The origins of WingTsun are shrouded in myth and legend, but the system
is said to have been devised by a woman, Ng Mui, who was, it is said, a Buddhist nun and expert in White Crane kung fu.
Between 250 and 300 years ago, political problems meant that Ng Mui and
some of her compatriots were forced to go into hiding from rulers of the Qing Dynasty. In the place she took refuge, Ng Mui
came across some very innovative martial arts techniques which she integrated into her existing fighting system.
Ng Mui’s first known student was a young maid named Yim Wing Tsun.
Yim married a salt merchant called Leung Bok Chau and taught him the art she had learned from Ng Mui. Together they taught
and refined the techniques. Yim’s husband taught a man called Leung Lan Kwai and named the art Wing Tsun Kuen in honour
of his wife.
Leung Lan Kwai only accepted two disciples, and only one of them, Wong
Wah Bo, learnt everything. Wong Wah Bo was part of an opera troupe who were known as ‘Followers of the Red Junk’
due to the colour of the boat in which they travelled between performances. Many of the troupe knew some form of fighting,
most notably a man called Leung Yee Tai who was an expert in long pole techniques. Wong and Leung shared their knowledge and
together adapted the long pole for the Wing Tsun system.
An elderly Leung Yee Tai taught a herbal physician in Fatshan named Leung
Jan, who became so passionate about the art that he dedicated his life to it. Throughout his life, Leung Jan was challenged
by many fighters, but was never defeated and soon he and the name Wing Tsun were well known in Fatshan.
Leung Jan took on a few students, but the one who stood out was a man
who worked in the market known as Chan the Money Changer because of his profession. Chan was part of the ‘lower end’
of society where violence was common and he honed his fighting skills there. He taught Wing Tsun for 36 years and admitted
his last and youngest disciple at the age of seventy. Little could he have imagined that the boy would go on to become the
unchallenged master of Wing Tsun. The boy’s name was Yip Man (see photo).
When Chan passed away, Yip Man moved to Hong Kong where, by a twist of fate, he
met Leung Jan’s eldest son, Leung Bik. Leung offered to teach Yip Man all that he had learnt from his father and Yip
followed him for a number of years.
In 1949 Yip Man was invited to give kung fu lessons to members of a Restaurant Workers’
Association in Hong Kong. This he did for two years before founding his own school.
Man also, with the help of his students, founded the Hong Kong Ving Tsun Athletic Association in 1967 and expanded his classes,
and Wing Tsun grew in popularity. When Yip finally retired from teaching in 1970 he passed teaching on to his disciple Leung
Ting. Now a Grandmaster, Leung Ting registered the spelling WingTsun (WT) as his particular branch of the late Grandmaster
Yip Man’s art. (Pictured are Grandmaster Yip Man and the young Leung Ting).