This Ving Tsun Museum's Current View of Wing Chun's Evolution.
1. For research purposes, the VTM recognizes six stages of Wing Chun's development from the system's origin: Shaolin, Secret Society, Opera, Canton, Hong Kong and international. These six designations are used for general discussion, comparison, and contrast of various Wing Chun lineages in terms of origin legends/myths, system principles, training methods, technical choreography and the like. The six designations should not be understood or used to make comparisons of "better" or "superior" as each Wing Chun family is the result of various influences and has survived to our modern era based on the effectiveness and efficiency of the system, adapted to various situations and people.
2 . The original Shaolin Wing Chun, which contains at least the core of Sam Chian Phok, later on with Siu Nim Tau, Chum Kiu, and Biu Ji, San Sau, Wooden Dummy, Pole and the knives include Fukien Hek Ki Boen (Black Flag) Eng Chun. This system represent the essence of Southern Shaolin Martial Arts.
3 . Shaolin Wing Chun is a system based on Chan Buddhism and the Principle of Time/Space, Energy and the concepts of Heaven Earth Human which makes it both a complete combat system and a personal cultivation system.
4 . Shaolin Wing Chun is a representation ofMaximum Efficiency, which is the point or state where nothing can be added or subtracted without losing efficiency. Maximum Efficiency is the result of experienceand state of being rather than a style of martial arts or a basic skill set. Maximum Efficiency is built upon a solid foundation with practical fighting skill in all ranges of combat and is, therefore, not meant for inexperienced students or to be treated as a style.
5 . Shaolin Wing Chun is an expression of Chan Buddhism.
6 . In the many centuries since the destruction of the Southern Shaolin Temple, the original Shaolin Wing Chun system is still well-preserved today. The history of the secret societies and their connection to Wing Chun during the Ming/Qing transition was not widely known, which resulted in various terms such as 'Ng Mui' and 'Yim Wing Chun' being attributed to specific, fictional people rather than to concepts contained within the system itself. As more research comes to light, there are those within the Wing Chun community that profess to perfer the myths and legends rather than promote the actual history. The VTM will continue its mission to educate the martial arts community in general and the Wing Chun community specifically about the actual origins of the system, as more information continues to come to light. Any information intentionally attempting to continue the myths and legends without making it clear the actual research will be challenged whenever possible.
Official beginning of the VTM Project was back in 1993
By 1995, the Ground Breaking was complete and the Organizing Committee was formed. Grand Masters Moy Yat, Ip Chun, and Ip Ching were present at the Ground Breaking Event.
For the next 3 years, the focus of the VTM was on the Ip Man lineage of Wing Chun. We investigated the Ip Man lineage with Grand Masters Moy Yat, Ip Chun, Ip Chung, Tsui Shong Tin, Ho Kam Ming, Mak Po, Leung Shun, William Cheung, and many other Sifu in the 2nd Generation from Ip Man.
By 1998, the VTM had the official Grand Opening, and began to investigate the non-Hong Kong branches of Wing Chun. When China changed policies and opened their doors in the 1980s, information on Wing Chun in China started to trickle into the West. We came into contact with many lineages outside the Ip Man (Hong Kong) lineage. Therefore, the VTM created a second classification of Wing Chun: Gwongdong Wing Chun (or Wing Chun from the Canton Province). Within the Canton Province, there are many lineages, primarily centered around the city of Fatsaan (Foshan in Mandarin). Lineages from Canton province include: Opera-Ban Chung, Yuen Kay-San, Pan Nam, Chan Wah Shun / Chan Yiu Min, Mai Gei Wong, Cheung Bo, Gulao, and others. A few of Ip Man’s students from his time in China were teaching, with a different expression of the system compared to his Hong Kong students. The VTM interacted with many of these lineages in person through numerous trips to Hong Kong and China. During the process of research with the mainland lineages, we came across lineages which the VTM today classifies as Shaolin Wing Chun.
There are two systems that the VTM classifies as Shaolin Wing Chun and Secret Society Wing Chun: Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Paai as the Secret Society and Hek Ki Boen Wing Chun Paai as both the Secret Society and Shaolin. These Hek Ki Boen system contain the original three treasures of Shaolin, which are: Chan Buddhism, Health/Qigong, and Combat/Self-Defense/Martial Art skills. Both lineage are relatively unknown to the wider public due to their ties to Chinese secret societies in the past, with customs dating back to the founding of the Hung Mun during the Ming/Qing struggles during the 1600s. The oral traditions in both lineages do not follow the legends of a nun teaching a young girl by the name of Yim Wing Chun. Their cultures and traditions follow the movements of the ancient secret societies’ efforts to overthrow the Qing Dynasty. The VTM labels these lineages as Shaolin Wing Chun and secret society Wing Chun because they still maintain a focus on the three treasures of Shaolin, while the system from Hong Kong and Canton researched to date are based on the teachings and preferences of individually great martial artists. Both lineages also maintain a related schema of Heaven/Earth/Human symbolism and are centered on the core principle of Time/Space/Energy.
In modern times, the secret society tradition of blood oaths and enforced secrecy, both arts have begun to come out to the public and reveal the depth and breadth of their treasures. The VTM has focused on the HFY lineage since 1999 and has begun research into the HKB lineage since 2008. Hek Ki Boen Eng Chun Paai (Wing Chun) had expanded to 10 countries since.
With the journeys through the Hong Kong Wing Chun, Canton Wing Chun, Opera Wing Chun and now Shaolin Wing Chun, I believe the VTM has run the gauntlet of Wing Chun’s evolution. It is analogous to going through the layers of soil to discover the growth and history of an ancient civilization:
The top layers are the most recent evolution of Wing Chun, represented by the Hong Kong lineages to the present day
The middle layers are the middle-distant evolution of Wing Chun, represented by the Opera Wing Chunand Canton lineages and how they’ve evolved to the modern day http://chinesemartialstudies.com/2015/03/19/from-the-archives-the-creation-of-wing-chuns-opera-rebels/
The bottom layers are the earliest forms of Wing Chun, represented by the Shaolin Wing Chun and the secret society Wing Chun lineages, giving insight into the early forms of Wing Chun, the melting pot of Southern Shaolin Kung Fu at the time of the Ming/Qing struggle for control of China.
Wing Chun Family Tree Outline
1. Shaolin/Secret society/Private
i. Hek Ki Wing Chun (late 1600s to present)
i. Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun (early 1700s to present)
ii. Opera Wing Chun (early 1700s to present)
iii. Hung Suen Wing Chun (1800s to present)
2. Public (mid-1800s to present)
a. Guangdong (Province)
i. Cho Family
ii. Chun Wah Shun
iii. Yuen Kay Shan
v. Cheung Bo
vi. Pan Nam
vii. Mai Gei Wong
viii. Yiu Choi
ix. Pao Fa Lien
x. Jiu Wan
i. Yeun Chai Wan
c. Hong Kong & Macau
i. Ip Man
The classification terms the VTM uses (Hong Kong, Canton, SS, Shaolin Wing Chun) were created to define and organize research. This is not to say the Ip Man lineage should now be referred to exclusively as Hong Kong Wing Chun, or that Shaolin Wing Chun is a new designation for either the HKB lineages. Rather, these terms should be understood as specific monikers used internally to the VTM. As these great lineages continue to open up and share more information, gain adherents, and expand their connection into the martial arts community, it can sometimes be overwhelming or confusing when getting too technically focused without a general education first. One of the goals of the VTM is to provide this general education and foundation and share it to the general martial arts community, but the final conclusion is always in the hands of the individual martial artists. Furthermore, the VTM has always maintained a policy of direct, personal, face-to-face interaction in all research – and we recommend that you gain your own experience before coming to any hard conclusions.
Sometimes, as human beings, we will arrive at the wrong conclusion based on lack of experience. And, unfortunately, there will also be those with their own personal, selfish agendas regardless of the big picture to Wing Chun’s past, present, and future who intentionally share misinformation to further their agenda. For example, when the VTM introduced HFY to the public, there were those within the Wing Chun martial arts community who felt it necessary to attack and attempt to discredit both the VTM and the HFY lineage by trying to associate the HFY secret society heritage with modern-day Triad gangsters. The danger of this mindset or attitude is that people with this focus misrepresent or “cherry-pick” facts to support an selfish agenda. For example, the general term for Chinese gangsters today is ‘Triad.’ But today’s Triads are criminal organizations that are very far removed from the origins in the 1600s, which were mutual-aid societies developed during a war-torn country to preserve Chinese culture against the foreign Manchu invasion. This theme seems to be repeating itself, with anonymous people properly from the same group using fictional articles to attempt to connect the HKB lineage to criminal elements of the resend past who so happen to use the term ‘Black Flag.’ There might have been a bandit organization the early 20th century in the Sandung province that used the name of ‘Black Flag’, after Japanese invasion of china during 1930-40 (WWII). Also the Manchu army within the Qing Dynasty was also organized by flag, which included a ‘Black Flag’ division. TheManchurian 8 flag system around late 1870, their ‘Black Flag’ is known as black flag 7 stars, since they put 7 star and character of "Ling" (Command)on the flag. So simply attempting to connect one ‘black flag’ with another requires extensive investigation into history. The HKB oral history goes back to the burning of the Southern Shaolin Temple in the 1600s. According to their oral tradition, there were 5 secret societies that were formed with the express purpose of fighting to overthrow the Qing Dynasty. Each flag was sent to a different area of China. For example, the Red Flag went to Canton while the Black Flag – the 1st lodge and most important – stayed in the Fukien area, around the ruins of the Southern Shaolin Temple. So, according to research to date, this Fukien-based Black Flag group had nothing to do with either the Sandung or Manchu Black Flag organizations. Without being informed on Chinese History, someone with ill intent can easily attempt to tarnish a lineage’s rightful history and traditions.
Finally, it is the VTM’s express wish and hope that each member of every lineage of Wing Chun continues to preserve their lineage: the unique knowledge, skill, training methods, and culture to the best of their ability while also maintaining an open mind. For example, if there were three classifications and a practitioner only experiences one specific variation of one classification, it is very challenging to see the overall relationship between the many lineages and appreciate the beauty, breadth, and depth of Wisdom contained within the whole of the Wing Chun martial arts family. The hallmark of Shaolin is direct experience – the VTM urges all honest Wing Chun practitioners to gain direct experience with the many lineages of Wing Chun to gain a deeper appreciation for their own lineage as well as a broader understanding of the Wing Chun family and Wing Chun’s evolution.
Benny Meng, Curator
Ving Tsun Museum