According to legend in 520 AD the Buddhist monk Bodidharma traveled from India throughout south east Asia finding his way to the siu lam monastery in China (siu lam is the Cantonese pronunciation for Shaolin, which is the more popular mandarin pronunciation) Bodidharma (Taat moh) laid the foundation for the Wing Tjun Kuen system. In some wing tjun lineages the birthday of Bodidharma is every day celebrated.
According to latest research, wing tjun clearly descended from the southern Shaolin temple. Unlike the story which is most popular today, which talk about the crane and the fox or the snake and Buddhist mistress Ng Mui and the lady Yim Wing Chun.
Wing Tjun Dim
A special hall was setup in the southern Shaolin monetary, in which only the most experienced monks came together in the course of hundreds of years to refine and improve their Kung Fu. The hall acquired the name wing tjun dim, which means the eternal spring hall.
The philosophy and principle of effectiveness
For the Southern Shaolin monks it was paramount to experience reality directly. Their philosophy of Chan Buddhism meant a return to natural and simple This often stood in contrast to the philosophy of fighting styles taught outside of the temple. These often referred to magic fate or obedience of older generations. This is why the monks of the wing tjun dim incorporated only those fighting concepts which were really effective, simple and direct.
Siu Lam Abbot, Chi Sim Sim Si, Guardian of the Art
Fear and treachery let to the southern Shaolin temple being destroyed by the 18th century ruling powers. The southern Shaolin abbot chi sim, was able to flee with other monks and got himself hired as a cook on the red boats under a false name. The red boats were a favorite place for rebels etc. to hide and perfect for the rebels for bring information from town to town as the red boats traveled around to entertain the people with their Chinese opera.
One of the most brutal Kung Fu fighters of his day, Tiger Wong, tried to extort protection money from the opera troupes. He gave them an ultimatum. Should they not pay, then he would destroy their boats. The leader of the opera troupe Wong Wah Bo and his followers, were in a state of despair. They had no money and moreover could not protect themselves, because they had no real kung fu skill, only the flashy opera style, which was not effective for real life confrontations. As the deadline expired, the members of the red boat felt their end was near.
On the day Tiger Wong came to collect. The cook who up till now, was not taken into consideration and was thought to be a little crazy, blocked Tiger Wong’s path. Tiger Wong did not take, what seemed to be a cook, seriously and tried to overcome him quickly. The fight between Tiger Wong and the abbot Chi Sim, is told by many Wing Tjun families differently. Certain is that Tiger Wong did not have a chance against the kung fu of the Wing Tjun Dim.
The Vital Secret
The members of the red boat, were delighted and wanted to learn kung fu from their cook at once. Abbot Chi Sim revealed his true identity and was ready to teach the members of the opera troupe (this was the first possibility in history, were the simplification of the system started, as the members of the opera, certainly didn’t had the time that the monks had in the temple. Creating therefore from the first set of the Wing Tjun Dim, the Wing Tjun Kuen Set, the Siu Nim Tau, chum Kiu and Bui Tse by splitting the form in three parts. An other theory for the creation of these forms is discussed later and has to do with doctor Leung Jan. Chi Sim as he was one of the prosecuted man of his time, his pupils had to promise never to use or reveal his real name. That is why it came about that many legends concerning Wing Tjun were invented around this time (for example the story of Yim Wing Tjun etc.) So as to protect Master Chi Sim. The first students under the leadership of Wong Wah Bo, the successor of Chi Sim, were San Kam, Leung Yee Tai and Leung Laan Kwai.
Only the Wing Tjun masters who learned the entire system from their master were told the truth.
During the Ching Dynasty serious male artists often portrait female roles in opera performances as women were not allowed to perform in public. San Kam was an excellent artist, who on the one hand was very good at playing especially female parts in the opera, but on the other hand represented best of all the Wing Tjun kuen system in fights at the time (during it’s time on the red boats, the art of the Wing Tjun Dim became known as Wing Tjun Kuen - Internal Spring Fist, The Kung fu from the Southern Shaolin Temple) San Kam was his nickname which meant literarily pretty face. While San Kam was shopping one day for opera costumes for the red boat members in Southern China’s Fatshan, He was mocked and attacked by the young ill tempered tailor apprentice Fung Siu Ching, the bullish Fung Siu Ching had to land in the dust seven times before he noticed that he was no match at all for this strange looking man. Fung Siu Ching wanted to offer tea to San Kam straight away (Chinese Kung Fu custom in order to become a masters pupil) Whoever San Kam turned him down on the grounds that he did not want to teach any ill tempered people.
After Fung Siu Ching have proofed himself to San Kam in a one year probationary period, he was accepted and introduced to the art of Wing Tjun Kuen. Ten years he learned from San Kam, moreover Fung Siu Ching went on to become one of the most famous Wing Tjun master in Asia. He was able to transform his quick temperedness into an endless creative energy for Wing Tjun.
Fung Siu Ching was one of the only masters to be on the red boats and in mainland China, he was responsible for the many different Wing Tjun branches, now spread throughout Southeast Asia, traveling during his life through countries like Vietnam and Malaysia. He was also one of the first to teach Wing Tjun fulltime. Together with Leung Jan, student of Leung Yee Tai, he is the most famous historical figure in the history of Wing Tjun. As many movies and novels are based on their exploits.
Fung Siu Ching’s master pupils in Fatshan were his son Fung Tin, the Lo brothers, Tang Suen, Dung Yick and the chemist Ma Chung Yi.
During the Ching Dynasty (1644–1911) only the larger cities, were protected by the state police of that day. Small villages were protected by renown kung fu masters. Master Fung Siu Ching’s master pupils guarded many villages in Fatshan and the surrounding area’s. The Lo brothers for example drove off entire bands of robbers only armed with their broadswords. On one occasion the Lo brothers are said to have even chased off 20 armed robbers without severely injuring them.
Their Wing Tjun Kung Fu brothers Tang Sun received the honorary title, “King of the Long Pole” from the people from the villages that he protected, because he kept them safe from harm using the pole.
Grand Master Wai Yan
Wai Yan was born at the beginning of the 1900′s as the son a rich Chinese family in Hong Kong. Via his older friend Lo Chi Woon, the young Wai Yan often came into contact with the martial art Wing Tjun. However Wai Yan, did not really want to know about kung fu, because he had often experienced kung fu practitioners as violent and uneducated.
Had his friend Lo Chi Woon (Student of the Lo brothers) not being a Wing Tjun Master and a Chinese academic at the same time Wai Yan would certainly not had any contact with him.
One day Lo Chi Woon asked Wai Yan whether he would teach his younger son the art of Chinese writing (This is comparable to accepting the role of godfather in the West) Wai Yan happily agreed to do so, without being aware of the consequences his promise he now shared. The responsibility to the young Lo, conversely this meant for Wai Yan, that he now also had to master Wing Tjun Kuen, which had been practiced in the family tradition of the Lo’s. In this way Wai Yan began to learn Wing Tjun from Lo Chi Woon and his brother Lo Hung Tai around 1930. Wai Yan original dislike of Kung Fu, changed into an incredible passion and love for the art of Wing Tjun Kuen. After Wai Yan attained Mastery of Wing Tjun, he initiated a new project for Wing Tjun to further refine and research the art.
Dai Duk Lan
Master Wai Yan converted one of his trading houses called Dai Duk Lan into a Wing Tjun research academy. He did not want to enroll many pupils in this research academy, but rather bring together and unite the best Wing Tjun of his day. These were to research the art together, trained together and discuss theory, without holding back any secrets.
The former Shaolin temple served as a model. Shaolin Kung Fu was developed and tested again and again in the Wing Tjun hall for more then a thousand years.
The Wing Tjun Masters of Dai Duk Lan
The unbeatable Iron Fist of Wing Tjun Chu Chung Man When Wai Yan heard of an unbeatable Wing Tjun Master called Chu Chung Man in Macau, he set out straight away to meet him. He became friends with him after fighting him and being in awe of his skill. This man was esteemed in Southern China, because he always defeated every challenger without much of an effort and also maintained many contacts to other kung fu masters. Before grandmaster Yip Man’s fame, he was the most famous Wing Tjun master in Hong Kong. Chu Chung Man was so moved by Wai Yan’s project, that he moved to Dai Dak Lan and accepted the position of chief instructor and leader of Dai Dak Lan. Chu Chung Man brought to the project his friend, Wing Tjun master Tam Kong. Tam Kong has specialized in Kam Naa (grabbing and controlling). And could beat most opponents there with ease, because many Kung Fu fighters, did not devote enough attention to grabbling. Sifu Tam Kong also joint the project.
In Fatshan grandmaster Tang Sun’s Wing Tjun Master pupils Tang Yick and Pak Cheung, where called the King’s of the Long Po Master Pak Cheung was regarded as missing since the Chinese cultural revolution in 1978 Cheng Kwong found the old Grandmaster on a remote farm near Fatshan. Shortly before he died on of the teachers of Grandmaster Sergio Iadarola was able to learn from him.
Sifu Tang Yick was found by Sifu Wai Yan in Hong Kong. At first Tang Yick did not want to share his knowledge with other Wing Tjun Masters. However the openness and warmth of the others changed his mind.
The five dragons of Wing Tjun Kuen
With Sifu Tang Yick the project now included five members. Sifu Wai Yan, Sifu Lo Chi Woon, Sifu Chu Chung Man, Sifu Tam Kong and Sifu Tang Yick. The Wing Tjun Masters discussed and trained Wing Tjun every day. They also invited Kung Fu Masters from other styles to share and exchange there experience. Also the famous Grand Master Yip Man, teacher of Bruce Lee, was seen there often during a period of a few years.
The five Wing Tjun Masters where called the “The five dragons of Wing Tjun Kuen” by the Chinese Kung Fu community.
The project was carried out by Sifu Wai Yan, Chu Chung Man and Tang Yick for twenty years. The Chief-Instructor and Grand Master of Dai Duk Lan was Grand Master Chu Chung Man.
Dai Duk Lan was closed in the beginning of 90`s Grand Master Tang Yick kept on teaching until his death with the help of Sifu Tang Chung Pak. In the Playing Field Road in Hong Kong. Grand Master Wai Yan kept on teaching a few closed door students until his death.
Today all the Grand Masters of the Dai Duk Lan project are gone. The art lives on in the west through efforts of a few man like Grand Master Sergio Iadarola, who learned privately in Hong Kong from the last Master student of Grand Master Yip Man, Grand Master Leung Ting, his Master student Allan Fong Wai Hung and learned the Grand Master Fung Siu Ching lineage through a private student of Grand Master Wai Yan.
The Leung Jan Lineage of Wing Tjun
From Wong Wah Bo on the lineages went separate. One in the above told story with Wong Wah Bos teaching to San Gam and one story through Wong Wah Bos teaching to Leung Yee Tai.
Leung Yee Tai taught Leung Jan who became know in Fatshan as the “King of Wing Tjun”. Through latest research there are two possibilities for the creation of the most popular part of the Wing Tjun System consisting of Siu Nim Tau, Chum Kiu and Biu Tze.
1. This part of the Wing Tjun System was made by some of the Wing Tjun people on the red boat as these people simply did not have the time as the monks had in the Shaolin temple and therefore another method had to be developed to transmit the Wing Tjun Kuen System. The solution found was Siu Nim Tau, Chum Kiu and Biu Tze.
2. Dr. Leung Jan was the creator of Siu Nim Tau, Chum Kiu and Biu Tze. There is historical proof that Grand Master Leung Jan liked to simplify things. Proof of that is his creation a few years before his death of Gu Lo Wing Tjun. Again a simplification of Siu Nim Tau, Chum Kiu and Biu Tze and putting it all in one curriculum, the Gu Lo Wing Tjun System named after his native village of Gu Lo where he went the final years of his life after his retirement.
What is certain however is that Leung Jan choose to give the Wing Tjun Part of Siu Nim Tau, Chum Kiu, Biu Tze and simplified wooden dummy form without footwork to his student Chan Wah Sun, who in turn was the Sifu of Grand Master Yip Man. Chan Wah Sun, also known as “Wah the Money Changer” (chau chin wha) had sixteen students. The last one know being the nowadays famous Grand Master Yip Man. Who got his fame for a big part due to being the teacher of famous movie star Bruce Lee.
Grand Master Yip Man
Yip Man was the second Wing Tjun teacher to teach Wing Tjun in Hong Kong. The first one being Grand Master Tang Suen. The big difference however is that Yip Man was the first one to teach Wing Tjun Kuen in public. Somewhere around the beginning of the 50`s Grand Master Yip Man visited the research academy Dai Duk Lan having a fight with Grand Master Chu Chung Man.
According to eye witness accounts the fight was quickly over in the favor of Grand Master Chu Chung Man (This is not to put anything away from the incredible skill of Grand Master Yip Man its only human, people can loose. Important to note is Grand Master Yip Man lost from Wing Tjun Kuen, his own System. He was never beat by another Kung Fu system).
GM Yip Man and GM Chu Chung Man
After a long research we can safely say that the fight between Grand Master Yip Man and the son of Grand Master Leung Jan, Leung Bik was actually the fight between Grand Master Yip Man and Grand Master Chu Chung Man.
After these incident Grand Master Yip Man went often to Dai Duk Lan to exchange knowledge and learn more of Wing Tjun and thus started to improve his system considerably adding footwork, different kicks and Bart Cham Dao to his Wing Tjun. Important to note is for example that the Bart Cham Dao form is only found in the Yip Man System that in whole China all the other Wing Tjun lineages have other broadsword forms.