History of Wing Chun

Learn the history of the martial art Wing Chun from Sifu Alex Richter in this Howcast video.

Well, the history of Wing Chun is a highly debated topic. There are a number of different viewpoints in terms of where the style originated and so on, and basically you have these kind of arguments in all styles. Whether you’re talking about traditional Japanese styles or other Chinese martial art styles, there always seems to be a little bit of debate or controversy about the origins. Unfortunately, what a lot of people forget is regardless of how things started or how the martial art started exactly, it’s here, and we have it, and it’s a treasure of China, especially a martial art like Wing Chun, and it’s our duty basically to preserve it and keep it for future generations. Of course, what we need to do, and what one of our duties as martial artists to do, is to improve it for the future generations. So whether one believes in one viewpoint or the other viewpoint, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. You can leave the research to the historians and the researchers, and everybody else can just practice it.

The most commonly accepted legend of Wing Chun is basically that it came from a nun named Mui, who taught a girl named Yim Wing Chun basically to fight off a bandit. Now, there’s actually no real historical proof, or there are no real hard facts, to suggest that the story actually occurred. In fact, there are a number of gaps in the story itself that don’t really make a lot of sense. For example, the name of the Buddhist nun is Mui, which is actually not the type of name that a Buddhist nun, especially one at that time, would’ve adopted for themselves. Mui actually, depending on how you translate it in Chinese, can mean five dots, which is actually the foundation of the basic foot work in Wing Chun, so it’s possible that that name is just some kind of code for somebody who knew some type of foot work or some type of basic idea in Kung Fu that started what Wing Chun was about. But whether there’s actually a person who was named Mui is probably not the case.

However, what a lot of people forget about stories is sometimes, even if the story is not historically accurate or didn’t actually happen, the lesson that can be gained from the story is still very powerful, one, because Wing Chun, according to legend, was taught to a woman and was used by a woman to fight off basically a bandit, a larger man who had some martial arts training. The story tells us something very important. It means that Wing Chun is supposed to work for smaller people to fight against somebody who’s bigger and stronger than them, and that lesson is actually more important than whether the real story with Mui and Yim Wing Chun actually happened.

According to most research, Wing Chun probably came from the southern Shaolin temple. Whether it was actually developed there, or whether it was just harboring martial artists who actually developed the styles there, that’s also a bit debatable. You can do your own research on that, and everybody comes up with their own conclusion in terms of how things developed. One of the things that we do know for sure is that the forms that we practice nowadays Siu Nim Tau, Chum Kiu, Biu Tze, and even the wooden dummy actually were developed a little bit later. It came from the original Wing Chun style, even before it was called Wing Chun, but the formalized sets that we practice nowadays are actually much newer than people would like to believe.

There are even some people who theorize that great Grandmaster Yip Man’s Pak Sao technique, the double knife technique, was actually created by great Grandmaster Yip Man himself. Of course, when people say stuff like that, it makes them very upset. I’m only the messenger. This is what people are talking about nowadays, and whether it came from Grandmaster Yip Man or it came from another generation, it doesn’t really matter. We have it in our hands now, and, again, it’s our duty to preserve these things for the future.