The history of Wing Chun has historically been passed verbally from teacher to student making it difficult to clarify the different accounts. This is one version.
The style of Wing Chun is said to have been invented anything up to 300 years ago from the Siu Lam temple (during the Qing dynasty).
The Siu Lam temple was not only used for its religious purposes but also for hiding anti Qing revolutionaries from the military.
Because of this and also due to a fear of the monks fighting skills, the Manchurians decided to burn down the temple and kill all inside.
It was said that the five elders of the temple escaped (and are often written about in Chinese history as ‘the venerable five’). One of these was the Buddhist nun Ng Mui, a siu lam boxer.
Whilst on the border of Sichuan and Yunnan province she witnessed a fight between a snake and a crane and decided to bring this together with her own previous studies to eventually create a new, unnamed art.
Ng Mui eventually took on board a student, a young girl by the name of Yim Wing Chun (Wing Chun meaning, beautiful springtime).
There is also a story that after training for some time the beautiful Yim Wing Chun was harassed by a local thug who wanted to marry her and would not leave her alone.
To put an end to this she challenged him to a fight and in no time at all after seeing him off, she had created her reputation as a fighter. Later Yim Wing Chun married Leung Bok Chao and after learning his wife’s skills he decided to name the style ‘Wing Chun Keun’ (Wing Chun fist) in her honour.
Leung Bok Chau passed these techniques on to Leung Lan Kwai who in turn passed them on to Wong Wah Bo. Wong was a member of an opera troupe on board a junk, known to Chinese as the Red Junk. Wong worked on the Red Junk with Leung Yee Tei. It so happened that Abbot Chi Shin, who fled from Siu Lam, had disguised himself as a cook and was working aboard the Red Junk. Abbot Chi Shin taught the Six-and-a-half-point Long Pole techniques to Leung Yee Tei.
Leung Yee Tei and Wong Wah Bo shared what they knew about Kung Fu, together they improved their techniques and the Six-and-a-half-point Long Pole was incorporated into Wing Chun Kung Fu.
Leung Yee Tei passed his Kung Fu on to Leung Jan, a well known herbal Doctor in Fat Shan. Leung Jan grasped the innermost secrets of Wing Chun, attaining the highest level of proficiency. Many Kung Fu masters came to challenge him, but all were defeated. Leung Jan became very famous. Later he passed his Kung Fu on to Chan Wah Shan, who took the young Ip Man as his student.
Ip Man learned from Master Chan until the masters death and continued his training with one of his senior Kung Fu brothers (si-hing) until Ip Man left Foshan for Hong Kong.
Ip Man moved to Hong Kong to attend school. Here, he had a chance meeting with an old gentleman who was a martial artist. This old man crossed hands with Ip Man and beat him soundly. This disturbed Ip Man very much, as he had developed his kung fu to a high level and considered himself to be quite proficient. As it turned out, the old gentleman was Leung Bik, the son of Master Chan Wah Shun’s teacher, the famous, Leung Jan.
Master Leung Bik’s Wing Chun was much more refined than what Ip Man had leaned from Master Chan. While Chan Wah Shun had been a big man, Leung Bik was much smaller. There also was a pretty wide gap in the education level between the two masters. Chan Wah Shun was not very well educated, while Leung Bik’s father was a well-educated doctor of Chinese medicine. This education was passed to his son. Thus, Leung Bik was better able to understand the underlying principles of the Wing Chun system. This knowledge was passed to Ip Man.
Upon learning all that Leung Bik had to teach him, Ip Man went on to explore ways to simplify Wing Chun, making it easier to understand. Up to this point Wing Chun had been a ‘closed door system’, passed on only through selected disciples. However, after mastering the art Ip Man decided to break tradition by teaching openly (but only to the Chinese), one of this students was a young man named Jun Fan (Bruce Lee).
Bruce Lee over later years brought Wing Chun into the eyes of the western world but for a long time it was not taught outside of the Chinese community.
Ip Man’s eldest son Ip Chun decided to break tradition even further by openly allowing Westerners to learn Wing Chun. At the present time there are only 13 senior representatives of Grandmaster Ip Chun world wide. One of those is Sifu Colin Ward, head of our association.