Benny Meng

Sifu Benny Meng is the principle founder and Curator of the Ving Tsun Museum. He has traveled extensively throughout the world researching the roots of the art, and studying the training methods and applications employed in virtually every lineage of Wing Chun Kung Fu. Sifu Meng is a full time teacher of Wing Chun Kung Fu and is available for professional seminars on historical, as well as technical, aspects of the art and its training methods.


Articles by Benny Meng

Moy Yat A Final Farewell

By Benny Meng

On January 23, 2001 the world said goodbye to respected and renowned Artist and Ving Tsun Grand Master Moy Yat, who passed away in his home in Queens, New York. He passed from this life at the age of sixty-two as quietly and privately as he had lived it, dying in his bed in the early morning. Unconcerned about celebrity, Moy Yat lived life simply, following the principles of the system he was revered and respected for, Ving Tsun. Often referred to as "Kung Fu Life" by him, Moy Yat not only put himself into the Ving Tsun system, he put the system into himself. He used to say, "Let the system be your guide". He led his students by example not just in his Martial Arts but in everything he did. A true Martial Artist to the end, Moy Yat never stopped exploring the system, always searching for an even deeper understanding. Ving Tsun became his life's work and love; a treasure he never stopped cherishing. His was a life of discovery, accomplishment and sharing.

Moy Yat was born Moy Yat-Kai in You Kum Chuen, China on June 28, 1938. He grew up in the village of Doon Fun, Toi Shan, China. After finishing school in Kamgong in 1953, he moved to Hong Kong wherey friend Moy Bing Wah introduced him to Ving Tsun in 1957. Moy Yat started his Ving Tsun training under Yip Man at Lee Chang Oak Chuen in Hong Kong. Later the school was relocated to the Hing Yip building on Tai Po Road. By 1962 Moy Yat had become the youngest Sifu recognized by Grand Master Yip Man at age 24. His first school was located on Bute Street in Hong Kong, close to his Sifu's. In 1963 after teaching for a year, Moy Yat left his beloved Sifu and went off to spend a year as a seaman, traveling around the world.

In 1964 Moy Yat returned to Hong Kong where he married the love of his life Helen Moy and started his family. Moy Yat continued his Ving Tsun with Sifu Yip Man and also began producing students of his own. In 1967 he became one of the founding committee members as well as graphic designer for the Ving Tsun Athletic Association in Hong Kong. While teaching his own students, Moy Yat continued to serve his Sifu, contributing to the VTAA in any way he could. Much of the artwork still hanging on the walls of the VTAA today are the work of Moy Yat. He remained close by his Sifu's side until Yip Man's death in December of 1972. Soon after Yip Man's funeral in 1973, Moy Yat moved to the United States to join brother Moy Yit-Dean. A year later in 1974 Moy Yat started his first US school in NYC, NY.

Moy Yat continued to actively teach and spread his Ving Tsun throughout North and South America for over twenty five years. In 1997 Moy Yat celebrated his 60th Birthday Party with the formation of the Moy Yat Ving Tsun International Kung Fu Association. He also announced much to everyone' s sadness his retirement from formal teaching. This did nothing to stop him from continuing to add to his list of achievements however. In 1998 Moy Yat traveled to Dayton to celebrate the realization of one of his long awaited dreams, the opening of the Ving Tsun Museum. A strong supporter and founding member of the Museum board, Moy Yat contributed his time, efforts and many artifacts on display there including the famous Ving Tsun Chops.

Throughout his life, Moy Yat received numerous awards and recognition as a Master in both the Martial and artistic communities. His contributions to Ving Tsun are far reaching. Through his artwork and his skill as a teacher, Moy Yat has influenced Ving Tsun from Hong Kong to the United States as well as Canada, Mexico and South America.

With the opening of his first school Moy Yat began what was to be a long list of accomplishments and contributions to the art of Ving Tsun. He has published many books including "108 Muk Yan Jong by Moy Yat". This was the first book on Ving Tsun Kung Fu published in the United States by the Moy Yat family. Over the years he continued to write and publish many books such as "Ving Tsun Kuen Kuit by Moy Yat", "A Legend of Kung Fu Masters by Moy Yat", "Ving Tsun Trilogy by Moy Yat " and "Kung Fu for young people - the Ving Tsun System". The first books ever written and published about Ving Tsun Kung Fu for children. His last few books, "Voice of the Ving Tsun Kung Fu System," "Dummy-A tool for Kung Fu" and "Luk Dim Boon Kwan" were published in the last few years; the latter completed not long before his death. Moy Yat also produced many videos over the years including over thirty instructional tapes between 1987 and 2000 alone.

One of Moy Yat's most well known accomplishments was his dream to provide a place where all Martial Artists could go to share their knowledge. This was a dream passed on to him by his Sifu, Yip Man. This dream was realized with the opening of the Ving Tsun Museum in Dayton, Ohio. After five years of planning and hard work by Moy Yat along with his student and current Museum Chairman Benny Meng as well as the other members of the first Ving Tsun Museum committee, the doors opened to the public in October of 1998. The Grand opening brought much attention worldwide with some of Yip Man's greatest students in attendance. Among them were Yip Man's two son's Yip Chun and Yip Ching as well as other Ving Tsun legends Chu Shong Tin, Mak Po, Moy Bing Wah and Hawkins Cheung.

Moy Yat was well known for his knowledge and accomplishments in Ving Tsun. But, he was not limited to only this in his contributions to the world. Moy Yat was also a very talented and respected Artist. In his lifetime, Moy Yat produced numerous works of art including stone, metal, watercolor, and oils. His artwork has been displayed in many art shows as well as some of the world's most respected Art Museums. Some of his greatest works include the Ving Tsun Chops. The Chops were seen by the general public for the first time as a featured item at the Grand Opening of the Ving Tsun Museum.

Another of Moy Yat's most notable and unique accomplishments are the painting style created by him and known as "Blush Strokes". Anyone who has had the opportunity to see these original pieces by Moy Yat can understand why he used the word "Blush". Those who study the paintings however will see and appreciate the unique way in which Moy Yat explained principles of the Ving Tsun system though his artistic nature.

Perhaps Moy Yat's greatest achievements have been in that which lives on even after his passing; the many students he has produced who have earned respect and admiration amongst their peers. Moy Yat always believed and taught that no matter what you do in life, you must always put 100% into it. Anything worth doing was worth doing right. This was one of the values he instilled in his students. I remember him saying once that he would get upset when someone would say, "I'll try". He said this was a defeatist attitude and the person was already setting himself up for failure along with excuses to explain it. He said, "when your Sifu gives you a task don't tell him you'll try. Just go do it without discussion before during or after. Let your hands do the talking. This is how you will earn the respect of your Kung Fu brothers." This was the kind of humble confidence he displayed and expected.

I've heard it said that a man's worth can be measured in what he leaves behind. Many of Moy Yat's students have repeatedly proved his worth by their accomplishments and contributions to Ving Tsun over the years. Realizing that each person has unique gifts, Moy Yat guided his students to develop their own Kung Fu. He has produced many knowledgeable and skilled students who have honored their Sifu with their unique accomplishments. Some of his students, Jeffrey Chan and John Chen among them, became skilled fighters. Others such as Mickey Chan, Henry Moy, Sunny Tang, Pete Pajil and Javier Ramirez became talented Teachers. Some such as Greco Wong, Miguel Hernandez, Leo Imamura carried on Moy Yat's tradition of using art to discover and express Ving Tsun by becoming writers and artists. Still others such as Sam Liu, the Yip Man Athletic Association Chairman, and Benny Meng who is Chairman of the Ving Tsun Museum have used their skills to become leaders in the world Martial Arts community.

Those who knew of Moy Yat respected him as a Teacher and Artist. Those who had the good fortune to know him respected and loved him as Moy Yat the man. Never placing himself on a pedestal, Moy Yat was always approachable and personable. To those he saw as sincere he would give his undivided attention and time openly and honestly. It was not unusual for him to display his nature openly, never hiding his feelings for the sake of appearance. He displayed this many times when discussing his beloved Sifu Yip Man. It was this unhidden human nature that made him a joy to be with above and beyond anything one might gain from his presence.

I think it is true that we are remembered not only for what we do in life but, even more for what we lead others to do. This is evident by the values displayed within Moy Yat's family as well as the thousands of his students, Special Students and Grand Special Students around the world. Moy Yat accomplished a great deal in the 62 years of his life. But, I believe the extent of his accomplishments will be seen for generations to come. His influence has and will be far reaching for those who knew him as Moy Yat the Teacher, Moy Yat the Husband and Father, Moy Yat the Man.


FOOTNOTE:
Moy Yat is survived by his wife Helen Moy, son William and daughters Vieven and Viva.

Sifu Benny Meng is the principle founder and Curator of the Ving Tsun Museum. he has traveled extensively thoughout the world researching the roots of the art and studying the training methods and applications employed in virtually every lineage of Wing Chun Kung Fu.
To contact: Ving Tsun Museum, 5715 Brandt Pike, Dayton, OH 45424 (937) 236-6485, host@vtmuseum.org.

Interview with Sam Lau

Interview by Benny Meng

Recently, my Sifu Benny Meng and I attended the first ever-International Lion and Dragon Dance Festival in Toronto, Canada. Master Sunny Tang hosted this historic event. Master Sunny Tang represents the International Wushu Kung Fu Federation in Canada. My Sifu and I were there to represent the U.S. Wushu Kung Fu Federation, the International Moy Yat Ving Tsun Federation and the Ving Tsun Museum. There were over 25 Lion teams, 2 Dragon teams and many Martial arts schools from all over North America performing demonstrations in front of the crowd. During the festival my Kung Fu family which included Sifu Benny Meng, our Simo Sunmi Meng, Michael Patak, 11 year old Matthew Patak, Mike Matthews and Dan Wells did a demonstration of Ving Tsun forms and Chi Sau. Over 20,000 people throughout the day attended the festival. Also there attending the festival was the Yip Man Athletic Association Chairman and Moy Yat disciple Sam Lau. Master Sam Lau was representing the Chinese Dragon and Lion Dance Sports Association. He traveled from China along with the Chinese Dragon team, which performed a wonderful demonstration of the Dragon dance. It was obvious watching them why they were selected to represent the Chinese government Martial Arts.

After the festival we went with Master Sunny Tang, Master Sam Lau and the Dragon Dance team for dinner. Seeing a rare opportunity my Sifu asked Master Lau if he would grant an interview for the Ving Tsun Museum. Being my Sifu's older Kung Fu brother, Master Lau agreed. Here are the results of that unique and historically eventful conversation.


Q: Who is Sam Lau?

A: I am the Chairman of the Yip Man Martial Arts Athletic Association, the Hong Kong representative of the World Boxing Council, one of the directors of the Chinese Dragon and Lion Dance Sports Association, I am also founder and President of many business ventures in Hong Kong.


Q: How did you come to learn Ving Tsun and at what age?

A: Being a youth in the city of Hong Kong with much energy, I decided at a very young age to get involved with Western boxing. In the old days martial arts tournaments were not very popular and real fighting was the only way to test your skill. Challenge matches, called gong sau was how those who dared tested their skill. Ving Tsun guys fought many of these matches it seems. This made the style interesting to me and I decided it would be worthwhile to study it. It was during the early sixties that I had the opportunity to study under one of Yip Man's brightest students. His name is Moy Yat. Also I was able to get to know Yip Man during this time, as I lived very close to his home. Under the guidance of Moy Yat I became a capable fighter and gained a reputation for bravery amongst my peers. Gong Sau was very big at this time and Yip Man was impressed by my willingness to accept challenges without hesitation. Growing up in the streets of Hong Kong, I had many opportunities, along with two of my Kung Fu brothers Jeffrey Chan and Sunny Tang to Gong Sau. At this time it was the only way to test one's Kung Fu and being Ving Tsun students we wanted to find out how good we were. Yip Man used to say that he was most impressed with the Ving Tsun guys that would Gong Sau without having to ask their Moms first. He considered me one of those guys and took notice of me during my time under Moy Yat's teaching. Later on because of this I had the good fortune to become one of the Instructors at the Ving Tsun Athletic Association.


Q: How did the Yip Man Martial Arts Athletic Association comes about?

A: At the time when Gong Sau became popular, during the late sixties, the government noticed and decided it was dangerous. It was decided that all martial arts schools would have to be controlled somehow by the government and therefore it became required that the government licenses all schools. It was feared that someone favoring a particular style might get a position in government. For political reasons it was decided that in order to guard against this possibility there would be 3 Ving Tsun organizations registered with the government thereby assuring preservation of the system. One of them was the Yip Man Martial Arts Athletic Association.


Q: What were the other 2 organizations and do they exist today?

A: The Ving Tsun Athletic Association, which is currently still in existence was the first martial art to officially register with the government in 1967. The VTAA was operated and run by Yip Man himself until he passed away. The Yip Man Martial Arts Athletic Association was the second of the 3 created and registered. The Ving Liun (Everlasting United) was the third organization created under Yip Man to represent the style. Ving Liun was founded and run by Leung Shang who was Yip Man's first Disciple. After Leung Shan's death it was decided that because of more stable conditions in government and the cost of maintaining it that the Ving Liun would be closed. However, out of respect for their Sifu's name the Yip Man Martial Arts Athletic Association it was decided would remain open.


Q: Who was the original Chairman and what is the purpose of the YMAA?

A: the Di Si Hings (elders) of Yip Man's students originally ran The YMAA for one-year terms. The function of the YMAA was intended to supplement the activities of the VTAA. While there are members, it is not the main function of the YMAA to actively recruit members.


Q: What do you mean by supplement the activities of the VTAA?

A: One of the activities is a Dragon Dance team to represent the Ving Tsun style. In the old days the Lion dance was traditional in China. However, Yip Man did not want people to see Ving Tsun as a style that used the lion dance as a means to make money so, he did not want to have a team representing his school. Things are different now and the Elders of the VTAA agreed that it would be ok to do this. However, out of respect for their Sifu the Elders chose to promote a Dragon Dance team instead. Creation and promotion of the Dragon team was and still is the responsibility of the YMAA. A Dragon team consists of ten people carrying a dragonhead and body of up to fifty feet. This Dragon team, created and promoted by the YMAA, was the first team representing the martial art community that went back to China from Hong Kong to perform during ceremonies celebrating the return of Hong Kong to mainland China. This Dragon team is unique in that it is the only one of its kind in existence. Called a moonlight dragon, it shines in the dark thereby hiding the people carrying it. Even China itself does not have anything like it. The YMAA also offers classes to teach the Dragon Dance and of course the Ving Tsun students there all learn it along with their Ving Tsun.


Q: When did you become Chairman of the YMAA?

A: Up until 1991 the YMAA Chairman was a yearly term of elected elders. In 1991 with the approval of all the VTAA Elders I became permanent Chairman. Because I am very close to the Elders in the VTAA and also because it was more efficient to just have one chairman for YMAA they were all comfortable with me taking the position.


Q: What contributions has the YMAA made to Ving Tsun since you took over in 1991?

A: With the relaxing of policies in the Chinese government over the last decade there have been many opportunities for traditional martial arts to be formally recognized there. Now All Chinese martial arts are considered treasures by the government. Because of this there has been much support from within China to research and promote not only modern day Wushu but, all classical styles that are the history and culture of this country. In September of 1996 the late Master Wong Sheung Lung and I made a trip to Mainland China, representing both the VTAA and YMAA. This was to celebrate the official reintroduction and recognition of Ving Tsun back to China. This took place in China's capitol city Peking. During this trip we met with the top leaders of the Chinese martial arts community to discuss the future of Ving Tsun in China. As a result of this meeting's success Wong Sheung Lung was invited back to China to teach a course on Ving Tsun for government sponsored martial artists. Over one hundred were in attendance. During this time he mentioned that Ving Tsun was a great system but could be improved with the support of the Chinese government and martial arts community. He hoped that with the help of the government the system could have up to date methods of teaching and training without losing its original principles.


Q: What is the future plans for YMAA?

A: I think that if Ving Tsun is to survive and continue to thrive that it can not be done by one individual. After the passing of Yip Man there has not been a recognized Grand Master of the Ving Tsun system to replace him. Mostly the organization is run by those senior students still alive today. This has created much conflict amongst those students as some have tried to lay claim to this title. Also many of the senior disciples of Yip Man are getting old. After they are gone it will be impossible to find any combined support from the next generation of Ving Tsun guys. My Sifu, Moy Yat, and I have this idea to promote Ving Tsun as a national art of China. In order to accomplish this it is necessary to bring the style back to Mainland China and have it accepted and developed by the Chinese government. This, of course, would be done with the support of and help from the Senior Yip Man Ving Tsun family members and Ving Tsun Museum. In July of this year, I went back to China and discussed this very subject with the Chinese government martial arts officials. They, like me believe that the government has a much better chance to represent the style and help it to further grow.


Q: Isn't it true that Wushu is currently the national art of China?

A: Yes, it's true. The goal of China right now is to promote Wushu as an official Olympic sport. But, because of China' s interest in classical martial arts also right now, I think it is a good opportunity to try and promote Ving Tsun as a classical national martial art in China.


Q: Does this idea have the support of the Yip Man Ving Tsun community of elders?

A: Yes. I have presented my ideas to them and they seem to be very supportive. Most are senior disciples of Yip Man. Some of them are Lok Yiu, Chu Shong Tin, Wong Shun Leung, Yip Ching, Moy Yat and Chen Wei Hong.


Q: This is a very interesting and unique idea. How do you intend to accomplish this goal?

A: Before taking Ving Tsun back to the Chinese government we must first agree on a standardized system. The elders of the Ving Tsun Athletic Association and Yip Man Martial Arts Association will discuss this and agree on what is to become the standard for the system. If this is not successful then I will individually interview each of the elders myself and then take this information back to the martial arts officials in China and ask for their help in using this information to standardize the art. Step two is to have the Hong Kong Ving Tsun community bring the style back to the Shaolin Temple and develop what will be the first generation of Ving Tsun Monks. From there the martial arts community will organize it further and develop a Ving Tsun program that is suitable for both the young and old. Once the goal of establishing Ving Tsun as a national art is reached it is hoped that the government will promote it overseas. The problem today is that Ving Tsun is not organized like other arts such as Karate and Tae Kwon Do. These arts are supported and promoted by their governments. This is what I feel is necessary for Ving Tsun.

Master Benny Meng: Si Hing, well thank you very much for giving the interview. As it is the Ving Tsun Museum's purpose to collect, document and store information about Ving Tsun families all over the world, we are thrilled to have had this opportunity. I hope that we can work together in the future to promote and preserve Ving Tsun for generations.

Although at the time I could not understand, it is now obvious to me from this interview that Master Sam Lau has big plans for preserving the art that he has dedicated a lifetime studying and promoting. Is it possible to make such things happen? Well no can say for sure at this point but, we at the Ving Tsun believe that Master Lau's ideas are a step in the right direction. If the success of other martial arts promoted by their respective governments is any indication, we think Ving Tsun is destined to find it's rightful place as one of the best style to learn. The Ving Tsun Museum hopes that Master Lau has much success with his newest venture and we'll certainly be there to witness and document it as part of the history of this great system.

From Shaolin to Wing Chun

by Benny Meng and Matthew Kwan

Ever since Wing Chun was introduced to the general public by Yip Man and was then later popularized by the international fame of Bruce Lee, Wing Chun has been spread around the world. Much of the history of Wing Chun is shrouded in myths of legendary characters that emerged some time after the burning of the Southern Shaolin temple in Southern China. One of the prime missions of the Ving Tsun Museum is to ferret out the myths and help the Wing Chun community as a whole find its historical roots. The process of determining history requires that we listen to many legends and cross-check them with all available documentation. The knowledge gained from this process is then widely shared through professional publications so that other scholars may dig even deeper until maximum accuracy is achieved.

This article is about another courageous Wing Chun family that has stepped forth to share its history and legends with the Ving Tsun Museum so that additional research and verification can be done by the scholars. The historical occurrences alleged represent radical departures from today's commonly accepted legends. At best, they may lead to the real root of Wing Chun. At worst, they will generate a flurry of academic digging. Either result can only be beneficial to today's practitioners of this amazingly scientific art form.

For many generations of Wing Chun practitioners, fabled stories of a young woman named Yim Wing Chun have grown to take the mantle of being called the "origins" of Wing Chun without knowing that there were other histories that were passed down through other Wing Chun lineages. One lineage that was concealed throughout the decades due to the political climate of China was the Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kuen history. It's history, traditions, and teachings were passed down verbally from generation to generation of family members until recently brought to the public by Master Garrett Gee (Chu King-Hung). Master Gee states his only purpose in stepping forward at this time is to preserve the knowledge of our patriotic ancestry and to commemorate the valiant practitioners who fought and died for their country against the Ching Dynasty and later against foreign powers. He is adamant that he is not interested in political controversy, but welcomes historical research into the following facts as his lineage believes them to be.

According to Hung Fa Yi Kuen traditions, the history of Wing Chun begins in the Shaolin temple with the culmination of hundreds of years of martial arts experience. The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) saw a blossoming of Shaolin martial arts as never before. Almost all the residents of Shaolin took up Wushu and a powerful detachment of several hundred warrior-monks was organized. The Ming government treasured the warrior-monks, sending them on expeditions to border areas. After the Manchurians conquered China, the remnants of the Ming family encouraged export of the secret knowledge of Shaolin fighting arts to rebel troops to defend the Han nation and to try to restore the Ming regime. This time period was known as the Ching Dynasty.

The conquest of China by the Manchu in the 17th century and harsh actions created distrust among the people towards the Ching government. The Manchu, excellent warriors in their own right, kept the Ming dissidents under control, imposing on all the badge of subservience, the "queue" which symbolized for them a horse's tail. Animosity and discontentment towards the Manchurians became more visible. Many boxers joined various secret societies hoping to return the Ming to power. Formation of underground movements were the precursory events that brought Wing Chun and many other Chinese martial art styles in existence. Thousands from the north retreated southward to both southern China and Taiwan, disseminating their martial arts skills as they went. Although unsuccessful in their aims, the boxers seeking a return of the Ming did achieve a result. They spread the Shaolin boxing doctrines to all corners of China.

The Hung Fa Yi Kuen ancestors claim there were two significant people who set the stage for Wing Chun and many other Chinese martial art styles to flourish. The first significant person was a Buddhist monk from Northern Shaolin temple, his name was Chiu Yuen. In Hung Fa Yi lore, he played the leading role in keeping the underground Anti-Manchurian activities alive. Unknown to the Manchurians, Chiu Yuen's real identity was Chu Ming, one of the last surviving descendants of the Ming Dynasty Royal Chu family. It was his Anti-Manchurian activities, as well as his family ties to the old regime, that led to the eventual burning of the Shaolin temples by the Manchurian Soldiers.

The second person was known as Da Jung. Originally he was a Ming military officer from Northern China that was forced to flee south. Later he became a monk at the Southern Shaolin temple in Fukien. Da Jung's real name is unknown, but in the history of Chinese martial arts he is considered "Joi Si" or First Leader because he was the first person to extend Chinese Kung Fu to Southern Shaolin. Until his arrival, Southern Shaolin was not known for its martial arts. He organized what was called the Buddhist Hung Moon organization. This was a secret society formed in the Shaolin to overthrow the Ching Dynasty. The Buddhist Hung Moon was the first Buddhist political organization that was loyal to the Ming regime. This event is known in Hung Fa Yi Kuen as a milestone in Chinese Kung Fu because not only did he bring martial arts to Southern Shaolin (according to their lore), but he also bridged the gap between Northern Shaolin and Southern Shaolin.

Also during this time, Cheng Sing Kung, one of the last surviving Ming generals, fled to the island of Formosa taking it over from the Dutch in 1662. It was then that he established the revolutionary society Tien Dei Wui {Heaven and Earth society} which was the counterpart of the Hung Fa Wui {Red Flower Society} on the mainland. The Hung Fa Wui was an underground Anti-Manchurian society based in Shaolin. In Shaolin, the Hung Fa Wui had a special gathering place called the Hung Fa Ting {Red Flower Court}. This was a great meeting hall where Ming loyalists gathered and discussed political strategies to overthrow the Manchurians and the fall of the Ching Dynasty.

Early in the 1700's, during the reign of Emperor K'ang Hsi (1662-1723), the Manchurians became concerned about the Shaolin Temple's rebellious activities as well as their advanced fighting abilities and continued development of their martial arts system. Under the decision to eliminate the threat of these rebels and their rebel leaders, the Manchurians sought to exterminate the Shaolin monks to prevent them from spreading their martial arts skills and rebellious activities. Eventually the Southern Shaolin Temple was burned and destroyed.

The Shaolin Temple was not only a repository of martial arts knowledge and rigorous training academy but, as important, a stimulus for other marital art styles. Many of the systems today were born out of Shaolin roots. Prior to the destruction of the Shaolin Temples, a comprehensive and high level martial art system was developed which was formulated through multiple generations of Shaolin knowledge and experience. The Hung Fa Yi Kuen lineage believes the ultimate goal was to create a new system which could be used to defeat the classical styles. In pursuit of that goal, the elders shared their most advanced principles and strategies and work began on the new style. This martial art system latter became known as Wing Chun, named after the Wing Chun Tong {Everlasting Spring Hall} in the Shaolin Temple. As with all high level Shaolin knowledge, this new art was conducted under secrecy, a "Silent Code". In order to hide the new revolutionary fighting art's identity and origin, a fictional person named Yim Wing Chun and story were created to cover up the original nature of the art.

After the destruction of the Shaolin Temple and its Wing Chun Tong, the character of Wing used for this new art was changed from "Wing" meaning "always, perpetual, or everlasting" to "Wing" meaning "to recite, sing, praise, or chant." Chan Buddhism is based on oral communication to pass on its teachings. The character "Chun" meaning "spring, a time of new growth", stayed the same. The Han nation was seen by many as the spring of Chinese culture. By changing the characters, the Ming loyalists were reminded to pass on the tradition and secrets orally while working to rebuild the Ming government. The Chinese word "Yim" means "to prohibit or secret". By adding Yim to Wing Chun, the meaning was "to be discrete, secret, and pass on the revolutionary art orally". To insure that the art was not abused or to fall into the wrong hands, it was never documented.

During that time it was strictly forbidden to teach or reveal the art to anyone that didn't belong to the secret societies or were non-Han. Because of this reason, Wing Chun took on a mysterious persona. Many years later, a famous novel writer wrote a martial art fiction titled 10,000 Year Ching. In the novel, it talks about Ng Mui, Chee Sim, Hung Hei Goon, and Fung Sai Yuk. Many fairy tales and stories about Hung Kuen and Wing Chun were based on this novel. With each telling of the story from the novel, embellishments and exaggerations were added until the story reached the level of a fairy tale. Due to the nature of secret societies, these fictional stories and legends came to be the accepted truth as to the creation of Wing Chun.

After the destruction of Shaolin Temple, the connection between the Hung Fa Wui (Red Flower Society) and the Tien Dei Wui (Heaven and Earth Society) was opened up to the ordinary people in the involvement of overthrowing the Ching Dynasty. Their famous battle cry was, "Overthrow the Ching and Restore the Ming". New secret societies emerged after the Hung Fu Ting was destroyed. The three major secret societies that surfaced and gained public attention were the Triads {Three Harmonies}, the Gua Lo Wui {Brotherhood}, and the Dai Doe Wui {Big Sword Society}.

Of those who survived the Manchurian massacres, two Shaolin disciples escaped and were able to keep the Wing Chun system alive. The senior, a monk, was the twenty-second generation Shaolin Grandmaster, Yat Chum Dai Si. The other, his disciple, was named Cheung Ng.

Not much is known about the history of Yat Chum Dai Si besides the knowledge that he was originally a high level monk from Northern Shaolin which later migrated to Southern Shaolin to join the efforts to help restore the Ming Dynasty. Cheung Ng, unsurpassed in literature, military skills, and dramatic opera, was originally a native of Hanbuck in Northern China. It was said that he had come from a family of generations of military men serving the Ming regime until the Manchurians killed his family. Seeking refuge and fleeing persecution, Cheung Ng fled to Northern Shaolin to become a monk. After spending some time in Northern Shaolin, he heard of the gatherings in Southern Shaolin in a place called the Hung Fa Ting and that their purpose was to restore the Ming regime. He then left Northern Shaolin to join the rebels in Southern Shaolin where he met the Shaolin Grandmaster Yat Chum Dai Si. It was there that he began his studies of the art that was to become Wing Chun. Before the Grandmaster's death, Grandmaster Yat Chun Dai Si passed on his high level Wing Chun knowledge to Cheung Ng.

After the destruction of the Southern Shaolin Temple, Cheung Ng fled to Guangdong province. In order to keep his identity and Shaolin background from the Manchurian government, Cheung Ng founded the Red Boat Opera Troupe in Futsan. Known for its discipline and rules of conduct, the Red Boat Opera Troupe was an organization of talented stage performers who traveled in up and down the rivers of Southern China in red boats. This time period around the mid-to-late-1700s was known as the Red Boat Period.

During his travels with the Red Boat Opera Troupe, Cheung Ng soon became known as "Tan Sao Ng" from the Opera Troupe because of his skillful usage of the dispersing hand maneuver while he demonstrated his marital arts mastery to subdue opponents during challenges. ("Tan Sao" means "dispersing hand".)

Although the Hung Fa Wui (Red Flower Society) was destroyed, Tan Sao Ng continued his mission to unite the people against the Manchurians to overthrow the Ching Dynasty. He established the Hung Fa Wui Goon troop {Red Flower Union} in memory of the Hung Fa Wui (Red Flower Society) and the Hung Fa Ting which was destroyed at Shaolin Temple. The Hung Fa Wui Goon outwardly appeared as a traveling opera troop, but was actually a collection of secret society members that organized underground activities throughout China. Tan Sao Ng was very selective before he allowed any initiates to become a member. The initiates must prove themselves to be loyal and trust-worthy then after they must take 36 oaths and the 21 moral codes as well as the Secret Society Ritual of drawing blood.

The Hung Fa Wui Goon troop members had the perfect disguise. As an Opera troop performer, Hung Fa Wui Goon members were able to travel from place to place unquestioned by the authorities. By day, they would perform operas and by night, they would gather with local underground organizations to coordinate antigovernment activities. These were very dangerous and turbulent times for anyone connected to Shaolin or any underground society. If discovered as a member of any underground movement, the Manchurians would immediately execute him so keeping anonymity was very important.

Only select members of the Hung Fa Wui Goon troop were taught by Tan Sao Ng which were the first generation disciples of Wing Chun from the opera. Of those select students, few disciples were significant in the contribution to Wing Chun's history: Hung Gun Biu {Red Bandanna Biu}, Wong Wah Bo, Leung Yee Tei, and Dai Fa Min Kam {Painted Face Kam}. It is at this time that the art of Wing Chun continued to evolve, change, and adapt for several reasons. First of all, not all the disciples of Cheung Ng were members of the secret society. Due to the length of time spent with Cheung Ng and his need to keep the style hidden, not all his disciples shared the same experiences. Second, the Opera was a melting pot of both Northern and Southern Shaolin providing the performers access to a wide range of ideas, techniques, and training methods. This led some disciples to change and adapt according to their environment on the Red Boats and the influence of different martial art systems all present during that time.

Eventually the Manchurians suspected the Red Boat Opera Junks for supporting Anti-Manchurian activities. They began hunting for Anti-Manchurian collaborators. For Tan Sao Ng, it became very clear that it was time to change his identity once more and retreat into the security of the Secret Society underground.

Wong Wah Bo and Leung Yee Tai continued performing and were openly known for their Wing Chun skills. Dai Fa Min Kam left the opera troop some time later to teach Wing Chun privately. Hung Gun Biu, having been a distant relative of Tan Sao Ng, retreated with Tan Sao Ng into the underground. Hung Gun Biu continued being active in the Anti-Manchurian affairs as well as receiving the full knowledge of Wing Chun by Tan Sao Ng taught to him to its entirety and in full confidence. Hung Gun Biu's lineage followed a tradition to pass down the complete system only to family members who took a traditional ceremonial Shaolin vow of secrecy.

This lineage became known as Hung Suen {Red Boat} Wing Chun to the public, but it was referred to as Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun to the secret society of the past. The name "Hung Fa Yi" was used in reverence, as was the name the "Hung Fa Wui Goon" chosen by Tan Sao Ng, to remind the Wing Chun descendants of the direct connection from the Hung Fa Ting and the Hung Fa Wui than was established in Southern Shaolin.

A generation later, many of the Hung Gun Biu's Secret Society descendants banded together in secret to fight for their country against the eight foreign countries that had slowly exploited China during the 1800's and early 1900's. They were the Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, British, Japanese, Russian, Germans, and the Americans. Many of Hung Gun Biu's descendants fought and died with dignity for their country during the Boxer Rebellion.

Hung Gun Biu's lineage continued during the early 1800's through his relative Cheung Gung, who passed on his knowledge and experience to his great nephew, Wang Ting. Wang Ting taught his son, Dr. Wang Ming of Saiquan, China. Dr. Wang Ming taught the entire system with its original concepts to only four disciples. One of these disciples was Garrett Gee. Sifu Gee comes from a family of great martial artist reaching back to the Song Dynasty. At the age of 5, Sifu Gee started his martial art training under the tutelage of his father. While attaining mastery of the various styles in his Kung Fu family lineage, Garrett Gee demonstrated an affinity and flair for swordmanship. He is an accomplished practitioner and instructor of traditional Kung Fu weapons styles. At age 13, Sifu Gee impressed Dr. Wang as they became acquainted while training daily in a park. Sifu Gee became the last of Dr. Wang's four disciples who received full training in Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kuen. Sifu Gee has been teaching since his move to the US in 1975. Traditionally, Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kuen has been taught primarily from father to son and, until instruction of Garrett Gee by Dr. Ming Wang, was never taught outside the family. In order to preserve his art and to honor his Kung Fu lineage, Sifu Gee has decided to pass on his knowledge to students who have a dedicated interest in this Wing Chun style. This is the first time that Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kuen has been taught outside of China.

The Ving Tsun Museum would like to thank Sifu Gee for bravely sharing his family lore with the Wing Chun world so that academic work on the roots of Wing Chun can continue. He has done so with the hope that other Wing Chun families will share their lore as well. Combined, we should be able to give enough information to the scholars of today to piece together the real history of our roots and lay many legends to rest.

For further information about Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kuen, please contact Master Garrett Gee at 140 Los Banos Ave, Daly City, CA 94014, (650) 755-1394 or the Ving Tsun Museum at 5715 Brandt Pk., Dayton, OH 45424, (937) 236-6485.

Benny Meng, a Disciple of Moy Yat from the Yip Man lineage, is the current Ving Tsun Museum Curator. Matthew Kwan is a martial artist based in the San Francisco area. Both are studying Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kuen under Sifu Gee.

The Secret History of Wing Chun: The Truth Revealed
The Secret History of Wing Chun: The Truth Revealed
(also appeared as "Wing Chun Controversy: Is this the truth about Wing Chun's History")

By Benny Meng and Alfredo Delbrocco

"The first casualty when war comes is truth."
-- Hiram Johnson


Preface
Although the world itself has not gotten smaller, life in the Information Technology Age (via the media of email and Internet) has made contact and communication with people around the globe easier. Consequently, it is now harder for information and research to be constrained or concealed, or for only one perspective to be put forward. Most importantly, it means that certain myths will not be perpetuated. Information pointing to the historical origins of Wing Chun kung fu is one of them.

Put simply, the harsh truth is this: the myth of the Buddhist nun, Ng Mui and her disciple Yim Wing Chun, the supposed founders of the Wing Chun system, is just that - a myth. As the internet has brought information more readily to us, it has come to light that the story of Ng Mui and Yim Wing Chun was merely a way to conceal the truth about the system's origins and the identities of the political rebels who truly developed it.

After almost 400 years, mounting evidence is pointing to the truth of Wing Chun's creation and evolution. The question is: is the kung fu world ready for it?

There is no doubt that the information about to be disclosed will ruffle feathers to say the least. This is mainly because many Wing Chun instructors throughout the world are naively, and through no fault of their own, imparting a romanticized, fantastical history of the Wing Chun system. They are telling and retelling a story that is little more than a fairytale.

A view of the traditional legends with an eye on history reads as an even more fascinating point of view. And no less deserving of the term `legendary'...


Secrets in the Shadows of Shaolin

As near as history can testify, Wing Chun was developed around 400 years ago in a time of civil unrest. Between 1644 to 1911, the Manchurians ruled China, where 10% of the population (the Manchus) ruled over 90% of the population (the Hons). To maintain control over the Hons, the Manchus ruled with an iron fist. Aggression and oppression were the cornerstones of the Dynasty and the Hons were banned from using weapons or training in the martial arts. Thus, in order to overthrow their oppressors, rebel activity was instigated by martial arts masters in hiding.

Rebel activity developed rapidly in the Buddhist monasteries, which were largely left alone by the Manchus out of respect for the Buddhist culture and religion. These Shaolin/Siu Lam sanctuaries were ideal places for renegades to conceal themselves - they simply shaved their heads and donned the monastic robes of the disciples of the temple. During the day, the rebels would earn their keep by doing chores around the temple. At night, they would gather to formulate their plans to overthrow the Manchus.

There are some that maintain that Shaolin/Siu Lam sanctuaries possessed no political leanings. They further emphasize that the Buddhist teachings of these monasteries would have prevented their support for rebels and secret societies. Such a position is emotional at best with no grounding in historical fact. Religious leaders throughout history, in both the Western as well as the Eastern world, have influenced politics and government since the beginning of time. Churches have forever harbored political victims sought by authorities believed to be oppressive. In the case China, serious precedent for such behavior on the part of the monasteries had already been set 400 years earlier. As verified by Ving Tsun Museum research, Jyu Yuhn Jeung, the man who led the Chinese revolt against the Mongol and established the Ming Dynasty was himself a Buddhist monk.

Upon meeting, the revolutionaries identified themselves to each other with a secret hand-signal that would come to be the formal greeting or courtesy of Wing Chun. In fact, the traditional greeting or courtesy common to many of today's kung fu styles has two meanings. The first meaning recognizes the style's Shaolin origins - the left hand symbolizing the union of the Green Dragon (the left hand) and the White Tiger (the right hand), the fighting animals of the Shaolin monks.

In the Hung Fa Yi (Red Flower Righteous) Lineage of Wing Chun, however, the hands are reversed: the left hand forms a fist and the right hand is open palm. It still retains its significance to Shaolin but it also refers to the secret society. In this context, the fist represents Yat (the Sun) and the palm represents Yuet (the Moon). Combined, these two characters mean "Bright" which reads and sounds like "Ming." This is the name of the previous Dynasty - the one overthrown by the Manchurians who formed the "Ching" Dynasty in its place. Hence, during the time of rebellion, when a Wing Chun practitioner or secret society member saluted with a fist and open palm pushed toward you, they were saying "Return the Ming, overturn the Ching." Obviously, this was not a sentiment shared by the Manchus.

Late in the 1600's, the Manchurians became concerned about the Siu Lam Temples' rebellious activities and their continual development of the fighting arts. Therefore, they sent spies (many of them Manchu military leaders) to infiltrate the rebels and learn the traditional Southern fist systems as taught secretly in the Temples. The rebel kung-fu masters, realizing this, clandestinely developed a new system that was two-fold in purpose: firstly, it had to be learned quickly and efficiently, and secondly, it had to be devastatingly effective against the existing fighting systems that the Manchus were learning and teaching to their soldiers. Thus, Wing Chun was born.

Their spy rings compromised, the Manchus decided to eliminate the threat of spreading rebel activity by simply exterminating the Siu Lam monks. Eventually, the Southern Siu Lam Temple was burned and destroyed.

Extensive research conducted by the Ving Tsun Museum points to a generation of inheritors following the Southern temple's burning. Among them was a gentleman named Cheung Ng (referred to as Tan Sao Ng in other texts). Of this generation of inheritors, Cheung Ng is one to date that has proven to have historically existed. After establishing the Beautiful Flower Society Association (the precursor to the Red Opera and the public name for the Red Flower Society) and providing Wing Chun training to the secret societies, Cheung Ng went into hiding, disappearing from the public eye to escape Qing Dynasty persecution.

He was hidden by distant relatives, a Fuk Gin business family named Chahn. The Chahn Sih Sai Ga (Chan family) were well established and wealthy. Through indirect action they were willing to help Cheung Ng. Staying with the family for over a decade, Cheung Ng taught the family the art of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun. It was preserved by the family for four generations before it was taught to outsiders. The direct members of the Chahn family were never directly involved with the secret societies themselves, resulting in a low profile in Praise Spring Boxing history. The last generation of the Chahn family to learn the art was a distant nephew, a high level secret society leader, Huhng Gan Biu. In Qing archives as well as historical research into Chinese secret societies, a person by the name of Chahn Biu was recorded as the leader of the Heaven and Earth Society. He was caught and executed by the Qing authorities. Due to similar names appearing in difference sources at around the same timeframe, there is much debate as to whether the Opera's Biu and the Heaven and Earth Society's Biu were the same person. According to members of the Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun clan, Huhng Gan Biu was the 4th generation leader of the Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun clan and his Wing Chun descendants have preserved the system through to the 8th generation Master Garrett Gee and his 9th generation students in today's modern era.

It was at the fourth generation that history and truth parted ways and the myth of Wing Chun's origins was created.

The Myth of Ng Mui and The Truth About Yim Wing Chun To protect the identities of the creators and the perpetuators of the Wing Chun system, a smokescreen was thrown up in the form of a story - the story of Ng Mui and Yim Wing Chun.

The legend was told that among the survivors of the Shaolin/Siu Lam massacres was a Buddhist nun named Ng Mui. Ng Mui was believed to have been the sole custodian of a streamlined, highly practical and effective martial arts developed within the temples. In turn, Ng Mui is said to have passed her knowledge onto her chosen disciple, a young girl named Yim Wing Chun. As Yim Wing Chun taught the system to others, it became known as Wing Chun. The story spread and today many versions of it exist around the world.

However, there are three important considerations to make when regarding the story of Ng Mui. Firstly, outside of the legend, there is no other evidence that Ng Mui - in her capacity as a kung-fu grandmaster or founder of a kung-fu system actually existed - no records, no historical documents - nothing. Secondly, it would have been forbidden for a nun to live in, let alone train within, a celibate monastic environment like the Siu Lam /Shaolin Temples. Thirdly, and perhaps the most important, after escaping from a life and death situation as a revolutionary, it does not make sense that Ng Mui would teach an advanced level fighting system to a local girl with romantic problems and no connection to the revolution. At that time in Chinese history, the Qing dynasty had devised a special form of punishment for traitors and rebels. After being made to confess his or her crimes, the guilty party was executed. Afterwards, Qing officials would hunt down members of the guilty party's family down to nine generations and execute them as traitors as well. Teaching Yim Wing Chun a martial arts would directly put her life at risk.

With regards to the Yim Wing Chun element of the legend, consider once more the relevance of secret rebel societies. `Yim' can be translated to mean `prohibit' or `secret.' The term `Wing Chun' referred to a geographic location - the Siu Lam Wing Chun Tong (Always Spring Hall), where the rebels perhaps practiced martial arts and orchestrated their seditious activities. The use of the term Spring symbolized the rebirth of the Ming Dynasty and Always referred to the reestablished dynasty lasting forever. After the destruction of the Southern Shaolin temple and its Wing Chun Tong, the survivors changed the character of Wing from Always to Praise. The term Praise referred to the fact that the revolutionaries had to spread the word about the revolution after the destruction of their base. Thus, `Yim Wing Chun' was actually a codename, meaning (protect) the secret art of the Wing Chun Hall.

If we now know that the destruction of the Siu Lam/Shaolin Temples occurred but that the story of Ng Mui was a diversion, the question remains: who were the real custodians of the Wing Chun system?


Enter the Hung Suen

We do know that many (not the legendary five) monks and rebel leaders escaped the Manchurian massacres and that, to aid the secrecy of the system, historical material was passed directly from teacher to student. Thus, the elders told of two Siu Lam monks/rebels who survived the temple raids and were able to keep their Wing Chun system alive. One of these was a monk, a 22nd generation Siu Lam Grandmaster, Yat Chum Dai Si from the Northern Shaolin temple. The other was a rebel training under him in the Southern Temple, named Cheung Ng. Fleeing the Manchurian persecutors, Cheung Ng founded the Kihng Fa Wui Gun (Beautiful Flower Society), the roots of the (in)famous Hung Suen (Red Boat) Opera Troupe.

Historically, we know that rebel activity flourished in the Red Boat Opera Troupe. The Red Boats allowed talented stage performers, accomplished in kung-fu and gymnastics, to form their own secret societies to overthrow the Manchu Dynasty. The Troupes provided the ideal sanctuary for fleeing rebels as the performers wore elaborate costumes and stage make-up, providing excellent but natural/plausible disguises for them. Additionally, the performers adopted and were known by their `stage-names', further cloaking their secret identities.

When Cheung Ng founded the Opera Troupe he became known as Tan Sao Ng - not only a stage-name but also a sly nod to his skillful deployment of the Wing Chun deflection/striking technique, Tan Sao.

An important fact to note is that so suspicious of the Manchus and their spies were these secret societies, that the true identities of the leaders, members and real nature of their activities were known only to an inner-circle within the society. Thus, genuine knowledge of kung-fu was passed only from a master to select, trusted disciples, thus protecting the purity and origins of the system.

In conclusion

With the development of many different lineages of Wing Chun over the centuries (over 10 are known to date), Wing Chun could simply be seen as a generic name for a style with so many lineages - no different to `karate' being a generic term to describe the various Japanese arts - varying and similar. However, this article has focussed on shedding light on the origins of Wing Chun. Indeed, to chart the development of the various lineages would require an entire book more complete than anything currently written. A complete historical and political analysis of Wing Chun's origins and development is currently being compiled in book form by the Ving Tsun Museum and should be available through major publication sources within the next twelve months.

A hypothesis that Cheung Ng was indeed the inheritor of the art from Southern Temple and the guiding force behind its employment as a complete combat training system for rebels certainly has more historical weight behind it than the legend of a young girl. It represents a much more plausible explanation of Wing Chun's roots considering the completeness of the art in terms of total combat effectiveness. It also gels with the historical background of the times preceding the Red Boat Opera travels. However, as with all historical study, one hypothesis can give great impetus to further in depth study giving rise to even more revelations. In short, more study grounded in the proper structure and atmosphere of true historical research will get us even closer to reality. Hats off to the Ving Tsun Museum staff and researchers for moving our search into the realm of scientific investigation and giving us another starting point for serious research!

Myths are often created to simplify something or to disguise the true nature of the subject to make it more palatable to the mind. Consequently, sometimes people want to believe the myths despite scientific or historical evidence to the contrary. A fiction can be more comforting than the truth; a fairytale easier to grasp than a treatise. The legend of Ng Mui and Yim Wing Chun is a great story. It just isn't true.

In light of being told one story for centuries, it will be difficult for some to accept the truth in minutes, hours or even months. But studying the martial arts (and Wing Chun in particular) is a continual quest for truth - personal truth, social truth, spiritual truth and - yes - historical truth.


I trust you have enjoyed your enlightenment on the true origins of Wing Chun.

An internationally published author, Sifu Benny Meng is the founder and Curator of the Ving Tsun Museum in Dayton, OH, USA. A practitioner of Wing Chun for over 15 years, Sifu Meng has come into contact with most of the major families in Wing Chun. More information is available on the Ving Tsun Museum at http://www.vtmuseum.org or by mail at 5715 Brandt Pike, Dayton, OH 45424, phone/fax (937) 236-6485.

Sifu Alfredo Del-Brocco has been training in Wing Chun for over 15 years, firstly under the guidance of Grand Master William Cheung, then under Master Rick Spain. Today he teaches around 350 active students in his Brisbane Kwoon. Sifu Alfredo was also the recipient of the 1998 Australasian Blitz Kung Fu Instructor of the Year Award. Sifu Alfredo can be contacted at http://www.wckfo.com.au or by phone / fax : (07) 3229 8694

The VTM preserves history

By Mike Patak

Updated by Benny Meng and Richard Loewenhagen

Ving Tsun Gùng Fuh (wihng cheùn gùng fuh), like most martial arts, has its roots in a family setting with its founders and original practitioners bound together in a close-knit brotherhood. Learning and growth in the martial arts was greatly facilitated by their “homes,” the Tòhngs in which they met and practiced. The tòhng gave teachers and practitioners alike a sense of identity and purpose --something that has greatly diminished with the 20th Century spread of the arts across the planet. Recent Ving Tsun Museum(wihng cheùn miuh sì äm) events have given the Ving Tsun world back its “home” for learning, growth, and a shared identity.

In a very brief window in time, the Ving Tsun Museum has set an incredible pace for Ving Tsun practitioners world-wide with an amazing string of first-ever events:

  • Founded in 1993, the Museum is the first organization in the entire Yip Man Family (yihp mahn gà) to accomplish the lifelong dream of Grand Master Yip Man (yihp mahn daaih sì) of providing a place where Ving Tsun practitioners from all over the world can gather and pay respects to every previous generation of Ving Tsun Masters.
  • The first organization to host all of the top instructors of the Moy Yat International Ving Tsun Federation in a joint hands-on teaching seminar featuring two Grand Masters and nine Masters of Ving Tsun in 1997.
  • The first Martial Arts Preservation facility of its kind in the Western World, with an official Grand Opening Celebration in 1998.
  • Hosted the first Senior Instructor Certification Program (November 1998) held outside of the Ving Tsun Athletic Association (wihng cheùn tái yuhk wúih) in Hong Kong (heung gong). This one was hosted in the United States.
  • The first organization to gather 8 original students of Yip Man together to give technical workshops on Ving Tsun Gùng Fuh in November 1998 and September 1999 respectively.
  • The first organization to introduce the Southern Temple final, fielded version of Ving Tsun to the public with the presentation of the Hung Fa Yi lineage in May of 1999, April and July of 2000
  • The first organization to introduce 4 different lineages of Ving Tsun together in one place at one time (May 1999).
  • The first organization to promote and standardize Ving Tsun into an international competition event.
  • United States Representative to the First World Ving Tsun Conference in Hong Kong and China (jùng gwok) in November of 1999.

To understand the full significance of these events, we must first summarize the roots of the Museum itself.

Today's Ving Tsun could not be possible without the studies and dedication put forth by the Grand Masters of today, their Sì Fuh's and their Sì Fuh's before them. The idea of the Ving Tsun Museum was originated by perhaps the most famous of all these ancestors; Yip Guy Man (yihp gai mahn).

Yip Man was born in Faht Sàan , China into a wealthy family. In his youth he studied Ving Tsun Gùng Fuh (wihng cheùn gùng fuh) from a gentleman who rented a space from the Yip family. This gentleman was Chahn Wàh Seuhn. Later on, when Yip Man was sent to attend high school in Hong Kong, he displayed his skills learned from Chahn Wàh Seuhn by coming to the aid of a Chinese gentleman who was being beaten for no apparent reason. Yip Man's classmate witnessed this and relayed the event to another Ving Tsun teacher named Lèuhng Bïk. Lèuhng Bïk then arranged to see Yip Man and later became his second teacher. Yip Man spent several years in Hong Kong studying with Lèuhng Bïk and greatly increased his skill. He returned to Faht Sàan after finishing school and remained there until the Communist takeover of China in 1949. At that time he was forced to flee back to Hong Kong as he had worked in the police force of the Nationalist government and would certainly have been killed had he stayed.

Upon returning to Hong Kong permanently, Yip Man began teaching select students the Ving Tsun style and his name quickly spread. Yip Man was a humble teacher of traditional values who's goals were not of fame or fortune. However, as his abilities became known, it was clear that he held profound knowledge of the Ving Tsun system and was a very capable teacher. It was only a matter of time before he had produced many famous students including Bruce Lee and the recognition of Ving Tsun Gùng Fuh became widespread, reaching around the world.

One dream that Yip Man had and was not able to realize was that of a place where Ving Tsun players and students could call home. This was to be a place for fellowship, a place to learn from, and a place to show respect for those who had come before. This idea was initially conceived in 1968 when Yip Man expressed his desire to establish a Ving Tsun Tòhng wihng cheùn tòhng. However, due to the staggering cost of real estate in Hong Kong and the taxation levied, there was simply no way at that time of dedicating a place for the Ving Tsun Temple. So, instead of the temple, the Ving Tsun Athletic Association was born and still functions today in Hong Kong.

One of Yip Man's students never let his Sì Fuh's vision die. Moy Yat (mùih yaht) was very close to Yip Man and spent countless hours discussing and acting upon his Sì Fuh's ideals and dreams, thus achieving fame in his own right; a recognized Grandmaster in all areas of the world. Moy Yat taught in Hong Kong for many years and he moved to New York in 1973 following his Sì Fuh's death. He has produced many skillful and famous students. Not only has Moy Yat become famous as a Grandmaster of Ving Tsun but also as an artist, known worldwide for his paintings, stone carvings, writing, and other works of art.

Moy Yat, like his teacher, has traditional roots. It could be said that he's proud and sentimental about his Ving Tsun history. He has continued to strive to assure his Sì Fuh's dream of establishing a Ving Tsun Tong by carefully searching for the proper time and place to make it a reality. Grand Master Moy Yat kept Yip Man's dream alive for over 30 years. During a trip to Dayton, Ohio in October, 1993, he began discussions with his Disciple, Benny Meng (maahng hing fùng), about the creation of the museum. After many meetings with Master Meng, his Sì Hìng Daih (gùng fuh brothers), Yip Man's sons, and the Ving Tsun Athletic Association, Dayton was accepted as the site and Yip Man's dream became reality.

In 1994, the Ving Tsun Museum Planning Committee was formed and began the planning of the Museum. Three Grand Masters of Ving Tsun; Yip Chun (yihp jéun), Yip Ching (yihp jing), and Moy Yat as well as Masters Pete Pajil, Miguel Hernandez, and Benny Meng attended the groundbreaking ceremonies on July 26, 1995. This was the first time all three Grand Masters were together in the United States.

In November of 1995 construction of the Museum began at was completed by June of 1996. The Museum held its First Annual International Workshop from May 2nd to 4th, 1997, conducted by two Grand Masters: Yip Ching and Moy Yat, nine Masters: Jeffrey Chan, Sunny Tang (Dunn Wah), Henry Moy, Mickey Chan, Pete Pajil, William Moy, Miguel Hernandez, Benny Meng, and Leo Imamura, and attended by 150 Ving Tsun enthusiasts from various parts of the world. Since that time, major strides have taken place including much historical information being gathered, the transcription of tapes, the book--The Voice of the Ving Tsun System--being published, the collection of more Ving Tsun artifacts, and the physical completion of the building that will house the museum.

When the elder martial arts brothers of the late Bruce Lee decided to introduce the Ving Tsun Museum in Dayton, Ohio to martial artists from all over the western hemisphere, they agreed to a series of historic events planned by Master Benny Meng, the museum's Curator, culminating in the Grand Opening of the museum itself. Each event represented a "first of its kind" achievement in the history of Ving Tsun Gùng Fuh.

The history-making began with a seminar in the western United States on October 23rd to 25th 1998, that covered four Grand Master's accumulated knowledge and Gùng Fuh wisdom. Sì Fuh Richard Loewenhagen of Chandler, Arizona, the Director of West Coast Affairs for the Museum, and the students of Meng's Martial Arts of Arizona, hosted the event in high style. This historic event brought masters, teachers and students to the Phoenix area from as far away as Sao Paulo, Brazil and Vancouver, Canada.

Grand Masters Chu Shong Tin (chèuih seuhng tìhn), Moy Yat, Yip Ching, and Yip Chun, all senior students of the late Yip Man, came together for the first time in 30 years, along with Ving Tsun Museum Curator, Master Benny Meng, to initiate a series of events commemorating the Grand Opening of the Ving Tsun Museum in Dayton, Ohio. The West Coast Seminar in the Phoenix area was the first such event. It began with a gala banquet at the historic Landmark Restaurant in Mesa, AZ and proceeded with intensive seminar sessions at the Mesa Sheraton Hotel's Rendezvous Center. Following the daytime seminar sessions, the Grandmasters selflessly shared their evening hours with the students in Gùng Fuh Life activities at many of the area's restaurants and showplaces.

The second major grand opening event involved five days of closed door training and senior instructor certification from China's Ving Tsun Athletic Association for select Masters and Sì Fuh . This event was held at the Ving Tsun Museum itself from October 26th to 30th 1998, and represented the first time in history that seven Grand Masters of Ving Tsun Gùng Fuh came together to witness and certify advanced instructors. The historical significance of this event is even more striking in light of the fact that the Ving Tsun Athletic Association is the only certifying body recognized by the Government of China for Ving Tsun Gùng Fuh, and this was the first time its most advanced level of teaching certification was granted outside of Chinese borders.

The final museum grand opening event consisted of the ribbon cutting on October 31st, 1998, followed by an induction ceremony for the museum's Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio. The first two inductees were late Grand Master Yip Man and Grand Master Moy Yat. The grand opening concluded with yet another intensive two day event, the Second Annual International Ving Tsun Museum Seminar, this time taught jointly by all seven Grand Masters: Chu Shong Tin, Mak Po (mahk póu), Moy Yat, Yip Chun, Yip Ching, Hawkins Cheung (jéung hohk gin), and Moy Bing Wah (mùih bíng wàh). Over 110 teachers and practitioners representing the families of Moy Yat, Yip Ching, Yip Chun, Chu Shong Tin, Hawkins Cheung, Ho Kam Ming (hòh gàm mìhng), Leung Sheung (lèuhng sèung), Wong Kiu (wòhng kìuh), William Cheung (jéung cheuk hing), and Duncan Leung (lèuhng siuh hùhng)were all represented. They came from Brazil, Canada, China, England, Mexico, and the United States to participate in this workshop.

Major martial arts magazine and newspaper editors, along with martial artists world-wide attended these gala events to witness the realization of Yip Man's lifetime dream - the creation of a center where all Ving Tsun Gùng Fuh practitioners, regardless of lineage, could preserve their heritage and exchange knowledge and Gùng Fuh wisdom free from political constraints.

Currently, the museum consists of 4,500 square feet of floor space with 2,000 square feet allocated to training, 1300 square feet of exhibits, and 1,200 square feet dedicated to administration, lobby, and locker rooms. Another 2,000 square foot expansion is planned for the 2,000. It will include outdoor training facilities that encompass Chï Sáu platforms, a Geuk Jòng (kick dummy), and other training apparatus.

As you enter the museum's hall, you will find a list of those who have sponsored it to date. To the right is a collection of over 200 Ving Tsun books and more than 300 videos from the various Ving Tsun families and styles practiced all over the world. Past this you'll see a timeline of the history of Ving Tsun with all of the most up to date information about all known Ving Tsun generations. In the right corner of the museum are the various apparatus and tools used to teach Ving Tsun over the centuries, including one of the few and last Deih Jòng (ground dummy) made by Grand Master Koo Sang (gú sáng). Turning to the left brings you to the display area dedicated to Yip Man. It includes numerous historic photos and a few of his personal artifacts. These articles are extremely rare and irreplaceable as Chinese tradition requires that personal possessions be burned upon one's death in the hope that they will follow him to the life hereafter. The museum possesses the largest collection of personal artifacts and pictures of Yip Man outside of his family in Hong Kong.

As you continue, is a large stone tablet on the last 50 years in Ving Tsun containing information on the development of Ving Tsun and its organizations of today. Next, in the center of the hall are displayed the priceless Ving Tsun Kuen Kuit Chops, made and donated to the museum by Grand Master Moy Yat. Lastly you will see a family tree of the Ving Tsun lineage from all the major styles. Throughout the rest of the museum's building are numerous pictures and other items displayed along with a retail section to purchase memorabilia to take home with you to remember the trip to Ving Tsun's archives.

As the museum project evolved, so did the committee guiding it. While a core group has remained, others have left and been replaced with new members to carry on to completion this very important and historic project. Moy Yat is the Honorary Chairman. The Ving Tsun Athletic Association has given its full support, along with Yip Man's two sons, Yip Chun and Yip Ching. They remain as Honorary Technical Advisors to the committee. Master Benny Meng remains as Chairman and Curator, with his wife, Sunmi, now filling the role of Treasurer. Other positions have been created and filled to form the existing working committee: Richard Loewenhagen is the West Coast Affairs Director, and Leo Imamura is the South American Affairs Director. The committee is rounded out with Mike Mathews as Certification Director, Jeremy Roadruck as Events Coordinator, Danny Wells as Webmaster, and Rick Howard as the museum's Project Director.

The Ving Tsun Museum is sure to be a part of Gùng Fuh history for many decades and generations to come. As support from the many families of Ving Tsun grows, so will the museum. Over the last five years Master Benny Meng has traveled to numerous tournaments, seminars, associations, schools, and private homes all over the world to gather historic information and artifacts, while promoting the museum and its ideas and goals of unity amongst all styles and families of this system. Over $500,000 has already been spent making this dream a reality. It is a place for all of the truly great masters of this art to be remembered and honored. It is a place for a living art form to continue to evolve. Anyone interested in finding out how to make a financial contribution, become a member, or donate an artifact or research about their family's history can simply call the museum at (937) 236-6485 or write to: The Ving Tsun Museum, 5715 Brandt Pike, Dayton, Oh, 45424. The museum's web page address is www.vtmuseum.org.

Originally, the museum was to be called the Ving Tsun Tòhng. However, the committee and the Ving Tsun Athletic Association were concerned that there would be some confusion as the VTAA building is already called that. Therefore, a new name had to be found. Late one night Moy Yat, Yip Ching, and Benny Meng were examining appropriate names. Both organizations make use of the letters "V" and "T" for Ving Tsun. These were the letters used when the Chinese characters were translated and written into English for the first time. Being sentimental and traditional, the museum would make use of that original spelling. Moy Yat began to compare the word "museum" with the phonetic counterparts from the Chinese language, miuh, sì, äm. He noted an interesting relationship. In Chinese, "miuh" means skillful, "sì" means nun, and "äm" means hall. Together the words mean "Hall of the skillful nun". This was perfect as a suitable name for the Ving Tsun Museum. So, when you visit the museum, you can pronounce it in English or Chinese. Either way, welcome home!

Moy Yat - The Art of the Tradition

by Benny Meng and Richard Loewenhagen

Throughout history, true martial artists were akin to military generals. They amassed legions of followers and developed the leadership traits necessary to minister the growth and development needs of their practitioners. In essence, they needed to be scholars, teachers, warriors, healers, and artists. This is the picture history has painted of the "traditional" martial artist. Grand Master Moy Yat is one of the traditional martial artists alive today worthy of depiction on that same historical canvas. In the world of Ving Tsun Kung Fu he has amassed thousands of students and grand students whose skills attest daily to his leadership as a scholar, a teacher, a warrior, a healer, and an artist.


Moy Yat the Scholar

Moy Yat is widely recognized as one of the most knowledgeable men alive on the nature of Ving Tsun and the scientific system of instruction that surrounds it. Moy Yat’s dream as a young man was to become a teacher of Ving Tsun. The lessons of history on generalship were not lost to him. He recognized that scholarly study into the nature of man and the cultures surrounding him represented essential tools for an exercise in leadership. He carried this same wisdom into his study of Ving Tsun Kung Fu. He surrounded himself with in-depth study of the principles and concepts of Ving Tsun. He then spent forty years examining the nature of every technique and training method of the system in relation to those same principles and concepts. Few alive today understand those relationships as deeply as Moy Yat.

Yip Man recognized young Moy Yat’s vent for scholarship and commissioned him to carve the tenets and history of the artform in stone for universal preservation. Instead of jumping right into the stone carving, Moy Yat recognized the historic significance of the task given him. He began by expending five years researching fifty-one centuries of chop making. He examined styles and stones alike. The masterpiece he ultimately created gave a new dimension to universality by incorporating the progress of chop-making over the centuries in the priceless "Ving Tsun Chops."


The Scholar at work

Today, as a "General" of the Ving Tsun artform, Moy Yat the Scholar travels the world giving seminars centered around question and answer sessions designed to trigger scholarly endeavors in all participants. His students and grand students have authored books, video tapes, seminars, historical treatises, and technical magazine articles far too numerous to list in this brief essay.



Moy Yat the Teacher

Many have purported that the best measure of a teacher is in the degree of leadership shown by his students. Against such a yardstick, Moy Yat qualifies as a teacher with few equals. The majority of his students have become leaders in whatever course they have chosen in their lives. In fact, throughout his years of teaching, Moy Yat has always avidly asserted that a real Ving Tsun practitioner will live the artform, thereby succeeding in all that he pursues. A quick look at the martial arts leadership shown by his more famous students bears this out.

Master Jeffrey Chan, current Dai Sihing and renowned fighter of the Moy Yat family, is also the Chairman of the International Moy Yat Ving Tsun Federation. Samuel Lau, a senior student from Moy Yat’s Hong Kong School, is the current Chairman of the Yip Man Athletic Association in Hong Kong. Master Sunny Tang is the founder of the Chinese Kuo Shu Federation and currently President of the United Wushu Federation of Canada. Master Henry Moy has trained many of the top Sifus in New York City’s prestigious Chinatown. Master Mickey Chan is the American Dai Sihing of the Moy Yat family. Renowned for both his skill and knowledge, he has spent over 20 years assisting the growth and development of his younger martial arts brothers and sisters. Master Pete Pajil is recognized as the most knowledgeable herbal healer in the Moy Yat family. Master William Moy runs the Moy Yat Family headquarters in New York City and is Chairman of the Moy Yat Special Student Association. Master Miguel Hernandez, a renowned teacher and Ving Tsun author, specializes in training world class fighters. Master Javier Ramirez, a recognized television producer and broadcaster, heads the Mexican Branch of the International Moy Yat Ving Tsun Federation. Master Benny Meng, also a renowned fighter, teacher, and author, founded the Ving Tsun Museum and serves as its Chairman. As a central figure in preserving the artform for all time, he has traveled throughout Hong Kong, China, and the Western Hemisphere with Grand Master Moy Yat to research and document the history of Ving Tsun for future generations. Master Leo Imamura is President of the Sao Paulo State Kung Fu Federation in Brazil, and a full Professor of Martial Arts at Santo Andre Physical Education College. He, too, has authored several definitive books on Ving Tsun.

Together, the above leaders have trained tens of thousands of Ving Tsun students and grand students, while devoting the time and energy necessary to hold positions of international leadership as well. Their academic endeavors continue to produce scholarly treatises, books, instructional tapes, documentaries, and seminars that open the artform to practitioners around the world. Their accomplishments, along with those of thousands of business and professional leaders of the Moy Yat family, are the real measure of Moy Yat as a teacher.

*** Moy Yat the Warrior

There is a saying in the Moy Yat family that best describes the prevailing attitude toward warriorship: "Let the hands do the talking." If this becomes our measure of fighting skill, then the Moy Yat family is indeed blessed with great orators. Many Moy Yat practitioners have become renowned fighters. Jeffrey Chan, Moy Yat’s senior student, fought the last two legal Gong Sao (challenge matches-no holds barred) permitted in the martial arts community. In 1967 he represented the Yip Man family and the Ving Tsun style in a formal Gong Sao with a Pak Mei (White Eyebrow) master at Prince Edward Road in Kowloon and won handily. He repeated that success in another Gong Sao in 1969 with a Northern Shaolin master in Yuen Long, the New Territories of Hong Kong.

Another Moy Yat student, John Chen (Moy Four) proved his fighting skills to the well-known and renowned fighter and teacher, Master Dan Inosanto. While on business in California, John Chen quietly visited Master Inosanto’s school and introduced himself simply as "John Chen." He was immediately recognized by Master Inosanto as a famous fighter over the course of several days against various other fighting styles. With Moy Yat’s concurrence, John faced several different challengers chosen by Master Inosanto. At the conclusion of these tests, Master Inosanto was so impressed that he invited Moy Yat and ten of his senior students to spend several weeks with his, at his expense, in Los Angeles. Despite his own personal fame as a fighter and teacher, he refers to Moy Yat as "Sifu."

Today’s Moy Yat family practitioners (too numerous to name here) continue to capture distinctive honors in worked class tournaments throughout the Western Hemisphere. They literally dominated the Ving Tsun style in the 1998 Pan Am Wushu Competitions. Master Sunny Tang’s students and grand students have dozens of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place trophies in the Canadian Wushu Championships and earned the majority of trophies taken in the 1998 Pan Am Wushu Competitions. A student of master William Moy won 1st place in the heavy weight division for full-contact sparring at the 1998 Pan Am Wushu Competitions. Master Benny Meng, himself a competition champion, has also trained students that have captured dozens of national and international martial honors, including six additional 1998 Pan Am trophies (three of them 1st place honors). Master Miguel Hernandez specializes in training professional fighters and has trained national Kuoshu champions. Master Leo Imamura has trained champions who grew up in the ever-competitive Brazilian martial arts community.

While Grand Master Moy Yat strongly emphasizes that true martial artists are able to defend the meek without resorting to physical skills, the above tournament successes clearly demonstrate that the hands in his family can really do the talking.

*** Moy Yat the Healer

In conjunction with learning and teaching the art of warfare, martial artists have traditionally expanded their horizons (and lengthened their lives) by mastering various healing disciplines. Moy Yat has spent years developing skill and knowledge in the field of pressure point massage. These years of study and practice are readily apparent in a simple touch from the Grand Master. Today, many of New York City's top massage therapists acknowledge learning their trade from Moy Yat.


Moy Yat the Artist

All of history’s great generals recognized the need to understand the people surrounding them and the need to communicate complex ideas and concepts in a manner that would not perish with time. Many were great philosophers and artists. Moy Yat springs from the same mold. He is a distinguished artist in virtually every medium known to man. His artwork consists of oils, watercolors, charcoals, woods, stone sculptures, plastics, and glass. They have been exhibited in the finest museums and galleries of England, Hong Kong, Australia, Canada, Brazil, and the United States. A number of pieces are permanently on display at the Ving Tsun Museum in Dayton, Ohio.

Moy Yat is recognized as one of the foremost seal-makers in the world, and has been a consultant to both the Academy of Chinese Arts and the Museum of Natural History in New York City. His most famous works include the BLUSH STROKES, ingenious, simplistic abstractions, both fluid and subtle, that spawned an entire new way of artistic expression. A master with the brush, he is still making a profound impact on contemporary American art.

Moy Yat has spent most of his life living and teaching Ving Tsun Kung Fu. He has passed on his knowledge over the years employing his many talents not only as a Ving Tsun artist but also as an artist in general. Many of his most famous works of art have been given to or sold at materials cost alone to members of his Ving Tsun family as his means of communication the more complex aspects of Kung Fu life to them and their future students. His most priceless Ving Tsun art pieces can be found in the Ving Tsun Museum. That museum itself is a work of art he pursued for over 40 years. This may be the greatest testament to his life as a traditional martial artist. But then, such wisdom should be expected of a scholar, teacher, warrior, healer, and artist!

Unraveling the history of Wing Chun's Butterfly Swords

By Benny Meng and Richard Loewenhagen

Wing Chun Kung Fu has become one of the most widely practiced martial arts of the 20th century, yet its history remained aloof and shrouded amidst myths until a courageous and unselfish teacher recently stepped forward and shared serious historical knowledge with the Ving Tsun Museum and, ultimately, the Wing Chun world. Since 1993, the Ving Tsun Museum in Dayton, Ohio has aggressively pursued leads around the globe in an all-out effort to help the Wing Chun community identify its true roots and origins. Recent publications and press releases from the Museum have revealed one of the most promising links to date to the actual origins of the art -- Master Garret Gee and other members of the Hung Gun Bui family practicing Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kuen.

Fabled stories of a woman named Yim Ving Tsun exist in virtually every Wing Chun family. Books and even movies have popularized the myth that the art originated with her defeat of a local bully in Fatshan, China. In truth, Wing Chun’s history is much more complex and far reaching than this simple myth can convey. This article will reveal the developmental history of Wing Chun's unique swords as taught by one of its original founders, Cheung Ng (Tan Sao Ng), and remove some of the myths that have previously pervaded any study of their origin. In Wing Chun, learning the Butterfly Swords is considered to be a highly advanced stage of learning that represents completing the system. In many cases, only a few students are ever taught the sword level of Wing Chun because it requires advanced comprehension of the nature of the art itself and how the sword is woven into every aspect of the system. Consequently, knowledge of the sword is considered very sacred and oftentimes protected secretively.

Although there are those who perform and practice the Wing Chun Swords today, very few people are familiar with the history and background of their origination. Before examining these origins, it is essential to validate the background and credentials of our information source -- Master Garret Gee (Chu King-Hun). Master Gee comes from a family line renowned for intellectual leadership, statesmanship, and excellence in martial arts and military matters. One prominent ancestor was Zhu Xi, a political leader and teacher in the Song Dynasty. Zhu Xi is credited as being one of the key figures in the revival of Confucianism through the establishment of academic institutions, active correspondence with fellow scholars, publication of over 90 books, and extensive instruction of personal disciples. An imperial decree issued decades after his death designated several of his published commentaries as required reading for all government students. During the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Xi was officially elevated to the stature of Confucius and his birth was celebrated twice yearly.

In more recent history, Master Gee’s grandfather, Chu Jun-Bak, achieved prominence as a military leader and master instructor at the prestigious Wong Bo Military Academy. The Wong Bo Academy is the foremost military school in China with a reputation and distinction that makes it China’s equivalent to the West Point Military Academy in the United States. China’s greatest generals have traditionally been schooled at Wong Bo Academy.

Master Gee, himself, displayed significant martial arts talent at a very early age. He began training under the tutelage of his father at the age of 5. He quickly demonstrated a profound affinity and talent for swordsmanship, as well as other Kung Fu weapons. By the time he was 13 years old he so impressed Dr. Wang Ming (one of the descendents of Cheung Ng and a teacher of Wing Chun from the Hung Fa Yi Secret Society) that he became the last of Dr. Ming’s four disciples.

The evolution of the Wing Chun Butterfly Sword we use today progressed through three primary stages of development. The first stage was its creation as a defensive, non-killing weapon created by the Shaolin monks.

Originally, the butterfly sword was very different from the Wing Chun sword we see today. The butterfly sword was designed to meet the training and defense needs of Shaolin monks. In harmony with Buddhist philosophy and teachings, the monks designed the weapon for parrying, disarming, and cutting -- not for killing. Consequently, the blade was structured with dull edges on top and bottom to be used for interception of an opponent’s weapons. As indicated in the attached drawing, only the first 3 inches (the curved part) of the blade were sharpened. The remainder of the blade, top and bottom, was solid and dull for parrying and non-lethal striking purposes. The monks created the dull blade on the butterfly sword not only because it was a weapon of self-defense, but also because the dull blade added thickness for extra support to the structure of the sword. Having a sharpened blade on the butterfly sword was useful for chopping but because of the thin edge of the sword, the blade could easily be damaged or broken when defending against a longer, heavier weapon in combat. For this reason, the Shaolin monks preferred the sturdier blade. Today's Wing Chun sword techniques still emphasize parrying, obstructing, or intercepting an opponent's weapon. These remain highly consistent with the original design and intent of the blade itself.

In the Shaolin Temple, the butterfly sword was not mass-produced to a specific length. Rather, the length of each butterfly sword was customized to the practitioner. Specifically, the blade measured from the practitioner’s wrist to his or her elbow. The monks heavily stressed the need to tailor the butterfly sword to its intended practitioner. An unfitted blade, used as intended, could easily harm the user and limit the mobility of his arms and body. In contrast, the width of the blade did not vary. It remained 3 inches from top to bottom starting at the hilt and extending to the start of the blade curvature near the tip. The 3-inch width was selected because it approximates the width of a developed male wrist. The thickness of the blade varied, dependent upon the sword maker, but was usually about 1/8th of an inch throughout. The handle of the sword sported a guard in the shape of a hook with an open end. The monks used this guard to trap an opponent’s weapon and quickly disarm them. Again, this was consistent with Buddhist philosophy -- disarm an enemy rather than kill him. All in all, the Shaolin Butterfly Sword was considered a small weapon in contrast to its counterparts. This was intentional as the monks wished to conceal the sword beneath their robes while traveling. They could move about in public without being questioned or creating an improper image in respect to their Buddhist teachings. As noted above, the original Shaolin usage of the blades was deeply rooted in Buddhist beliefs. Killing was not an option. Both the blade and the training methods for using it centered around parrying, disarming, and cutting. It was considered far more humane to surgically cut tendons at the joints, thereby maiming an opponent rather than killing him.

The change in shape and intended function of the swords was a direct result of the creation of the Wing Chun fighting system with the specific intent of training revolutionaries to engage the imperial troops of the Ching Dynasty. According to Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kuen, the Double Butterfly Swords form seen in Shaolin Kung Fu was first created by the Fut Pai Hung Mun (Buddhist Hung Mun). The Fut Pai Hung Mun was a secret society existing within the Southern Shaolin Temple itself. This society’s primary goal was to oppose the Ching Dynasty that arose from the Manchurian conquest of China in the 17th century, and to restore the Ming family to the throne. They needed an art that was efficient to train and employ. They needed an art that was complete in that it consistently developed empty hand skills along with both long and short, as well as single to double, weaponry.

Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun tradition further instructs that two Shaolin Wing Chun masters survived the Manchurian massacre at the Southern Shaolin Temple. They are credited with keeping the Wing Chun system alive. The senior of the two masters was Yat Chum Dai Si, a 22nd generation Shaolin Grand Master. The second was Cheung Ng (Tan Sao Ng). Very little information remains today of the ensuing history of Yat Chum Dai Si. Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun tradition holds that he was originally trained in and belonged to the Northern Shaolin Temple at Shong Shon. He later moved to the Southern Temple as part of the joint effort to secretly develop the Wing Chun style of fighting during the effort to train rebels for restoring the Ming Dynasty to power. It was there that he met Cheung Ng.

Cheung Ng was reported to be a highly educated man with an extensive background in both literary and military skills. He often performed in dramatic opera. It is believed that he was originally a native of Hanbuck and that his family had served the Ming regime for generations as military tacticians and warriors. The Manchurians destroyed his family and Cheung Ng fled to the Northern Shaolin Temple seeking refuge. He was accepted as a Shaolin disciple and trained at the temple. It was there that he learned of Yat Chum Dai Si’s activities at the Southern Temple and the gatherings in a place called Hung Fa Ting where training and planning for the restoration of the Ming Dynasty took place. He then left the Northern Temple to join the rebels in the Southern Temple. Under Yat Chum Dai Si he began his studies of the art that was to become Wing Chun.

Following the destruction of the Southern Shaolin Temple in the mid-seventeenth century, Cheung Ng is believed to have fled to Guangdong Province. The city of Fatshan is widely accredited with being the birthplace of Wing Chun. Historically, it is important to note that Fatshan is in Guangdong Province. It is also historically interesting to note that Fatshan is also credited to be the birthplace of the Red Boat Opera Company. Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun tradition holds that Cheung Ng formed the Red Boat Opera Company as a means of disguising rebel activity and supporting his teaching of Wing Chun Kung Fu to rebel leaders. The Red Boat Company was noted for its discipline and rules of conduct. With its talented performers and tight discipline, coupled with the logistic advantages of traveling up and down China’s rivers at will, it is logical to assert that the Red Boat Opera Company was capable of promoting covert training and instruction of rebel warriors throughout Southern China in the art of Wing Chun.

These historical events lead us to the second stage of evolution of the traditional Shaolin butterfly sword into today’s Bot Jom Doa. This stage was greatly influenced by the fighting needs of the Secret Society of Hung Fa Wui (the Red Flower Society) and the Hung Gun Bui family. With the passing of time, revolutionary fighting against the Manchurians and the Ching Dynasty increased in intensity and the blade began its transition from a defensive oriented parrying weapon to an offensive weapon designed to kill. To make the blade more suitable to warfare, the revolutionary secret society members of the Hung Fa Wui sought to make it more lethal.

According to Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kuen tradition, Cheung Ng, himself, modified the traditional butterfly sword to create a practical battlefield weapon. Although the changes he made initially were subtle, when combined with the latest, foremost fighting system of Wing Chun as the foundation, the results were very lethal. This new version of the butterfly sword represented a new stage of development for the weapon and its use, but the knowledge of the modifications and training to use them were never disclosed by Grand Master Tan Sao Ng or the Secret Society to the general public. The modified swords were known to the Secret Society as the Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Double Butterfly Swords.

The Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Swords were very similar to the traditional version. Most of the top and bottom of the blade remained straight. But, the design was altered at the tip to accommodate thrusting and stabbing motions. To this end, they trimmed the front of the blade, adding a curvature and sharpened point that gave the sword the appearance of a large dagger. The notched area was then sharpened and blood grooves were added to the sides of the blade. This enabled blood to drain more easily when the point of the sword pierced the stomach or other organs.

Although the Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Swords are not generally known to the public, the Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kuen still practice with them according to the original form and routines taught by Grand Master Tan Sao Ng. Their intent is to preserve the knowledge of the swords’ use and the methods employed by the revolutionaries to train them.

With centuries of interaction among the different styles of Southern China, the Wing Chun Sword continued to evolve. The third phase of evolution of the Shaolin Butterfly Swords into the Wing Chun Sword and Bot Jom Doa training form we know today took place in the 19th century. This modern version of the Butterfly Sword has many variations in shape, but the biggest difference is that all have sharpened the entire length of the blade. Another type of blade also evolved during this modern period. It is called the Tiger's Head Blade. It shares the same characteristic of sharpness throughout its entire length, but it also incorporates a significant curvature or bow toward the front half of the blade.

In summary, there are three primary eras of development of the Butterfly Swords. Out of these eras have come four distinct types of blades heavily influenced by applications relevant to that period. The first blade originated from Shaolin. It consisted of a 3-inch wide blade with only the first 3 inches of the blade sharpened. The next blade originated with the Secret Societies. It consisted of the same 3 inch wide blade with a modified tip to make it more lethal when used for stabbing. The third blade originated in the modern era and is distinguished by sharpening the entire blade. The final blade is the Tiger's Blade with its bowed front.

Oftentimes, advanced practitioners will focus on weapons training by examining technical details of current uses and applications. In contrast, an approach that focuses on the evolution of a weapon can give the practitioner a whole new perspective on use and application. Such is the case with the Wing Chun Butterfly Swords.

A Note About the Authors: Sifu Benny Meng is the principle founder and Curator of the Ving Tsun Museum. He has traveled extensively throughout the world researching the roots of the art and studying the training methods and applications employed in virtually every lineage of Wing Chun Kung Fu. Sifu Meng has been certified through Senior Instructor's level by the Ving Tsun Athletic Association. Likewise, he is a full time teacher of Wing Chun Kung Fu and is available for professional seminars on historical, as well as technical, aspects of the art and its training methods. Sifu Meng can be reached at the Ving Tsun Museum, 5715 Brandt Pike, Dayton, Oh, 45424, phone/fax (937) 236-6485 and emailed at BennyMeng@vtmuseum.org. For further information about Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kuen, please contact Master Garrett Gee at 140 Los Banos Ave, Daly City, CA 94014, (650) 755-1394 or the Ving Tsun Museum.

The Truth about Wing Chun's Past

BY
Benny Meng and Richard Loewenhagen

Anthropologists have long taught that myths and legends die hard, if ever. This is certainly the case with the fables and stories surrounding the r8ots of Wing Chun (often spelled "Ving Tsun") Kung Fu. For many years now martial arts families and writers have perpetuated the myth that five monks survived the burning of the Northern Shaolin Temple at Shong Shan Mountain in the Hunan Province of China, and that one or more of these monks created the Wing Chun artform. In truth, Wing Chun is a Southern Shaolin art in virtually every respect of structure and movement. It was the burning of the Southern Shaolin Temple, in the Province of Fukien, that released Wing Chun to the revolutionary hotbed surrounding the Ching Dynasty. More than 20 monks actually survived that disaster and helped promote the growth of three key fighting styles amongst revolutionary societies. Those styles were Crane, Hungar, and Wing Chun.

To complicate matters even further, the proponents of the Northern Shaolin Temple / Five Monk Theory also hold that one of the "monks" was actually a woman named Ng Mui. They believe she designed and developed the art of Wing Chun and later taught it to another woman, named Yim Wing Chun, after whom the art was eventually named. Aside from the fact that Buddhist monasteries were not in the habit of training females along with males in a celibate monastic environment, least of all the very traditional Northern Shaolin Temple at Shong Shan, evidence now reflects that Yim Wing Chun never existed.

Recent findings uncovered by historians and martial arts teachers feeding continuous streams of information and documentation to the Ving Tsun Museum in Dayton, Ohio -- and verified through extensive travel by the Museum Curator and staff to substantiate sources and documentation -- reveal that Ng Mui played no role in the creation or development of Wing Chun Kung Fu, if she ever existed at all. This fact is verified through cross-referencing information from the history of the Cantonese Opera, Chinese secret societies, various Wing Chun lineages, and, ultimately, recorded Chinese history. These findings further reveal that Yim Wing Chun was a mythical character carefully constructed by the art's true founders to keep both its origins and its teachers secreted from Ching Dynasty authorities. "Wing Chun" itself means "Everlasting Spring" symbolizes its founders' focus on the "rebirth" of the Ming Dynasty. During the early 18th century when the Southern Shaolin Temple was destroyed, a suffix was added to the Chinese character "Wing" to change its meaning "to praise." This was a reminder to the art's practitioners to spread the word continuously about a rebirth of the Ming Dynasty.

The Chinese verb "Yim" means "to be discrete or secret." By adding the two words together in the mythical founder's name, the true founders were instructing followers to remain discrete about the art's origins and practitioners, but to continue to speak out about the return of the Ming family to the throne.

The burning of the Southern Shaolin Temple represents a significant turning point in martial arts history. For the first time in over 1,000 years, the monks moved the teaching and spread of their kung fu outside of the temple walls.

In essence, Wing Chun Kung Fu is the culmination of a military development effort (of both the Northern and Southern Shaolin Temples) funded by Ming Dynasty family members and sympathizers. The project's intention was to employ the monk's extensive knowledge of human physiology and animal fighting postures in the development of a fighting style centered around natural human motion. In addition, the style had to lend itself to training revolutionaries in minimal time without 10 years of acrobatic discipline. Finally, the style needed to be accompanied by highly scientific training methods grounded in a system that could be replicated to guarantee production of top notch fighters in far less time than it took to train Imperial fighters in the Ching army.

Some might question the contention that religious monks would engage in such a military development effort. In point of fact, military endeavors were not new to the Shaolin monks. They were fiercely loyal to the Ming Dynasty. Royal family money greatly enhanced the Shaolin monasteries' growth and influence throughout their respective provinces. In support of the Ming Dynasty, a powerful fighting force of Shaolin monks was organized and employed on numerous occasions to border regions in an attempt to hold back Manchurian incursions. It is not a stretch of the imagination that the monks would develop styles and training methods tailored to aiding Ming Dynasty revolutionaries recapture the throne from the Manchurians and the Ching Family.

While a complete list of key players in the monk's support of revolutionary activities and the ultimate development of Wing Chun Kung Fu is still being researched, some principle figures have already been identified. The first was a Buddhist monk originally from the Northern Shaolin Temple with the alias "Chiu Yuen." His real name was "Chu Ming." He was one of the surviving members of the Ming Family who took shelter in the monastery as a monk following the fall of the Ming Dynasty. He learned all that he could of the monk's fighting styles and used his knowledge and money to continuously foment anti-Manchurian activities. His actions were highly responsible for the ultimate burning of both Shaolin temples by soldiers of the Ching army.

The second principle figure in the monk's revolutionary activities used the alias "Da Jung." His real name remains unknown, but his past and origins are not so hidden. Prior to his arrival at the Southern Shaolin Temple, he was a Ming military officer from the northern provinces. He fled south when the Ming Dynasty fell and sought shelter in the Southern Temple. He is truly important to the history of the Southern Temple because, prior to his arrival, kung fu was not of primary interest there. He is what Chinese martial arts traditionalists would call a "Joi Si," or "First Leader," because he is believed to be the first person to give his extensive knowledge of Chinese Kung Fu to the Southern Shaolin Temple. In the process of teaching his martial arts at the Temple, he formed a secret society known as the "Buddhist Hung Moon." The society's express purpose was the overthrow of the Ching Dynasty. It was this organization that was used to link Northern and Southern Shaolin revolutionary activities together. Secret sub-societies were formed to carry out the intent of the Buddhist Hung Moon, the most significant being the "Hung Fa Wui" (Red Flower Society) and another counterpart organization on the island of Formosa, called Tien Dei Wui (Heaven and Earth Society). The Formosa based society was established by one of the last surviving Ming general officers, Cheng Sing Kung.

Following the destruction of the Shaolin Temples, surviving members of both the Hung Fa Wui and the Tien Dei Wui extended their efforts to numerous other resistance organizations and personages loyal to the Ming and interested in training revolutionary fighters. The common battle cry was "Overthrow the Ching and Restore the Ming." This expansion of influence and cooperation gave rise to new secret societies that ultimately gained public attention, the most notable being the "Triads," (Three Harmonies), the Gua Lo Wui (Brotherhood), and the Dai Doe Wui (Big Sword Society).

Two additional key figures are credited with keeping the Wing Chun system of martial arts alive following the burning of the temples. The senior was a 22nd generation Shaolin Grandmaster named Yat Chum Dai Si. The second was his principle disciple, named Cheung Ng. Yat Chum Dai Si was originally trained in the Northern Shaolin Temple, where he eventually attained very high stature as a monk. He transferred to the Southern Temple following the arrival there of Da Jung. It would be easy to surmise that Da Jung may have had significant influence in bringing this great martial arts master to the Southern Temple to participate in the creation of Wing Chun and other fighting styles.

More information is available about the origins and activities of the disciple, Cheung Ng. He was a highly educated man who possessed great literary and operatic skills, as well as extensive military training. He is believed to have descended from a Hanbuck family noted for producing generations of military men who served the Ming Regime. For certain, the Ching Dynasty wasted no time in attempting to kill all of the Ng family in Hanbuck. Cheung Ng himself fled to the Northern Temple and sought shelter there as monk sometime after the departure of Yat Chum Dai Si for the Southern Temple. While at the Northern Temple, Cheung Ng heard rumors of the activities of the Hung Fa Wui at the Southern Temple in a place called "Hung Fa Ting." This was the gathering hall for the members of the Hung Fa Wui where revolutionary activities were planned. Wishing to participate in these activities, he sought and obtained permission to leave the Northern Temple and traversed to the Southern Temple where he met Yat Chum Dai Si. Under this Grandmaster, he began his study of the art that was to become Wing Chun Kung Fu.

Following the Southern Temple's destruction, Cheung Ng escaped to Guongdong province. There he used his previous knowledge of literature and opera to create the perfect disguise for himself and the continuation of revolutionary activities. He formed the Red Boat Opera Troupe. Many legends of Kung Fu history make reference to a famous character named "Tan Sao Ng." Indeed, these legends refer to Cheung Ng, who was quite famous during opera performances for skillful usage of the redirecting and dispersing hand technique of Wing Chun known today as "Tan Sao."

This article sheds significant light on the "Ng Mui (a possible alias for Cheung Ng)/ Yim Wing Chun (a fictional person's name for the newly created fighting system)" legend about the origins of Wing Chun. More can be said of the activities of the Red Boat Opera Troupe in the spread of Wing Chun Kung Fu, and about the Hung Fa Wui Goon troupe Cheung Ng formed to carry on the memory and activities of the Hung Fa Wui society destroyed by the Temple burnings. However, additional information is far too extensive to elaborate in this single article. Future articles will focus on the art's growth and development as a result of its roots in the Red Boat Opera Troupe. For now, suffice it to say, that secrecy of its origins and Cheung Ng's role in its creation mandated that not all of his students, nor all of the opera troupe's players, were members of the Hung Fa Wui Goon.

The authors would like to give special thanks to all of the Sifus and professional historians who provided evidence to finally put the Ng Mui/Yim Wing Chun legend to rest. Particular thanks must be given to Sifu Garret Gee (8th Generation) who represents Cheung Ng's legacy.

Understanding the Wing Chun Punch

By Benny Meng and Richard Loewenhagen

Wing Chun Kung Fu is based on a system designed for one purpose - hand to hand combat! The system itself was designed by China’s famous Shaolin monks following the fall of the Ming Dynasty to the Ching. The monks' immediate goal was to turn ordinary citizens into elite combat troops in the shortest possible time. Their ultimate goal was to help the Ming Royal Family create revolutionary armies capable of defeating the Ching Dynasty and restoring the Ming to the throne of China. These revolutionary troops, like today’s elite special forces, had to be capable of defeating imperial soldiers possessing years of professional military training and combat experience. Only a complete martial arts system focused on human physiology and based on the principles of simplicity, efficiency, and directness -- coupled with a fully integrated subsystem of training methodologies -- could be expected to achieve these goals. Every movement of the hands and feet had to be coordinated with body unity and full body energy. At the same time, each movement needed to facilitate direct application of fighting skills. Consequently, every technique needed to reflect the entire system by adhering to the same principles of simplicity, efficiency, and directness while contributing to the sole output product of the system -- combat ability. The same can be said of the strategies and tactics needed to employ these techniques. The success of the monks' efforts to create such a system is highly evident in one of the system’s simplest, yet most elegant and effective techniques, the Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Punch.

The punch is so named to give credit to the secret society (the Hung Fa Yi) responsible for passing the monks' complete system on to secret revolutionary fighting cells and, ultimately, to today’s Wing Chun practitioners. This single technique clearly illustrates the principles of simplicity, efficiency, and directness. To fully understand this illustration, we will examine the following underlying concepts of the Wing Chun system: body structure/unity, the Five-Line Concept, stance mobility and footwork, the Triangle Theory, and the Gate Concept.

The Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun punch is considered by most experts to be the most effective hand to hand combat punch because it is the most direct (travels the shortest distance) and is supported by the entire body structure rather than just the arm and shoulder. In much the same way that a building is supported by a strong foundation, the body structure specified by the Wing Chun system provides the punch its maximal effectiveness. For this reason, prior to training for the development of speed, power, and sensitivity, Wing Chun practitioners first emphasize and train body structure and unity.

In forming the Wing Chun punch, the wrist is never bent. It is held straight such that the bones on the back of the hand are aligned with those of the wrist and forearm allowing for the strongest shock impact supported by the rest of the arm, body, and root. In contrast, a bent wrist engenders two major problems for a combat fighter: the risk of self-injury, and the unintended dissipation of shock energy. The bent wrist is prone to impact-induced injury associated with the wrist bending back violently. Unintended dissipation of shock energy occurs when the bones are not fully aligned; upon impact, the energy from the punch travels two different directions (one forward and one sideward). To further comprehend proper body structure and unity for supporting the punch, the practitioner must fully understand the Five-Line Concept of Wing Chun. It is crucial to the execution of the punch.

The Five-Line Concept is based on reference lines that extend from specific points on the body to specific points in front of the body. The included drawing depicts these lines and their relationship to the upper and middle reference points and the upper gate. The lines themselves can be categorized as three Yang lines and two Yin lines. Two of the three Yang lines, also referred to as “Zero” lines, are located at the borders of the body at the tips of the shoulders. The third Yang line is called the “One” line or “Centerline” and divides the body in half vertically. This line is considered the one true line of the body and covers many vulnerable vital points of human anatomy. The two Yin lines are located midway between the Yang lines and are sometimes referred to as the “Nipple” lines.

The Hung Fa Yi introduce the Five-Line Concept in the opening of Wing Chun’s first form, Siu Nim Tao. The arms are raised, fingers to eye level, palms down, straight up along the Yang borderlines. This motion identifies the border of the body which must be protected. Then, in a single motion, the fists are clenched, turned at a 45 degree angle while aligning the elbow along the Yin line, and the knuckles are lowered to the throat level. The elbows, pointing down, are kept one fist distance from the body and lined up with the Yin lines. When retracting the punch, “Jang Dai Lik,” or elbow power, is developed by drawing the elbows back and out to the sides of the body, while never bringing the elbows closer than one fist distance from the body.

Stance mobility and footwork are emphasized next in developing punch comprehension. The footwork of Wing Chun never advances in a straight line. Advancing straight forward gives the opponent an equal opportunity to attack and oppose force with force, thereby creating a head-on collision of speed and power. For example, if the opponent extends both hands from his body to the centerline, his arms inscribe a triangle surrounding his center space. Advancing straight forward would bring an opponent directly into the tip of that triangle, the point of its greatest strength. Rather than take this approach, the footwork of the Wing Chun system advances through angulation. Closing on an opponent at an angle gives the practitioner control over his own timing and his opponent’s five lines. At an angle the opponent’s five lines are facing away from the practitioner. To provide the needed mobility, the practitioner maintains an equal weight distribution in his stance throughout his stepping and bracing to effectuate the angulation and subsequent advancement.

The next important facet of Wing Chun punch comprehension is training utilization of the triangle theory for maximum effectiveness. Maximum power and support are generated via the alignment of body components in these inherently solid triangular formations. Multiple triangles are created in the opening movements of Siu Nim Tao. The first triangle is identified in the accompanying drawing. The points of this triangle extend from the tip of the shoulder to the elbow (on the Yin line) to the center (on the “One” line). The elbow must line up exactly between the tip of the shoulder and the One line.

By bringing the fists down and back along the Centerline so that the knuckles line up at throat level, another triangle is created between the upper reference point and the middle reference point. The upper reference point is located between the nose and the upper lip. The middle reference point is located in front of the sternum. A third triangle is formed with the elbow, tailbone, and the knee. Combined, these three triangles describe a properly held fist. When a force is applied to such a fist, the elbow, hip, and root support it.

The Siu Nim Tao form teaches the practitioner to keep the tailbone tucked in while punching so as to avoid leaning into the punch. The second point of support is the knee. The hip on the punching side is tucked in and the toes of the same side foot point to the target, the opponent’s center. The toes of this foot must point to the target so that the knee bends in such a way as to have the most effective support from the heel.

The correct structure of the Wing Chun punch can be easily assessed. To test your own Wing Chun punch structure, have your partner start by having one palm over his other palm against your fist. Next, he should lean with all his weight so that he is on his toes and his back is straight. Any distortion in your punch structure, such as an outward turned toe (on the same side as the punch) or the elbow drifting outside the triangle, will result in an inability to support your partner’s weight.

In throwing the Wing Chun punch (or open hand strike), the practitioner always attacks the upper gate, even in practice. The upper gate is also identified in the Siu Nim Tao form. The wrists are crossed like an “X” at the upper reference point (between the nose and the upper lip). The space above the elbows represents the upper gate.

Before the punch extends in Siu Nim Tao, the wrist is lined up in front of the sternum. The fist is held so that the bottom three knuckles create the striking surface. This initial position protects the centerline. If an opponent intercepts the punch early in its travel, the practitioner has two options. A stronger practitioner can overcome his opponent’s weaker energy, while the smaller practitioner must adjust with footwork.

As the punch extends it continues to the upper gate position (knuckles between the nose and upper lip). As this extension occurs, the entire forearm travels in a straight line, followed by constant direct support from the elbow. The elbow is continually lined up on the Yin line but never fully extended. By keeping his elbow on the Yin line, the practitioner can easily intercept his opponent’s inside attack with his own forearm, no matter how fast that attack develops.

When a smaller practitioner punches a larger opponent’s body, it may not be as effective as desired. But the eyes, nose, and teeth, located at the upper gate, are fragile. A strike to the eyes will disable the opponent, resulting in his inability to see and, therefore, his inability to fight. If a smaller practitioner punches low, the larger opponent protecting his upper gate can counter with a Saat Geng Sau (knife hand to the throat). Attacking the upper gate keeps the opponent occupied. The opponent cannot ignore the fact that an attack is aimed at his face. This keeps him on the defensive and the practitioner retains the offensive advantage.

Executed properly, the Wing Chun punch allows even the small practitioner maximum punching effectiveness, because it is supported by his entire body structure. The structure of the punch gives the opponent difficulty in countering with such common techniques as Biu Sau (thrusting fingers) or Pak Sau (slapping hand). If the opponent applies Biu Sau, he would have to uplift the practitioner’s entire body weight to effectively break his structure.

From the initial emphasis on body structure, the Wing Chun practitioner advances into concepts dealing with time and space factors. With an understanding of time and space factors, speed and power become secondary considerations.

In traditional Wing Chun, as practiced and passed on to us by the Hung Fa Yi, techniques become an expression of the application of the arts concepts, principles, and theories. The precision of that expression is constantly evaluated using the sciences of physics and physiology in conjunction with body structure, and ultimately weighed against the all encompassing principles of simplicity, efficiency, and directness. Thus we come full circle back to where we started. Such is the nature of any journey through a true system or any of its properly functioning subsystems. Wing Chun Kung Fu is based on the science of fighting and the absolute sciences of physics, physiology and kinesthetics. It is supported by a highly structured training methodology that ensures the student/practitioner derives maximum attributal development from these sciences. Properly adhered to, the Wing Chun system can replicate elite fighters who can readily demonstrate that the Wing Chun punch has the entire system behind it!

The authors would like to give special thanks to Sifu Garret Gee for the technical details provided on behalf of the Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kuen.


A Note About the Author: Sifu Benny Meng is the principle founder and Curator of the Ving Tsun Museum. He has traveled extensively throughout the world researching the roots of the art, and studying the training methods and applications employed in virtually every lineage of Wing Chun Kung Fu. Sifu Meng is a full time teacher of Wing Chun Kung Fu and is available for professional seminars on historical, as well as technical, aspects of the art and its training methods. Sifus Garret Gee and Benny Meng can be reached through the Ving Tsun Museum, 5717 Brandt Pike, Dayton, Oh, 45424, phone (937) 236-6485 and emailed at BennyMeng@vtmuseum.org.

Do Secret Societies Give Kung Fu a Bad Rep?

By
Benny Meng and Richard Loewenhagen

In today's open environment of martial arts training and practice, the secrecy of the societies that fueled the arts' growth causes some practitioners to shy away from their true historical roots for fear of tainting the image of the arts themselves. Yet, to do so robs the practitioner of a heritage that was, and for the most part still is today, quite noble. Virtually all of China's famous secret societies began as fraternal brotherhoods formed for self-help and mutual aid focused on improving the plight of the common man. All pledged themselves to a moral code significantly stronger than the one adhered to by royal families and ruling bureaucracies. Values such as honor, integrity, filial piety, and humanitarian assistance to others were sworn to, often in blood oaths.

Initially, these societies were openly formed and participated in. Instabilities in the Ming/Qing dynasties led many of them to migrate to a political nature. As governmental corruption increased, so did the political demands of these societies for remedy from oppressive taxes and bureaucratic decrees. Qing Dynasty persecution eventually drove them to secrecy and military action in the form of rebellions. It was only in the latter 19th and early 20th centuries that a criminal element began to influence some of the secret societies, turning them to criminal rather than humanitarian activities.

The majority of these societies required vows from their members that have been categorized by experts into as many as six types: brotherhood, loyalty, righteousness, humanitarianism, nationalism, and secrecy. Only the last two relate directly to the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty.

Today, secret societies can be classified into three groups that evolved from a common historical background. First there are political societies, many still active both in and out of Mainland China. Due to political oppression, they still maintain their secretive nature today. A couple of examples of today's political societies with roots dating back over 300 years are the Hung Muhn and Qing Bang societies still highly active in Taiwan. According to researchers and governmental authorities, there is no evidence that either of these societies is involved in criminal activity.

In historical perspective, Dr. Sun Yat Sen, the founding father of today's Republic of China and the man credited with the final overthrow of the Qing Dynasty, was himself a secret society leader. Following that same historical vein, Shang Kai Shek, the first President of the Republic of China, was also a secret society leader. Most political experts today agree that Shek owed his successful bid for the presidency to the political support of the Hung Muhn Society. Even in the 21st century the Hung Muhn society is estimated to have over 100,000 active members including professionals, military men, and intelligence officers. A significant number of the Hung Muhn's leaders are retired General Officers. Many experts believe Hung Muhn leaders founded the Qing Bang society for related political and brotherhood reasons in the 17th century.

This emphasis on brotherhood is still readily apparent in the Hung Muhn initiation rites. The lyrics direct members to "Worship Heaven as our father and Earth as our mother." emphasize that all men are therefore brothers, regardless of surnames or origins. This same emphasis on brotherhood is also seen in Chinese classic literary works, like The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and All Men Are Brothers. In the former, brotherly bonds are revered even higher than matrimonial ties. The book's hero utters a line now famous in Chinese literature. "Brothers are like one's limbs, but wives like one's clothing." In essence, brothers cannot be replaced, but wives can.

Second among the three classifications of secret society descendants in modern times are the criminal organizations (often misnomered as the "Triads") that share similarities to the political societies in name and organization. However, the two should not be confused. The criminal organizations have drifted far from their high moral origins and reflect virtually no orientation to humanitarianism. The name "Triad" itself refers to the great trinity of heaven, earth, and humankind. Political, as well martial societies, were originally included in the "Triad" goal and categorization. With today's frequent use of the term to refer to the criminal element, most secret societies now shy away from using it. The real growth of this criminal group actually occurred in the early 20th century as a result of political accommodations made by power brokers during extremely turbulent times between the final overthrow of the Qing Dynasty in 1911 and the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war in 1937. Often in return for the criminal element's help in control of the masses, powerful political figures would allow prostitution, gambling, smuggling, and opium trades to thrive. It is interesting to note that the rest of the world's nations were experiencing World War I and the Great Depression during these same decades. The rise of mafia style organized crime in the Western World virtually mirrors that of China's criminal societies, and for much the same reasons.

The third group of secret societies seen today is made up of martial arts organizations. They began as warrior sects supported by Royal Ming families dedicated to overthrowing the Manchu invaders of China and restoring the Hon people to ruling power. Like their sister societies focused on political action, they were forced into secrecy for survival. While in secrecy, they continued to train revolutionary troops to fight the Qing Dynasty and, eventually, Western invaders during the Boxer Rebellion. A good example is the original Chin Woo Association founded by Huo Yan Jia (*pinyin spelling) in the early 20th century. Today, martial arts oriented societies still maintain their cultural and historical traditions, but have no relation to political or criminal activities or associations. Most of these groups are no longer secretive.

An older association, the Hung Fa Wui (Red Flower Society) which was a counterpart to the Hung Muhn Society, traces its roots back to the Southern Shaolin Temple and to secret meetings in the same Red Flower Pavilion employed by other secret societies of the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The express purpose of this society was the training of martial skills to revolutionary troops. To facilitate that purpose, practitioners are subjected to the same stringent vows of brotherhood and loyalty as the other secret societies, and their code of conduct remains as free from corruption as it was when created by the descendents of the Southern Shaolin Temple.

In answer to the title question of this article, Secret Societies have not given Martial Arts a Bad Rep. To the contrary; they have enriched the goals and code of conduct for all true practitioners and teachers of many popular systems today such as Wing Chun, Southern Mantis, White Eyebrow, Dragon, Fukien White Crane, Five Ancestor's Boxing and Chin Woo.

Are You Training a Martial Arts "Style" or a "System"?

By
Benny Meng and Richard Loewenhagen

Current times discussions and written treatises on martial arts training often treat the terms "Style" and "System" as interchangeable, yet they are not at all synonymous. A style is a form that is distinctive and identifiable as an artistic expression with characteristics particular to the artist. In contrast, a system is a combination of intricately related elements organized into a complex whole that produces results far greater than the mathematical sum of its individual parts. A style could also be a system, but most are not. They reflect some of the attributes of a system, but are not complete.

A complete system is one that at all times adheres to a consistent philosophy yielding practical combat applications, practical training methodologies, and a complete science with principles, concepts, strategies, and tactics that do not allow the outcome of an engagement to be determined by luck. Every aspect of a complete system must be consistent with every other part. A system's philosophy is what drives that consistency. Most martial arts studied today lack an overriding philosophy that guarantees consistency throughout training and application. They are best classified as styles rather than as systems.

Even modern day Wing Chun, which prides itself on its systematic attributes, may require closer scrutiny. As you are training it today, are you guided by an overriding philosophy that is consistent with every aspect of your training? Are your training methodologies completely consistent with your combat applications? For example, many "looping" exercises are employed to train muscle memory, but this looping would never be attempted or allowed in actual combat application. A consistent philosophy would dictate methodologies aligned directly with combat application, negating the need for deprogramming the looping from the practitioner's instinctive reactions before sending him off to battle. Does your training involve looping exercises? Are there so-called "transitional" movements in your forms that are not directly tied to combat applications? If so, your forms, philosophy, methodologies, and applications are not consistent with one another.

Shaolin Temple Wing Chun, as trained by today's Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun practitioners, is an example of a complete martial arts system. It has an overriding philosophy that keeps applications, methodologies, and employment of science consistent throughout training. Hung Fa Yi practitioner's train every move at every level in exactly the same manner as they would use them on the battlefield. As a science, Wing Chun's logic flow is crucial to maintaining its integrity. The sequence of learning must follow this logic flow closely. The philosophy that guides this sequence is called "Saam Mouh Kiu" and it is deeply rooted in Shaolin tradition.

Within the Southern Shaolin Wing Chun Tong was a place used to train called the Saam Mouh Dei meaning "Three Connecting Grounds". There is a direct connection between this name and the three levels of reality practiced in Zen philosophy called Saam Mouh Kiu. These same three levels of Zen reality gave rise to Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun's way of viewing combat in the framework of three connecting bridges, also called Saam Mouh Kiu. The key to unlocking Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun as a combat system is the Wing Chun Formula, and the key to understanding the formula is the concept of time and space. The key to properly approaching the concept of time and space is embracing the philosophy of Saam Mouh Kiu.

When a Wing Chun fighter is in combat he goes through a progression of Ng Jahn Chiuh Mihn Jeui Ying (5 Stages of combat). Within every stage of combat the fighter must recognize Saam Mouh Kiu at that particular moment in time. Saam Mouh Kiu as used in Wing Chun refers to three specific time frames. Sam Mouh Kiu is employed by a properly trained Wing Chun fighter to identify his opponent's knowledge of time and space, and from that determine which strategies and tactics to employ to ensure the enemy's self-destruction. Saam Mouh Kiu is used in conjunction with the Wing Chun Formula and is supported by scientific principles and concepts. Together, they enable the Wing Chun fighter to completely understand both his and his opponent's strengths and weaknesses within the space and time of the confrontation. Saam Mouh Kiu as a Wing Chun concept posits that there are only three types of bridges, employing "time-frame" as the guide to which bridge is in play. This allows the Wing Chun practitioner to determine the time frame used in combat and to understand the true nature of that combat. Once the Wing Chun practitioner reaches a level of understanding Nature itself, this concept is no longer concerned with just techniques. It extends to his total interaction with the world around him. The Three connecting bridges of Saam Mouh Kiu are as follows:

1. Fao Kiu - "Floating Bridge".. Another frequently used expression of this same concept is "Hoi Fao" meaning "Illusion, cloudy, or unclear". Philosophically, the Fao Kiu stage is the stage of "Wandering". The level of one's existence is primarily at the basic subsistence level of Maslow's famous Hierarchy of Needs. There is no time for higher-level development or life. In terms of combat, Fao Kiu represents "Lucky Strike" time. At this stage the practitioner is violating the Wing Chun time frame. He possesses no realized comprehension of space or time. In a physical confrontation it would be the same as standing right in front of the guy and trading blows with him. This means the practitioner and his opponent can hit or kick each other as chance dictates. Fate will select the winner. Philosophically, they represent a stage where both combatants are unclear of their path or reason for existence. They exist in an illusion. As martial artists, they are unaware of the basics of time and space and have failed to recognize any higher level of knowledge.

2. San Kiu - "Separate Bridge". This is also referred to as the "Awareness Stage". This stage represents partial nature and/or understanding of the "True Time Frame", but they have no concrete ability to identify and deal with the intricacies of the interactions between time and space. They cannot express both together in harmony. At any moment, they may be able express one or the other in their kung fu, but not both simultaneously. Philosophically, at this level practitioners are beyond the basic level of subsistence. They have the capacity and the time to engage in incomplete considerations of religion, and philosophy.

3. Wing Kiu - "Everlasting Bridge". It is important to note the character for "Wing" is the exact same character employed in the original name of the Wing Chun System. It represents the everlasting nature of the real science upon which it is based. Wing Kiu is also referred to as the "Focus Stage". Another phrase used on the journey to this stage is "Hoi Gong" meaning "open light" or enlightenment. It is used in the Siu Nim Tau level of training to represent that the practitioner has been exposed to this idea (Nim) - he is aware of Saam Mouh Kiu, space and time, and the Wing Chun Formula and the relationships between each of them. Philosophically, the Wing Kiu stage reflects the practitioner's comprehension of the true reason for his own existence. He is approaching real enlightenment in terms of the universe surrounding him. His perceptions of his universe are in harmony with reality. In a physical confrontation, the practitioner's every motion is in harmony with space and time with no distortion of either. This is the highest level of combat skill. Harmony with reality replaces struggle. The opponent's own distortions defeat him while the practitioner maintains harmony with the realities of space and time.

As a martial artist are you training a "Style" or a "System"? Which bridge are you at now and where are you headed? Is your system complete enough to get you where you want to go? You will need to do some serious philosophical investigation to answer these questions. Hung Fay Yi's "Saam Mouh Kiu" gives you one framework for beginning that investigation.

Jeung Ngh - The Father of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun

By Benny Meng and Richard Loewenhagen

Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kuen (Red Flower Righteous Praise Spring Fist), is one of the few Wing Chun Kuen (Praise Spring Fist) lineages known today that traces its historical roots to the 17th Century Southern Shaolin Temple (Southern Young Forest Temple) and its Wing Chun Tohng (Everlasting Spring Hall). It is also one of the few lineages to trace its roots to the formation of the Kihng Fa Wuih Gun (Beautiful Flower Association), known today as the Chinese Artist Association, in the beginning of the 18th Century. Hung Fa Yi was the only name used during revolutionary times from the late 17th to the mid 19th Century. Until recently, that name was known and used only among insiders. In the mid 19th Century a public version of the art began to be publicly demonstrated on the Red Opera Boats. The public name given it was Huhng Syuhn Wing Chun Kuen (Red Boat Praise Spring Fist). Ten generations of Hung Fa Yi tradition trace back over 300 years of Chinese history while most Wing Chun lineages trace their roots to either the descendents of the Huhng Syuhn Hei Baan (Red Boat Opera Troupe) or family roots, both with origins in the mid-18th Century.

Previous treatises by these authors and others of the Ving Tsun Museum staff have highlighted the Southern Shaolin Temple's formation and development of Wing Chun Kuen (Everlasting Spring Fist) as a military combat training system in the latter half of the 17th Century. Shaolin warrior monks joined high-level military strategists and fighters in molding their science and experience into Wing Chun Kung Fu. This article gives long-overdue credit to one of Wing Chun's developers and the founder of it's fielded namesake, Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kuen. Further research may well reveal him to be the greatest, most significant person in the history and realm of Wing Chun Kuen. His given name was Jeung Ngh (commonly Romanized as Cheung Ng).

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, many legends and stories of Wing Chun Kuen's roots were created based on the burning of the Southern Shaolin Temple and the escape of the legendary Ngh Jou (Five Elders). According to Hung Fa Yi traditions, of those who survived the Manchu massacres, two known Southern Shaolin Temple disciples did indeed escape and were able to keep the Wing Chun system alive. The senior, a monk, was the twenty-second generation Shaolin Temple Grandmaster, Yat Chahn Daaih Si (Senior Master "First Dust"). The other, his disciple, Jeung Ngh, is credited with forming the Kihng Fa Wuih Gun as a front for activity conducted by revolutionary societies throughout Southern China. For the next century and a half, the combat art was referred to as Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kuen.

Many legends reflect that Jeung Ngh came from a family of generations of military men serving the Ming Dynasty until the Manchu killed his family. Seeking refuge and fleeing persecution, Jeung Ngh fled to the Northern Shaolin Temple (Northern Young Forest Temple) in the latter half of the 17th Century. After spending some time in the Northern Shaolin Temple, he heard of the gatherings at a place called the Huhng Fa Ting (Red Flower Pavilion) with the specific purpose of restoring the Ming Dynasty to the rule of China. Presumably to join in such efforts, he left the Northern Shaolin Temple and traveled to the Southern Shaolin Temple where he met the rebels and the Shaolin Monk Yat Chahn Daaih Si. It was there that he began his studies of the art that was to become Wing Chun Kuen.

Following the burning of the Southern Shaolin Temple, Jeung Ngh of Wuh Bak (a province in China, meaning "North Lake") also known as Taan Sau Ngh ("Dispersing Hand" Ngh), brought his skills to Faht Saan (a city in Southern China, meaning "Buddha Mountain"), in Gwong Dung (a province in China, also known as Canton) province. In order to keep his identity and the Shaolin Temple background from the Manchu government, Jeung Ngh organized the Kihng Fa Wuih Gun as a front to cover his revolutionary activities. He also passed on his knowledge of traditional opera and martial arts to the Red Opera followers.

Some forums have suggested in recent years that Jeung Ngh's nickname, Taan Sau Ngh, is homorphic with the Chinese word for cripple, and that perhaps he was given the nickname because he always had a beggar's hand out for food and money. Such conjecture may be quickly dismissed as it runs counter to the preponderance of evidence present even in this century. Both historical pointers and scientific principles lend credence to Jeung Ngh's existence and his contributions to Wing Chun. Historical pointers begin with numerous opera records referring to Jeung Ngh as highly respected for both his military and operatic skills. No beggar could garner such respect from the highly sophisticated opera societies. Today's Cantonese opera groups still revere him as a Si Jou (term for founding ancestors in martial art cultures) and numerous opera history books refer to him as Jéung Si (Teacher or Master Jeung). The Faht Saan Museum in China also possesses historical evidence of Jeung Ngh's life as both an opera performer and a martial artist. Their historical analyses make no reference to Jeung Ngh as either a cripple or a beggar. Corroborating research into Wing Chun family lore done by the Ving Tsun Museum supports the evidence referring to Jeung Ngh as both a martial arts and opera master. Indeed, Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun practitioners have a 300-year history and have always recognized Jeung Ngh as the first generation Grand Master of Wing Chun Kuen. Museum records, opera records, and Hung Fa Yi traditions universally attest that Jeung Ngh's one Taan Sau (Dispersing Hand) was peerless throughout the martial arts world. With it alone, he could describe the science of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun and its complete control of time and space during combat. The scientific proof of Jeung's Ngh existence lies in the fact that his Hung Fa Yi descendents can duplicate that same feat today.

This control of time and space is what makes Jeung Ngh's Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun different from all other martial arts. It guarantees simultaneous defense and attack with pinpoint accuracy. It is the hand-to-hand equivalent of range detection and radar/sonar equipment in today's high tech weaponry. Absolute precision in the positioning of body lines, coupled with equally precise control of distance between one's own body parts, allow the practitioner to use his hands and feet as range detectors. Similar precision focused on strategies and tactics designed to capitalize on structural flaws and motion occurring within six gates or zones of defense/attack become the practitioner's radar. Jeung Ngh (and today's Hung Fa Yi practitioners) could fully express the complexities of simultaneous defense and attack through time and space control from the use of a single technique - the Taan Sau dispersing hand.

In Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kuen, Taan Sau is trained consistently at one single point in space and time in all skill development methodologies, including Saan Sau (Separate Hand) exercises, Chi Sau (Sticking Hand) drills, and applications training. If a practitioner were to use Taan Sau at the wrong space, he would not be in a position for simultaneous attack and defense. If he used the Taan Sau at the wrong time, his opponent would not be denied the opportunity for challenge. Only one Taan Sau, applied at one specific point in space at one specific time will allow the practitioner to defend and attack while the opponent is denied the same. How, then, is this precision maintained in the chaos of combat? The answer lies in a disciplined structure that most efficiently enables employment of strategies and tactics developed from Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun's emphasis on the physics of three dimensional space and the fourth dimension, time itself.

Hung Fa Yi discussions of space begin with in-depth awareness of self. The word 'begin' must be emphasized strongly here, because Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun is a complete system for combat. Consequently, every aspect of the science of Wing Chun relates to every other aspect. Complete understanding of each individual part is impossible without in-depth comprehension of the symbiotic relationship of all parts acting in concert. Purpose techniques, structures, energetics, attributes, tactics, and strategies must all cooperate for any meaningful employment of space and time to occur. They affect even the description of time and space. For example, perfect alignment of one's body for the express purpose of horseback riding requires reference points in space that are distinctly different from those required for hand-to-hand combat alignment.

With that said, Hung Fa Yi examinations of space begin with analysis of one' s own body unity for the express purpose of engaging in hand-to-hand combat. Practitioners employ the precise structure of Wing Chun to develop innate awareness of the distances between each of their own body parts. Before any attempt can be made to precisely control an opponent's mass in motion while denying the time and space required to react, one must first possess absolute control over his own structure throughout its movement in space and time. This is known as development of martial self-awareness. It is what enables the Hung Fa Yi practitioner to maintain his own space while entering the space of another. In essence, his body becomes a calibrated instrument capable of instantly measuring distance. His structure becomes as effective as any modern day range detection instrument enabling pinpoint accuracy in weapons employment.

Development of martial self-awareness occurs in three stages. The first stage involves attainment of maximum efficiency in structural unity by aligning one's own body parts to provide an optimum mix of balance, strength and ease of use in relation to three-dimensional space. The second stage involves developing an awareness of an opponent's structures and flaws in relation to his own space. The third stage introduces the fourth dimension of time and involves movement of one's parts within defined space.

In the first stage, the practitioner examines the depth, height, and width of his own space in terms of 4 elements of the Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun formula: 1 centerline (focal point), 2 lines of defense (depth), 3 reference points (height), and the 3-line concept (width). In order to define one's own precise space and the most efficient placement of his own parts within it, he must be able to describe that space in all dimensions. These four elements of the Wing Chun formula allow him to do just that.

The first element, centerline, provides a vertical reference line allowing for centering the depth, height, and width components of the practitioner's space.

The second element, 2 lines of defense, tells the practitioner how far both of his hands need to be away from his body. This is the 'depth' component of his own space. The height element, referred to as the 3 reference points, gives him the proper vertical positioning for aligning each of his limbs. Lastly, the 3-line concept provides a precise description of the width of his space on a horizontal plane. Properly understood, these four elements allow him to quickly align his body parts for optimum simplicity, efficiency, and directness in relation to his opponent when motion is introduced.

In the second stage, the opponent's structure is examined to determine one's own weapons alignment. The same four elements of the Wing Chun formula are used to analyze the opponent's structure. Are his hands and feet at the proper distances from his torso? Are his elbows, hands, knees, and feet aligned according to the 3-line concept? Are they at the correct height, or are they too low? All of these factors are taken into account, because they will directly affect control of space and time.

In the third stage, time comes to play. This stage begins when the practitioner aligns his structure with his opponent's. Time can only be referenced when there is a second object to be interacted with in space. Optimum alignment allows the simultaneous use of offense and defense. It also requires the opponent to make adjustments in his own structure before employment of his own weapons. This gives the practitioner a time advantage over his opponent. He trains to align his structure so that his opponent is only able to use a fraction of his body and weapons against the practitioner 's full arsenal. While the opponent is adjusting to bring all of his weapons into proper alignment, the Hung Fa Yi practitioner is in control of time and is already using it to advantage.

Hung Fa Yi practitioners train to recognize three different time frames in relation to combat. The first is called Fauh Kiu (Floating Bridge). It represents a temporal window in space during which one has no control of either time or space. In short, no part of the Wing Chun formula is expressed in alignment or structure. The second time frame examined is called Saan Kiuh (Separate Bridge). This timeframe addresses conditions and results of having time, but not space, or having space, but not time. Any strikes landed during this timeframe are considered nothing more than "lucky strikes" because the practitioner could not guarantee the outcome. The third time frame is called the Wihng Kiuh (Everlasting Bridge) time frame. It represents complete control of time and space, allowing simultaneous offense and defense.

These concepts of space and time relative to combat are foundational to the total comprehension and employment of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun. By knowing what structures enable the quickest determination of 'when to act' and 'where to act' most efficiently, the Hung Fa Yi practitioner is prepared to control space and time. He uses the Wing Chun formula to recognize distortions in time and space, both his own and his opponent's. He trains to remove his own distortions while amplifying those of his opponent. Coupled with strategies and tactics designed to capitalize on space-time distortions, he simultaneously disables an opponent's weapons while employing his own.

The ability to explain these complex concepts in motion with a single technique, the Taan Sau, gave Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun's founder, Jeung Ngh, his nickname. Today, that ability remains alive as recently demonstrated by Master Garrett Gee , the 8th generation inheritor of Hung Fa Yi, at a Ving Tsun Museum seminar. Master Gee was asked if it matters whether the Taan Sau is used to engage the opponent with one's front hand or back hand (depth dimension). He used the Taan Sau to clearly demonstrate that front hand employment denied the use of simultaneous offense and defense because the back hand was out of range for striking. The time required to bring the back hand within range following front hand engagement was time the opponent could use for reaction. Clearly a time-space consideration was needed.

Master Gee was then asked if it mattered whether the Taan Sau was high (upper reference point level - height dimension) or low (shoulder level - height dimension). He replied that dealing with an upper gate attack requires covering that gate. Upon contact, adjustment can be made. Making contact low and trying to adjust is dangerous. There is insufficient leverage. Making contact high provides sufficient leverage for adjustment with fast motion in time and space.

The last dimension is width. In order to allow for simultaneous attack and defense, proper setup in accordance with the Wing Chun formula should result in applications of the Taan Sau occurring inside the opponent's offenses.

Like his Si Jou before him, Master Gee emphasized that there is only one most efficient way to use Taan Sau when time and space are taken into consideration. There is only one way to enable simultaneous attack and defense. Like his predecessor, he can express the entire system through this single hand. He and his own descendants represent today's scientific proof of the unprecedented effectiveness of Jeung Ngh's Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun system of combat training and application.

A Note About the Authors: Sifu Benny Meng is the principle founder and Curator of the Ving Tsun Museum. He has traveled extensively throughout the world researching the roots of the art, and studying the training methods and applications employed in virtually every lineage of Wing Chun Kung Fu. He was one of the first disciples in the 9th generation of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun. Sifu Richard Loewenhagen is one of the founding committee members of the Ving Tsun Museum and currently serves as its Director of West Coast Affairs. He is in the first group of disciples of the Ving Tsun Museum to complete discipleship training in the Yip Man system of Wing Chun. He is in the first group of 10th generation disciples of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun. Both authors are full time teachers of Wing Chun Kung Fu and are available for professional seminars on historical, as well as technical, aspects of the art and its training methods. Benny Meng can be reached at the Ving Tsun Museum, 5715 Brandt Pike, Dayton, Oh, 45424, phone (937) 236-6485 and emailed at bennymeng@vtmuseum.org. Richard Loewenhagen can be reached at Meng's Martial Arts of Arizona, 3029 N. Alma School Rd, Suite 218, Chandler, AZ, 85224, phone (480) 820-2428) and emailed at sifu@mengsofaz.com.

The Origins and History of Shaolin Weng Chun

New Discoveries In Unique Wing Chun Lineage link Southern Styles

by Benny Meng and Jeremy Roadruck

Developed in the Southern Shaolin Temple and spread by anti-Qing revolutionaries down to members of the Red Boat Opera, Chi Sim Weng Chun represents a unique lineage in the history of Wing Chun. Chi Sim Weng Chun makes use of the "everlasting" character for Weng, a connection to Shaolin Chan (Zen) thought.

 
Introduction
 

In researching the roots of Wing Chun, the Ving Tsun Museum has repeatedly come into contact with members of the Chi Sim (ji sihn) Weng Chun family. They trace their roots directly to the Southern Shaolin Temple (naahm síu làhm jih) from where it was passed to members of the anti-Qing secret society rebels and ultimately to members of the Red Boat Opera. Upon categorizing this lineage under the umbrella of classical arts that refer to themselves as Wing Chun, Chi Sim Weng Chun becomes another bridge from Shaolin martial arts during the anti-Qing revolution to the modern Wing Chun that has spread from the Red Boat Opera. Chi Sim Weng Chun body structures share a similarity with Southern Shaolin Hung Ga (hùhng gà), lending credence to the assertion that both arts descended from the same origin. Chi Sim Weng Chun contains a unique training progression and philosophy that is the foundation to modern Wing Chun lineages.

 
History
 

From accounts of Chi Sim Weng Chun historical traditions, Daaht Mo (dá mo in Mandarin) established the foundation of Shaolin gung fu around 520 AD when he brought Chan Buddhism to the Shaolin Temple. Daaht Mo, also known as Bodhidharma, was an Indian prince that had renounced his family's wealth to become a Buddhist monk. He traveled to China to teach the ways of Buddha. After a favorable audience with the emperor, Daaht Mo traveled to the Shaolin temple in Hunan Province. Seeking ways to develop as a holistic human being aware of body, mind and spirit - the way to flow with energy, and maintain harmony when addressing power and aggression - Daaht Mo established the connection between physical practice and mental training on which Shaolin martial art training is based. To this day, members of the Shaolin Chi Sim Weng Chun lineage celebrate his birthday.

Martial arts were practiced in China for many centuries before the arrival of Daaht Mo. It was through his introduction of Chan Buddhist thought, with its emphasis on practical, direct experience of reality in its entirety, spontaneous action, mental training, and connection to physical cultivation, Shaolin was poised to become a martial arts training ground and study center. The goal of this training system was for the Shaolin monks to directly experience reality as a means to learn what was simple and natural. This approach of connecting moral and physical cultivation to experience life and the possibility of death stood in stark contrast to military and most civilian martial art methodologies outside the temple. Most practices outside the temple often focused only on physical skill in combat and the technical skills of killing.

During the time of struggle and transition between the Ming and Qing dynasties, experts from the Shaolin Temple in Honan province fled south. They settled in a Buddhist temple not previously known for martial arts training. Survivors of its destruction later referred to this temple as the Southern Shaolin Temple. With the expansion of the Qing Dynasty and the future of the Northern Shaolin Temple in Honan province uncertain, the Southern temple became a stronghold for anti-Qing revolutionaries. Inside this temple, a hall was established called the Everlasting Spring Hall (wihng cheùn tòhng). The focus of this hall was to collect and preserve the essence of Shaolin training and thought into one system under secrecy. The three treasures of Shaolin are Chan Buddhism, Health and Hei gung (qi gong)practice, and martial arts. The system of Chan practices, fighting theories and health exercises taught in this hall became known as Everlasting Spring Fist (wihng cheùn kyùhn), today referred to as Chi Sim Weng Chun.

The focus inside the Buddhist Everlasting Spring Hall was to discover what was simple, efficient and immediately applicable to dealing with reality, based at that time on fighting against the Qing Dynasty. Fighting concepts and techniques were developed based on understanding the nature of life, rather than being merely new ways to fell an opponent or a collection of combat techniques. This knowledge created a synthesis between living and fighting, giving rise to the attitude of seeking to understand life by understanding death. By focusing on martial skills for moral cultivation in addition to self-defense, the Shaolin system grew wide appeal and support throughout China after the time of the revolution.

The Southern Shaolin temple was destroyed in the latter half of the 17th century. The destruction of this temple was due to the anti-Qing activities taking place - not because it was a Buddhist temple. Although they were Confucionists, the Qing were tolerant of Buddhism. Many historical references confirm this tolerance. The following quote from a Chinese history text provides a typical example.

In studying the history of China, the Qing of the 18th century were supportive of both Buddhism and the Northern Shaolin Temple. The Emperor Kangxi even hand-painted a sign that reads the name Shaolin for one of the buildings inside the Honan Temple complex.

Wing Chun, being one of the martial arts used for combat, is surrounded in secrecy and misinformation due to secret society activities. During the 1700s, the anti-Qing revolutionary groups were most active and much of Wing Chun's history is shrouded in myths and legends from that time. This may explain why most Wing Chun lineages trace their origins from the legendary Five Elders through one or two generations to the Red Boat. The Red Boat Opera Troupe was a traveling group of entertainers in the Cantonese operatic tradition active in southern China. They traveled the rivers of southern China in large junks painted bright red to attract attention. While early Wing Chun history was shrouded in secrecy, after the Red Boat several Wing Chun lineages were opened up to the public and no longer had a need for secrecy. According to Chi Sim oral legends, a Shaolin abbot named Chi Sim Sim Si, along with other members of the temple, escaped the destruction of the Southern Shaolin. Chi Sim means "Extreme Compassion", a Buddhist concept, while Sim Si means "Chan teacher". It is held in the Chi Sim legends that he eventually ended up at the Red Boat Opera Troupe (hùhng syùhn hei bàan).

From the time of the Red Boat opera, the system of Chi Sim Weng Chun was preserved by two separate lineages. Inside the Opera, Wong Wah Bou is credited as the first person to learn Chi Sim Weng Chun. Sum Kam, a.k.a. "Painted Face" Kam (daaih fà mihn gám) is credited as the second person to learn the entire system; he passed the art from the first to the second generation. Fung Siu Ching, Sum Kam's apprentice, learned the system as a member of the Red Boat Opera and taught the art on to three main families in the third generation, the Dung, the Lo, and the Tang.

Outside the Opera at the Ching Yuen Fei Loih temple, the Tang family also practiced and preserved the Chi Sim Weng Chun system. Tang Bun was the first generation, Tang Jauh was the second generation and Tang Seun was the third generation. Tang Seun also learned from Fung Siu Chin, thus uniting the two lineages into one family.

In the third generation, Dung Jik of the Dung family taught Tam Kong and Chu Chong Man. In the Lo family, Lo Yam Nam taught his son Lo Chiu Woon while Lo Kai Tung taught his son Lo Hong Tai. Lo Yam Nam and Lo Kai Tung also shared information and training with their nephews. In the Tang family, Tang Seun taught Tang Yick and Pak Cheung. In the fifth generation, a wealthy business man and devoted student of Chi Sim Weng Chun, Grand Master Wai Yan, brought together five members of the fourth generation in one location to research and develop Chi Sim Weng Chun. Located in Dai Duk Lan in Hong Kong, Tam Kong, Chu Chung Man, Lo Chiu Woon, Lo Hong Tai, and Tang Yick spent more than 10 years training, sharing information and developing Chi Sim Weng Chun. Grand Master Way Yan was the first person to unify all three main lines in Chi Sim Weng Chun.

Among Way Yan's students was Cheng Kwong. Cheng Kwong passed the art on to Andreas Hoffmann of Bamberg, Germany. With his Sifu's approval, Hoffman later went on to research Chi Sim Weng Chun with his Si Gung, Way Yan and Way Yan's Si Suk, Pak Cheung. Pak Cheung lived outside of Fatsaan. In 1995, Andreas Hoffman was given a certificate recognizing him as the successor of Chi Sim Weng Chun/ Jee Shim Ving Tsun martial arts from Siu Lum. In more recent times, Sifu Hoffmann has contacted and trained with the successor of the Tang family, uniting all three main families in much the same way as Grand Master Way Yan. Hoffman today preserves the art of his teachers and ancestors throughout Europe with a strong organization of over 3000 members.

A detailed family tree is available at http://home.vtmuseum.org/genealogy/chi_sim/family_tree.php. This area of the VTM website is being developed through the support of Sifu Andreas Hoffmann and the support of his extended gung fu family.
  Training Overview
 

In Chi Sim Weng Chun, the foundations of the art were based upon Chan (Zen) teachings at the Shaolin Temple, handed down from Daaht Mo. The essence of Chan teaches its followers to trust in their own experience and the understanding of nature rather than doctrine or history. Any fighting system based on Chan must have three key components. It must be complete, taking all factors into account. For example, it must address all ranges of combat from kicking to striking, trapping, grappling, or employment of weapons. It must be based on reality rather than theory. It must be spontaneous, existing in the "here and now" rather than past or future. In Chan, there is no ego or body, no past or future. By focusing on the moment, not being distracted by thoughts or emotions outside the immediate task at hand, by being in the "here-and-now" practitioners are free to be aware of the total situation and react accordingly.

The technical components of Weng Chun are likened to a 5-pedaled flower.

The first petal consists of the Saan Sik (separate motions) and the Kuen Tou (fist sets) consisting of seven core training sets.

The first set is called the Fa Kuen, meaning Blossoming Fist. In this set, the student learns all the basic energy training to open all the energy gates of the body, with special emphasis on spiraling energy. The student also learns to use the whole body in each movement. The set introduces all the hands and footwork for short and long distance combat. This set is known as the Weng Chun Kuen, meaning Everlasting Spring Fist. The motions in this form are based on the movements and concepts of double knife fighting. In the Chi Sim system, the weapons are taught at the same time as the empty hands because of the reality of the time when this art originated. In the late 1600's, the most common method of fighting was with weapons. Therefore, practitioners had to learn to protect themselves from weapon attacks immediately. Additionally, one of the core concepts in Chi Sim is to subdue an opponent definitely. This task is far easier to undertake with the added power and length of a weapon.

The second set is called the Sahp Yat Kuen, meaning eleven fists. This set is also referred to as the Weng Chun Kuen, also meaning Everlasting Spring Fist. In this set, the student focuses on developing economy of movement and connecting the body in short motions. This type of power is often called shocking power or inch power. This energy is used in the Saam Ching Kuen, meaning Three Battle Fist, also called the Lin Wan Kuen, meaning Linking Fist. The motions in this set are based on the movements and concepts of the long pole. There are 11 empty hands motions; the set is organized into 11 learning sections.

The progression in training for Chi Sim Weng Chun is from weapon to weaponless. Without a weapon, it is much more difficult to subdue an opponent. This is the reason for the next two sets.

The third set is called Saam Baai Fuht, meaning Three Bows to Buddha. This is the heart of Chi Sim Weng Chun; it is the shadow of the Sahp Yat Kuen, consisting of 11 sections and was a secret set in the traditions of the Lo family. In this set, the student learns to multiply his/her energy through the waist as in bowing. Every technique in Weng Chun has a special bow to add power and structure. This set is called Saam Baai Fuht because the student bows once for the dharma (teaching), once for his/her fellow students, and once to the Buddha nature within him/herself. It is in this set that the student is introduced to the concept of thinking vertically (Heaven, Man, and Earth) as well as horizontally and laterally. It teaches the practitioner the concepts of time and space.

The fourth set is called Jong Kuen, meaning Structure Fist. This set was taught at the highest levels of training and combines everything (the other empty-hand sets, dummy training, and weapons) together into one format. This set moves through multiple directions and ranges of combat with emphasis on kicking, striking, locking and throwing. One of the primary focuses at this stage of training is the development of Seung Gung (Double Skill). This refers to the abilities that are developed through its practice; the student doubles his previous skill and power for self-defense through a combination of lihk (muscle), yih (intent), and hei (energy). This set represents the harmonies of long/short and external/internal.

The fifth set, the Muk Yahn Jong meaning Wooden Person Post, is actually a collection of 3 sets. In Chi Sim Weng Chun history, the dummy training came from the Muk Yan Hall in the Southern Shaolin Temple. The sets of empty-hand dummy are taught in addition to a concept of Tin Yahn Deih, or Heaven, Human, Earth. Each set on the Jong teaches one of three levels. The heaven dummy focuses on developing reactions and awareness against attacks to the upper gate and trains the student to fight at the long range. The human dummy focuses on the middle gate with emphasis on training striking, locking and throwing. The earth dummy focuses on close range distances at the lower gate with emphasis on grappling, anti-grappling, throwing and ground fighting.

The sixth set and seventh set are the pole and the knife. In Chi Sim Weng Chun, the pole is considered the teacher. This set is the longest in the system and teaches the student fighting in the long range with emphasis on being alive and responsive to changing situations. The pole training introduces the 6½ point concepts of Chi Sim Weng Chun, use of the whole body for power, and "springing" footwork. A fourth dummy training set, Gwan Jong, was a secret set and a specialty of Chi Sim Weng Chun. This set teaches a practitioner to bridge from long to short distance as well as short to long distance both with the long pole and weaponless. The Fuh Mouh Seung Dou set, meaning Father-Mother Double Knives, are thought of as the father and mother of the system and represent the Yin and Yang concept and training of combat spirit. The knives teach the student the ultimate subduing method.

The second petal in the flower of Chi Sim Weng Chin consists the exercises to teach the student to flow freely from one technique to another and to react intuitively to changing situations. Chi Sim Weng Chun makes use of a three line reference on the limbs to train and coordinate the body. These lines consist of the Wrist/Ankle, Elbow/Knee, and Shoulder/Hip. One of the primary exercises for training at the Wrist/Ankle line is known as Kiuh Sau, meaning Bridge Hand. This exercise only slightly resembles the more widely known Wing Chun exercise of Chi Sau. In Kiuh Sau, the partners engage each other with both hands at the same time. Each hand resembles a taan sau with the palm turned up. The hands can meet with one partner outside the other partner's hands or each partner with one hand inside and one hand outside the other. From the initial touch, both partners react to the openings felt in the other's structure. These reactions can flow from kicking to striking to kuhm nah (joint-locking) to takedowns.

As the student learns, Kiuh Sau incorporates reaction development in all three lines. There are 14 concepts that are taught to the student as they progress in their training. These concepts, translated by Sifu Tang Chung Pak are:
1 Tiu (Pick up "with a stick")
2 Buot (push aside)
3 Da (hit)
4 Pun (fold)
5 Juar (grasp)
6 Lai (pull)
7 See (shear)
8 Tshai (quick pull)
9 Bik Force (cornering someone)
10 Hup (continue to put pressure on - "overpowering")
11 Taan (swallow)
12 Tuo (spit)
13 Buort (taking change - "gamble")
14 Saat (stop - "kill/subdue totally")
 

The Kahm Nah exercise is similar to the often seen Laahp Sau exercise in other Wing Chun lineages and trains for the Elbow/Knee line. Kahm Nam training is specifically for flowing from one range to another and begins with strikes first and then progresses into basic locks, chokes, and traps. Another exercise, known as Tip Sau, has both partners moving into shoulder-to-shoulder contact for training and developing reactions on the third line. This exercise focuses on training for throws, locks, and close range body weapons such as the head, knee and hip. As the student progresses, this exercise moves into a free flow format and training for ground fighting as well as escaping from locks, holds, and strikes. Another exercise known as Taan Tou, meaning Push Pull, is one of several exercises focusing on bridging from long to short distance by a) Moh Kiu, touching the bridge or b) Kou Kiu, not touching the bridge.

The third petal in the Chi Sim Weng Chun flower is training to Fuhk, meaning Subdue. Every engagement in Chi Sim Weng Chun seeks to subdue an opponent and prevent further struggle. All attacks are aimed at destroying an opponent's center of balance. Each attack also has a finishing movement to pin or incapacitate the opponent.

The fourth petal in Chi Sim Weng Chun is Saan Sau training, meaning Separate Hand. In Saan Sau, or sparring, training the student comes to understand what fighting is all about. The student will experience all the emotions that result from fighting as well as training to push him/herself to the limit. It is only though extensive experience with sparring and fighting that a student can understand the reality of combat.

The fifth petal of Chi Sim Weng Chun is the Principles, Poems, Chan Buddhism, History, and Hei Gung. The Ng Jong Hei Gong serves as the core hei gung training in the Chi Sim Weng Chun lineage. It helps to develop the small and large Universal Hei circles and balances the hei for ultimate health. These aspects provide the setting against which Chi Sim Weng Chun was developed and serve to connect the fighting skills developed in training to the moral cultivation of a better individual and a better society.

 
Connections
 

Many southern styles claim a connection to the Southern Shaolin Temple, and most are technically, tactically, and philosophically similar. In examining the sets of Chi Sim Weng Chun, it is possible that each set is the pre-cursor to several southern styles. The Fa Kuen set, with its flowing motions, connected movements and being the first set taught, could be the precursor to many of the family systems in Southern China. The Sahp Yat Kuen, with its emphasis on economy of movement and short bridge power could have been the foundation for further refinement into what is known as today's Wing Chun with the three forms of Siu Nim Tau, Chum Kiu, and Biu Ji. The Saam Baai Fuht and Jong Kuen, with emphases on whole body energy and all ranges of combat could have been the precursor to modern Hung Ga. In several oral legends of Hung Ga, Chi Sim is credited as being the creator of the style. It is possible that the legends refer to the art of Chi Sim Weng Chun rather than Chi Sim as a person. The existence of Chi Sim as an individual is open to historical debate. No explanation is given in Chi Sim oral legends for Chi Sim Sim Si's abnormally long lifespan, of up to or over 180 years. (Destruction of the Southern Temple occurred in the late 17th Century, while the Red Boat Opera arose in the mid-19th Century; yet legends reflect Chi Sim Si as a man playing roles in both environments.)

Whatever the possible connections from the Southern Shaolin to today's modern martial arts, strong evidence exists to support the hypothesis that Chi Sim Weng Chun was directly involved in the evolution of modern Wing Chun. The core of the Chi Sim system is the weapon sets of long pole and double knife along with the dummy sets. Throughout the martial arts community, the unique hallmark of all Wing Chun lineages is the long pole, the double knives, and the dummy. The hypothesis that Wing Chun was a series of loose movements that later added the dummy and weapons does not match the evidence presented in Chi Sim Weng Chun. This system was founded on the pole and knife, using the dummy as an integral part of the training. In ancient China, priority was placed on weapons training due to the reality of combat in those times. A warrior did not have years to learn empty hand sets before uniting body and mind through weapons training. Chi Sim Weng Chun's philosophy and technical knowledge constitute credible evidence that it was most likely the foundation for modern Wing Chun some time before the advent of the Red Boat Opera Troupe.

  Conclusion
 

While many styles lay claim to a direct connection with the Shaolin temples, Chi Sim Weng Chun backs up its claims with a training system based on Chan teachings and training methods that support Chan philosophy. A complete system that trains in all ranges of combat in addition to long and short weapons, the Chi Sim system of Weng Chun is a complete system preserved for the benefit of all martial arts. Perhaps with more communication and closer ties between martial art families, more people will come to know this lineage and appreciate the roots, depth and breadth of Chinese martial arts.

The Ving Tsun Museum would like to extend special thanks to Sifu Andreas Hoffmann for his extensive knowledge, willing attitude to share, and open heart to trust. He is a living example of his art and a credit to the martial arts community. Sifu Hoffmann is currently writing a book to share the unique aspects of his art to the martial arts community. The Ving Tsun Museum and its staff are currently working on a detailed report on its historical research to date. Keep an eye on the VTM website at http://www.vtmuseum.org for more details on these two exciting books.

Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun's Two Track Approach to Combat Training

By Garret Gee, Benny Meng and Richard Loewenhagen

Any serious student of modern Wing Chun has encountered multiple names or representations of the first level of Wing Chun Kung Fu knowledge and learning. In some families it is called "Siu Nim Tau" meaning "Little Idea Head (System)", while others refer to it as "Siu Lim Tau" or "Little Drill Head (System)". Many discussions have arisen as to which is correct. In Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kung Fu, both are correct, but they do not refer to training in the same way. Each represents a different approach to training with a specific military purpose attached to that approach. The Siu Nim Tau training track was employed to develop leaders who could reproduce combat warriors in whatever numbers were required. Out of military necessity, very few practitioners were trained to this level of knowledge. In contrast, Siu Lim Tau training was employed for the vast majority of practitioners who were expected to "produce" results on the battlefield, but were not expected to "reproduce" fellow warriors. In truth, this is how military training has been approached for millennia.

From a technical standpoint, when Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kung Fu was created in the Southern Shaolin Temple 330 years ago, it represented a true paradigm shift in combat thinking. Its main purpose for existence was to employ the culmination of Shaolin philosophical and physiological knowledge in support of battlefield strategic and tactical necessities the remnants of the Ming Dynasty Army and numerous revolutionary societies could use against the conquering Ching Dynasty. Maximum combat efficiency in use of resources (physical and energetics alike) was the imperative that drove the creation of this style around martial self-awareness in relation to space, time, and energetics. In essence, it required both philosophical and physical comprehension of the realities of human hand-to-hand combat. Complete three-dimensional control of the shape of the battlefield and all of its players, as well as complete control of the interactive relationship between space and time, became the central focus of the science that developed as Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun.

Creation of the maximum efficiency required for human combat mandated strict adherence to the laws of physics and the realities of human structures, geometry and physiological motion. All movement had to be natural and realistic for the human body. All structures had to support maximum strength and power delivery with the most economic use of space and time while simultaneously precluding the opponent from any efficient use of that same space and time. In other words, the opponent was compelled to fight in the Hung Fa Yi warrior's universal reality. The opponent was never allowed to fight in his own subjective reality.

During the past 18 months much has been written and published by the Ving Tsun Museum about the history of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun and its philosophical core surrounded by scientific principles. In essence, that information highlighted the Siu Nim Tau track of training for leaders and reproducers of warriors. Included in the information presented were the philosophy of Saam Mouh Kiu (Three Connecting Bridges) representing the three stages of martial reality and the Wing Chun Formula with its 1-line, 2-line, 3-Reference Point, 5-line, 5-Stages of Combat, and 6 Gate theories. Also included were discussions of the principles of Yee Ji Kim Yeung Mah, Leung Yi Mah, Bun Yuet Mah, Saam Dim Bun Kuen, Saam Dim Yat Sin, Triangular Theory and numerous others. All constitute the technical knowledge base of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun training. All build upon one another to create a knowledge base that leads to the Wing Kiu (true focus) stage of martial reality. For example, the 1-line concept gives the practitioner the core of human structure and balance. The 2-line, 3-Reference Points, and 5-Line theories give the practitioner 3 dimensions. Combined with Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun's Triangular Theory, all give rise to comprehension and efficient use of the 6-gates of offense and defense universal to human combat.

Wherein the above principles, concepts, and theories are absolutely essential to training at the Siu Nim Tau technical knowledge level, they constitute an expense of human and time resources that cannot be militarily defended in terms of training common combat troops in large numbers. Every troop does not need to know how to defend against every threat or every weapon. In battlefields of 300 years ago, armies adopted the fighting style of their respective generals. Therefore, troops to be employed within the sphere of influence of any given enemy army needed strategies, tactics, and body skills tailored to the specific style or threat to be confronted. A teacher with extensive technical knowledge could quickly create reaction drills and body mechanics drills that would counter specific threats without having to train troops for threats not anticipated in that same region. Since large numbers of troops are needed for production, rather than reproduction, a simpler, more efficient training track is needed to produce effective fighters in 6 to 8 months. Such a track is provided in Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun's Siu Lim Tau training. It was used 300 years ago to quickly train practitioners who did not require the knowledge to reproduce and be just as easily used in much the same way today. Siu Lim Tau employs body mechanics and reaction drills in conjunction with a clever structural heuristic called "Triangular Theory" to build true martial reality skills into warriors without having to train their mental awareness of how those skills were gained or could be replicated in others.

By way of example, we'll identify some of the body mechanics drills employed by Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun's 4th Generation leader, Hung Gun Biu, to train combat troops. The name "Hung Gun" means a high level revolutionary leader given the responsibility for fielding fighters. Hung Gun Biu's real name is unknown, but he may have been a nephew of the Chan family with the birth name of Chan Biu. The attached Hung Fa Yi lineage chart reflects that the second and third generation leaders were indeed inheritors of the wealthy Chan family whose members both supported and were trained by Jeung Ng, the 1st Generation leader of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun. It is known that Hung Gun Biu also had a direct connection to the Red Opera.

Siu Lin Tau training under Hung Gun Biu began with wrist and elbow and punch structure development. The first exercise focused on moving the punching hand wrist from the centerline of the body to a reference point described by triangular theory. That theory reflects an isosceles triangle with the striking point of the fist forming the apex and the nose and diaphragm forming the root of the two equilateral sides of that triangle. Another triangle is formed by the elbow of the striking hand forming the apex with the two equilateral sides terminating at the centerline and the shoulder line on the striking hand side of the body. Once the reference point was mastered through drilling, the punching structure would be emphasized with the same drill, but the punch would extend beyond the reference point out to the upper gate (nose level) centerline.

Some subsequent drilling sequences are pictured in this article. They follow a logical progression of drilling from a stationary posture, then advancing to an attack stance with the same structural drilling of the wrist-elbow-punch. This trained the body mechanics of moving into an opponent's space. Subsequent exercises incorporate chain punches and strikes and ultimately, exercises with partners to include Paak Da (redirect / punch), Gum Da (trap / punch), etc. The nature of any technique or strategy / tactic could be trained through such drilling. For example, the nature of Hung Fa Yi Paak is to redirect up/down or left/right. All directions could be trained with body mechanics drilling. Each exercise enabled the trainer to drill the structural time frame of space into the body mechanics of the trainee without expending the time and resources to communicate and teach in-depth concepts, principles, and philosophies.

After body mechanics training, skill and challenge exercises are employed to determine whether true combat skill levels have been reached. Weaknesses are quickly identified and appropriate drilling is resumed to correct them. The ultimate tests of combat worthiness are the actual combat applications and they are trained at every skill level in Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun. All exercises and drills reflect the exact same motions to be employed in actual combat, so retraining is minimal and "deconditioning" of training methodologies is unnecessary.

Hung Fa Yi's Two-Track training system fully addresses the military training imperatives of any organized fighting force. Siu Nim Tau track training provides complete technical knowledge for developing a few highly skilled and knowledgeable leaders / trainers. These leaders in-turn are equipped with the ability to instantly assess the strategies, tactics, structures, and tools of the enemy and quickly develop/adapt body mechanics and reaction drills that build the necessary Wing Kiu skills into front line warriors. Those same warriors are able to express the entire Wing Chun formula in their bodies and weapons without the lengthy training time required to develop the in-depth knowledge of their leaders. They are not, however, prepared to develop new drills/exercises to counter different threats. Nor are they prepared to reproduce other fighters. These abilities lie only within the grasp of the select few practitioners given full Siu Nim Tau track technical knowledge. Certainly, there are more advanced levels of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun training to include Chum Kiu and Biu Ji skill and knowledge levels, but, under the guidance of skilled trainers, even Siu Lin Tau level fighters could be employed in combat including the use of weapons as well as hands and feet. This proves the effectiveness and combat training efficiency of the Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun system.

 

A Note About the Authors: Grand Master Garret Gee is the 8th Generation inheritor of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kung Fu. He directs the Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Federation and its Headquarters School in San Francisco. Master Benny Meng, Curator of the Ving Tsun Museum, is a 9th generation disciple of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun under Grand Master Gee. Sifu Richard Loewenhagen is one of the founding committee members of the Ving Tsun Museum and currently serves as its Director of West Coast Affairs. He is also a 10th generation disciple of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun under Master Benny Meng. The authors are full time teachers of Wing Chun Kung Fu and are available for professional seminars on historical, as well as technical, aspects of the Hung Fa Yi art and its training methods. Garrett Gee can be reached at 219 Monterey Blvd, San Francisco, Ca, 94131, phone: (415) 587-2898 and email: HFYWC101@AOL.COM. Benny Meng can be reached at Ving Tsun Museum, 5715 Brandt Pike, Dayton, OH 45324, phone/fax (937) 236-6485, and emailed at bennymeng@vtmuseum.org. Richard Loewenhagen can be reached at Meng's Martial Arts of Arizona, 3029 N. Alma School Rd, Suite 218, Chandler, AZ, 85224, phone (480) 820-2428 and emailed at sifu@mengsofaz.com.


Photos:
 

The following three progressions demonstrate how the ideas and structures learned in the Siu Nim Tau form are developed, drilled and applied in the Siu Lin Tau progression.

 
Siu Nim Tau
Little Idea Beginning
 
Sifu Benny Meng demonstrating the punching sequence at the beginning of the Siu Nim Tau form. The fist, wrist, elbow, and arm positions are the proper structures for application. The concepts learned in the form are practiced through drilling.
 

Starting position


Wrist on centerline


Elbow at triangular position


Extended punch at the High Reference Point


 
Siu Lin Tau
Little Drilling Beginning
 
Jeremy Roadruck drilling the fundamental punch through the Siu Lin Tau exercise in the air. This sequence drills the student to perform with the proper body mechanics without consideration of a second object.
 

Drilling the wrist move to the proper starting position, straight - not bent. The fist structure is proper, ready to be used for striking.


 

Drilling the elbow to move to the triangular position supported by the second hand, aligned to deliver the strike with the whole body.


 

Drilling the knee to move to centerline, covering the lower gate, before moving forward.


 

Drilling the body to move and strike together, completing with proper six gate structures.


 
Mike Mathews and Chango Noaks demonstrating the Siu Lin Tau training with a partner. Chango is striking to Mike's head and Mike is responding by covering his gates and responding with punches.
 

Initial position. Mike is being attacked and is only aware of it peripherally.


 

Sighing Chango's attack, Mike moves to cover his gates.


 

Mike regains his facing and covers the attack by setting up his Jong Sau and Two Line Defense.


 

Mike clears Chango's strike and moves against Chango's flank to counter-attack at the same time, gaining an advantage in both time and space.


 

Mike continues to dominate the time and space by stepping further to the flank and applying an additional strike.


 

Proper punching structure from different angles

The Holy Land Of Martial Arts Southern Shaolin Temple

By
Benny Meng and Richard Loewenhagen

Wing Chun, Bak Mei, Hung Gar, and other Kung Fu systems all refer to the burning of the Shaolin Temple in their lore. Most of these legends do not make a distinction between a Southern Shaolin Temple and a Northern Shaolin Temple. Consequently, some experts of today suggest that there was no Southern Shaolin Temple, leaving practitioners in a state of confusion between the legends and current historical findings. This article highlights the evidence of the Southern Temple's existence, destruction, and present day reconstruction in the southern Province of Fujian, China.

The Southern Shaolin Temple was ultimately the result of Northern Temple monk warriors responding to a request for martial assistance from a young Tang Dynasty. Pirate incursions in Fujian Province threatened stability and prosperity in Southern China and the new dynasty needed help. At the Emperor's request, three of the legendary Shaolin Thirteen Cudgel fighting monks, Dao Guang, Seng Man and Seng Feng, led approximately 500 warrior monks south in the early 7th Century A.D. to engage in battle against the pirates. They helped the Tang soldiers turn back the tide, so to speak, and the coastal war was won. According to research performed over the last decade by three independent Chinese Government historical organizations (the Fujian Province Archeologist's Association, the Fujian Museum, and the Putian Southern Shaolin Temple Investigatory Association) many warrior monks fell in the ensuing battles. To commemorate their fallen comrades, some of the Shaolin monks stayed behind in the Southern provinces. They were welcomed and followed by local monks seeking to become Shaolin disciples. Dao Guang initially returned to Song San Shaolin Temple and visited Tan Zong, the grandmaster. Tan Zong wrote a poem for him and asked him to select a site resembling the Song San "Jiu Lian" Mountain and then build a Southern Shaolin Temple to commemorate their fallen brothers. The grandmaster asked him to remember their ancestors and to spread the Chan Buddhist philosophy native to the Song San Temple (also called "Zen" in today's Japanese culture). The literal meaning of the poem is: "Days and months fighting roving bandits, wishing a temple to stay at the foot of Jiu Lian Mountain; Southern and Northern Shaolin originates from the same temple with Chan Buddhism engraved in the heart forever".

Dao Guang returned to Fujian and selected Putian Linshan Mountain (which resembled "Jiu Lian" mountain in topography) as the site of the Southern Shaolin Temple. Evidence amassed by the three above referenced historical and archeological organizations establishes that the Tang Emperor, Lee Shimin (600-649 AD), approved the proposed site and the construction of a Southern Shaolin Temple. He was particularly appreciative, as the warrior monks had earlier saved his life in a conflict with a rogue General who challenged his ascendancy to the throne. Lee Shimin (Imperial title - Tai-Tsung) reigned from 626-649 AD. He brought Taoism and Buddhism together with Confucian policy to rule the country. The Chan tradition of the Southern Shaolin was also created at this time, together with that temple's practice of martial arts.

Centuries later, events during the Ming / Qing transition produced a political climate that precipitated an increased need for martial arts development in the south. During that time, Ming supporters and Southern Shaolin warriors formed a secret society called the Hung Fa Wui. Additional society members included high-level ex-Ming military officers and members of the Ming royal family. The actual meeting hall of the Hung Fa Wui, called the Hung Fa Ting, was the only original building left standing when the temple was excavated. The Government of China dates the creation of the Hung Fa Ting and the Hung Fa Wui to 1646 A.D. - two years following the collapse of the Ming Dynasty in Northern China. The martial experts of the Hung Fa Wui pooled their knowledge to create a combat system that would be quick to learn and effective against all styles via the mapping of spatial, temporal, and energetics characteristics of the battlefield to human physiological structure. The highly scientific paradigm shift of this fighting system occurred in the Southern Shaolin Temple through the combined efforts of Shaolin monks and the Hung Fa Wui secret society - specifically in a place called the "Weng Chun Tong".

The fighting effectiveness and revolutionary activities of the Southern Shaolin systems astounded the Qing Emperor at that time. In response, the Qing ordered the destruction of the Southern Shaolin Temple through the use of overwhelming odds. Surviving members scattered throughout the Southern Provinces. Supported by other secret societies, these revolutionaries continued to spread their activities and fighting style. Many of today's Southern kung fu systems trace their roots to the Weng Chun Tong, such as Chi Sim Weng Chun and Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun.

The National Culture Bureau discovered the ruins of the center temple, "Lin Quan Yuan," in 1986 - more than 300 years after its destruction. The ruins are located at Jiu Lian Mountain (above sea level 500 meters) and are surrounded by mountains North, South, and East. The Temple's western side was opposite the Supine Buddha Mountain (above sea level 570 meters) with a river in between. The ruins are 200 meters long from west to east with a total area of about 30,000 square meters. The terrain and its features bear a strong resemblance to Song San Shaolin Temple. The topography of the Southern Shaolin Temple is strategically located and quite difficult to access. From a military perspective, it was easy to defend and difficult to challenge. In essence, it was an ideal place for executing revolutionary command and control of military strategy and tactics. There are more than 10 fortified mountain villages around it. Today the ruins of these villages still exist. The four stone inscriptions of Zhang Jiang Village confirm that it was built at the end of Ming Dynasty (1645 A.D) when Cibo Huang fought against Qing soldiers. There are also place names related to the Shaolin Temple at Lin Shan Village, such as Yuan Qian, Yuan Hou, Yuan Ke, Ta Li, Ta Xi, Fangseng Chi, Liangong Tan, etc. Likewise, there are some camp names related to martial arts practice as well, and a stone trough for the monk soldiers to treat wounded and ill casualties. The stone trough is 226 cm long and 100 cm wide with the inscription "Bathing and boiling herb medicine for monks." Overall, these ruins suggest a significant level of prosperity for the participants in warfare during the Ming/Qing struggle.

Due to existing material objects, folk legend and historical literature all pointing to the existence of a Southern Shaolin Temple, the Putian Southern Shaolin Research Association was the first to apply for Government permission to engage in formal archaeological studies for the Southern Shaolin Temple. From Dec. 1, 1990 to May 25, 1991, approved by National Cultural Affairs Bureau, the Fujian Provincial Archeology Team also set out to do the same by excavating 1325 square meters of a total 30,000 square meters of Lin Quan Yuan. This represented the first phase of the recovery of the Southern Shaolin Temple. The initial dig unearthed many precious historical relics of dynasties ranging from the Tang to the Qing.

In June, 1991, the Northern Shaolin Temple sent their Martial Monks to teach martial arts at Putian. Hand in hand with the Putian Southern Shaolin Research Association, they started to rebuild the "Southern Boxing and Northern Kicking" magnificent martial arts era. The Putian Southern Shaolin Research Institute was further invited to make a horizontal inscribed board with the words on it saying "World's No. 1 Temple" on August 21st, 1991. The board has been hung at the top of the gate of Tian Wang Dian of Song San Shaolin Temple signifying the unity of the two temples as one Shaolin identity. The reconstructed Southern Shaolin Temple has been a very effective driving force for propagating and developing Chinese traditional martial arts, while simultaneously strengthening relations with the Chan Grandmaster of the Northern Shaolin Temple.

On Sept. 14, 1991, the Chinese Martial Arts Association, the Fujian Sport Committee, and the Fujian Martial Arts Association co-organized a conference to expound and prove the existence of the Southern Shaolin Temple. More than 30 experts in martial arts, history, religion and archeology firmly asserted that the central temple Lin Quan Yuan of Southern Shaolin Temple was built around 557 A.D during the Nan (South) Dynasty. This is only 61 years later than the Song San Shaolin Temple and even one year earlier than the most famous Guan Hua Temple at Putian. Therefore it is the earliest temple built in Fujian. According to the above referenced research teams, it was ultimately ordered burned by Kang Xi of the Qing Dynasty because of its participation and leadership in revolutionary activities. The Chinese Buddhism Association council member, De Chan, who is also the 29th grandmaster of Song San Shaolin Temple, confirmed these facts via historical literature maintained in the Northern Temple. In recognition, he granted an inscription for the reconstructed Southern Shaolin Temple. The meaning of the inscription is, "At the foot of "Jiu Lian Mountain", there exists a Southern Shaolin Temple".

On April 25th, 1992, the Southern Shaolin Temple confirmation conference was held in the Beijing People's Conference Hall. The conference officially approved the reconstruction of the Southern Shaolin Temple. After the press conference, the Xin Hua News Agency distributed press releases to the world announcing that the Southern Shaolin Temple was to be rebuilt at Fujian Putian. The Central News Agency also carried an article on April 26th stating, "Experts revealed the historically secret Southern Shaolin Temple to be rebuilt at Fujian". The article asserted that the controversy over the location of the ruins of the Southern Shaolin Temple had been resolved.

The discovery of the Southern Shaolin Temple caused a great response both at home and overseas. Putian city has held five Shaolin Boxing Competitions since then. People from all over the world have been attracted to Putian to visit the temple for respect and Martial Arts practice in an endless stream. On August 8, 1992, the provincial government officially approved the request to start the reconstruction. On Dec. 24th, 1994, actual construction began. The city and county government and many compatriots from Hong Kong and Macao participated in the opening ceremony. The first phase of the project was completely designed by the Provincial Classical Architecture Institute. With an investment of over 80 million yuan, they completed the construction of the mountain highway, the large and small Pailou (Decorated archways), the Daxiong Treasure Hall, the Long Corridor, the monks' dormitory, Fangseng Chi, the Temple moat, the Temple bridge, and mountain gate. By Dec. 8, 1998, these opened to the public.

The second phase of the project was designed by the National Architecture Department. The design called for the construction of 13 attraction areas, including a martial arts training hall, encompassing 25 viewing spots of the temple grounds. The total investment called for 36 million yuan. Up to now, the parking lots, administration offices and communication equipment have been finished. The Fine Arts Institute of the Southern Shaolin Temple was also constructed to enhance Chinese Martial Art culture and promote the exchange and creation of Chinese traditional paintings and calligraphy. By October 2000, 130 masterpieces from famous artists had been collected and are now open to public view.

In 2001, the opening ceremonies of the Fujian Sports Festival and the Fujian International Southern Shaolin Martial Arts Festival were held at Xi Tian Wei Township. During these festivals, Song San Shaolin and Southern Shaolin performed together. Their production, entitled "Great Shaolin Martial Arts", promoted the exchange of martial arts between the two temples. Many martial arts professionals and practitioners participated in these activities as well. Today, the Southern Shaolin Temple is becoming well known in the Asian world. The people from the hometown of the Southern Shaolin Temple sincerely welcome other peoples the world over. We in the martial arts community look forward to a new future for Southern Shaolin Kung Fu development.

The information in this article presents strong evidence and validity as to the origins and existence of the Southern Shaolin Temple, in concurrence with current VTM research. The information is supported by rigorous historical and archeological research and is openly acknowledged as correct by the Northern Shaolin Temple at Song San. It also establishes the path taken in the spread of Chan (Zen) philosophy and Shaolin Kung Fu to the southern provinces of China. The Government of China considers the discovery of the Southern Shaolin Temple and the Hung Fa Ting one of, if not the most, significant archeological finds in the history of martial arts. The lore of ancient Southern Shaolin systems such as Chi Sim Weng Chun and Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun take on greater significance with their consistent references to Southern Shaolin philosophies and training methodologies. Likewise, Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun's lore has always contained references to its roots in the Hung Fa Wui and Hung Fa Ting. These recent archeological discoveries simply validate further the accuracy of Chi Sim and Hung Fa Yi lore. The Ving Tsun Museum will continue to pursue evidence of the origins of these Shaolin versions of Wing Chun. Future articles will examine more closely the relationships between the Southern Shaolin Temple and the secret societies engaged in revolution against the Qing Dynasty.


 
A Note About the Authors: Sifu Benny Meng is the principle founder and Curator of the Ving Tsun Museum. He has traveled extensively throughout the world researching the roots of the art, and studying the training methods and applications employed in virtually every lineage of Wing Chun Kung Fu. He was one of the first disciples in the 9th generation of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun. Sifu Richard Loewenhagen is one of the founding committee members of the Ving Tsun Museum and currently serves as its Director of West Coast Affairs. He is in the first group of disciples of the Ving Tsun Museum to complete discipleship training in the Yip Man system of Wing Chun. He is also the first of the 10th generation disciples of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun. Both authors are full time teachers of Wing Chun Kung Fu and are available for professional seminars on historical, as well as technical, aspects of the art and its training methods. Benny Meng can be reached at the Ving Tsun Museum, 5715 Brandt Pike, Dayton, Oh, 45424, phone (937) 236-6485 and emailed at bennymeng@vtmuseum.org. Richard Loewenhagen can be reached at Meng's Martial Arts of Arizona, 3029 N. Alma School Rd, Suite 218, Chandler, AZ, 85224, phone (480) 820-2428) and emailed at sifu@mengsofaz.com .
The Background of Monk Soldiers

At Linshan Village of Xitianwei Township in Putian at the ruins of the Southern Shaolin Temple, there is a stone trough. It is engraved with Chinese calligraphy proclaiming that two Monk soldiers, Yongqi and Jinqi, of Linquanyuan Temple, the original name of the Southern Shaolin Temple, made this trough in September of the Year Jiayou of the Song Dynasty.

The mere existence of this archeological evidence gives rise to three key questions:

1.      What is a Monk Soldier?

2.      Did “Monk Soldiers” exist throughout Shaolin history?

3.      How and why did monk soldiers come to Linshan in Fujian Province?

I.          What is a Monk Soldier?

In answering the first question, we must begin by noting that the term ‘Monk’ refers specifically to a Shaolin Buddhist monk. There were Shaolin fighting monks who were treated as soldiers. Students often note the paradox between a monastic advocacy of standing aloof from worldly affairs and refusing to kill any life and a monastic development of a soldier that would take life without batting an eyelid. They wonder how the two can stand side by side.

To explain the existence of Monk Soldiers, we need to go back to the earliest inhabitants of the Shaolin Temple. The official position of the Temple and Chinese Government historians today is that the original monks were retired military men and robber barons looking to live out the remainder of their lives in a tolerant setting with others of their kind. In other words, the original Shaolin Temple possessed martial arts experience from its inception. Shortly after the Temple’s creation, history pushed the Temple into the military limelight, as seen in the story of thirteen cudgel fighting monks saving the early Tang Dynasty Emperor’s life. During the transition from the Sui Dynasty to the Tang Dynasty (619 A.D.), Wang Shicong (a general from the previous dynasty who possessed Imperial aspirations of his own) occupied Luoyang City as a stronghold for its defile. In September of that year, Emperor Li Shimin deployed a large army to besiege Luoyang City. At this key point, Zhicao and Tangzong, two Shaolin monks, started an uprising against Wang Shicong. They captured Wang Renze, the nephew of the rogue general. Zhicao and Tangzong, along with other monks,  joined Emperor Li Shimin’s army and helped convince Wang Renze to provide assistance key to overcoming Wang Shicong. Following subsequent victory, Li Shimin went on to unify China. He so appreciated the help from the Shaolin Monks that he granted them an imperial jade seal authorizing the Shaolin Temple to organize Monk Soldiers. Wherein other temples have monks that practice martial arts, this is the first, and only official government sanction in Chinese history for monastic creation of monk soldiers.

From this historical anecdote, we know that Tang Emperor Li Shimin chartered the Shaolin Temple to organize a monk army, most likely because Shaolin monks had helped him to establish his power and might be needed for similar action in the future. It laid the groundwork for Shaolin monk soldiers to become China’s ‘special forces’ for meeting specific military needs. This explains the difference between the Shaolin Temples and other temples in China: Shaolin legally trained armed Monks who were proficient with Kung Fu, and only Shaolin could legally maintain an army of Monk Soldiers. Other Buddhist temples did not have this same privilege.

II.        Did “Monk Soldiers” exist throughout Shaolin history?

As indicated above, the authorization for creating monk soldiers came directly from the first Tang Dynasty Emperor. The inscription of “Monk Soldiers” on the stone trough in Putian was done during the Song Dynasty 300 plus years later.

Jiayou was the reign title of Song Emperor Zhao Zhen who assumed control 96 years after the Great Song Emperor Zhao Kungyin (960 A.D.). Zhao Kungyin unified China from the situation of separatist warlord regimes and established the great Song Dynasty. It was very beneficial to the prosperity and growth of the country and its cultures. The steady economy and political policy of the Song Dynasty promoted the development of Buddhism. Instead of oppressing Buddhists, the Dynasty protected and encouraged them. They ceased Confucian driven destruction of Buddhist temples and supported the study of 157 Buddhist monks in India. Zhao Congcin, the Emperor’s Secretary, went to Chengdu personally to carve “ The Great Buddhist Scriptures”. The dissemination and development of Buddhism was expanded. Many temples, including the Shaolin Temples, benefited from these new policies. The Manuscript of Shaolin Boxing said that the Great Song Emperor visited the Shaolin Temple and sent famous generals to Shaolin to teach monks about the art of war and at the same time learn Shaolin Martial Arts. In essence, the military and Shaolin were still learning from each other. The Great Song Emperor himself was very good at Kungfu (Boxing) too. He knew 32 moves of the Long Fist boxing. Shaolin Annals of Martial Arts Monks records “The Great Emperor of Song Dynasty, Zhao Kunyin, as a grandmaster of Kung Fu. He supported the head abbot of the Shaolin Temple and helped organize 3 National Competitions of Martial Arts for monks, his generals, and folk martial experts.” This represents the first time in history that a national level tournament combined the talents of Shaolin, the military, and civilian martial expertise. In total, 18 formal systems came together and competed.

Zhao Kunyin’s son, Zhen Zong, continued to protect Buddhism and built 72 worship stations along the roads to the Capital and in the Capital. He increased the quota of monks and nuns. In 1021 A.D., the number of monks and nuns increased dramatically. This policy remained unchanged for at least 34 years. Therefore, Buddhists at this time were not only fully protected, but also the Monk Soldiers of Shaolin were given great responsibility and privileges. “Song History” records that the Emperor called the Monk Soldiers a “Victory Army”. These historical facts prove that in Jiayou Year of Song Dynasty, Monk Soldiers not only existed, but also occupied important positions in the dynasty.

 The words “Monk Soldier” were also used in the Ming Dynasty in an article entitled “Daily Knowledge Annals,” written by Gu Yanwu, a famous scholar of that period. During that same period, Fumei, the famous poet of the Ming Dynasty, wrote a poem entitled Passing By Shaolin Temple, that describes Shaolin monks as well known for their martial arts skills and highlights their receipt of many honors from past Emperors. Likewise, a famous calligrapher of the Ming Dynasty inscribed a well-known work that reflects Observing Martial Arts in Shaolin.

The Grand Master of “Shaolin Cudgel Arts” during the Ming Dynasty wrote in his diary, “ There have been no Monk Soldiers in China’s temples except the Shaolin Temples, whose the most important task is to protect their temples.” Later, during the Qing Dynasty, Mr. Yang Zao also said that if monk soldiers have ever been mentioned, they refer to the Shaolin Temples. From these historical references, we can deduce that only the Shaolin Temples had Monk Soldiers, or Monk Soldiers could only come from Shaolin Temples.

III.       How and why did Monk Soldiers come to Linshan Village?

Linquan Yuan Temple in Putian was considered to be a big temple. According to the stone inscription, it had more than 20 buildings with more than 500 monks living there. How and why did Monk Soldiers from Songsan Shaolin Temple come to Linquan Yuan (later called the Southern Shaolin Temple) in Putian? The answer is simple: Shaolin Monks traveled extensively throughout their history. To understand this practice, we must determine why there were traveling monks. Three key reasons for traveling monks have been confirmed by Chinese historians: 1) Direct orders from the Emperor for military assistance from monk soldiers; 2) Movements between the Northern and Southern Temples for political reasons; and 3) Chan Buddhism’s requirement for experience that could only be gained via travel outside the temple.

1. Direct orders of the Emperor for Military Assistance from Monk Soldiers

The Southern Shaolin Temple was ultimately the result of Northern Temple monk warriors responding to an Imperial order for martial assistance from Tang Emperor, Li Shimin. Pirate incursions in Fujian Province threatened stability and prosperity in Southern China and the monk soldiers were needed for special operations. Three of the legendary Shaolin Thirteen Cudgel fighting monks, Dao Guang, Seng Man and Seng Feng, led approximately 500 warrior monks south in the early 7th Century A.D. to engage in battle against the pirates. Their special talents helped the Tang soldiers defeat the pirates.

Many warrior monks fell during the coastal battles. To commemorate their fallen comrades, Dao Guang was tasked by Tan Zong, Northern Temple grandmaster, to select a site resembling the Songsan “Jiu Lian” Mountain and then establish a Southern Shaolin Branch to commemorate their fallen brothers. Dao Guang selected the temple in Putian to fulfill this tasking. Tan Zong further tasked him to remember their ancestors and to spread the Chan Buddhist philosophy native to the Songsan Temple.

This type of deployment of monk soldiers throughout China is seen throughout Dynastic history. For example, in 1114 A.D., the Mongolians invaded China. The Chinese Emperor ordered the Shaolin Temples to dispatch Monk Soldiers to fight back. Over 500 monks intercepted the Mongolian army at the bank of the Yellow River. They were not successful, but history records that they were there at the order of the Emperor.

2. Movements between the North and South for political reasons

During the Tang Dynasty, a struggle erupted over the selection of the 6th Patriarch of Chan Buddhism. Sheng Hui declared himself the 6th Patriarch and emphasized orthodox Buddhism with a strong dash of Confucian orientation in Northern China. The 5th Patriarch’s choice for successor, Hui Neng, fled to the South where his more Taoist influenced form of Budhhism flourished. Ultimately, a subsequent Tang emperor declaring the Southern lineage as the rightful Patriarchy later served political purposes. With this declaration, Chan Buddhism’s roots had left Northern China. Journeys from North to South were to be expected. The nature of Chan Buddhism seen today is fundamentally a fusion of Taoist and Buddhist thought and culture.

Another documented example of political movements to the south can be gleaned from a well-documented Song Dynasty incident. A young man named Haizhou escaped from the imperial slaughter of his entire family by hiding in the Northern Shaolin Temple. He became a monk and learned extensive Shaolin Kungfu over the next decade. The Emperor later learned of his hiding place, thus forcing him to flee overnight for the safety of Southern Shaolin Temple where he remained.

Other examples of politically driven movements to the south stem from the struggles between Ming and Qing Dynasties. As the Qing cemented control of Northern China 30 years before Southern China fell, many monks from the North traveled to the Southern Temple to continue rebellion against the Qing conquest.

3.    Chan Buddhism’s requirement for experience that could only be gained via travel outside the temple.

For practicing Buddhism, monks had to travel outside the temple. Yongqi and Jinqi, whose names are reflected today in the reconstructed Southern Shaolin Temple’s records as the creators of the stone trough referenced in the opening paragraph might have traveled to Putian for any of the above reasons and decided to stay in Linquan Yuan.

Chan Buddhist history clearly explains that after the development of Buddhism, monks began to lead a wondering life in order to prove and expand their belief. “Fujian History” says that by the end of the Tang Dynasty, Buddhism has been evolved into 5 groups: Yang Zong, Caodong Zong, Yunmen Zong, Linji Zong, Fayan Zong. Most of them were founded by Fujianese. In other words, Chan Buddhism’s roots had moved to Southern China.

Therefore, the practice of Shaolin Monks taking Fujian as their destination for visiting would appear natural. Among the five groups referenced above, Caodong Zong’s founder was specifically from Putian, the location of the Southern Shaolin Temple. “Putian County Annals” records “DanZhang Huang went to Lingshi Mountain and became a monk. Later he moved to Cao mountain with a monk name Ben Ji.” Therefore, assertions that Shaolin monks of the Caodong group visited Putian are reasonable.

From above examples, we can conclude that as far as back as the Tang Dynasty, many famous monks of the Shaolin Temple visited Linshan, Putian and some of them stayed in what became the Southern Shaolin Temple.

From the above information we may conclude that Linquan Yuan was not just a common temple. It was a temple of Shaolin Martial Arts directly passed on by Shaolin Monk Soldiers. It became a branch of the Songsan Shaolin temple. In order to differentiate them, we call Songsan Shaolin Temple Northern Shaolin and Linquan Yuan as Southern Shaolin. After a while, people only remember the South Shaolin and forget about Linquan Yuan, the birthplace of South Shaolin. The Qing Government destroyed Linquan Yuan. The finding of its ruins and subsequent reconstruction is being described by the Government of China as the most significant archeological discovery in China’s extensive history of martial arts and philosophy. It is especially significant to the marital arts of the most popular systems in the West who find their roots in the Southern Shaolin Temple such as Wing Chun, White Crane, Southern Preying Mantis, Five Ancestor Fist, Southern Dragon and White Eyebrow.

A Note About the Authors: Sifu Benny Meng is the principle founder and Curator of the Ving Tsun Museum. He has traveled extensively throughout the world researching the roots of the art, and studying the training methods and applications employed in virtually every lineage of Wing Chun Kung Fu. Sifu Richard Loewenhagen is one of the founding committee members of the Ving Tsun Museum and currently serves as its Director of West Coast Affairs. Both authors are full time teachers of Wing Chun Kung Fu and are available for professional seminars on historical, as well as technical, aspects of the art and its training methods. Benny Meng can be reached at the Ving Tsun Museum, 5717 Brandt Pike, Dayton, Oh, 45424, phone (937) 236-6485 and emailed at BennyMeng@vtmuseum.org. Richard Loewenhagen can be reached at Meng's Martial Arts of Arizona, 3029 N. Alma School Rd, Suite 218, Chandler, AZ, 85224, phone (602) 820-2428) and emailed at sifu@mengsofaz.com

The Three Treasures of Shaolin

The Best Evidence of Southern Shaolin's Legacy
By
Benny Meng and Richard Loewenhagen

Numerous articles by the Ving Tsun Museum have been published recently highlighting the work of China's government and several historical societies that have reconstructed the Linquan Yuan Temple in Putian and claimed that it is the original Southern Shaolin Temple. If the assertions of these organizations are correct and the Southern Shaolin monks practiced and developed their Kung Fu in Putian for almost 1100 years before the temple's destruction, then abundant evidence should exist throughout Fujian Province of the three treasures of Shaolin: Chan philosophy, internal and external qigong, and extensive combat science. Likewise, one could reasonably expect to find evidence of other general martial arts developed in a community both supportive of and supported by a great Shaolin heritage. The Ving Tsun Museum chose to focus its research on corroborating the findings of the historical societies that rebuilt the Linquan Yuan Temple by looking at the corroborating evidence in the surrounding community and province.


Southern Shaolin Historical Society gathering

In short, Ving Tsun Museum investigative trips and research specifically sought traces of the three Shaolin treasures and closely examined peripheral martial arts systems throughout the Fujian Province. In addition to the evidence from the scientific archeological community for Southern Shaolin Temple's existence, there is much circumstantial evidence within the martial arts community around the Putian area to support the Temple's existence. The Museum concludes that there is clear evidence of a current fervor for wushu / kung fu in the Fujian province around Putian and that fervor has existed from ancient times up to this day. Both written documentation and the existence of fully developed kung fu systems still practiced provide ample evidence of extensive martial activities in Putian in both modern and historical times.

Over the centuries there were many styles, systems and famous martial artists produced in the Putian area. In the ancient book, Nation of Documents, it is recorded that a large quantity of scholars, Sifus, warriors and generals came from the Putian area. With the Dynastic implementation of military testing, many warriors from Putian successfully tested for high-ranking positions. During the Ming Dynasty alone, Putian had 307 successful military candidates winning leadership positions through contests that included the whole of Fujian Province. These candidates were given governing roles at the levels of city, county and provincial government. In the early 20th Century, one of the province's best martial artists, Yang Siu Chi, was given the nickname Southern Fist Leader (nam kuen si jou) by the Fujian martial arts community due to his prowess and wide renown. He was a specialist in arm bridge (kiu sau) and crane fist (hok kuen).


The famous Shaolin staff training at the Southern Shaolin temple.

Despite the proliferation of this documentation during most of the 11 Centuries of Southern Shaolin heritage, there were certain periods of history where no public activities were recorded. One such period was the beginning of the Qing Dynasty. The lack of documentation during this period conspicuously supports the claims of revolutionary activities of the Ming loyalists in the Southern Temple that ultimately led to its destruction. Clearly, the government's claims that the martial arts within the temple went underground to establish secrecy from the government and the public are well supported by this period specific lack of documented martial activity in a community with a long history of such. Following the destruction of the Shaolin temple, the Qing government also curtailed the folk martial arts around the temple area. Those that lived through the destruction of the temple presumably left the area in order to escape. They took their kung fu along with them and eventually propagated it in other places.

The second period of history where martial arts activities appeared to decline and/or were hidden from public view started during the 18th century when China came into increasing contact with western civilizations. Western modern athletic sports were introduced to China in the late 19th century and Putian was no exception. These sporting activities became so popular that they replaced most of the classical martial arts as a folk pastime. Yet even after 200 years of martial arts decline, today there is still an abundance of martial arts resources in the Putian area. Putian practitioners still maintain the heart of the southern kung fu system. Ving Tsun Museum research reflects that there are many martial arts systems still being taught today in the area of Putian.

Examples of southern systems include the Lohan Fist, Plum Blossom Fist, Hung Fist, Five Ancestors Fist, Shaolin Five Thunder Fist, Buddhist Patriot Fist, Dragon Fist, Tiger Fist, and Ann Hoi Fist. Some of the specialized skills include Iron Shirt / Golden Bell, Shaolin Saam Jin (Three Battle) Fist, Shaolin Thirty-Six Treasures, and Southern Shaolin One-Finger Chan. In addition to the arts in the main area of Putian, the coastal areas of Putian contain additional systems and skills, including Ox Horn Fist, Six Superior Steps, Plum Swords, and Four Gates Combat. In the mountain areas around Putian, there are Horse Fist, Bodhidharma's Cane, and Nine Treasures. Other systems that originated from the Shaolin temple such as Wing Chun, Southern Praying Mantis, and Bak Mei are no longer in or near Putian but became popular in places such as Guangdong and Guangxi Provinces, Hong Kong, Macao, Southeast Asia, the United States, and other places. Interestingly, these three systems were the main ones involved with the underground anti-Qing activities of that period. After the destruction of the temple, they disappeared from the area. Many of te referenced southern systems contain a combination of the characteristics of Northern Shaolin, the five elements theories, the Chinese meridian theories, and chi gung practices. Even though they contain all of these theories, they maintain their own characteristics of Putian martial arts. Examples of bridge training:


Grand Master Andreas Hoffmann demonstrating the foundational Kiu Sau position of Chi Sim Weng Chun.
 

Grand Master Garrett Gee demonstrating the foundational Chi Sau position of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun.
 

Grand Master Garrett Gee training on the Muk Yan Jong.
 
Master Benny Meng training Kuen Chuen Kuen with Instructor Allen Kong.

The special characteristics of Putian martial arts contain forms and training methods that focus on ging lik. They tend to utilize all four limbs in close range, but their specialty is still the arm bridge. The basic exercises and movements of the southern systems commonly focus on the arm bridge, the waist / hip, and the use of Jong training, including standing Jong and Muk Yan Jong (collectively known as jong gung). The ging lik focuses on cheun ging (short power) and sticking energy. Speaking in realms of applications, they tend to operate with close range strikes and kicks, containing expertise in kam na as well as pressure point technology.

Out of all those systems and skills, which are more originally systems that were practiced in the Southern Shaolin temple? Which systems and skills were created after the destruction of the temple? Before anyone can answer these questions, researchers must know the DNA and characteristics of both Northern and Southern Shaolin.

There are three characteristics that mark an art as belonging to the classification of Shaolin: Chan (Zen) philosophy, internal and external health development, and martial skill based on combat reality. We call these the three treasures of Shaolin.

The first treasure, Chan (Zen), is the heart of all Shaolin Kung Fu. Chan (Zen) places emphasis on instant awakening rooted in awareness of 'here and now'. Equally important is the Chan (Zen) mandate for practicality. This refers to Chan's (Zen) emphasis on understanding and relating to reality through the senses of the body and intuition in harmony rather than creating complex philosophical models of thought that are not directly tied to daily experience. Finally, Chan (Zen) insistence on 'completeness' refers to looking at issues or situations from all angles rather than one's personal, subjective, frame of reference.

The second treasure of Shaolin, internal and external health development, deals with keeping the body in good working order and living in harmony with the needs of the body. Medicinal and qigong practices are used to heal the body and maintain a proper internal functioning of the viscera in harmony with the muscles and bones. Forms achieve multiple aims from moving meditation to external strengthening of the body to internal conditioning of the viscera through static postures and rhythmic movements of the limbs.


Instructor Allen Kong demonstrating the Human Standing Post Qigong of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun.

The final treasure, martial skill, was also an important facet of Shaolin Chan (Zen). The body must be kept in balance and self-defense is necessary to keep the world in balance. Shaolin monks use the process of learning self-defense in addition to fighting scenarios to delve into their personal demons and attachments to root out the source of ignorance, fear and greed.


Master Meng demonstrating Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun fighting applications.

To consider a martial art to be original to Shaolin, it must contain Chan, health, and self-defense modalities. Further, these three components have to be united and consistent in terms of training methodologies, employment strategies, and philosophical focus.

Within the martial treasures of Shaolin, there are three layers of skills. The first of these three layers consists of the specialized skills (gung) that focus on combining qigong with physical conditioning but are not directly related to fighting skill. Examples in the Putian area consist of Iron Shirt / Golden Bell, Shaolin Thirty-Six Treasures, and Southern Shaolin One-Finger Chan. The second layer of skills involves the use of training sets or patterns (tao lu). These are the forms of Shaolin, functioning as both physical conditioning and meditational training, as well as serving as a means to preserve and communicate the principles and identity of a particular system. The third layer of skills is realistic fighting ability (ge dou). This is the actual ability of self-defense trained by the monks. In Southern Shaolin, these skills focused on bridge training (kiu sau).


The Southern Shaolin Temple in Putian, China

Armed with the knowledge of the the three treasures of Shaolin, Ving Tsun Museum research into Wing Chun history, specifically looking for the roots of Wing Chun, has identified two systems that contain all three treasures of Shaolin. In other words, both systems are complete in realms of Chan, health, and self-defense skills. These two systems come from the Weng Chun Dim in the Southern Shaolin Temple and the Hung Fa Ting led by the Hung Fa Wui revolutionary Anti-Qing secret society located just outside the Southern Shaolin Temple. Today they are referred to as Chi Sim Weng Chun and Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun.

Researchers more knowledgeable of the other systems referenced in this article should closely examine them for their adherence to the treasures of Shaolin as well. The next article in this series by the Ving Tsun Museum will focus specifically on Chi Sim Weng Chun and Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun adherence to Chan (Zen), internal and external qigong, and fighting skills and strategies. Specifically, it will highlight the consistent philosophy that knits these systems together.

A Note About the Authors: Sifu Benny Meng is the principle founder and Curator of the Ving Tsun Museum. He has traveled extensively throughout the world researching the roots of the art, and studying the training methods and applications employed in virtually every lineage of Wing Chun Kung Fu. Sifu Richard Loewenhagen is one of the founding committee members of the Ving Tsun Museum and currently serves as its Director of West Coast Affairs. Both authors are full time teachers of Wing Chun Kung Fu and are available for professional seminars on historical, as well as technical, aspects of the art and its training methods. Benny Meng can be reached at the Ving Tsun Museum, 5717 Brandt Pike, Dayton, Oh, 45424, phone (937) 236-6485 and emailed at BennyMeng@vtmuseum.org. Richard Loewenhagen can be reached at Meng's Martial Arts of Arizona, 3029 N. Alma School Rd, Suite 218, Chandler, AZ, 85224, phone (602) 820-2428) and emailed at sifu@mengsofaz.com.

Seven Military Criteria

Seven Military Science Criteria for Developing a
Survivable Hand to Hand Combat System

by
Garrett Gee, Benny Meng and Richard Loewenhagen

The true test of a hand-to-hand combat system is its employment and survivability on the battlefield. Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kung Fu is one such system that survived battlefield tests for over 200 years. Ultimately, its use on the battlefield gave way to longer range weapons and weapons of mass-destruction that negated many of the training needs of eyeball-to-eyeball fighting. In today’s world of terrorism in urban areas amongst countless innocent non-combatants, long range weapons and weapons of mass destruction must often be shelved. Soldiers are once again confronted with the serious potential for eyeball-to-eyeball combat. Military officials are once again looking to develop true hand-to-hand combat skills with “single-kill” precision and little collateral damage. At the same time, law enforcement officials, body guards, and ordinary citizens have greatly increased their demands for “unarmed” self-defense training with “streets”, “public assemblies”, “transportation nodes”, or even “classrooms” defined as the battlefield.  It’s time to define specific criteria for a hand-to-hand combat system to meet these needs. These criteria summarize an accumulation of knowledge gained primarily from the study and analysis of military experience by military scientists spanning decades of defense engagements. Said experience includes actual combat and contingency operations as well as formal tests and training exercises.

This article highlights seven military science criteria that must guide the creation and development of a true hand-to-hand combat system if it is to survive the real test of battlefield use. These criteria are:

  1. The system must make full use of all available natural weapons. The structure and motion of these weapons must comply with the harmony (physical laws) of their genetic construction.
  2. The system must employ optimum efficiency in combat. In doing so, it must be direct and demand the minimum required amount of motion, energy, and time.
  3. The system must be both logical to learn and effectively retained.
  4. The system must be capable of lethality in deployment, yet allow a full-range of response options in choosing the level of lethality consistent with morality.
  5. The system must provide reasonable survivability against a numerically or physically superior enemy. In doing so, it must protect against “Pyrrhic victory” or a victory that cost more than it was worth.
  6. The system must emphasize and provide reactional combat speed rather than eye-brain dominated speed only.
  7. The system’s results must be both predictable (in terms of success) and repeatable.
 
Natural Weapons Use

The primary functions of human body parts do not include using them as weapons, but this does not preclude using them as such provided proper alignment, structure, and energetics are adhered to cooperatively.  A good example is the human fist.  If used incorrectly, it isolates the intended weapon from the body’s root (earth connection) and can result in serious injury to the person throwing the punch. Aligned properly, all bones cooperate in transferring shock energy to and from the root resulting in maximum power with minimum damage to the person employing it. Of course, proper alignment and throwing of the punch won’t result in minimal self-inflicted damage if improper targets are engaged. Strategies, tactics, and training methodologies must all coincide so that proper targets for this particular weapon are selected and used instinctively.  For example, hitting the head with a fist results in far more danger to the puncher than hitting the carotid, jawbone, or cheekbone/sinus cavity.

There are a number weapons that can be derived from proper orientation and use of human body parts, to include: palm strikes, finger thrusts, chops, elbow strikes, knee strikes, and kicks. All must be properly aligned (and properly released) to prevent injury to the user and ensure optimal results. The concept of Hung Fa Yi structural space (dealing with body alignment) complies fully with this requirement. In short, any motion or structure that defies natural body alignment of bones and muscles (alignment dictated by human genetic code), will by its very nature result in less than optimal efficiency and effectiveness. This leads to the second criterion.

 
Hung Fa Yi Triangular structure
Hung Fa Yi Triangular structure
 
Proper alignment of the Hung Fa Yi Vertical Punch
Proper alignment of the Hung Fa Yi Vertical Punch
 
Optimum Efficiency

This criterion stipulates that an effective hand-to-hand combat system must use optimum efficiency in accomplishing its goals. In doing so, it must exhibit directness while employing an absolute minimum amount of motion, energy and time. Directness itself results in the minimum required amount of motion, energy, and time – all of which must be carefully protected and wisely used when engaging a stronger, faster enemy. A wise defender always makes the safe assumption that his/her opponent is stronger and faster and, therefore, should not be underestimated.  Taking the shortest distance to target counters the opponent’s greater speed. Using the least amount of energy and motion counters his greater strength and endurance. In a life and death struggle, there is no room for ego driven moves or strategies. For example, many movies have depicted martial fighters catching one another’s fists in mid-air. In reality, only a simple redirection was required while simultaneously destroying the attacker using the weapon.  Observe the emphasis on simultaneous action. True efficiency allows for both offensive and defensive actions simultaneously, further limiting energy expenditure by conserving time and resources.

A truly valid system of self-defense will focus on maximum power projection with minimum motion, time, and energy expenditures. After all, energy (and energy reserves) constitutes one’s ammunition in hand-to-hand combat. If one runs out of energy, he/she runs out of ammunition.

 
The ability to engage and counterattack simultaneously is always more efficient than a 1-2 sequence.
The ability to engage and counterattack simultaneously is always more efficient than a 1-2 sequence.
 

Most often, a flying kick is used for demonstration and entertainment purposes. In real combat, a technique such as this is unrealistic as it requires a large amount of energy and takes a lot of space, requiring too much time to execute.
 
Logical to Learn / Effectively Retained

Valid self-defense must be rooted in human physiological and genetic science. This is the only way that basic truths can be divined and trained. They will survive the test of time because they describe the most efficient way to prepare and use human body weapons. Inherent in the definition of truths is that they are stable (remain the same until genetic code is altered). Consequently they are enduring rather than transient. As such, they provide structures, strategies, and tactics that will function over long expanses of time. The methods employed for teaching these basic truths must follow a consistent philosophy, giving rise to consistent principles and concepts that cooperate with human design and impulse.  Any other approach will ultimately degrade into a strength contest with the stronger, faster opponent winning hands-down.

A competent training methodology must result in muscle memories and instincts that allow continuous flow of weapons to target. These same muscle memories must be akin to those of riding a bicycle – once learned, they can never be forgotten. Likewise, they can be employed efficiently with little refresher training. Examples of such methodologies are the arm bridge and leg bridge training of Chi Sim Weng Chun and Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun. Another example is Hung Fa Yi’s detailed sticking hands striking point training. Again, emphasis must be placed on logicality of both the fighting platform itself and the strategies and tactics for using it. That which is not natural and logical simply will not be used in moments of high duress. Effective retention requires a system designed from the ground up around a logical, consistent philosophy that gives rise to consistent, scientific principles and concepts. If this preliminary groundwork is not done to perfection, subsequent inconsistencies (and resulting inefficiencies) may not be spotted or corrected.

 
Lethal, Yet Flexible in Deployment

True hand-to-hand combat must be structured and trained to yield a victor in seconds. In reality, that is the maximum time one could ever hope to afford before having to face a second attacker. This means every weapon must be deployable with lethal power. Every range and stage of combat must be provided for with lethality as its ultimate outcome.  Single-hand kills are essential. At the same time, laws and socially acceptable conduct of defense must also be provided for. The lethality of the attack must determine the lethality of the response – not personal preference. If the defender is to survive the legal and moral ramifications of his/her actions, then the system trained must provide for natural employment of minimal force to accomplish the task of defense.

 
Grand Master Gee demonstrating total structural destruction.
Grand Master Gee demonstrating total structural destruction.
 

The requirements for maximum lethality and minimal use of that lethality might appear to be in conflict with one another. In truth, one gives us the room and “comfort zone” for the other.

Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun’s Chum Kiu and Biu Ji skill level tools enable both the required lethality and flexibility. Chum Kiu breaks down the structures and defenses so Biu Ji’s pinpoint accuracy can be employed. In short, one cannot afford to be merciful if one cannot guarantee successful outcome of the defense scenario. With Hung Fa Yi Chum Kiu and Biu Ji’s absolute control of the space, time, energy, and lethality of the scenario, pinpoint accuracy is guaranteed and mercy becomes easy to grant.  This need for absolute control of space, time, energy, and lethality leads us to the next criterion.

 
Survivability Against a Superior Attacker

Attackers on battlefronts will, at times, be superior in number or strength. Training to defend oneself via the employment of biggest, strongest, fastest techniques (i.e. blocking) will most likely result in serious injury or death to the defender. To defeat a stronger opponent, one must control battlefield time, thereby jamming the opponent’s forces so that superior strength cannot be employed. To defeat a faster opponent, battlefield space must be warped or altered to compel the attacker to take the longer route to target, thereby negating his physical speed advantage. At no time should the system require the defender to give up defensive and offensive options by engaging in limiting conduct such as intentionally wrestling an opponent to the ground, thereby rendering oneself totally vulnerable to other possible attackers.

Until human genetic code is alterable in real time, there truly are (and always will be) optimal points of efficiency in employing human structures and energetics for controlling battlefield space and time. Regardless of techniques and strategies employed by an attacker, proper use of these optimal points of efficiency allow one to control the time, space, and energy of the engagement. Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kung Fu has carefully mapped each of these points of efficiency out and all of its methodologies converge on training to use them correctly. This kinesiological mapping is absolutely essential for any survivable hand-to-hand combat system.

 
Recognizing the threat…
Recognizing the threat…
 
Reacting to the threat…
Reacting to the threat…
 
Engaging the threat from the flank allows a smaller force to overcome
a greater force.
Engaging the threat from the flank allows a smaller force to overcome a greater force.
 
Reactional Verses Eye Dominated Speed

The eye-brain command and control link for the human body is remarkably slow. Yet the majority of martial arts systems encountered today focus solely on developing and training defensive and offensive tools controlled completely by eye-brain coordination. A quick look at today’s evolving science of haptics can highlight the problem. Computer scientists have studied eye-brain dominance vice touch dominance at great length. It is common knowledge that 30 flashing pictures per second can fool the eye-brain into believing that 30 static pictures represent true human motion in 3 dimensional real-time. In the development of force feedback joystick controllers for computer games they discovered that 1500 pulses per second were required to give the sense of human touch an approximate feeling of reality. In the development of military combat simulators, 15,000 pulses per second are actually required to deceive the sense of touch into believing that a simulation is reality. In essence, the sense of touch is overwhelmingly faster than the eye-brain at responding to outside energies and influences.

Any viable hand-to-hand combat system must employ the reactional speed of touch training to allow close quarter combat flow to target if a smaller, weaker defender is to control a larger, stronger one. Hung Fa Yi’s Kiu Sau and Chi Sau allow practitioner’s to develop the necessary reactional combat speed needed to meet this requirement.

 
Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun contains specific reactional drills such as Kiu Sau and Chi Sau.
 
Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun contains specific reactional drills such as Kiu Sau and Chi Sau.
Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun contains specific reactional drills such as Kiu Sau and Chi Sau.
 
Predictable and Repeatable Results

This may well be the most important of the seven criteria outlined in this article. No competent battlefield commander would commit troops and resources without plans, strategies, straining, and equipment that yield an 85% probability of success.  The same demand should be placed on any hand-to-hand combat scenario. The tools employed should work the same way every time, on every opponent, if the scientific principles upon which they are based remain adhered to. Only then can an outcome be both predictable and repeatable. Life and death struggle cannot be left predominantly to chance.  On a battlefield, every strike must be delivered at optimal striking range. Every redirection must predictably remove the opponent’s weapons from the battlefield while guaranteeing space and time for simultaneous attack with optimum efficiency. Hung Fa Yi’s Wing Chun Formula underwrites its ability as a system to produce predictable and repeatable results, regardless of the size, strength, and speed of its practitioners.

Conclusion

Military research and development projects over the centuries have proven time and again that the above seven criteria can never be fully achieved in a system that is ‘kluged’. A core philosophy must guide the system’s development. Ultimately, that philosophy must ensure all technical science concepts and structures, as well as employment strategies and tactics, remain cohesive and mutually supportive. The following triangle depicts total systems knowledge and skill as dependent on all three.

 
 

In Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun, the core Chan (Zen) philosophy is the Southern Shaolin concept of Saam Mo Kiu, meaning Three Connecting Bridges (known to the outside world as Tin Dei Yan meaning Heaven, Man, Earth). Saam Mo Kiu guided the development of all technical and strategic/tactical aspects of the system. Today, it guides their training and employment as well.

A Note About the Authors: Grand Master Garrett Gee is lineage holder of the Hung Fa Yi system and head instructor of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun lineage. Sifu Benny Meng is the principle founder and Curator of the Ving Tsun Museum. Sifu Richard Loewenhagen is one of the founding committee members of the Ving Tsun Museum and currently serves as its Director of West Coast Affairs. All three authors are full time teachers of Wing Chun Kung Fu and are available for professional seminars on historical, as well as technical, aspects of the art and its training methods. Garrett Gee can be reached through the Hung Fa Kwoon, 219 Monterey Blvd., San Francisco, CA 94131, phone (415) 587-2898 and emailed at hfywc101@aol.com. Benny Meng can be reached through the Ving Tsun Museum, 5717 Brandt Pike, Dayton, Oh, 45424, phone (937) 236-6485 and emailed at BennyMeng@vtmuseum.org. Sifu Richard Loewenhagen can be reached at Meng's Martial Arts of Arizona, 3029 N. Alma School Rd, Suite 218, Chandler, AZ, 85224, phone (480) 820-2428 and emailed at sifu@mengsofaz.com.

Misconceptions of Wing Chun

Misconceptions of Wing Chun

By Benny Meng and Steve Rudnicki

Modern day misconceptions about Wing Chun Kung Fu have led to numerous controversies and debates about its origins, its looks, its training methods, its applications, and even its combat employment. It is the intention of the Ving Tsun Museum to present some of these misconceptions to the reader, followed by the latest research the Museum has conducted. This research is by no means complete at this time, nor have any final conclusions been drawn. The Museum simply presents its most recent discoveries and leaves the practitioner free to draw his or her own conclusions.

 
1. The Burning of the Shaolin Temple
 

Legend: The Qing Dynasty overthrew the Ming Dynasty. The Qing were a minority group (the Manchu) which succeeded in ruling over the majority group, the Han (the Chinese), but not with out a struggle. The remnants of the Ming Dynasty, together with the Shaolin monks, continued to fight against the Qing. The Shaolin connection to and support of the Ming Rebels was eventually discovered, which resulted in the burning of the Northern Hunan Temple. It is from this destruction that the Five Elders escaped. This is the popular legend.

Latest Research: It is true that the Shaolin Monks were involved with the anti-Qing movements when the Ming Dynasty was overthrown. The Northern Temple was not burned during the Qing Dynasty, in fact it was expanded during this time. It was, however, surrounded by Qing forces - both military and political - to ensure that it could not openly participate in rebellion. It was the Southern Temple in Fujian that was burned to the ground because of its open support of the Ming revolutionaries.

 
2. The Five Elders
 

Legend: There are many Southern Shaolin Systems that trace their roots, via oral tradition, back to the Five Elders, one of the systems is Wing Chun, although it is not so named at this point. In the oral traditions, Ng Mui, a nun and one of the Five Elders, is credited with teaching Wing Chun to the girl.

Latest Research: Oral traditions often date the Five Elders back to the 1800's, implying that Wing Chun is only about 200 years old, when in fact it is older, having existed in the 1600's. However, there is no recorded proof of who the Five were or if they were even people. According to the records of the Hung Mun (Secret Societies), reference is made to the Five Elders, which is how the legends may have entered into Wing Chun. It is possible that the Five Elders may be a reference to the evolution of different branches of the Secret Societies that arose during the conflict between the Ming and the Qing Dynasties or it may be a historical metaphor for variations of other Shaolin Martial Art Systems. Secret Society references may also point to the five political elders (with little to no Kung Fu experience) referenced in the book Mastering Kung Fu Featuring Shaolin Wing Chun by Gee, Meng, and Loewenhagen, Human Kinetics Publishing, 2004.

"Yat Chum" is another oral tradition. According to legend, the historically extant Cheung Ng learned his martial arts skills from a Shaolin Abbot named Yat Chum Dai Si.

 
3. Yim Wing Chun, her father, and her husband
 

Legend: The popular legend contends that one of the Five Elders, Ng Mui, taught a girl, named Yim Wing Chun, kung fu so that she could defend herself against an unwanted marriage. Some others state that the girl's father was a disciple of Shaolin and wanted her to learn from the Shaolin Masters as well. After learning and mastering the kung fu, she then modified it after she watched a crane and a snake fight and then taught it to her husband. Her husband then named the Kung Fu System after her, and brought it to the Red Boats.

Latest Research: Like the Five Elders, there are no written historical records of Yim Wing Chun, her husband or her father. The problem with this version is that if there are no Five Elders, then the nun, Ng Mui, did not exist. If the Five Elders were the Revolutionary Leaders of the time, then being so, they were also marked, on the most wanted list. If she came forward either as a woman disguised as a man or as a revolutionary merely to teach Kung Fu to a young girl, she would have jeopardized her life, as well as her fellow elders, along with the life of the girl. Likewise, since the Qing military's practice of executing 'Nine Ancestors in Crime' meant the death of all of her relatives out nine generations if she was discovered, it would have been most illogical for such a person to come forward to teach the girl kung fu simply because she was being forced into a marriage.

Anyone who studies Wing Chun knows that it is an advanced and sophisticated martial art. It is highly unlikely that one person developed such a complex system alone. Another point is that Wing Chun is based on efficiency. For the efficiency to work, the system has to be based on the movements and structures of human beings, not on those of animals.

If the mythical Yim Wing Chun invented Wing Chun, and then later on passed it to her husband, who later took it to the Red Boats, this places the time frame again in the 1800's, creating a problem with the time frame in question. The Red Boats were in existence in the 1800's and the Southern Shaolin Temple was destroyed in the 1600's.This is a rather long time to be alive, especially back then. There seems to be nearly 200 years missing if the legends are true.

If we are to examine Wing Chun's roots scientifically, then we must understand the etymology and logic of the phrase "Yim Wing Chun". Weng Chun, as it was originally called, had a different meaning. The word 'Weng' means everlasting. Within the Shaolin Temple, the Weng Chun Tong is where the art was developed and practiced. After the destruction of the Southern Temple, the word changed from 'Weng' to 'Wing'. 'Wing' means praising. This meant to pass on the art orally so that its details could not fall into enemy hands; this method of teaching is also consistent with Chan oral teaching. Shaolin teaching required one on one, Master to Student teaching for a more complete experience. 'Yim' was also added for the sum of 'Yim Wing Chun'. 'Yim' means to be secretive. Now, the intent was to pass on the art both secretly and orally. The original intent was to return the name to Weng Chun upon the successful rebirth of the Ming Dynasty. Since such a rebirth never happened, the name remains Wing Chun today.

The burning of the Temple happened, but it was the Southern Temple. The Five Elders could be a metaphor that represents the combined effort of the Shaolin Temple and the Secret Societies. The Five Elders could also be different martial arts and/or secret society branches that came from the struggle to restore the Ming Dynasty. Yim Wing Chun represents the advanced system that was developed within the Shaolin Temple and passed on secretly to current times. The Wing Chun system remained hidden until it went public during the Red Boat Era. It was very convenient to have some cover story to hide the system's true identity, thus preventing spies from obtaining any useful information due to skillful subterfuge.

 
4. Weng Chun is not related to Wing Chun
 

Misconception: Chi Sim Weng Chun looks very different than modern day Wing Chun that contains the Siu Nim Tau, Chum Kiu and Biu Ji forms, ergo the two are not related.

Latest Research: Within the Southern Shaolin Temple, there was a place called the Weng Chun Dim, the Everlasting Spring Great-Room. The style that was taught in this hall, called (Chi Sim) Weng Chun Kuen (Everlasting Spring Fist), represented one of the highest levels of Shaolin Kung Fu. This system is a Chan expression of martial arts meaning that it is complete; it deals with Chan Buddhism, all ranges of combat and, it also has complete Chi Gung training. It's a system of fighting that is based on the concepts of Time/Space, Energy, and Gravity (Heaven, Man &, Earth).

A related system that also came out of the Southern Shaolin Temple was directly connected to the revolutionary societies, or the Hung Mun. (Hung Fa Yi) Wing Chun Kuen (Praising Spring Fist). It was developed in the Wing Chun Tong, or Praising Spring Hall, and is also based on Chan and the concepts of Time, Space and, Energy. However, the focus of Wing Chun is on the Economy of Motion, which created different sets of body structures than those found in Weng Chun. However, both systems share the same roots in Chan Buddhism and come from the Southern Shaolin Temple. They are considered sister arts. It is most probable that Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun gave rise to modern day Wing Chun, while Chi Sim Weng Chun most likely gave rise to modern day Hung Ga.

In summary, both systems came from the Southern Shaolin Temple, but from different places within the Temple. Both share the same roots and Chan tradition; however Wing Chun focused on the Sap Ming Dim (Formula), radically changing its appearance as compared to Weng Chun.

 
5. Wing Chun has no Chan Roots or connections
 

Legend: Most modern day Wing Chun lineages trace their roots through the Red Boat Opera, an organization that existed around the time of 1820-1850. This was about 200 years after the art left the Southern Shaolin temple. Many of the lineages of Wing Chun stemming from the Red Boat were taught without the inclusions of Chan Buddhism. Fighting ability is not dependent on knowledge of Chan Buddhism.

Latest Research: To the monks, martial arts were methods to cultivate their hearts and nourish their nature. In Chinese, the heart is equivalent to what the West refers to as the mind. In the Shaolin context, the mind spoken of is the Universal Mind. Nourishing its nature refers to the Buddha nature. This is the path used to seek enlightenment. When Wing Chun left the Temple, most of the people learning it were not doing so for the purpose of cultivating the heart or nourishing their nature. For students or teachers that placed an emphasis on self-defense or health, the Chan aspects of the art were left out of some lineages over time. Some lineages today carry on Chan traditions, maintaining a strong link to the origins of the art in the Shaolin Temple. A phrase often quoted by practitioners is, "Ming Sum Gim Sing (Understanding the heart, see the true nature)."

Today, there are at least two lineages of Wing Chun that maintain the Chan tradition, Chi Sim and Hung Fa Yi.

 
6. Wing Chun originates within the Red Boat
 

Legend: The Red Boat period was a sort of melting pot for many southern martial arts; numerous systems of today's Wing Chun began to develop differently due to its environment and personal experiences. The ancestors of today's well-known Wing Chun lineages, such as Yim Man, Yuen Kay San, Gu Lao, etc., originate from the Red Boats. For example, Yip Man's lineage is from Chu Wa Shun, who learned it from Dr. Leung Jan, and Leung Jan was one of the first non-opera people to learn Wing Chun. According to oral tradition, he learned it from two opera members, Wong Wa Bo and Leung Yi Dai. So in this sense, Yip Man's lineage did come from the Red Boats.

Latest Research: The point of the above discussions is that the Red Boat Opera members did not create the Wing Chun. Wing Chun was created in the Southern Shaolin Temple where it filtered to the Red Boat Opera through the Secret Societies, more than a century after it left the Southern Shaolin Temple.

 
7. Yi Ji Kim Yeung Mah
 

Legend: In Chinese, there are many words that sound alike, but which have different characters. Today, there are many people who translate YJKYM as "Two Adducting Goat Stance", which means you use your legs and knees to adduct towards the center, as though you are capturing a goat between your legs. Due to this translation, the focus went to the placing of the knees on the center, which in turn led to very narrow spacing of the knees and feet.

Latest Research: Another translation of YJKYM is "Two Adducting Energy Stance", meaning that you focus on joining the upper and lower body via the Daan Tien energy. Due to the misinterpretation of the word Yeung, it created two different meanings and structures.

 
8. Wing Chun dummies and weapons are taught only at the end of the system
 

Misconception: In modern day Wing Chun, you have to be an advanced student in order to qualify to learn the dummy and the weapons.

Latest Research: Wing Chun was a highly advanced system within the Shaolin Temple. Those students who were exposed to it were not beginner students, they had already been through previous martial arts training. In the Shaolin Wing Chun, such as Chi Sim and Hung Fa Yi, the weapons are taught right after the student demonstrates basic foundations and proficiencies in Wing Chun. Both systems focus on their core principles and concepts, which can apply to both weapons training as well as empty handed training. In the past, martial artists who were learning the Wing Chun system needed to learn the weapons immediately in order to survive. Learning the weapons at the beginning or end of the system is only a method, it is not a specified, set order. It depends on the master, the student and, the environment.

 
9. Wing Chun is an art that only deals with Trapping Range in that it does not have long kicks, strikes, or any grappling.
 

Misconception: Modern day martial artists at times need to learn two or three martial arts to learn the full ranges of combat. This is referred to as mixed martial arts. Some look at Wing Chun as one of the styles that specializes only in trapping.

Latest Research: Chi Sim Weng Chun is a complete system where it deals with all ranges of combat through its concepts of Heaven, Man and Earth. This concept addresses both where an attack is height and width wise as well as how long an attack is. Earth can be used to describe the lower area of the body (below the Daan Tien) as well as a body to body, close contact situation. Human can be used to describe a mid range attack with trapping and short striking. It can also be used to describe the middle area of the body. Heaven can be used to describe the upper portion of the body, from the solar plexus up, as well as a long-range combat situation involving kicking and long striking.

In Hung Fa Yi, the paradigm shifted due to its focus on the economy of motion. The efficiency of Hung Fa Yi is based on human structures utilized in human to human combat. It can effectively deal with all ranges of combat using these structures. These configurations allow the practitioner to make the most of time, space and energy in a combat situation. Only when the practitioner's space is threatened, at his six-gate range, will his tools turn on. He will not go out of his way to hurt anyone. Once in this six-gate mode, all options are available to the defender; kicks, punches, traps and, throws, as well as being mobile or balanced and stable. This is one of the most versatile and dangerous postures for human combat. It is not due to personal style or the artistic desire to do something, it is a hard fact of combat.

 

A Note About the Author: Sifu Benny Meng is the principle founder and Curator of the Ving Tsun Museum. He has traveled extensively throughout the world researching the roots of the art, and studying the training methods and applications employed in virtually every lineage of Wing Chun Kung Fu. Benny Meng can be reached at the Ving Tsun Museum, 5715 Brandt Pike, Dayton, Oh, 45424, phone (937) 236-6485 and emailed at bennymeng@vtmuseum.org. Steve Rudnicki is an assistant instructor under Sifu Meng.

The Secret History of Wing Chun (Updated in 2014)
The Secret History of Wing Chun: The Truth Revealed on the Red Flag Wing Chun
(also appeared as "Wing Chun Controversy: Is this the truth about Wing Chun's History")
By Benny Meng and Alfredo Delbrocco
"The first casualty when war comes is truth."
-- Hiram Johnson

Preface
Although the world itself has not gotten smaller, life in the Information Technology Age (via the media of email and Internet) has made contact and communication with people around the globe easier. Consequently, it is now harder for information and research to be constrained or concealed, or for only one perspective to be put forward. Most importantly, it means that certain myths will not be perpetuated. Information pointing to the historical origins of Wing Chun kung fu is one of them.

Put simply, the harsh truth is this: the myth of the Buddhist nun, Ng Mui and her disciple Yim Wing Chun, the supposed founders of the Wing Chun system, is just that - a myth. As the internet has brought information more readily to us, it has come to light that the story of Ng Mui and Yim Wing Chun was merely a way to conceal the truth about the system's origins and the identities of the political rebels who truly developed it.

After almost 400 years, mounting evidence is pointing to the truth of Wing Chun's creation and evolution. The question is: is the kung fu world ready for it?

There is no doubt that the information about to be disclosed will ruffle feathers to say the least. This is mainly because many Wing Chun instructors throughout the world are naively, and through no fault of their own, imparting a romanticized, fantastical history of the Wing Chun system. They are telling and retelling a story that is little more than a fairytale.

A view of the traditional legends with an eye on history reads as an even more fascinating point of view. And no less deserving of the term `legendary'...

Secrets in the Shadows of Shaolin
As near as history can testify, Wing Chun was developed around 400 years ago in a time of civil unrest. Between 1644 to 1911, the Manchurians ruled China, where 10% of the population (the Manchus) ruled over 90% of the population (the Hons). To maintain control over the Hons, the Manchus ruled with an iron fist. Aggression and oppression were the cornerstones of the Dynasty and the Hons were banned from using weapons or training in the martial arts. Thus, in order to overthrow their oppressors, rebel activity was instigated by martial arts masters in hiding.

Rebel activity developed rapidly in the Buddhist monasteries, which were largely left alone by the Manchus out of respect for the Buddhist culture and religion. These Shaolin/Siu Lam sanctuaries were ideal places for renegades to conceal themselves - they simply shaved their heads and donned the monastic robes of the disciples of the temple. During the day, the rebels would earn their keep by doing chores around the temple. At night, they would gather to formulate their plans to overthrow the Manchus.

There are some that maintain that Shaolin/Siu Lam sanctuaries possessed no political leanings. They further emphasize that the Buddhist teachings of these monasteries would have prevented their support for rebels and secret societies. Such a position is emotional at best with no grounding in historical fact. Religious leaders throughout history, in both the Western as well as the Eastern world, have influenced politics and government since the beginning of time. Churches have forever harbored political victims sought by authorities believed to be oppressive. In the case China, serious precedent for such behavior on the part of the monasteries had already been set 400 years earlier. As verified by Ving Tsun Museum research, Jyu Yuhn Jeung, the man who led the Chinese revolt against the Mongol and established the Ming Dynasty was himself a Buddhist monk.

Upon meeting, the revolutionaries identified themselves to each other with a secret hand-signal that would come to be the formal greeting or courtesy of Wing Chun. In fact, the traditional greeting or courtesy common to many of today's kung fu styles has two meanings. The first meaning recognizes the style's Shaolin origins - the left hand symbolizing the union of the Green Dragon (the left hand) and the White Tiger (the right hand), the fighting animals of the Shaolin monks.

In the Hung Fa Yi (Red Flower Righteous) Lineage of Wing Chun, however, the hands are reversed: the left hand forms a fist and the right hand is open palm. It still retains its significance to Shaolin but it also refers to the secret society. In this context, the fist represents Yat (the Sun) and the palm represents Yuet (the Moon). Combined, these two characters mean "Bright" which reads and sounds like "Ming." This is the name of the previous Dynasty - the one overthrown by the Manchurians who formed the "Ching" Dynasty in its place. Hence, during the time of rebellion, when a Wing Chun practitioner or secret society member saluted with a fist and open palm pushed toward you, they were saying "Return the Ming, overturn the Ching." Obviously, this was not a sentiment shared by the Manchus.

Late in the 1600's, the Manchurians became concerned about the Siu Lam Temples' rebellious activities and their continual development of the fighting arts. Therefore, they sent spies (many of them Manchu military leaders) to infiltrate the rebels and learn the traditional Southern fist systems as taught secretly in the Temples. The rebel kung-fu masters, realizing this, clandestinely developed a new system that was two-fold in purpose: firstly, it had to be learned quickly and efficiently, and secondly, it had to be devastatingly effective against the existing fighting systems that the Manchus were learning and teaching to their soldiers. Thus, Wing Chun was born.

Their spy rings compromised, the Manchus decided to eliminate the threat of spreading rebel activity by simply exterminating the Siu Lam monks. Eventually, the Southern Siu Lam Temple was burned and destroyed.

Extensive research conducted by the Ving Tsun Museum points to a generation of inheritors following the Southern temple's burning. Among them was a gentleman named Cheung Ng (referred to as Tan Sao Ng in other texts). Of this generation of inheritors, Cheung Ng is one to date that has proven to have historically existed. After establishing the Beautiful Flower Society Association (the precursor to the Red Opera and the public name for the Red Flower Society) and providing Wing Chun training to the secret societies, Cheung Ng went into hiding, disappearing from the public eye to escape Qing Dynasty persecution.

He was hidden by distant relatives, a Fuk Gin business family named Chahn. The Chahn Sih Sai Ga (Chan family) were well established and wealthy. Through indirect action they were willing to help Cheung Ng. Staying with the family for over a decade, Cheung Ng taught the family the art of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun. It was preserved by the family for four generations before it was taught to outsiders. The direct members of the Chahn family were never directly involved with the secret societies themselves, resulting in a low profile in Praise Spring Boxing history. The last generation of the Chahn family to learn the art was a distant nephew, a high level secret society leader, Huhng Gan Biu. In Qing archives as well as historical research into Chinese secret societies, a person by the name of Chahn Biu was recorded as the leader of the Heaven and Earth Society. He was caught and executed by the Qing authorities. Due to similar names appearing in difference sources at around the same timeframe, there is much debate as to whether the Opera's Biu and the Heaven and Earth Society's Biu were the same person. According to members of the Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun clan, Huhng Gan Biu was the 4th generation leader of the Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun clan and his Wing Chun descendants have preserved the system through to the 8th generation and 9th generation students in today's modern era.

It was at the fourth generation that history and truth parted ways and the myth of Wing Chun's origins was created.

The Myth of Ng Mui and The Truth About Yim Wing Chun To protect the identities of the creators and the perpetuators of the Wing Chun system, a smokescreen was thrown up in the form of a story - the story of Ng Mui and Yim Wing Chun.

The legend was told that among the survivors of the Shaolin/Siu Lam massacres was a Buddhist nun named Ng Mui. Ng Mui was believed to have been the sole custodian of a streamlined, highly practical and effective martial arts developed within the temples. In turn, Ng Mui is said to have passed her knowledge onto her chosen disciple, a young girl named Yim Wing Chun. As Yim Wing Chun taught the system to others, it became known as Wing Chun. The story spread and today many versions of it exist around the world.

However, there are three important considerations to make when regarding the story of Ng Mui. Firstly, outside of the legend, there is no other evidence that Ng Mui - in her capacity as a kung-fu grandmaster or founder of a kung-fu system actually existed - no records, no historical documents - nothing. Secondly, it would have been forbidden for a nun to live in, let alone train within, a celibate monastic environment like the Siu Lam /Shaolin Temples. Thirdly, and perhaps the most important, after escaping from a life and death situation as a revolutionary, it does not make sense that Ng Mui would teach an advanced level fighting system to a local girl with romantic problems and no connection to the revolution. At that time in Chinese history, the Qing dynasty had devised a special form of punishment for traitors and rebels. After being made to confess his or her crimes, the guilty party was executed. Afterwards, Qing officials would hunt down members of the guilty party's family down to nine generations and execute them as traitors as well. Teaching Yim Wing Chun a martial arts would directly put her life at risk.

With regards to the Yim Wing Chun element of the legend, consider once more the relevance of secret rebel societies. `Yim' can be translated to mean `prohibit' or `secret.' The term `Wing Chun' referred to a geographic location - the Siu Lam Wing Chun Tong (Always Spring Hall), where the rebels perhaps practiced martial arts and orchestrated their seditious activities. The use of the term Spring symbolized the rebirth of the Ming Dynasty and Always referred to the reestablished dynasty lasting forever. After the destruction of the Southern Shaolin temple and its Wing Chun Tong, the survivors changed the character of Wing from Always to Praise. The term Praise referred to the fact that the revolutionaries had to spread the word about the revolution after the destruction of their base. Thus, `Yim Wing Chun' was actually a codename, meaning (protect) the secret art of the Wing Chun Hall.

If we now know that the destruction of the Siu Lam/Shaolin Temples occurred but that the story of Ng Mui was a diversion, the question remains: who were the real custodians of the Wing Chun system?

Enter the Hung Suen
We do know that many (not the legendary five) monks and rebel leaders escaped the Manchurian massacres and that, to aid the secrecy of the system, historical material was passed directly from teacher to student. Thus, the elders told of two Siu Lam monks/rebels who survived the temple raids and were able to keep their Wing Chun system alive. One of these was a monk, a 22nd generation Siu Lam Grandmaster, Yat Chum Dai Si from the Northern Shaolin temple. The other was a rebel training under him in the Southern Temple, named Cheung Ng. Fleeing the Manchurian persecutors, Cheung Ng founded the Kihng Fa Wui Gun (Beautiful Flower Society), the roots of the (in)famous Hung Suen (Red Boat) Opera Troupe.

Historically, we know that rebel activity flourished in the Red Boat Opera Troupe. The Red Boats allowed talented stage performers, accomplished in kung-fu and gymnastics, to form their own secret societies to overthrow the Manchu Dynasty. The Troupes provided the ideal sanctuary for fleeing rebels as the performers wore elaborate costumes and stage make-up, providing excellent but natural/plausible disguises for them. Additionally, the performers adopted and were known by their `stage-names', further cloaking their secret identities.

When Cheung Ng founded the Opera Troupe he became known as Tan Sao Ng - not only a stage-name but also a sly nod to his skillful deployment of the Wing Chun deflection/striking technique, Tan Sao.

An important fact to note is that so suspicious of the Manchus and their spies were these secret societies, that the true identities of the leaders, members and real nature of their activities were known only to an inner-circle within the society. Thus, genuine knowledge of kung-fu was passed only from a master to select, trusted disciples, thus protecting the purity and origins of the system.

In conclusion
With the development of many different lineages of Wing Chun over the centuries (over 10 are known to date), Wing Chun could simply be seen as a generic name for a style with so many lineages - no different to `karate' being a generic term to describe the various Japanese arts - varying and similar. However, this article has focussed on shedding light on the origins of Wing Chun. Indeed, to chart the development of the various lineages would require an entire book more complete than anything currently written. A complete historical and political analysis of Wing Chun's origins and development is currently being compiled in book form by the Ving Tsun Museum and should be available through major publication sources within the next twelve months.

A hypothesis that Cheung Ng was indeed the inheritor of the art from Southern Temple and the guiding force behind its employment as a complete combat training system for rebels certainly has more historical weight behind it than the legend of a young girl. It represents a much more plausible explanation of Wing Chun's roots considering the completeness of the art in terms of total combat effectiveness. It also gels with the historical background of the times preceding the Red Boat Opera travels. However, as with all historical study, one hypothesis can give great impetus to further in depth study giving rise to even more revelations. In short, more study grounded in the proper structure and atmosphere of true historical research will get us even closer to reality. Hats off to the Ving Tsun Museum staff and researchers for moving our search into the realm of scientific investigation and giving us another starting point for serious research!

Myths are often created to simplify something or to disguise the true nature of the subject to make it more palatable to the mind. Consequently, sometimes people want to believe the myths despite scientific or historical evidence to the contrary. A fiction can be more comforting than the truth; a fairytale easier to grasp than a treatise. The legend of Ng Mui and Yim Wing Chun is a great story. It just isn't true.

In light of being told one story for centuries, it will be difficult for some to accept the truth in minutes, hours or even months. But studying the martial arts (and Wing Chun in particular) is a continual quest for truth - personal truth, social truth, spiritual truth and - yes - historical truth.

I trust you have enjoyed your enlightenment on the true origins of Wing Chun.

An internationally published author, Sifu Benny Meng is the founder and Curator of the Ving Tsun Museum in Dayton, OH, USA. A practitioner of Wing Chun for over 30 years, Sifu Meng has come into contact with most of the major families in Wing Chun. More information is available on the Ving Tsun Museum at http://www.vtmuseum.org or by mail at 5715 Brandt Pike, Dayton, OH 45424, phone/fax (937) 236-6485.

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