History of WingTsun Kung Fu
Kung Fu and Karate are umbrella terms for styles of martial arts, and each have many sub-styles within them. The key difference lies mainly in their origin. Karate is from Japan and means empty hand, whilst Kung Fu is from China and means hard work.
The origins of WingTsun are shrouded in myth and legend, but the system is said to have been devised by a woman, Ng Mui, who was, it is said, a Buddhist nun and expert in White Crane kung fu. Between 250 and 300 years ago, political problems meant that Ng Mui and some of her compatriots were forced to go into hiding from rulers of the Qing Dynasty. In the place she took refuge, Ng Mui came across some very innovative martial arts techniques which she integrated into her existing fighting system.
Ng Mui’s first known student was a young maid named Yim Wing Tsun. Yim married a salt merchant called Leung Bok Chau and taught him the art she had learned from Ng Mui. Together they taught and refined the techniques. Yim’s husband taught a man called Leung Lan Kwai and named the art Wing Tsun Kuen in honour of his wife.
Leung Lan Kwai only accepted two disciples, and only one of them, Wong Wah Bo, learnt everything. Wong Wah Bo was part of an opera troupe who were known as ‘Followers of the Red Junk’ due to the colour of the boat in which they travelled between performances. Many of the troupe knew some form of fighting, most notably a man called Leung Yee Tai who was an expert in long pole techniques. Wong and Leung shared their knowledge and together adapted the long pole for the Wing Tsun system.
An elderly Leung Yee Tai taught a herbal physician in Fatshan named Leung Jan, who became so passionate about the art that he dedicated his life to it. Throughout his life, Leung Jan was challenged by many fighters, but was never defeated and soon he and the name Wing Tsun were well known in Fatshan.
Leung Jan took on a few students, but the one who stood out was a man who worked in the market known as Chan the Money Changer because of his profession. Chan was part of the ‘lower end’ of society where violence was common and he honed his fighting skills there. He taught Wing Tsun for 36 years and admitted his last and youngest disciple at the age of seventy. Little could he have imagined that the boy would go on to become the unchallenged master of Wing Tsun. The boy’s name was Yip Man.
When Chan passed away, Yip Man moved to Hong Kong where, by a twist of fate, he met Leung Jan’s eldest son, Leung Bik. Leung offered to teach Yip Man all that he had learnt from his father and Yip followed him for a number of years. In 1949 Yip Man was invited to give kung fu lessons to members of a Restaurant Workers’ Association in Hong Kong. This he did for two years before founding his own school.
Yip Man also, with the help of his students, founded the Hong Kong Ving Tsun Athletic Association in 1967 and expanded his classes, and Wing Tsun grew in popularity. When Yip finally retired from teaching in 1970 he passed teaching on to his disciple Leung Ting. Now a Grandmaster, Leung Ting registered the spelling WingTsun (WT) as his particular branch of the late Grandmaster Yip Man’s art. (Pictured above are Grandmaster Yip Man and the young Leung Ting).
Never did Grandmaster Yip Man expect a teenager would turn up on his doorstep who was so fond of him and his Wing Tsun techniques. Grandmaster Yip accepted Leung Ting as his last student and taught him the most advanced techniques of Wing Tsun. Bruce Lee may have been the first one in the USA to give this Chinese fighting art an English name, "Wing Chun". Whereas the other students of Grandmaster Yip Man in Hong Kong spelt it "Ving Tsun". When Yip Man passed away in 1972 and Bruce Lee was the hottest movie star in south-east Asia after wreaking public havoc with blockbusters such as The Big Boss, Fist of Fury and Way of the Dragon, Leung Ting - the late grandmaster Yip Man's ONLY closed door private student, began his work to further develop, upgrade and modernise the art of Wing Tsun.
In 1973, Leung Ting exclusively adopted the name "WingTsun" (spelt as one word) to distinguish his teaching method, thus marking the new and modern way of the art. He also formed a brand new organisation, entitled: International WingTsun Association which today is the world's largest individual kung fu organisation, represented in forty-six countries and with the headquarters situated in Hong Kong (where Leung Ting still runs a school on the bustling Nathan Road - the original gym where Grandmaster Yip Man taught).
In 1975, the European WT Organisation was founded by Keith R. Kernspecht, the result of a visit by Leung Ting. Keith R. Kernspecht has been immensely successful in propagating and organising WingTsun throughout Europe. Today, "the father of WingTsun in the West" supervises more than 14 countries including Germany - the European capital of WingTsun.
The EWTO Headquarters/European Centre For Excellence is located in Heidelberg, Germany.