The origins of Wing Chun by Ip Man


Below is the manuscript written by Ip Man 葉問 around 1965/66, in which the old Master recounts the origins of Wing Chun 詠春. This manuscript, actually just a draft, was to be the preface to the project to create the “Ving Tsun Tong Fellowship Association”. However, this organization never saw the light of day. Instead, other organizations were created such as the “Ving Tsun Athletic Association” (August 24, 1967) or the “International Wing Tsun Association” (July 24, 1973).

The manuscript of Ip Man is titled 擬組織詠春堂聯誼會小啟, which means “Draft of the Preface to Organizing the Ving Tsun Tong Fellowship Association”. This document was found in the personal stuff of Ip Man after his death.

 

Below, I present the manuscript of Ip Man from the website of the Ving Tsun Athletic Association, followed by the same text in Chinese characters (for purists, because the old Master’s calligraphy is not easy to read 😉 ), as well as the translation of the text in English [1]. I will not do any analysis on this manuscript because I will come back to it regularly in future post.

 

The origins of Wing Chun by Ip Man

The origins of Wing Chun by Ip Man [2]. Source : www.vingtsun.org.hk
擬組織詠春堂聯誼會小啟

先祖師嚴詠春氏,原籍廣東,少而聰穎,行動矯捷,磊落有丈夫氣。自幼由父母作主,許字福建鹽商梁博儔。未幾,母歿。父嚴二因事被誣,幾陷於獄,因是遠徙川滇邊區,居于大涼山下,以賣豆腐為活,此清代康熙年間事也。

其時河南省嵩山少林派,武風甚盛;招清廷忌,派兵圍捕,攻而不下。適有新科狀元陳文維者,邀寵獻議,設法勾通寺僧馬寧兒等,四處縱火,裏應外合,少林寺被燬,僧徒四散。由是五枚法師與至善禪師、白眉禪師、馮道德、苗顯等五人亦分途出走。而五枚止于大涼山(又名棲霞山)白鶴觀。每自下山如市;因與嚴二父女貿易,漸且稔熟。

時先祖師年已及笄,有當地土霸某,涎其姿色,恃勢迫婚。父女二人日有憂色,為五枚法師廉悉緣由,因憐其遇,許以傳技保身,紿該土霸俟解除梁氏婚約後始于歸。由是即隨五枚返山,日夕勤修苦練。技成,乃約土霸比武,卒將土霸擊倒。自此五枚雲遊四方,瀕行殷殷誡以嚴守宗風,待婚後發揚武術,同佐反清復明大業。綜合過去事跡,知詠春拳術,實宗於五枚法師也。

先祖既婚,首傳技于夫婿梁博儔,其後梁博儔傳梁蘭桂,梁桂蘭傳黃華寶,乃黃華寶為紅船中人,與梁二娣為伍,恰值至善禪師混跡紅船中為「煲頭」,將絕技六點半棍傳與梁二娣,而黃華寶與二娣以共事紅船之故,因得日夕觀摩,互相傳習,補短截長,混成一體,從而詠春拳中之有六點半棍者,蓋有由也。

迨至梁二娣傳技于佛山名醫梁贊先生,梁贊深得其奧,達於化境,遠近武士慕名來請與較者,輒為所敗,由是聲名藉起,後來梁贊傳於陳華順,而問與師兄吳小魯,吳仲素,陳汝棉,雷汝濟等,師事陳華順迄今已數十年,是則吾儕之於詠春派拳術一脈相承,其來有自,數典不忘乃祖,飲水應念其源。自宜有紀念先祖師孕育之恩,抑亦所以維繫我同門儕輩也。爰擬發起組織詠春堂聯誼會,鳥嚶其鳴矣,求其友聲,想同門師友定有同情也, 我武維揚,胥焉有賴此應。

 

Draft of the Preface to Organizing the Wing Chun Hall and Fellowship Association

The founder of the Wing Chun 詠春 System, Miss Yim Wing Chun 嚴詠春 was a native of Guangdong 廣東. She was an intelligent and athletic young girl, upstanding and forthright. She was betrothed to Leung Bok Chau 梁博儔, a salt merchant of Fujian (Fukien in Cantonese). Soon after that, her mother died. Her father, Yim Yee 嚴二, was wrongfully accused of a crime, and nearly went to jail. They soon moved far away and finally settled down at the foot of Tai Leung Mountain 大涼山, in the border region between Sichuan and Yunnan [3]. There, they earned a living by selling bean curd (tofu). All this happened during the reign of Kangxi 康熙 (1661-1722) of the Qing Dynasty 清 (1644-1912).

At the time, martial arts were becoming very strong in Shaolin Monastery 少林 of Mt. Song 嵩山, Henan 河南. This aroused the fear of the Manchu government, which sent troops to attack the Monastery. They were unsuccessful. A man called Chan Man Wai 陳文維 was the First Placed Graduate of the Civil Service Examination that year. He was seeking favour with the government, and suggested a plan. He plotted with Shaolin monk Ma Ning Yee 馬寧兒 and others. They set fire to the Monastery while soldiers attacked it from the outside. Shaolin was burnt down, and the monks scattered. Buddhist Abbess Ng Mui 五枚, Abbot Gee Sin 至善, Abbot Pak Mei 白眉, Fung Tao Tak 馮道德 and Miu Hin 苗顯 escaped and fled their separate ways. Ng Mui took refuge in White Crane Temple on Mt. Tai Leung 大涼山 (also known as Mt. Chai Har 大涼山). Gradually, Ng Mui met Yim Yee and her daughter Yim Wing Chun, when she came down from the mountain to go to the market where they sold their bean curd. Wing Chun was a young woman then, and her beauty attracted the attention of a local bully. He tried to force Yim Wing Chun to marry him. She and her father were very worried. Ng Mui learned of this and took pity on Wing Chun. She agreed to teach Wing Chun fighting techniques so that she could protect herself. Then she would be able to solve the problem with the bully, and marry Leung Bok Chau, her betrothed husband. So Yim Wing Chun followed Ng Mui into the mountains, and started to learn martial arts. She trained night and day, and mastered the techniques. After she had finished his training, she challenged the bully and defeated him.  Since then, Ng Mui set off to travel around the country, but before she left, she told Wing Chun to strictly honour the martial arts traditions, to develop her skills after her marriage, and to help the people working to overthrow the Manchu government and restore the Ming Dynasty [4]. This is how Wing Chun system was handed down by Abbess Ng Mui.

Once married, Yim Wing Chun passed on her knowledge to her husband Leung Bok Chau 梁 博 儔. Leung Bok Chau passed it on to Leung Lan Kwai 梁蘭桂. Leung Lan Kwai passed it on to Wong Wah Bo 黃華寶. Wong Wah Bo was a member of the Red Junk Opera 紅 船, as was Leung Yee Tai 梁二娣. At that time, Abbot Gee Sin, who fled from Shaolin, had disguised himself as a cook in the Red Junk Opera. Gee Sin taught his “Six-&-a-half-point Long Pole Techniques” 六點半棍 to Leung Yee Tai [5]. Wong Wah Bo and Leung Yee Tai worked together as the Red Junk Opera. They compared and improved their techniques, and thus the “Six-&-a-half-point Long Pole Techniques” were incorporated into Wing Chun system.

Leung Yee Tai then passed his techniques down to Leung Jan, a well-known doctor in Foshan 佛山. Leung Jan grasped the innermost secrets of Wing Chun, and attained the highest level of proficiency. Many fighters came to challenge him, but they were all defeated. Leung Jan then became very famous. Later, Leung Jan taught his knowledge to Chan Wah Shun 陳華順. I myself received the teaching of my master [6] Chan Wah Shun, as well as my older brothers [6] such as Ng Siu Lo 吳小魯, Ng Chung So 吳仲素, Chan Yu Min 陳汝棉, Lui Yu Jai 雷汝濟 and others, many decades ago. Wing Chun was thus passed down to us, and we are eternally grateful to our ancestors and teachers. A Chinese saying has it that “When you drink water, you have to be grateful to its source”.  Therefore we will always remember and appreciate our roots, and this shared feeling will always keep our brothers in arms close together. This is why I am organizing the “Ving Tsun Tong Fellowship Association” 詠春堂聯誼會 and I hope that all my clansmen would support me in this. This is very important for the promotion of our marial art.


Notes

[1] The English translation was made from the English versions of the VTAA website and the book of Leung Ting, Roots and Branches of Wing Tsun, p32-35, as well as the Chinese version.

[2] The manuscript of Ip Man is read in the traditional way as in ancient times in China, ie from top to bottom and from right to left.

[3] Ip Man uses the characters 川滇 as an abbreviation to denote the regions of Sichuan 四川 and Yunnan 雲南.

[4] “Overthrow the Qing and restore the Ming”, in Chinese Fan Qing Fu Ming 反清復明. I mentioned this doctrine in the post devoted to the secret society Tiandihui.

[5] The long pole technique of Wing Chun 詠春 is called Luk Dim Bun Kwan 六點半棍, the Six and a Half Point Pole.

[6] Ip Man here uses the characters 師事 to designate his master Chan Wah Shun. Note that the character 師, si, is the character used in the word sifu, whether written 師傅 or written 師父. He uses the characters 師兄 to denote his “elder brothers”, sihing, as the tradition in Chinese martial arts will. I will come back to these terms in more detail in a future post.


 

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