Introduction to the family tree of Buddhism Wing Chun
As a fact, the history of WingChun bears a range of nuances and has often been accounted differently, and even from different origins. This is certainly a serious deficiency for WingChun clan as a whole. However, one must accept this fact as historical teachings have usually been passed on from grandmasters to their followers verbally. Therefore, the interpretation and memorization of these historical teachings are very much depended on individual capacities such as their knowledge, education and even their purposes. Being Wing Chun's followers, we cannot change this fact but respect the teachings of our grandmasters.
Based on teachings of my teacher, the late grandmaster Tran Thuc Tien, which I wrote and published in the Today Journal No 23 in December 2003 an article, entitled “Wingchun in Viet Nam-Past and present secrets”, based on family trees of other related WingChun (and VingTsun) branches, based on analyses of the VingTsun clan origin in the “Genealogy of the VingTsun family” of the Grandmaster Yip Man branch in Hong-Kong; and from my own accounts, I have built this family tree of Buddhist WingChun (Viet Nam WingChun branch of Grandmaster Nguyen Te Cong). As my understanding on the previous generations as well as other present WingChun branches are limited, this family tree is centered only on my teacher’s branch, the late grandmaster Tran Thuc Tien. According to my teacher, the founding father (su-to) Nguyen Te Cong told him that my teacher was the 7th generation of WingChun. If this is true, Abbess Ng Mui was perhaps counted as the 1st generation. In addition, although trained by Yim Wing-Chun, according to the history of WingChun, the Grandmaster Luong Bac Tru (Leung Bok Chau) was also her spouse, therefore both of them (Leung and Wing-Chun) can be considered belong to the same generation in the family tree. Apart from that, due to historical conditions and age differences, relations among grandmasters can be both pupil-pupil or teacher-pupil relations at the same time. this certainly makes the separation into generations difficult and erratic. In my efforts to construct the family tree, I received invaluable inputs from Si-fu Tran Le Hoai Ngoc, son of the late Grandmaster Tran Thuc Tien. Thank to these inputs, the construction of the family tree of our branch is more complete and accurate. Nevertheless, I would sincerely ask for the forgiveness of elderly masters and my colleagues for any inaccuracy or incompleteness due to my limited knowledge. I would be sincerely thankful for any comment and input which can be provided through this website.
The Website on WingChun has been primarily designed to respect WingChun kung-fu clan and our grandmasters who dedicated their life to creation of WingChun, development of its techniques and principles. Besides, I would like to introduce a branch of WingChun which is referred to as Viet Nam WingChun and which was passed on and created by the Grandmaster Nguyen Te Cong. My teacher, the late Grandmaster Tran Thuc Tien, was one of his pupils and was taught with the techniques of WingChun, the highest of them is “inner power” (noi cong). During the teaching years of my teacher, I and some pupils, including his two sons namely Mr. Tran Thiet Con with nickname Sinh and Mr. Tran Le Hoai Ngoc, are extremely fortunate to be taught with these techniques. My kung-fu brothers and I are trying to preserve what has been passed on to us and to build up a new generation of WingChun to further WingChun. Everything we are doing here is for the clan. Please forgive any inaccuracy or mistake, I would be sincerely grateful to exchange views with everyone through this Website.
Through researches of family trees and literatures and with my personal comprehension of the principles and techniques of WingChun, I have found that the most important starting point in WingChun history are the grandmasters of Hong Hoa Hoi Quan (Hung Fa Wui Koon or Red Boat). In his writing “Researching the Origin of VingTsun” in “Genealogy of the VingTsun family”, Sifu Ip Chun wrote “Character "TWO” adduction stance is best used on boats. Looking further, the various sets of martial arts strokes and practice areas are closely related to practice on narrow boats”. Apparently, WingChun techniques are suitable for close range fighting such as in a narrow boat. Eight-cutting Double knives (Bart Cham Dao) of WingChun when used in a large area will be normal knives. However, in a narrow boat, the knives will be pulled back along two hands for striking and defending. The long pole for fighting is actually used to paddle the boat. Particularly, in WingChun techniques, the kicks are rarely used, including high kicks and this leads to a misperception that WingChun does not have kick techniques. In a restricted area such as a small boat, applying kicks, especially by two legs will be very disadvantaged, (not to say about a principle of “legs should not leave ground”. Thus, we can say that the techniques of WingChun was perfected by the grandmasters of Hung Fa Wui Koon and passed on to today. That is why, we cannot ignore Grandmaster Cheung Ng. with nickname of Tan-Sau Ng. Grandmaster Cheung Ng. was mentioned in a book on Cantonese Opera. According to Sifu Ip Chun, Grandmaster Cheung Ng. taught kung-fu to people in Red boat:
“Later, I unexpectedly unearthed some information about Tan-Sau Ng. recorded in old literature on the history of Chinese opera. This information closely connected to the origin of VingTsun. There was a book by one Mak Siu Har -“A Study on the History of Cantonese Opera” (now kept in the Hong Kong City Hall library) In it there was a paragraph, roughly as follows: before the reign of Yung Cheng (Manchu emperor, 1723-1736 ), the development of Cantonese opera was very limited. This was due to defective organization and unclear division of labor . In the years of Yung Cheng , Cheung Ng. of Wu Pak, also known as Tan-Sau Ng., brought his skills to Fat Shan and organized the Hung Fa Wui Koon. The book also records: Besides being very accomplished in Chinese opera, Cheung Ng was especially proficient in martial arts. His one Tan-Sau was peerless throughout the martial arts world. Another piece of information appears on page 631, Volume III of the book “A History of Chinese Opera” by Mang Yiu, published by Chuen Kay Literature Publishers, first printed in 1968. “For some reasons, Cheung Ng. could not stay on in the capital , so he fled and took refuge in Fat Shan. This was during the reign of Yung Cheng. This man, nicknamed Tan-Sau Ng. was a character "unsurpassed in literary and military skills, and excellent in music and drama". He was especially proficient in the techniques of Siu Lam. After settling down in Fat Shan, he passed on his knowledge in traditional opera and martial arts to the Hung Suyen (Red Boat) followers, and established the Hung Fa Wui Koon in Fat Shan. Today, Cantonese opera groups revere him as Jo-si (Founding Master), and refer to him as Master Cheung”
Thus, the martial arts of Hung Fa Wui Koon has been embedded with the techniques of Cheung Ng. However, we are not clear of the origin of his kung-fu and to what extent it is related to Abbess Ng Mui and Yim Wing Chun or it was just purely originated from Shao lin techniques. According to "Family tree of VingTsun Kuyen", and "Family tree of VingTsun Wooden Dummy, and Six point and a half pole", and Pan Nam WingChun Kuyen, the teacher of Cheung Ng was Yat Chum. We are also not clear that the grandmasters of Red Boat (as in the family tree) received training directly from Grandmaster Cheung Ng. or from whom else as Grandmaster Cheung Ng. lived at the time of Yung Cheng, 1723-1736 while the grandmasters of Red Boat lived in the middle of the 19th century. With about 100 years passed since the reign of Yung Cheng, perhaps there should be at least one more generation, which is after Grandmaster Cheung Ng. and before the grandmasters of Red Boat. Unfortunately, we do not have yet any evidence to verify this.
Tracing back to history, Grandmaster Cheung Ng. was at the time of Yung Cheng dynasty, 1723-1736, while Abbess Ng Mui was at the time of K'hanghsi dynasty, 1662-1722. Thus, with respect to the history as above described and other family trees as above quoted, I also include Grandmaster Cheung Ng and Grandmaster Yat Chum into the family tree. However, due to the uncertain origin, the two Grandmasters are grouped in a separate branch to the Buddhist WingChun created by Abbess Ng Mui. Instead of being spaced, Grandmaster Cheung Ng and Grandmasters of Red Boat are directly linked as already illustrated in other family trees.
In this family tree and in other family trees of WingChun or WingTsun, Hung Fa Wui Koon is an important period of WingChun evolution. From this time, WingChun has evolved more clearly. The development of different branches is inevitable. Even under the training of one master, his pupils may still pass on the skills differently to their teachers due to different perceptions and abilities and this will certainly lead to development of different branches.
Nevertheless, the basic principles and techniques of WingChun are preserved and passed on. Even the highest technique of WingChun such as “inner power” (noi-cong) is still well preserved. We believe that the family tree of WingChun will be prolonged with new brighten pages. To complete the history of WingChun by reconstructing the family tree will be the responsibility of each clansman. With our devotion, we, as the current generation of WingChun will make efforts to improve the understanding of history and family tree of WingChun .
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