The origin of Wing Chun 關於詠春拳的起源 – Why a Buddhist nun?

There exist many versions about the origin of the martial art Wing Chun. And it is not always easy to tell which story or what part of which story is correct. Yip Man’s (葉問師公) story of Wing Chun’s origin was an important one to me, because I was a student in his lineage. It puzzled me for a long time.

Even when I was studying Wing Chun with Lo Man Kam, my Wing Chun Sifu (盧文錦師父) in Taiwan, this story of Ng Mui (五枚), the Buddhist nun instructing Yim Wingchun (嚴詠春) who then became the founder of the martial art Wing Chun (詠春拳) seemed to be a somewhat strange story to me. And it kept being a strange story to me for a long period of time, because the reverence of ancestors plays quite a role in traditional Chinese society.

If Ng Mui taught Yim Wingchun the essence of Wing Chun, why then was this martial arts style called Wing Chun instead of being called after the person everything started with, Ng Mui?

From everything I know now, this kind of story eventually makes sense to me. I say this kind of story, because it does not really matter, whether there was a person called Yim Wingchun who was studying with a nun called Ng Mui. The idea that there might have been a person studying with a Buddhist nun, then creating a new martial arts style that then was named after her, not after the nun is understandable for me now. As I have been able to see with the Shaolin Yijin Jing (少林易筋經), the Shaolin tendon method, as well as the Yin Yang and Five Elements method (陰陽五行功), methods like these can provide general, but very deep guidance for any kind of bodywork, or movement practice. They can provide a very solid foundation, not just for physical methods of course, but also for physical methods such as martial arts.

If you are a talented and hard-working martial artist and you practice some of these profound Daoist, or Buddhist methods of bodywork for a certain period of time, your martial arts movements, and techniques have the opportunity to be deeply transformed and to highly profit from these non-martial forms of bodywork. Even if you completely neglect the mental, emotional, and spiritual effects of these practices—which of course would be an utter pity and might even prove to be counter-productive, the energy you gain physically, the overall body-coordination that is improved tremendously by Daoist and Buddhist bodywork methods such as the ones mentioned above, but of course not limited to those, can be put to work very well in your martial arts training.

All these movements in the Wing Chun forms that do not make sense from a straightforward fighting point of view might very well be relics of the Buddhist and Daoist origins. They can condition the body and can be enormously helpful, even if you cannot detect their (deeper) meaning at first sight—and there is a multitude of these movements in the Wing Chun forms. This is what I am trying to show with this series of videos on the internal aspects of the Wing Chun forms on my Wing Chun YouTube channel.