southern china • mid eighteenth century
A history of the art.
The outcast Mistress.
It is said that during the fire at the Siu Lam Monastery, which was ruined by treachery, most of the monks and the unshaved disciples who were skilled in martial arts were killed or burnt to death. Many skilful pugilists however managed to escape from the calamity. These included the Five Elders, leaders of the five systems of Siu Lam – who were the Buddhist Mistress Ng Mui, Master Chi Shin, Master Pak Mei, Master Fung To Tak and Master Miu Hin and their disciples.
The Buddhist Mistress Ng Mui was the only female in the Siu Lam Monastery and the eldest among the Five Elders. She was more tolerant towards the Manchu Government than her kung-fu brothers and their hot-tempered disciples. Ng Mui went traveling about the country after the destruction of the Siu Lam Monastery, determined never to become involved in mundane affairs again. At last she settled down in the White Crane Temple, at Tai Leung Mountain (also called Chai Ha Mountain), a sparsely populated mountain on the border between the provinces of Szechwan and Yunnan. There, being seldom disturbed, she concentrated on Zen Buddhism, a sect of Buddhism originated by Bodhidharma during the Northern and Southern Dynasties, and also martial arts, as her favourite pastime. Ng Mui, like her kung-fu brothers, who were then separated from each other, never forgot the bitter experience they suffered from the fire at Siu Lam, and the teacherous defectors who turned to the Manchu Government.
A new system, for a new era.
Mistress Ng Mui began to suspect that the inherited styles of Kung Fu were unnecessarily inefficient. She imagined a system that was not for demonstrative purposes, and therefore completely stripped of any movements just for fun or for visual attraction, but retaining all practical fighting techniques. Her newly created system, the emphasis of which lay on simplicity of movements and versatility in application, was quite a deviation from the traditional Kung Fu styles.
Another difference between the former Siu Lam System and Ng Mui’s new system was that in the former Siu Lam system too much emphasis was laid on “strength training”, that a trainee was required to practice for two or three years keeping a firm stance, before he was allowed to start learning any boxing form. Ng Mui’s new kung-fu system emphasized.
For this reason a follower of this new kung-fu system would adopt versatile hand techniques, a flexible stance and steps that were free and fastmoving, as compared to the strong bridge-arms, a firm stance and heavy steps. In other words, the former Siu Lam System would adopt “long-bridges” and “wide stances” in a real fight, while the new system would adopt chasing steps and in-fighting techniques, which would render the long-bridge a.rms and wide steps ineffective.
Wing chun is born.
Years later, Mistress Ng Mui encountered a beautiful young woman, Wing Tsun, who was hounded by a local bully by the surname of Wong, Wong was notorious for his bad behavior. Because he was skilled in the art of fighting and the power of the court was too weak at this remote frontier area, the local natives there could do nothing about him. Being attracted by Wing Tsun’s beauty, he sent a go-between to Wing Tsun to ask for her hand in marriage, with a threat that if she refused, he would force her to marry him on a fixed date. Wing Tsun’s father was now old, and herself weak. So they were much troub1ed. Day after day they worried about this and did not know what to do.
Ng Mui determined to help Wing Tsun and decided to bring her to her own convent and to teach her the art of fighting. The art of fighting was not a strange thing to Wing Tsun, as her father was a pugilist himself. It was only that Wing Tsun had found no need to learn the art before. Now, under the personal guidance of this skilful mistress and with her own wisdom and hard work, she quickly attained competence within three years of learning from Ng Mui.
As soon as Wing Tsun came down from Tai Leung Mountain, the local bully at once bothered her again. This time Wing Tsun challenged him to a fight, instead of running away from him. The bully, though surprised, welcomed this fight, as he was convinced of his own physical power and that he would eventually defeat Wing Tsun and win a wife. However things did not turn out as he expected. He was helplessly knocked down by Wing Tsun and would never dare to give her any more trouble.
Discover Wing Chun.
Wing Chun at Authentic Kung-Fu follows the traditional path maintained and proven through the centuries: that of precise repetition and practical application. Students learn how to perform movements solo, with a partner then in relationship to changing combat environment The school also follows the maxim of Yip Man that “Without Chi-Sao there is no Wing Chun.”
In Chi Sao training, Sifu Cottrell has innovated the “training progression method”. This pedagogical method enables students to develop Chi Sao reactions faster and with greater precision. The method consists of a closed loop of techniques which first practiced until that combination becomes automatic. Then new techniques are inserted into the drill at precise points. This “closed universe” of techniques is expanded over time until cross referencing of techniques takes place and a free exchange becomes unavoidable. However this free exchange is different from many other schools in that the precision of technique is maintained. Additionally most of the time doing Chi Sao at Authentic Kung-Fu is spend in exchange of combat movements, instead of mostly rolling arms as in many schools. As Sifu Cottrell often says, “You cannot control who is stronger in a confrontation. You cannot control who is faster or how many of them there are. The only thing you can control is the precision and depth of your own technique.”
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