The Wing Chun Kuen of Yuen Kay Shan by Robert Chu


This article was the first article in the west on Yuen Kay Shan. There are historical mistakes that have been left. Site editor.


Many Wing Chun practitioners that we see and meet trace their style and system of Wing Chun Kuen to the late Grandmaster Yip Man. The Yip Man Wing Chun style is quickly becoming an international martial art. Its practitioners have spread the seeds of Wing Chun around the world. But few practitioners know of the other styles of Wing Chun that still exist. These other styles have crept their way into the limelight through various Chinese and English publications. The purpose of this article is to introduce you to a lesser know style passed on through Yuen Kay Shan. Wing Chun Kuen originated in Fut Shan city during the

Ching dynasty (1644-1912). Some writers wrongly state that the Yuen Kay Shan Wing Chun style is also known as "Fut Shan style" Wing Chun; this is incorrect as all Wing Chun Kuen comes from Fut Shan. In Fut Shan, Wing Chun is also known as "Fut Shan Kuen". The characteristics of this style of Wing Chun have led practitioners to refer to their style of Wing Chun as "Pien Sen Wing Chun" (slant body Wing Chun) or "Sae Ying Wing Chun" (snake form Wing Chun).

The Yuen Kay Shan Wing Chun system is comprised of the forms Siu Lien Tao (little training set), Chum Kiu (sinking bridge), Biu Jee (darting fingers), Muk Yan Jong (wooden man post), Luk Dim Boon Gwun (6 1/2 point staff) and Yee Ji Cern Dao (double knives). There are also two additional forms that were created by Master Kwok Jin Fen, called "Sae Go Gen Ben Chuie" (four basic strikes) and "Gaun Kou Sao" (cutting hands). These two additional forms were developed to train the military in Fut Shan and Kwang Chou.

The entire system of Yuen Kay Shan Wing Chun is based on just twelve principles which are embodied in twelve key words: Kuen (fist), Kiu (bridge), Jeung (palm), Bong (wing), Jee (finger), Chi (stick), Mor (touch), Kou (hook), Lap (grab), Dop (ride), Tang (slant), and Dong (sway). Kuen is to strike with the fist. Kiu is to bridge the opponent's gap and cross over to attack. Jeung is to strike with the palm. Bong is to use the bridge to dispel an opponent's force while in contact. Jee is to use the fingers in combat. Chi is to stick with your opponent. Mor is to touch your opponentís bridge. Kou is to hook your opponent's bridge. Lap is to grab and Dop is to use Fook sau to ride on your opponent's bridge. Tang and Dong are inter-related and give the Yuen Kay Shan Wing Chun system the characteristic of a cobra swaying and poised to strike. These twelve principles are inherent in the system and in fact, Yip Man's Wing Chun also follow these principles except for the last two key words. Yip Manís Wing Chun follows the principles of Huen (circle) and Dim (point), rather than Tang and Dong. Prior to learning the Siu Lien Tao set, a Yuen Kay Shan practitioner trains in twelve basic techniques: The straight punch, a combination back fist and straight punch, the slant body punch, the sidewards arrow punch, an equivalent to Tan sau, an equivalent to Fook sau, the outside Fook sau, the inside Fook sau, the outside Gan sau, the inside Gan sau, the triangle hand and the double Fak sau (double sideways chop) found in Siu Lien Tao. These twelve techniques train how to issue force and position the body for combat.

Yuen Kay Shan's Wing Chun at times appears totally different from Yip Man's system in form, but in application, remains very similar. Both systems maintain the training of Chi sau. The motto, "Loy Lau, Hoy Sung, Tu Sau, Jik Chung" is known to practitioners of both styles. The major differences of the two Wing Chun styles is one of approach and terminology. For example, "Pao Pai Jeung" (embrace the sign palm) from Yip Man Wing Chun is known as "Dip Jeung" (butterfly palm) in Yuen Kay Shan's. Similarly, "Tan sau" (spread hand) and "Tun sau" (swallowing hand), "Bat Jam Do" (eight slash knives) and "Yee Ji Cern Dao" (double knives), "Siu Nim Tao" and "Siu Lien Tao" have been renamed in the former term. Yip Man's genius is credited here, for being a scholarly man, he renamed the terms in favor for more ideological concepts. Hence, the "Little Training Set" is renamed "Little Idea" in Yip Man's version.

Yuen Kay Shan learned his Wing Chun from Chan Wah Shun originally, but after Chan Wah Shun passed away, head disciple Ng Jung So became his primary instructor. Yip Man also studied under his Si-hing Ng Jung So after Chan's death and remained under his tutelage for three years, until Yip Man left Fut Shan for Hong Kong. Yip Man and Yuen Kay Shan were good friends as they both were the same age and enjoyed practicing Wing Chun together. Yip Man went on to study with Leung Bik in Hong Kong, whereas Yuen Kay Shan remained with Ng Jung So. Later when Yip Man returned from Hong Kong, Yuen Kay Shan and he maintained in contact until Yuen Kay Shan moved on to Kwang Chou, roughly thirty miles away from Fut Shan. Both Yuen Kay Shan and Yip Man were separated due to the Communist take over in China and were separated for the rest of their lives.

While introducing Wing Chun Kuen in Kwang Chou, Yuen Kay Shan taught one outstanding student named Sum Nung. Sum Nung is currently in his 89s and is the present Grandmaster of this system. He is also a noted Chinese herbologist and teaches at a local college in Kwang Chou. It is interesting to note that many instructors of the Yuen Kay Shan system have either learned or claimed to have learned from Sum Nung. Sum Nung taught several outstanding students, of which the most notable are Kwok Jin Fen and Pang Chou. Kwok Jin Fen, as I noted before, is responsible for the spread of Wing Chun throughout the military in Kwang Chou. He taught Wong Fen, who is a reputable Master in Kwang Chou. Wong Fen had a very close friend that was a snake collector in Kwang Chou named Chen Mei Shun. The young Chen Mei Shun was a snake dealer by profession, and sold snakes for food and medicinal purposes. One day while wandering about in the countryside, Chen Mei Shun accidentally trespassed on another person's property. The owner of this property forbade Chen to hunt for snakes while on his property. A heated argument ensued, which later led to a crossing of fists. The property owner was a person skilled in Choy Lay Fut, and the young Chen, who knew little about martial arts, suffered a devastating defeat. This incident led him to look up his good friend Wong Fen, and Chen then asked if he could learn his friend's Yuen Kay Shan Wing Chun. Chen Mei Shun learned quickly and mastered the art in a short time. After two years of practice, he went back and challenged the Choy Lay Fut practitioner and soundly defeated him. Chen's name became known throughout Kwang Chou as a result of this match and many had asked to become his disciple. The Yuen Kay Shan style is fortunate to have survived the Cultural Revolution.


Version 2

(First published in Wing Chun Viewpoint, 1990 - revised 1996)

I began the study of Yuen Kay Shan Wing Chun Kuen in 1981 where I met my instructor Kwan Jong Yuen through a mutual friend. I had already studied Yip Man Wing Chun for many years and was happy to have the opportunity to see the Wing Chun Kuen art straight out of China. Ah Kwan was a native of Guang Zhou and had studied with the local masters Chan Mei Shun, a master of Yuen Kay Shan Wing Chun and Tam Yeung, a practitioner of the Gu Lao Wing Chun system.

Ah Kwan explained to me that Wing Chun Kuen was popular in Fut Shan during the Ching dynasty (1644-1912). The characteristics of this style of Wing Chun have led others to refer to this style of Wing Chun as "Pien Sen Wing Chun" (slant body Wing Chun) due to the emphasis on shifting and slant body movement or "Sae Ying Wing Chun" (snake form Wing Chun) due to characteristic snake like movement of the hands.

The Yuen Kay Shan Wing Chun system is comprised of the forms Siu Lien Tao (little training set), Chum Kiu (sinking bridge), Biu Jee (darting fingers), Muk Yan Jong (wooden man post), Luk Dim Boon Gwun (6 1/2 point staff) and Yee Ji Cem Dao (Character two double knives). In my particular lineage of Yuen Kay Shan Wing Chun two additional forms that were created by master Kwok Jin Fen, called "Sae Go Gen Ben Chuie" and "Lien Wan Gaun Kou Sao" (Chained cutting hands). In addition, a short set of Qi Gong training called "Sun Hei Gwai Yuen" (Kidney Qi Returns to the Source) is taught.

I began my training in the 12 seeds of Yuen Kay Shan Wing Chun Kuen which consisted of the following:

   1. Ji Ng Chuie - the principle straight punch in Wing Chun
   2. Pien Shen Chuie - A slant body straight punch utilizing the shift
   3. Duk Lung Chuie - a combination Bong Sao/Gwa Chui/Ji Ng Chuie
   4. Jin Chuie - A straight sidebody punch
   5. Noi Liem Sao -The Tan Sao motion
   6. Oi Liem Sao - The Fuk Sao motion
   7. Noi Dop Sao - The inner Dop Sao motion
   8. Oi Dop Sao - The Outer Dop Sao motion
   9. Yum Yeung Jeung - Inside/Outside Hands
  10. Gaun Sao/Gwa Chuie - Gaun Sao and Backfist combination
  11. Sam Bon Sao - Triangular hand
  12. Pok Yik Jeung - Spreading Wings motion 

These twelve motions train how to issue force and position the body for combat. These twelve motions were an integration of Cheung Bo's teaching of Wing Chun Kuen, as basics for the Yuen Kay Shan Wing Chun Kuen as taught by Sum Nung. The entire system of Yuen Kay Shan Wing Chun that Kwan Jong Yuen taught me is based on just twelve principles which are embodied in twelve key words:

   1. Kuen (fist) - Kuen is to strike with the fist.
   2. Kiu (bridge) - Kiu is to bridge the opponent's gap and cross over to attack.
   3. Jeung (palm) - Jeung is to strike with the palm.
   4. Bong (wing) - Bong is to use the bridge to dispel an opponent's force while in contact
   5. Jee (finger) - Jee is to use the fingers in combat.
   6. Chi (stick) - Chi is to stick with your opponent.
   7. Mor (touch) - Mor is to touch your opponent's bridge.
   8. Kou (hook) - Kou is to hook your opponent's bridge.
   9. Lap (grab) - Lap is to grab and control.
  10. Dop (ride) - Dop is to use Fook sau to ride on your opponent's bridge.
  11. Tang (deflect) - Tang is to deflect inwards
  12. Dong (ward off) - To deflect outwards 

Ah Kwan taught me that these twelve principles are inherent in the system and in fact, Yip Man's Wing Chun also follow these principles except for the last two key words. Yip Man's Wing Chun follows the principles of Huen (circle) and Dim (point), rather than Tang and Dong. Throughout the years, I had the fortune of seeing other practitioners of the Yuen Kay Shan system and I have noticed differences in both the 12 keywords and 12 basics. I have concluded that the differences may reflect how Grandmaster Sum Nung has taught throughout the years, or differences in interpretation from his various students.

Yuen Kay Shan's Wing Chun at times appears totally different from Yip Man's system in form, but in application, remains very similar. Both systems maintain the training of Chi Sao. The motto, "Lai Lau, Hui Sung, Fung Lut, Jik Chung" (As he comes you receive, As he leaves, you escort; Upon loss of contact, rush in) is known to practitioners throughout Wing Chun.

The major differences of the Yip Man and Yuen Kay Shan Wing Chun styles is one of approach and terminology. For example, in the sets, Yuen Kay Shan stylists conclude a motion with a Lop Sao, whereas Yip Man practitioners conclude with a Huen Sao. Terms like "Bao Pai Jeung" (embrace the sign palm) from Yip Man Wing Chun is known as "Dip Jeung" (butterfly palm) in Yuen Kay Shan's. Similarly, "Bat Jam Do" (eight slash knives) and "Yee Ji Cem Dao" (double knives), "Siu Nim Tao" and "Siu Lien Tao" have been renamed in the former term. Yip Man's genius is credited here, for being a scholarly man, he renamed the terms in favor of more ideological concepts. Hence, the "Little Training Set" is renamed "Little Idea" in Yip Man's version. Yuen Kay Shan Wing Chun also retains the older name "Chum Kiu" as "Sinking Bridge" for the 2nd form, rather than "Seeking Bridge" as in the Yip Man art. With regard to the dummy set, the Yuen Kay Shan set concentrates more on the inside of the arms of the dummy than the Yip Man dummy set, whereas in the Yip Man set, it is more to the outside. The Yip Man set is comprised of 116 movements and the Yuen Kay Shan contains 140 movements. Both arts contain practically the same maneuvers and tactics, just juxtaposed differently. In application, both arts express the economy of motion, centerline principle and sensitivity training.

Yuen Kay Shan learned his Wing Chun from Fok Bo Chuen, a student of "Dai Fa Mian" (Painted Face) Kam, originally, and completed the entire Wing Chun system from him consisting of the 3 forms, dummy set, pole, knives, Chi Sao and Fei Biu (throwing darts). Dai Fa Mian Kam is said to be one of the practitioners of the Hung Suen Hay Ban (Red Boat Opera) who developed Wing Chun Kuen. Yuen Kay Shan later studied with Fung Siu Ching, a marshall skilled in practical application of Wing Chun. It is known that Yip Man and Yuen Kay Shan were good friends in Fut Shan as they both were about the same age (Yuen being senior of about 5 years) and they enjoyed practicing Wing Chun and discussing the theories and principles of the art.

I was incorrect when I wrote that Yuen Kay Shan had studied with Chan Wah Shun in a previous article. The Yuen Kay Shan system lineage is completely separate from the Leung Jan lineage of Wing Chun which includes Chan Wah Shun, Ng Jung So, and Yip Man.

Yuen Kay Shan later taught his successor, Sum Nung, who moved to Guang Zhou. Sum Nung is currently in his 70's and is the present Grandmaster of this system. He is also a noted Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor and taught at a local TCM college in Kwang Chou. It is interesting to note that many instructors of the Yuen Kay Shan system have either learned or claimed to have learned from Sum Nung. Sum Nung taught several outstanding students, of which there are Kwok Jin Fen and Pang Chou. Kwok Jin Fen, is responsible for the spread of Wing Chun throughout the military in Guang Zhou. A mutual friend of theirs, Wong Fen, learned from both Pang Chou and Kwok Jin Fen.

Wong Fen had a very close friend that was a snake collector in Kwang Chou named Chan Mei Shun. The young Chan Mei Shun was a snake dealer by profession, and sold snakes for food and medicinal purposes. One day while wandering about in the countryside, Chan Mei Shun accidentally trespassed on another person's property. The owner of this property forbade Chan to hunt for snakes while on his property. A heated argument ensued, which later led to a crossing of fists. The property owner was a Choy Lay Fut practitioner, and the young Chan, who knew little about martial arts suffered a devastating defeat. This incident led him to look up his good friend Wong Fen, and Chan then asked if he could learn his friend's Yuen Kay Shan Wing Chun Kuen. Chan Mei Shun learned quickly and mastered the art in a short time. After two years of practice, he went back and challenged the Choy Lay Fut practitioner and soundly defeated him. Chan's name became known throughout Kwang Chou as a result of this match and many had asked to become his disciple.

My good fiend and Sifu, Kwan Jong Yuen, followed Chan Mei Shun for many years, before immigrating to New York City. It is fortunate for me that I met Kwan Jong Yuen and became his student, and that we penly shared the Yuen Kay Shan system.


©2000-2005 Robert Chu. All Rights Reserved