There are numerous theories as to the origins of Wing Tsun, also called Wing Chun or Ving Tsun depending on whose lineage it is. Grandmaster Leung Ting expressed skepticism in his book Wing Tsun Kuen* about the most common story regarding how the Buddhist mistress Ng Mui’s escaped from the fire at the southern Shaolin Monastery, her travel to Mt. Tai Leung, her witnessing a fight between a snake and a crane or a snake and a fox, her teaching the young teenager Yim Wing Tsun and events thereafter up until the time of Leung Jan. His research in Mainland China is extensive and lasted over an 18 year period.
“Wing Tsun System is derived from the Fukien System of kung-fu, which is related to the Hakka System. Their common features are that during fights, pugilists of these systems prefer short steps and close fighting, with arms placed close to the chest, their elbows lowered and kept close to the flanks to offer it protection.” – from the book Wing Tsun Kuen by Leung Ting, 10th Level MOC
Another story is that the Wing Tsun system was developed by a committee of elder Shaolin experts. They go on to say that it was intended as a secret system that was designed to counter the “long bridges” and long steps of the traditional Shaolin system. The committee members were part of a secret society that was formed to help overthrow the Ching dynasty government and restore the Ming dynasty. Many of the Ching soldiers were proponents of the Shaolin techniques. Not all residents of the Monastery were real monks. In exchange for learning martial arts for self protection, the monks would allow soldiers who were on the run from the government forces to stay at the Monastery. They were called the “unshaven monks” meaning that they did not have to shave their heads.
One story says that Wing Tsun was formed from other well known styles such as Praying Mantis, Tai Chi. These styles were said by some to have originated at the Shaolin Monastery and so that means that Wing Tsun originated (according to this story) from “Shaolin.”
In the book ROOTS AND BRANCHES OF WING TSUN, the author, Prof Leung Ting states: “From lots of information I collected, it sounds like Ng Mui was no doubt a kungfu expert from the Weng Chun White Crane style of Fukien.”
Weng Chun Bak-Hok or “White Crane Style of the Weng Chun precinct” was supposed to have been founded by a woman! Her name was Fong Chat Neung in the early years of K’ang Hsi (1662-1722). The story is oddly a bit similar to the most common legend of Wing Tsun (wing chun).
In his book, Roots and Branches of Wing Tsun,” Grandmaster Leung Ting states: “Grandmaster Yip Man emphasized very clearly to Mok Pui On that “Wing Tsun is not the same as Weng Chun.” – from an interview with New Martial Heroes magazine.”
Several ideas thread through the book as to how the nun, Ng Mui, passed down her system which later became what we see today via Yip Man and then Leung Ting WingTsun®.