Yim Wing-Chun (Yan Yongchun), also known as Yim Saam-Leung (Yim Sanniang or Third Daughter of Yim), the wife of Leung Bok Cho (Leung Bok Lao), is the principle figure in many of the legends attached to the creation and founders of the Wing Chun Kuen system.
In many accounts, Yim Wing Chun was taught the art, by Ng Mui (5 Plum Nun), as a complete system. In other accounts, it was Yim Wing chun that took what Ng Mui taught her, and evolved it into the Wing Chun Kuen system. Yet in other accounts, it was said that she was taught Wing Chun Kuen by her father, Yim Yee, the only student of Miu Shin, or that she evolved the system out of the Snake and Crane boxing her father taught her.
Accounts greatly vary, from giving her more credit to less credit, in the creation of the system, that would come to be known as Wing Chun Kuen.
One tradition preserves that Yim Wing Chun, learned the Fujian martial arts, including Sae Ying Kuen (Snake Shape Boxing) and Bak Hok Kuen (White Crane Boxing) from her father, a former Siu Lam disciple and revolutionary named Yim Sei (Yim Yee). One day, while she was washing clothes by the river, Wing Chun saw a snake and crane fighting. Gaining inspiration from the two animals, she used her new found insight to refine her martial knowlede to better suit herself.
The most famous and common ocuring story about Yim Wing Chun,is found within Yip Mans written tradition. It holds that “The nun, Ng Mui , after fleeing the burning southern Siu Lum temple, went into hiding. She would, on occasion, travel from her refuge in the White Crane Temple in order to get provisions from a nearby Yunnan village. During these visits, she made the acquaintance of a local tofu vender named Yim Yee and his daughter, a young girl named Yim Wing Chun. One day, while visiting, Ng Mui found the young girl in tears. She soon discovered that a brutal local gangster had come to town and taken a liking to Yim Wing Chun. He had sworn to return a short time later to claim her as his wife. Ng Mui at first thought to fight the gangster and drive him away, but she realized that to do so would give away her location to the Qing troops who still hunted her. Instead, she decided to take Yim Wing Chun with her back to the temple and teach her the martial arts, so that she would be able to fight for herself. With only a short time until the gangsters return, Ng Mui could not teach Yim Wing Chun in the usual manner (which some have said took more then a dozen years). So, Ng Mui was forced to teach Yim Wing Chun only the most simple, direct, and effective of combat skills which she would be able to use in order to defeat the larger, stronger, and more experienced gangster. Yim Wing Chun practiced very hard and when the gangster returned, she was ready. The gangster was last seen dragging his battered body out of town, never to return. She was than free to marry her betrothed, Leung Bok Lao.
In most stories, from the mid-1810s, she married Leung Bok Lao ( Leung Bok-Cho) but in other variations to the tradition, Leung learned alongside her under Yim Yee, until the old man passed away, at which point he continued learning from his wife (following an encounter where she quite easily proved her fighting skills greatly surpassed those of her husband). In others, Yim Wing Chun alone taught him her remarkable fighting skills. Some have said that Ng Mui didn’t name her invention and it was Leung Bok Lao who named the fighting style after his wife, once she passed away.
From the many accounts it is clear that Yim Wing Chun, whether a real person or an alias used as a cover, is credited in the Wing Chun Kuen creation myths as the principle founder, or one of the principle founders, of the art.
Modern reseach also points to an interesting connection, with the written traditions, preserved in Weng Chun County, about Fang Qi Niang, and the White Crane kung fu traditions to that of the Ng Mui and Yim Wing Chun tradition in the various Wing Chun Kuen traditions. It was said that Fang Qi Niang, took the Siu Lum art her father taught her, possibly 18 Lohan Boxing (Similar to Yim Wing Chun learning Siu Lum methods from her father Yim Yee), and fused it with other methods, creating the earliest version of the White Crane system. This system was San Sik based, in its method of transmission (similar to Wing Chun found in Kulo Village. As well as material found in the branchs from Fung Siu Ching, Cheung Bo,Tang Gar, Yuen Kay Shan and Yuen Chai Wan). This system used a harder Ging (Force expression) method, and it wasnt until the late 1690′s, that softer methods were integrated, from a master from Taiwan. Its possible that the master from Taiwan could have been called “Ng Mui” as a cover-name. It was than the Pan Family that linked the various material into the long forms we see today. Research by several branchs of White Crane Boxing, place Ng Mui, as being either a third, fourth or fifth generation practioner, that integrated softer methods. This also relates to the Yuen Kay Shan, Lo Kwai, and Cho Family oral and written traditions still preserved that state, Ng Mui practised a softer White Crane, that she taught to someone named Miu Shin. And it was he, that fused the softer White Crane with an internal snake boxing art, he already knew (Possibly from Emie Mountain), creating the first prototype of the Wing Chun Kuen system.