The early history of wing chun was handed down verbally from teacher to student. Of course the lack of verifying documentation means that there is some disagreement about who taught what to whom, and when, etc. From the time of Leung Jan, there is documentation available, and independent verification of personal accounts. In more recent times, there is still controversy as various practitioners claim proximity to the more revered masters, Yip Man in particular.
Ng Mui is generally accepted as the founder of wing chun. She was one of the legendary five elders of the Shaolin Temple, in China, during the reign of Emperor Kangxi, (1662-1722). She is also credited as the founder of Dragon style, White Crane and Five-pattern Hung Kuen. According to the oral history of the Yip Man lineage of wing chun, Ng Mui created the style after observing a fight between a stork and a rodent. The name Wing Chun, comes from a student of Ng Mui’s who faced being married off to an unwanted suitor. Wing Chun challenged the man to a fight and defeated him, therefore being allowed to go free.
Wing chun was passed down through several generations, (see lineage), until it came to it’s most famous practitioner up til then, the much revered Yip Man. Yip Man travelled to Hong Kong from China to escape the communist revolution. In 1950 he established a school and began teaching wing chun to general public. His most famous student was Bruce Lee. Through Lee and his fame in movies, the western world came to know of wing chun, and kung fu in general became widely popular at that time, (1970s).
From the time of Yip Man, wing chun diverged into several lineages founded by his senior students and others who simply claimed to be. At this point, the history becomes more interesting to students of the Chu Shong Tin lineage, as he was one of the sometimes called, closed door, students who began training with Yip Man in the early days of his time in Hong Kong. Other famous early students were Leung Sheung, Lok Yiu and Wong Shun Leung. They went on to become the seniors of Yip Man’s school. A dramatised and fairly inaccurate version of these events can be found in the recent Hong Kong movie ‘Yip Man 2‘.
Chu Shong Tin was born in mainland China in 1933. He moved to Hong Kong in November, 1949 and in September 1950, he started work as a secretary for the Association of Restaurant Workers of Hong Kong. It was here that he first met Yip Man, who was teaching there at that time. Chu had been practicing tai chi since the age of ten. As he was able to observe Yip Man teaching he began compare wing chun theories to those of tai chi. After much consideration he asked Yip Man to accept him as a student and began training wing chun from January 1st, 1951. Since that day, he has trained continuously. He started teaching wing chun part time around 1957. Chu established a full time school in 1964 and began teaching officially. At the time of writing this article, (2010), he is still teaching 6 hours per day, 5 days per week.
Jim Fung was perhaps Chu Shong Tin’s most famous and successful student. After training under Chu Shong Tin in Hong Kong he moved to Australia to study. He opened an official school in Adelaide, Australia in 1973. Later he his school expanded to Sydney. In October 1984, Mark Spence began training there. Sifu Jim Fung passed away in March, 2007. Shortly after that Mark Spence and Des Ferris opened Chi Sau Club in Surry Hills, Sydney.
4 generations of wing chun, Sigung Chu Shong Tin, Sifu Jim Fung, Mark Spence and Kane