Wing Chun is a southern Chinese martial art best known for its short range fighting and one inch punch. It was developed and perfected in the crowded cities of southern China and later Hong Kong. The creation legend is that a Chinese nun Ng Mui [ various spellings ] was the last survivor of a cabal of Kung Fu masters that went into hiding to develop a martial art to beat all others. They hid as the legend goes in a yet undiscovered Southern Chinese Shaolin Temple. The masters were of similar political bent and hence the Very unusual sharing of fighting secrets. Long story short, political enemies burned the temple to the ground and only Ng Mui escaped with the new martial art as yet unnamed. She met a girl who was being forced into marriage and taught her to fight in order to get out of the forced marriage. The girl named Wing Chun trained for 1 year and defeated her would be husband in combat and so the art of Wing Chun was born, so they say.
There was a legend inside the above one. The nun Ng mui told her student that the art came from a fight between a crane [ large bird ] and a snake.
The second Wing Chun story and more historically congruent was in Southern China during the Wests forcibly opening the ports of china to trade. A man lived during this time who was a Chinese Chiropractor [bone setter] and herbalist. He was also a Tai Chi Master. His Name was Leung Jan. It is believed he observed and treated many Chinese fighters after their run ins and fights with the western sailors. The western sailors were trained in various forms of western fencing. No, not the collegiate watered down garbage you see in the Olympics, actual life or death SWORD WORK AND BARE KNUCKLE BOXING. (NOT MODERN PRIZE FIGHTING) Again bare handed fighting for your life no rules to protect you. Both the boxing and fencing were products of the western age of reason. They applied math and science, anatomy and physiology to how to kill another person or persons in as short a time as possible. The age of reason did away with most dogma based arts. They replaced it with a love for brutal efficiency. If you had an opinion on how to fight with bare hands or sword you could open a school. However, the problem was anyone could challenge you to prove you wrong. This application of natural selection improved both bare knuckle boxing and sword work to a fine art. Size and strength became less important than skill. It is believed Leung Jan observed and possibly paid western masters to teach him the arts of the west. He then combined his knowledge of Tai Chi giving us modern Wing Chun. This is to say the least , a controversial theory.
The third story comes from my teacher Bill Graves. He and his teacher Karl Godwin were working out in Wing Chun when an old man approached them and said, "I can do everything you can." He proceeded to demonstrate a strange form of Wing Chun. When asked where he learned it, he had never heard of Wing Chun and said his art was a family line of bare knuckle boxing passed down father to son since the Vikings. It was the Viking empty hand art.
So which one is correct? I have no idea, I was not there and neither were any of the critics who claim special knowledge. It is also possible that there was parallel invention. The science goes something like this; given similar problems people find similar solutions. So Wing Chun remains mysterious . My best guess is closer to the number 2 scenario for Wing Chun, especially since the Chinese are renowned "borrowers" of ideas and strive to improve them through time. For those of you upset at my audacity to suggest alternative scenarios, please remember the truth is INDEPENDENT of how you FEEL about it.
In the end, it really does not matter. I love Wing Chun not for where it came from but for what it does. What it does is produce world class fighters not in a ring with idiotic rules but in the jungle in a short period of time. Weather that jungle be in a dark alley, a house, or a school it matters little. Wing Chun taught correctly allows you to adapt to the danger in REAL time. Win a fight against a larger, stronger opponent and go home to your family. That's what is truly important... Sifu Mullen