exchanged the long pole techniques and the WingTjun fist-fighting techniques with each other. After a long time of practise, they even modified the original long pole concept to the much improved concepts and techniques of the WingTjun system. By then, the six-and-a-half point long pole techniques consisted of the sticky pole exercises and much simplified and quicker movements in practical fighting. Leung Yee Tai was introduced to Dr Leung Jan by Leung Kai, a friend of Leung Jan’s, and a relative of Leung Yee Tai. He taught Dr Leung Jan readily and later even recommended that Wong Wah Bok teach this treasured student.
Dr Leung Jan was the most renowned in Canton and his high accomplishments in WingTjun techniques led to him being given another great title; ‘The fighting King of WingTjun’. He won this title by defeating many fighters from various Kung Fu styles in challenge matches. When Dr Leung Jan was about 45, he decided to teach only some four – six students in his pharmacy. One of his students, Chan Wah Shun, was most famous. Besides his students, Dr Leung Jan also had five sons, and nearly all of them learnt Kung Fu from their father.
But Chan Wah Shun was a very good fighter, who defeated many Kung Fu fighters from different styles. According to other WingTjun people, the fighters whom Chan defeated, even out-numbered those beaten by his instructor, Dr Leung Jan. Chan Wah Shun taught only a total of sixteen Students throughout his thirty-six years of teaching Kung Fu. When he accepted his sixteenth student, he was already over seventy years old.
This sixteenth and final student was Yip Man, the great-grandmaster of the Yip Man WingTjun of the Yp Man WingTjun Kung Fu clan. But he learnt most of his Kung Fu from his second elder brother, Ng Chung So.
After his Sifu Chan Wah Shun pass away, at the age of sixteen, Yip Man moved from Fatsan to Hong Kong to further his studies at St Stephen’s College. It was there that he met with Leung Bik, the eldest son of Dr Leung Jan, and the most highly skilled of all of Dr Leung Jan’s sons. He was the one from whom grandmaster Yip Man learnt the most advanced WingTjun techniques and concepts.
In 1943, himself a Grandmaster, Yip Man started to teach some students in Fatsan. Later he found a job as the Captain of the Undercover Police Squad and his WingTjun helped him greatly against surprise attacks on criminals.
In 1949 Yip Man finally moved from the mainland to Hong Kong, where he had lived as a student. He was already middle-aged, but started to teach his students and imparted to them his knowledge.
He remained the founder of WingTjun and as such, left behind instructions that any developments of the WingTjun style is against the wishes of its founder. However, his last student, Prof. Leung Ting, finally completed his studies, and became the founder of the International WingTsun Martial Arts Association, who published the entire system and made it available worldwide. Prof. Leung Ting’s latest book, ‘Roots of WingTsun‘, explains a lot more about the origins of WingTjun.