Wing Chun, occasionally romanised as Ving Tsun or "Wing Tsun" is a Chinese martial art that specialises in aggressive close-range combat.
Wing Chun was originally passed down from teacher to student orally rather than through written documentation, making it difficult to confirm or clarify the differing accounts of its creation.
Some have sought to apply the methods of higher criticism to the oral histories of Wing Chun and other Chinese martial arts.
Others have attempted to discern the origins of Wing Chun by determining the specific purpose of its techniques. Mentions of the art start to appear in independent third-party documentation during the era of the Wing Chun master Leung Jan, making its subsequent history and divergence into various branches more amenable to documentary verification.
The common legend involves the young woman Yim Wing Chun (Wing Chun literally means beautiful springtime or everlasting spring). After she rebuffs the local warlord's marriage offer, he says he'll rescind his proposal if she can beat him in a fight. She asks a local Buddhist nun, Ng Mui, to teach her boxing, and the style they develop enables Yim Wing Chun to defeat the warlord. She thereafter marries her sweetheart and teaches him the style, which he names after her.
It should be noted that the system was developed during the Shaolin and Ming resistance movement against the Qing Dynasty, and thus many legends about the creator of Wing Chun were spread to confuse the enemy, including the story of Yim Wing Chun. This perhaps explains why no one has been able to accurately determine the creator or creators of Wing Chun.
Wing Chun techniques emphasize practicality and efficiency to maintain its ideals on effectiveness. Strikes are intended to injure or disrupt the target. Efficiency in Wing Chun is based on the concept that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Likewise its primary targets all lie along the "centerline" of one's opponent.
Wing Chun believes in using the least amount of required force in any fighting situation. It believes properly timed positioning and movements can and should be used to defeat an opponent. This is achieved through balance, body structure and relaxation. The Chinese saying "4 taels to move 1000 catties" (referring to an old Chinese measurement system) is appropriate here in describing how a small amount of force, correctly applied, can deflect a powerful attack.
Yip Man (see Culture/Legends) was the last Wing Chun student of Chan Wah-shun when he was 70 years old. He had several students who later became martial arts teachers in their own right, including Bruce Lee who went on to develop Jeet Kune Do.
Pictured above Yip man teaching Bruce Lee.