According to the stories, Wing Chun, sometimes also spelled Ving Tsun, was started by a woman named Ng Mui. Her father had helped Emperor Yeung Jung Wang ascend to the throne. To repay him for his help and protect his throne, the Emperor had him and all his closest advisers slaughtered. In anger, Ng Mui killed the Emperor and went into hiding where she became a member of the Buddhist temple.
During this time in Chinese history, there was a great deal of turmoil and the temples served as a place of sanctuary and to prepare to overthrow governments. In this environment, Ng Mui harnessed her skills and fine tuned what would eventually become Wing Chun.
Her best student was a woman named Yim Wing Chun, whose beauty had attracted unwanted attention of a local lord. Fleeing to the temple, Yim Wing Chun became a student of Ng Mui and learned quickly how to defend herself. She returned and was able to fend off the unwanted attention and marry the real man she had been promised to.
It is her name for which the system is named after because Yim Wing Chun went on to refine the system so that it could be easily taught to others.
The art of Wing Chun is an impressive form, focused on very short explosive moves. Because of this supposed history, the movements were developed to encourage close-range fighting, a distance where people of shorter stature have the advantage.
Wing Chun teaches not only how to deliver the attack, but how to endure an attack too. One of its principle philosophies is, "You may hit me, but my punch is going to hurt more." Even when guarding or retreating in this style, there is some component of an attack in there. In addition, building the body and toning it is an important part of this art. There's a lot of what is called "iron body" training, conditioning of the body to be as strong and firm as possible.
Because of the close range of this form of fighting, there's not a lot of aerial work or kicks. In fact, one of the most famous movement of this art is coined as the "one-inch punch." The idea behind that is you don't need a large wind-up to deliver a powerful blow. If you do a punch correctly, even if you just move your fist from the distance of your wrist, you are still making a powerful blow. One of the most recent images of this happened was during the subway fight scene in the Matrix, when Neo was still able to deliver a painful blow despite his punch being stopped.
Albeit not showing the actual style of Wing Chun, the movie with the same name, Wing Chun, starring Michelle Yeoh chronicles the life of Yim Wing Chun.
In recent years, Wing Chun has been getting more and more exposure, not only for its street-sensible/self-defense form of fighting but also for its explosive techniques. Interestingly enough, while the art might have been founded by women, mostly men practice this art these days.
As a woman who actually trained for a period in this style, though, I would highly recommend it to anyone who isn't afraid to get a little bruised. This style is very suited for those with smaller bodies. My body has never been more muscularly fit and the bonier structure that a woman's body takes on with this type of conditioning made my movements hurt my opponent that much more. And, let's face it, it felt good to not only leave a bruise or two on the guys but to have them fear me.
This whimsical movie about the legend of the founder of the Wing Chun system of Kung Fu takes you through one version of how this woman came into her martial arts. While far from factually accurate, some of Michelle Yeoh’s best work is displayed in here.