Wing Chun Jo Fen 詠春祖訓 : The Ancestral Rules

In the 1950s, Yip Man established 9 rules of conduct known as 詠春祖訓 Ving Tsun Jo Fen (according to the most commonly used script) ; Jo 祖 meaning “ancestor” and Fen 訓 meaning “rule, teaching, instruction”. This “code of conduct”, as it is often called, testifies to the values ​​and standards of behavior that Yip Man wanted to establish from the start of his career as a Wing Chun teacher in Hong Kong. These ancestral rules may have been developed by Yip Man’s predecessors, but in any case it was he who codified them as such in the 1950s in Hong Kong. [1]

The 9 rules of Ving Tsun Jo Fen are still displayed today at the headquarters of the Ving Tsun Athletic Association in Hong Kong, under the bust of the Grand Master.

The bust of Yip Man enthroned in front of the honor wall of the Ving Tsun Athletic Association (VTAA) of Hong Kong. On the right, focus on the rules of Ving Tsun Jo Fen. Nb: the writing used here is read in the traditional way, ie from top to bottom and from right to left.

Without wanting to bring analysis and interpretation to the rules set out by Grand Master Yip Man, I would nevertheless like to present at first an important notion to understand these rules ; the Wude 武德.

Wude 武德 in Mandarin, (or Mou Dak in Cantonese) can be translated as “martial virtues” or “martial morality”. It is a concept specific to Chinese Martial Arts built from the 3 pillars of Chinese thought which are Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism. It is more particularly confusionism that has impregnated these martial virtues. The Wude represents a set of values ​​and a code of behavior for practitioners of Chinese Martial Arts. These principles are similar to those of Bushido in Japanese Martial Arts.

Yang Jwing Ming defines Wude by two aspects ; morality of deed and morality of mind [2] :

– The morality of the deed is characterized by its social aspect and the relationship to others. It includes humility, respect, righteousness, trust and loyalty.

– The morality of the mind is characterized by its introspective aspect and self-management. It includes will, endurance, perseverance, patience and courage.

The virtues of Wude are largely derived from Confucian principles known as the Five Constants (Wu Chang 五常) and the Four Vertues (Si Zi 四字).
The Five Constants are :

  • Ren 仁 – benevolence/humaneness
  • Yi 義 – righteousness/justice
  • Li 禮 – ritual
  • Zhi – knowledge
  • Xin – integrity

The four Vertues are :

  • Xiao – filial piety
  • Zhong – loyalty
  • Jie 节 – continency/frugality
  • Yi 義 – justice/righteousness


Below I present the 9 rules of Wing Chun Jo Fen 詠春祖訓 established by Yip Man in the 1950s.

Each rule consists of 3 lines. The first line is written in Chinese characters (the reading direction is from left to right). The second line, in italics, is a phonetic transcription of Cantonese (Romanization) according to the most commonly used Yale system. The third line is the English translation according to my reading of the Chinese characters and from the various translations already existing.

Note that each first Chinese character represents a number : yat 一 (1), yi 二 (2) , saam 三 (3), sei 四 (4), ng 五 (5), luk 六 (6), chat 七 (7), baat 八 (8), gau 九 (9).


Wing Chun Jo Fen 詠春袓訓

The Ancestral Rules of Wing Chun

一。守 紀 律 祟 尚 武 德

Yat。Sau Gei Leut Seui Seung Mou Dak

1. Discipline yourself – Honor the martial morality (Wude 武德).


二。明 禮 義 愛 國 尊 親

Yi。Ming Lai Yi Oi Gwok Juen Chan

2. Understand propriety and righteousness – Love your country and respect your elders.


三。愛 同 學 團 結 樂 群

Saam。Oi Tung Hok Tuen Git Lok Kwan

3. Love your classmates – Enjoy working together.


四。節 色 慾 保 守 精 神

Sei。Jit Sik Yuk Bou Sau Jing San

4. Control your desire – Stay healthy.


五。勤 練 習 技 不 離 身

Ng。Kan Lin Jaap Gei Bat Lei San

5. Work hard with diligence – Your skills should not leave your body.


六。學 養 氣 戒 濫 鬥 爭

Luk。Hok Yeung Hei Gaai Lam Dau Jaang

6. Learn how to keep the energy – Abstain from arguments and fights.


七。常 處 世 態 度 溫 文

Chat。Seung Chyu Sai Taai Dok Wan Man

7. Take part in society – Be courteous in your manners.


八。扶 弱 小 以 武 輔 仁

Baat。Fu Yeuk Siu Yi Mou Fu Yan

8. Help the weak and the young – Use your martial skill for the good of humanity.


九。繼 先 緖 謹 持 祖 訓

Gau。Gai Sin Seui Gan Chi Jo Fen

9. Pass on the tradition – Preserve the ancestral rules.


[1] link to the post published by Benjamin Judkins on April 16, 2017 : The Wing Chun Jo Fen: Norms and the Creation of a Southern Chinese Martial Arts Community

[2] link to the post published by Yang Jwing Ming on Decembre 6, 2007 : Martial Morality

[3] link to the post published by Joshua J. Mark on July 7, 2020 : Confuscinism and Learning Chinese as a Heritage Language: An Australian Perspective, p60-62, Guanglun Michael Mu, MUTILINGUAL MATTERSS, 2016.



  1. Best philosophy, and principles ever found is within wing chun … wing chun is indeed a way of life and I’ve devoted my life to kungfu many years ago and even today

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *