From Mainland China: The Untold History of Wing Chun by Ben Eller as related by Grandmaster Sum Nung

According to many Chinese martial art books and stories written between the 1930's and 1980's, there was a famous martial artist and nun in the Zechuen province named Ng Mui. She lived during the early Ching Dynasty in China at White Crane Cave. She was also a classmate of the famous "White Eyebrow", who was responsible for killing 99% of the Shaolin Masters. Ng Mui wanted to preserve the art and culture of the Ming Dynasty. This was the era before handguns when martial art skills were a matter of life and death. Ng Mui, who was a genius of the martial arts, devoted her life to perfecting her skills. She created many styles of Kung Fu, including the "White Crane." Her style of the White Crane was considered the deadliest skill at that time. It was a favorite style of the Ching Manchu Generals who used it to kill other martial artists. Regretful that her art had fallen into the wrong hands, Ng Mui developed a new concept of combat, one that would be superior to White Crane in speed, power and subtlety of control. Ng Mui was not just a teacher, she is also famous for killing Fong Si Yuk, an undefeated Shaolin kickboxer half her age who was said to possess "iron body conditioning."

Ng Mui had a Monk student named Mul San. He organized Ng Mui's art more systematically then taught his sworn brother Yim Yee. Yim then passed all his knowledge to his bright and lovely daughter, Yim Wing Chun. Yim Wing Chun began her studies at age five and easily defeated her husband Leong Bok Lo even though he was an accomplished Shaolin martial artist prior to meeting his wife.

After Yim Wing Chun passed away, her husband wanted her name to live forever, so he named the art she had taught him "Wing Chun", and so, this new fighting concept had a name that has never been lost. Because of political reasons, Leong Bok Lo was forced to go into hiding from the Ching government, therefore he traveled from city to city as a refugee on the "Red Boat" or "Red Junk" used by stage actors touring China. Leong taught Wing Chun to three of these actors name Kwo Lo Cheong, Leong Sam Dite and Wong Wah Bo. One of the three, "clown-face" Leong Sam Dite, skilled as an acrobat, eventually passed on his skills to one of the most famous Wing Chun experts in China, Fong Siu Ching. Fong became a marshall/military officer during the Ching dynasty, utilizing his martial arts on a daily basis. Fong's version of Wing Chun is combat oriented, and relies on finesse rather than brute force. Fong incorporated much Tai Chi Chin-Na into his Wing Chun as well. Examples include: lap-sau, grappling techniques for subduing without killing, Biu Gee (Breaking Finger), anti-grappling throws, applying more wrist action, seven wrist attack and "one-inch punch." Fong Sui Ching did not begin to teach Wing Chun until his retirement from the government at the age of 71 (article in 8th edition of Kung Fu Magazine by Yuen Kay San's grandson).

One of Fong's best students was a wealthy merchant's son by the name of Yuen Kay San. Yuen's father had already invested thousands of pounds of gold and silver in his Wing Chun training by the famous expert Kok Bo Chun, so that Yuen already possessed a solid Wing Chun foundation having completed all weapon training and forms before training with Fong. Yet Yuen had to start all over from the basics. Yuen's talent, foundation and hard trainging allowed him in a relatively short time to improve drastically in sticky hand skills and other Wing Chun abilities.

According to a book published in the 1920's by Ou-Shoo-Gee, "Yuen kay San skillfully defeated Wong Fei Hong with the 6 1/2 point staff." This book also mentioned that Yuen was considered a co-founder of the 6 1/2 point staff with Wang Wah-Bo. Ou-Shoo-Gee has only writted a few books on Master Yuen Kay San's famous public death duals with several famous masters and monks from other styles, and Ou-Shoo-Gee intended to write a fascinating book on the life of yuen. However, Yuen Kay San, even though he was a part-time lawyer, wanted to have a low profile public image so he declined to have a biography written about him. Despite all this, according to Ou-Shoo-Gee's book, several branches of Wing Chun evolved including the following: Leong Jan, Fong Sui Ching (incorporated wrist action and grappling, anti-grappling), and Lee Ying who studied Hung Gar Kung Fu before Wing Chun combined both of these skills together and named it "Boul-Fa-Lin Wing Chun", which contained more than 10 forms. Another famous martial artist named Ou-Hon also studied Hung Gar Kung Fu before becoming a practitioner of Wing Chun.

Other styles include: Kwoo-Lo Wing Chun which consisted mainly of Siu-Lum-Tao form and loose techniques. Another style of Wing Chun sounded the same as Wing Chun phonetically but was different in Chinese character. This style is also known as Fong's Wing Chun & White Crane Wing Chun, and it developed from the Fu Jan province of the Wing Chun village. This style is also amazingly similar to other Wing Chun systems, but perhaps closer to the Northern style of Wing Chun except the Northern style incorporated more high kicking techniques. The techniques of this style are similar to the earlier version of Canton Wing Chun. It is also developed from the White Crane stylist named Fong Chai-Leong who learned kung fu from her father. She later divorced her husband and became a nun soon afterwards and then invented the "White Crane" style. Fong Chai-Leong taught 28 students (including her second husband) who later became known as the "28 Legends." Her second husband then taught 10 other students who became known as the "10 Tigers." The style was then named after the village Wing Chun. It consists of more than 10 forms and loose techniques which have a similar theory (centerline, sticky-hand drill).

Wing Chun-Jeet Kune Do is a system created by Bruce Lee whereby he based his own experience and understanding of Wing Chun principles and Tao's philosophy of "be like water, soft, it can fit into any form and shape, yet strong enough to penetrate any hard object on Earth." Bruce Lee selected practical skills from all various arts according to this principle and formed his own judgements.

  • This article was first written by Fran Joseph and Jerry Poteet in 1989, it was later revised by Ben Eller. Ph.D. Ben Eller had studied Karate for over 15 years prior to studying Wing Chun under Parish Sedghizadeh who studied under Mytri Leong and Paul Leong, who studied under Sifu Tom Wong. Later Ben studied directly under Sifu Tom Wong for one year while teaching at U.C.L.A.