During the reign of the Ching dynasty in China (16th – 17th century A.D.), the Manchurian government sent its armies south to Hunan province to repress several uprising and civil unrest. Their main target was the Sui Lam (monastery) which was the main source and center that encouraged and trained those that participated in the uprising and unrest against the Manchu government. Having tried unsuccessfully to destroy the Sui Lam on several occasions, the Manchu government turned to traitorous monks who were successful in setting fire to the Sui Lam from within. What ensued was the slaughter of monks as they attempted to flee the raging fire. Only a handful of monks managed to escape with their lives.
Ng Mui, a Buddist nun and a master of Sui Lam Kung Fu (otherwise known as Shaolin Kung Fu) was one of the few survivors. She went on to develop her own system of Kung Fu that she would call Wing Chun, named after her protégé student Yim Wing Chun (beautiful or eternal springtime). Ng Mui realized that Shaolin Kung Fu was complicated and took years to master as it was based on the study of many animal forms. She wanted simplicity and economy in motion, a blend of Ying and Yang (soft and hard) energies to be encompassed in her system. The snake and the crane forms within the Shaolin Kung Fu system were selected as the basis of the new system. What emerged was something that was a lot simpler than Shaolin Kung Fu, took a fraction of the time to master and was extremely effective. The system was based on the principles of winning at all costs, using confined space, speed and subtlety to overcome an aggressor’s natural advantages. The emphasis lay in relaxation and sudden contraction causing one to explode into action, rather than using muscular strength. Relaxation was the main focus in order to conserve energy and allow for better recovery; both physically and in relation to reaction time. Relaxation also improved speed, timing and flexibility in confined combat.
And so a new system of Kung Fu was born. It has survived centuries of change and refinement. However, the fundamental structure and content have remained intact. The essence of Wing Chun Kung Fu have remained through generations of masters and students alike, who have embraced its spirit and passed it along to ensuing generations.