Home Instructors What is Wing Tsun? Lineage Terminology Wing Tsun Principles System Overview What is JKD? Class Schedule Events Videos BTG Custom Blades Products Links FAQ's

What is Wing Tsun?
 

 

 

 

Wing Tsun

    The name Wing Tsun (Wing Chun/Ving Tsun) means "Eternal Springtime" or "Springtime Praise", but that doesn't really tell us much. Depending on where you look and who you talk to, you will find variations in the spelling, i.e. Wing Tsun, Wing Chun, Ving Tsun, etc. The truth is, it's all the exact same thing. There is no standard Romanization of the transliteration of the Chinese (Cantonese or Mandarin) language into English, so the English spelling of the name and names of the techniques may vary from school to school. Often times the name spelling may be changed to identify a specific lineage, such as Grandmaster Leung Ting’s Wing Tsun, or "WT", spelling. But what is Wing Tsun really?
   

    Wing Tsun is a concept based martial arts system that operates on a set of core principles to govern effective combat. It is considered a "soft style" martial art, but don't let that fool you! Martial arts are considered "hard" or "soft" depending on how they deal with incoming force. Muay Thai and Tae Kwon Do are hard styles, as they block the incoming force (meet force with force). This can work, however you are limited to the physical strength and conditioning of your body. If your opponent is much stronger and larger than you, you might find yourself at quite the disadvantage with this approach.
 

    In Wing Tsun, we do not oppose the force as it comes. Instead, we control the flow of energy by deflecting, absorbing, and redirecting it, effectively neutralizing incoming attacks and using our opponents own energy against them. In that sense, you have taken size and physical strength out of the equation, allowing you to deal with much larger and stronger opponents with minimal effort. As a matter of fact, we do not "block" at all; we employ techniques that offer both defensive and offensive properties simultaneously. You never find yourself on the defensive because none of your techniques are purely defensive in nature; every one of your movements is an attack, and your attacks offer a defensive cover to protect you from counter attacks.
 

    Wing Tsun is designed to be effective and efficient. There are no unnecessary movements, wild spinning kicks or back-flips, things you see in the movies that look cool but would seriously compromise your safety in a real life or death situation. Our attacks are fast, strategic, and artfully brutal. The idea is to neutralize a threat as quickly as possible, not to stand there and trade blows. If someone attacks you, you don't "fight" them, you "attack the attack" and viciously destroy them without mercy. By design, this gives you a tactical advantage over bullies, muggers, rapists, or anyone else that has the intention of harming you or your loved ones.
 

    Now that we have a brief understanding of what Wing Tsun is, the next question is "where did it come from"? As with many ancient styles of martial arts, history can become skewed. Poor documentation, conflicting information, legendary exaggerations passed down through generations of oral transmission, it can sometimes sound like a fairy tale. The truth is, the history of Wing Tsun is shrouded in mystery and no one can say for certain. I will however tell you some of the more popular theories, and some of my own theories as well.

 

The Origins of Wing Tsun
 

the Razing of the Southern Shaolin Temple by the Qing

    *Most* can agree that it originated at the Southern Shaolin (Siu Lam) Temple of Mt. Sung in the Henan province of South China, some 300 or so years ago. It was said to be a secret style, so secret that it did not even have a name. It was for the very elite. The style was devised to be able to defeat all of the other Shaolin styles. It was geared towards maximum brutality with minimal effort. This was a very turbulent time in China, riddled with war and oppression. All of the flowery inefficient movements were stripped away. It was a concept based system that operated on a set of very scientific principles and a very unique way of dealing with incoming force, allowing one to easily deal with a much larger and stronger opponent. Refined to the bare essentials, one could become very proficient with this new system in a very short period of time, as opposed to the decades of training required of some of the other styles. Like most Southern styles, Wing Tsun is a close quarters combat system, as opposed to the Northern styles that featured a lot of high kicks and long range, wide circular movements.
 

    The most popular tale told of Wing Tsun history is that of a Buddhist nun or Abbess from the Southern Shaolin Temple named Wu Mei (Ng Mui). It is said that she is responsible for the creation of the system. The Southern Shaolin temple had a reputation for being a revolutionary center. The Abbott refused to become a member of the emperors army and train their troops, and would not take orders from the ruling faction. In an effort to crush the growing Ming rebellion, the Qing Manchurian army attacked the monastary. Wu Mei was rumored to have been one of the legendary Five Elders (Wu Mei, Jee Shim, Pak Mei, Fung To Tak, and Miu Hin), who were the five survivors of the destruction of the Southern Shaolin Temple by the Qing (Manchu) Dynasty during the reign of the Kangxi Emperor (1662-1722). A master of many styles of Kung Fu, including WuDang and Shaolin, she is credited as being involved in the founding of several styles. Legend has it that one day she was down by the river, and she observed a battle between a snake and a crane. She studied the movements of these creatures and used that as the basis of the new style of Kung Fu/Wushu that she created. When the temple was destroyed, she fled to the White Crane temple on Mt. Tai Leung (Chai Har) to seek refuge. Some versions of this story refer to a snake and a fox, A crane and a fox, or some other combination of animals, although the most prevalent is that of the snake and the crane. This is important, as I will address this later on.
 

    It was at this time that she met a young teenage girl by the name of Yim Wing Tsun. There was a local bandit group that was terrorizing the village, and their leader was trying to force Yim Wing Tsun to marry him. Yim Wing Tsun was a feisty girl who had learned Kung Fu from her father, and had no interest in being wed to the thug. Seeing the predicament that the girl was in, Wu Mei took her under her as a student and taught her the secret unnamed system that she had developed. Armed with this style of combat, Yim Wing Tsun challenged the vicious warlord to a fight. If he won, she would marry him, but if she won, he was to leave her alone. The bandit accepted the challenge thinking the young woman didn't stand a chance, however she easily defeated him. Proud of her victory, Wu Mei then named the new style of Kung Fu after her student, Wing Tsun. Some iterations of the story claim that when Yim Wing Tsun finally later married a man named Leung Bok-Chau, she taught the unnamed system to him and he named it Wing Tsun Keun (Wing Tsun Fist/Fist of Wing Tsun) after his wife.
 

    There are several different variations of this story depending on who you ask, however the gist of them are all the same. No one can say for sure how much of that is accurate, or if Wu Mei and Yim Wing Tsun even actually existed at all. I take it all with a grain of salt, and I will expound on some of my interpretations of the snake and crane story shortly.
 

Ming rebels fighting off the Qing (Manchu) armyWeapons training at the Shaolin Temple

    Other common and more logical origin stories exist. After the destruction of the Southern Shaolin Temple, some monks fled and hid amongst the common folks in the villages. At this time, Kung Fu was not allowed under the oppression of the Manchu rule. During the late 1700's, a Shaolin Monk named Jee Shim sought refuge working as a cook with the traveling Red Boat Opera Troop. The Red Boat Opera Troop was used as a cover for a rebel organization that was fighting against the Manchus and sought to reestablish the Ming Dynasty. The style was passed down through the rebels of the Red Boat Opera. It was streamlined so it could be mastered quickly by the common folk, including woman and children, to fight against the well trained soldiers. Unlike other styles, it wasn't meant to be pretty, but effective and efficient. More than for fighting, it was for brutal life and death combat, when a dangerous, often well trained and armed opponent (or group of opponents) needed to be neutralized very quickly.


    Some believe that Yim Wing Tsun wasn't the name of a person at all, but the name of a rebel group that was rising up against the Manchu. The name Wing Tsun, or "Eternal Springtime", stood for "Eternal-Ming Dynasty forever, Springtime-rebirth of the Ming Dynasty". Some sources actually believe that the Red Boats are the true origin of Wing Tsun, as this was a melding pot for underground Kung Fu of many styles, and crawling with rebels. Whether or not this was the actual birthplace of Wing Tsun or not, it is commonly accepted that at some point after its creation, the Red Boat Opera is where the long pole was introduced into the system. Our 6 and a Half Point Long Pole form bears many striking similarities to the Baji Quan 6 Harmony Great Spear form, and the Shaolin spear form. 
 

    Some accounts state that Jee Shim encountered the Wing Tsun system after he joined the opera troop and he is credited with the addition of the Six-and-a-half Point Long Pole to the system. Other accounts credit both Wu Mei and Jee Shim with founding the system together, basing the movements from the snake and the crane encounter, and Jee Shim is the one who brought it to the opera troop.

 

    My interpretation of the "Snake & Crane" part of the story took on new meaning as I became a practitioner of Wing Tsun and immersed myself into all things Kung Fu. I believe there is some truth to the snake and crane story, albeit purely allegorical.
 

    Wing Tsun bares a striking resemblance to Fujian White Crane Kung Fu, another deeply internal style that is attributed to Wu Mei and the legendary Five Elders. White Crane is also the name of the Temple that Wu Mei is said to have fled to in some references. But there is no dispute that looking at White Crane forms being performed has a surreal familiarity to our own. Some of the movements and techniques are shared. One of Wing Tsun's core techniques is the Bong Sao, which translates to "Wing Arm". A lot of the core elements of energy management are common among the two. Also noteworthy is the fact that a lot of Southern Chinese folklore also credits Wu Mei with the creation of the White Crane style as well at a Southern Shaolin Monastery in the Fujian province where displaced monks sought refuge after the destruction of the Henan Shaolin temple. 
 

    It is also evident that some of our "soft style" methods, techniques, and fluidity of movement come from the Southern Shaolin Snake Fist. This becomes even more evident once you get into the Biu Tze toolset of Wing Tsun. The Southern Shaolin Temple in Henan was also sometimes referred to as the Snake Temple.
 

    Both Fujian White Crane and Snake Fist Boxing are Southern Shaolin styles. So when the legends say that the snake and the crane were studied and their movements were used to base this new system on, I believe that means that both of these styles of Kung Fu were studied and reverse engineered, blended and streamlined to use as the framework to create this new style of Kung Fu called Wing Tsun. Since the birth of Wing Tsun was during the Shaolin and Ming resistance to the Qing Dynasty, many stories were spread to confuse adversaries and protect the sources. Also at this time, martial arts were being suppressed, so it went underground and was practiced in secret. Civilians were forbidden to carry weapons, so the only way to fight the oppression was to turn the human body into a deadly weapon capable of dealing with any threat that would arise.

 

    This is all of course taken with that grain of salt. What we do know for sure is that Wing Tsun works, and that is the most important thing... and really all that matters.

 

 

Home ]

Disclaimer: The thoughts, views, and opinions expressed in this site are that of Texas Wing Tsun and its Chief Instructor, Jason Malik, who independently researched and compiled the information that is presented in his personal capacity. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the official views of our WTA or RJKD affiliates. Allowance is made for fair use of copyrighted photos and other media material compiled and presented from outside sources and is protected under the federal Fair Use Act of 1976 (17 USC Section 107) for reporting/editorial, research, and educational/teaching purposes. 

Send mail to TexasWingTsun@gmail.com with questions or comments about this web site.
Copyright © 2016-18 Texas Wing Tsun Kung Fu. All rights reserved.