Our lineage here at Mindful Wing Chun can be traced back eight generations directly to Ng Mui, the founder of Wing Chun. The following excerpt from Chu Shong Tin’s book, The Book of Wing Chun, tells the story of Ng Mui and her creation of this beautiful art.
“Great-grandmaster Ng Mui (Wu Mei), Zen Master Zhi Shan, Taoist Monk Bai Mei, Feng Dao-de and Miao Xian are coined as ‘The Five Shaolin Elders’. They were martial arts geniuses during the period of Emperor Kang Xi of the Qing Dynasty; all of them had acquired unrivalled skills. Ng Mui in her later years, created the Wing Chun martial art which was first taught to Yim Wing Chun from whom Ng’s lineages of Wing Chun started to evolve right down to Ip Man. Grandmaster Ip Man plays a pivotal role in propagating Wing Chun worldwide and making it vibrant. Its rapid growth demonstrates Wing Chun’s unique features pertaining to its success, yet so far there has not been any serious effort in documenting the intricacies of its creation – Ng’s conception, theorizing and mental state – so that learners can share the opportunity of appreciating its beauty and being enlightened. Lacking this piece is a defect to perfection.
According to the oral narrations by Ip Man, the course of Wing Chun creation by Ng Mui is itself a unique and valuable reference for all of us in respect of deepening our understanding of Wing Chun. For this reason, I took a bold step and decided to document the narrations, so as to cherish the memory and admiration of Ng for learners for generations to come.
Ng Mui had been nurtured in martial arts for decades – she often gathered with various Shaolin elder monks who helped cultivate her deep understanding of martial arts. Being a woman, Ng was physically not as strong as men. Hence to create a brand-new stream of martial arts, especially in her later years when her physical prowess was declining, its basic conception would definitely not have been founded on bodily strength, but on the desire to consume no brute-force. Only with this strategy, a breakthrough in creation would have been possible.
One way to achieve this would have been to adopt a perilous combating strategy, relying on bizarre moves to win. Although this method could have reduced power consumption, its inherent weaknesses could still have been detected and exposed by the opponent, therefore immediately failing its purpose. A serious creator of an ideal martial art should thus begin by establishing a fundamental and stable structure instead.
Such structure, to be used as the foundation for the ideal martial art, must be in itself inspirational and unprecedented: first, its structure is geared towards efficient power consumption; second, it leverages on natural power to fuel movements; third, it is equipped with a mechanism that can utilize the resilient structure fueled by a natural power source to give out massive power for both offense and defense.
In principle, a new martial art bearing the above three aspects of structure is ready to be regarded as an ideal breakthrough. In pursuit of such an ideal martial art, Ng Mui retreated to dedicate herself wholeheartedly to contemplating. In the end she awakened to a complete conception functioning as the foundation of the new martial art.
The conception included:
- To launch an attack along a straight line as it is the shortest distance between two points
- To use the circular-arc shape to form power saving (and redirecting) structures
- To leverage on the body weight as the basic propellant
- To utilize rotational speed for accelerating forces
These conceptions of Ng Mui were the basis for creating the three empty hand ‘forms-sets’ of Wing Chun: Siu Nim Tao (‘Little Idea’), Chum Kiu (‘detecting Hand-bridge’) and Biu Jee (‘Darting Fingers’). As form-sets complying with her concepts were readied, Ng engaged herself in progressive practice so as to verify and improve them until their perfection. As her concepts were gradually being actualized from imagination to reality, she was fully absorbed in the delight of success.”