The History of Wing Chun can be traced back to the Ching dynasty, over 275 years ago. The Manchus, who made up about 10% of the population, ruled the Hans and created many restrictions to keep them dependent on the small ruling class. Through the years, however, the Manchus gradually began to accept the Han culture and to respect the Sil Lum (Shaolin) Temple as a place of worship and sanctuary. Even so, to repress the Hans, the Manchus banned all weapons and martial arts training. Secretly the Hans began organizing rebel groups within the Sil Lum Temple.
Because the classical animal styles of kung fu took 15 to 20 years to master, it was necessary to develop a new style that would enable students to become proficient fighters in a much shorter time span. As the Manchu soldiers were often trained in classical kung fu styles, it was important that this new style be designed to be effective in neutralizing the existing techniques. Five kung fu masters pooled the knowledge of their own respective styles in order to come up with a new, more economical style, utilizing only the most effective methods of combat from each. What these five kung fu masters developed would create an efficient martial artist in only 3 to 5 years.
Before they could teach anyone the new style, a traitor within the temple opened the gates for the Manchu soldiers and the temple was burned to the ground. Only one master, a Sil Lum nun named Ng Mui, escaped. She later passed her knowledge on to a young orphan girl, who she named Yim Wing Chun (Beautiful Springtime) and who shared this knowledge with her husband, Leung Bok Cho. Through the years, the style became known as Wing Chun kung fu.
Wing Chun History Comic Strip
Check out this fun comic strip on the history of wing chun kung fu. To my student Steve Bove, I know I thanked you for the great art nearly a decade ago, although I wanted to thank you once again today.