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The Origins and History of Shaolin Weng

Chun

New Discoveries In Unique Wing Chun Lineage link


Southern Styles
by Benny Meng and Jeremy Roadruck

Developed in the Southern Shaolin Temple and spread by anti-Qing revolutionaries down

to members of the Red Boat Opera, Chi Sim Weng Chun represents a unique lineage in the

history of Wing Chun. Chi Sim Weng Chun makes use of the "everlasting" character for

Weng, a connection to Shaolin Chan (Zen) thought.

Introduction

In researching the roots of Wing Chun, the Ving Tsun Museum has repeatedly come into

contact with members of the Chi Sim (ji sihn) Weng Chun family. They trace their roots

directly to the Southern Shaolin Temple (naahm síu làhm jih) from where it was passed to

members of the anti-Qing secret society rebels and ultimately to members of the Red Boat

Opera. Upon categorizing this lineage under the umbrella of classical arts that refer to

themselves as Wing Chun, Chi Sim Weng Chun becomes another bridge from Shaolin

martial arts during the anti-Qing revolution to the modern Wing Chun that has spread from

the Red Boat Opera. Chi Sim Weng Chun body structures share a similarity with Southern

Shaolin Hung Ga (hùhng gà), lending credence to the assertion that both arts descended

from the same origin. Chi Sim Weng Chun contains a unique training progression and

philosophy that is the foundation to modern Wing Chun lineages.

History

From accounts of Chi Sim Weng Chun historical traditions, Daaht Mo (dá mo in Mandarin)

established the foundation of Shaolin gung fu around 520 AD when he brought Chan

Buddhism to the Shaolin Temple. Daaht Mo, also known as Bodhidharma, was an Indian

prince that had renounced his family's wealth to become a Buddhist monk. He traveled to

China to teach the ways of Buddha. After a favorable audience with the emperor, Daaht Mo

traveled to the Shaolin temple in Hunan Province. Seeking ways to develop as a holistic

human being aware of body, mind and spirit - the way to flow with energy, and maintain

harmony when addressing power and aggression - Daaht Mo established the connection

between physical practice and mental training on which Shaolin martial art training is

based. To this day, members of the Shaolin Chi Sim Weng Chun lineage celebrate his

birthday.

Martial arts were practiced in China for many centuries before the arrival of Daaht

Mo. It was through his introduction of Chan Buddhist thought, with its emphasis on
practical, direct experience of reality in its entirety, spontaneous action, mental training,

and connection to physical cultivation, Shaolin was poised to become a martial arts

training ground and study center. The goal of this training system was for the Shaolin

monks to directly experience reality as a means to learn what was simple and natural. This

approach of connecting moral and physical cultivation to experience life and the possibility

of death stood in stark contrast to military and most civilian martial art methodologies

outside the temple. Most practices outside the temple often focused only on physical skill

in combat and the technical skills of killing.

During the time of struggle and transition between the Ming and Qing dynasties,

experts from the Shaolin Temple in Honan province fled south. They settled in a Buddhist

temple not previously known for martial arts training. Survivors of its destruction later

referred to this temple as the Southern Shaolin Temple. With the expansion of the Qing

Dynasty and the future of the Northern Shaolin Temple in Honan province uncertain, the

Southern temple became a stronghold for anti-Qing revolutionaries. Inside this temple, a

hall was established called the Everlasting Spring Hall (wihng cheùn tòhng). The focus of

this hall was to collect and preserve the essence of Shaolin training and thought into one

system under secrecy. The three treasures of Shaolin are Chan Buddhism, Health and Hei

gung (qi gong)practice, and martial arts. The system of Chan practices, fighting theories

and health exercises taught in this hall became known as Everlasting Spring Fist (wihng

cheùn kyùhn), today referred to as Chi Sim Weng Chun.

The focus inside the Buddhist Everlasting Spring Hall was to discover what was

simple, efficient and immediately applicable to dealing with reality, based at that time on

fighting against the Qing Dynasty. Fighting concepts and techniques were developed based

on understanding the nature of life, rather than being merely new ways to fell an opponent

or a collection of combat techniques. This knowledge created a synthesis between living

and fighting, giving rise to the attitude of seeking to understand life by understanding

death. By focusing on martial skills for moral cultivation in addition to self-defense, the

Shaolin system grew wide appeal and support throughout China after the time of the

revolution.

The Southern Shaolin temple was destroyed in the latter half of the 17th century.

The destruction of this temple was due to the anti-Qing activities taking place - not

because it was a Buddhist temple. Although they were Confucionists, the Qing were

tolerant of Buddhism. Many historical references confirm this tolerance. The following

quote from a Chinese history text provides a typical example.


In studying the history of China, the Qing of the 18th century were supportive of both
Buddhism and the Northern Shaolin Temple. The Emperor Kangxi even hand-painted a
sign that reads the name Shaolin for one of the buildings inside the Honan Temple
complex.

Wing Chun, being one of the martial arts used for combat, is surrounded in secrecy

and misinformation due to secret society activities. During the 1700s, the anti-Qing
revolutionary groups were most active and much of Wing Chun's history is shrouded in

myths and legends from that time. This may explain why most Wing Chun lineages trace

their origins from the legendary Five Elders through one or two generations to the Red

Boat. The Red Boat Opera Troupe was a traveling group of entertainers in the Cantonese

operatic tradition active in southern China. They traveled the rivers of southern China in

large junks painted bright red to attract attention. While early Wing Chun history was

shrouded in secrecy, after the Red Boat several Wing Chun lineages were opened up to the

public and no longer had a need for secrecy. According to Chi Sim oral legends, a Shaolin

abbot named Chi Sim Sim Si, along with other members of the temple, escaped the

destruction of the Southern Shaolin. Chi Sim means "Extreme Compassion", a Buddhist

concept, while Sim Si means "Chan teacher". It is held in the Chi Sim legends that he

eventually ended up at the Red Boat Opera Troupe (hùhng syùhn hei bàan).

From the time of the Red Boat opera, the system of Chi Sim Weng Chun was

preserved by two separate lineages. Inside the Opera, Wong Wah Bou is credited as the

first person to learn Chi Sim Weng Chun. Sum Kam, a.k.a. "Painted Face" Kam (daaih fà

mihn gám) is credited as the second person to learn the entire system; he passed the art

from the first to the second generation. Fung Siu Ching, Sum Kam's apprentice, learned

the system as a member of the Red Boat Opera and taught the art on to three main

families in the third generation, the Dung, the Lo, and the Tang.

Outside the Opera at the Ching Yuen Fei Loih temple, the Tang family also

practiced and preserved the Chi Sim Weng Chun system. Tang Bun was the first

generation, Tang Jauh was the second generation and Tang Seun was the third generation.

Tang Seun also learned from Fung Siu Chin, thus uniting the two lineages into one family.

In the third generation, Dung Jik of the Dung family taught Tam Kong and Chu

Chong Man. In the Lo family, Lo Yam Nam taught his son Lo Chiu Woon while Lo Kai Tung

taught his son Lo Hong Tai. Lo Yam Nam and Lo Kai Tung also shared information and

training with their nephews. In the Tang family, Tang Seun taught Tang Yick and Pak

Cheung. In the fifth generation, a wealthy business man and devoted student of Chi Sim

Weng Chun, Grand Master Wai Yan, brought together five members of the fourth

generation in one location to research and develop Chi Sim Weng Chun. Located in Dai

Duk Lan in Hong Kong, Tam Kong, Chu Chung Man, Lo Chiu Woon, Lo Hong Tai, and Tang

Yick spent more than 10 years training, sharing information and developing Chi Sim Weng

Chun. Grand Master Way Yan was the first person to unify all three main lines in Chi Sim

Weng Chun.

Among Way Yan's students was Cheng Kwong. Cheng Kwong passed the art on to

Andreas Hoffmann of Bamberg, Germany. With his Sifu's approval, Hoffman later went on

to research Chi Sim Weng Chun with his Si Gung, Way Yan and Way Yan's Si Suk, Pak

Cheung. Pak Cheung lived outside of Fatsaan. In 1995, Andreas Hoffman was given a
certificate recognizing him as the successor of Chi Sim Weng Chun/ Jee Shim Ving Tsun

martial arts from Siu Lum. In more recent times, Sifu Hoffmann has contacted and trained

with the successor of the Tang family, uniting all three main families in much the same

way as Grand Master Way Yan. Hoffman today preserves the art of his teachers and

ancestors throughout Europe with a strong organization of over 3000 members.


A detailed family tree is available at
http://home.vtmuseum.org/genealogy/chi_sim/family_tree.php. This area of the VTM
website is being developed through the support of Sifu Andreas Hoffmann and the support
of his extended gung fu family.
Training Overview

In Chi Sim Weng Chun, the foundations of the art were based upon Chan (Zen) teachings

at the Shaolin Temple, handed down from Daaht Mo. The essence of Chan teaches its

followers to trust in their own experience and the understanding of nature rather than

doctrine or history. Any fighting system based on Chan must have three key components.

It must be complete, taking all factors into account. For example, it must address all

ranges of combat from kicking to striking, trapping, grappling, or employment of weapons.

It must be based on reality rather than theory. It must be spontaneous, existing in the

"here and now" rather than past or future. In Chan, there is no ego or body, no past or

future. By focusing on the moment, not being distracted by thoughts or emotions outside

the immediate task at hand, by being in the "here-and-now" practitioners are free to be

aware of the total situation and react accordingly.

The technical components of Weng Chun are likened to a 5-pedaled flower.

The first petal consists of the Saan Sik (separate motions) and the Kuen Tou (fist

sets) consisting of seven core training sets.

The first set is called the Fa Kuen, meaning Blossoming Fist. In this set, the
student learns all the basic energy training to open all the energy gates of the body, with

special emphasis on spiraling energy. The student also learns to use the whole body in

each movement. The set introduces all the hands and footwork for short and long distance

combat. This set is known as the Weng Chun Kuen, meaning Everlasting Spring Fist. The

motions in this form are based on the movements and concepts of double knife fighting. In

the Chi Sim system, the weapons are taught at the same time as the empty hands

because of the reality of the time when this art originated. In the late 1600's, the most

common method of fighting was with weapons. Therefore, practitioners had to learn to

protect themselves from weapon attacks immediately. Additionally, one of the core

concepts in Chi Sim is to subdue an opponent definitely. This task is far easier to

undertake with the added power and length of a weapon.

The second set is called the Sahp Yat Kuen, meaning eleven fists. This set is also

referred to as the Weng Chun Kuen, also meaning Everlasting Spring Fist. In this set, the

student focuses on developing economy of movement and connecting the body in short

motions. This type of power is often called shocking power or inch power. This energy is
used in the Saam Ching Kuen, meaning Three Battle Fist, also called the Lin Wan Kuen,

meaning Linking Fist. The motions in this set are based on the movements and concepts of

the long pole. There are 11 empty hands motions; the set is organized into 11 learning

sections.

The progression in training for Chi Sim Weng Chun is from weapon to weaponless.

Without a weapon, it is much more difficult to subdue an opponent. This is the reason for

the next two sets.

The third set is called Saam Baai Fuht, meaning Three Bows to Buddha. This is the

heart of Chi Sim Weng Chun; it is the shadow of the Sahp Yat Kuen, consisting of 11

sections and was a secret set in the traditions of the Lo family. In this set, the student

learns to multiply his/her energy through the waist as in bowing. Every technique in Weng

Chun has a special bow to add power and structure. This set is called Saam Baai Fuht

because the student bows once for the dharma (teaching), once for his/her fellow

students, and once to the Buddha nature within him/herself. It is in this set that the

student is introduced to the concept of thinking vertically (Heaven, Man, and Earth) as well

as horizontally and laterally. It teaches the practitioner the concepts of time and space.

The fourth set is called Jong Kuen, meaning Structure Fist. This set was taught at

the highest levels of training and combines everything (the other empty-hand sets,

dummy training, and weapons) together into one format. This set moves through multiple

directions and ranges of combat with emphasis on kicking, striking, locking and throwing.

One of the primary focuses at this stage of training is the development of Seung Gung

(Double Skill). This refers to the abilities that are developed through its practice; the

student doubles his previous skill and power for self-defense through a combination of lihk

(muscle), yih (intent), and hei (energy). This set represents the harmonies of long/short

and external/internal.

The fifth set, the Muk Yahn Jong meaning Wooden Person Post, is actually a

collection of 3 sets. In Chi Sim Weng Chun history, the dummy training came from the

Muk Yan Hall in the Southern Shaolin Temple. The sets of empty-hand dummy are taught

in addition to a concept of Tin Yahn Deih, or Heaven, Human, Earth. Each set on the Jong

teaches one of three levels. The heaven dummy focuses on developing reactions and

awareness against attacks to the upper gate and trains the student to fight at the long

range. The human dummy focuses on the middle gate with emphasis on training striking,

locking and throwing. The earth dummy focuses on close range distances at the lower gate

with emphasis on grappling, anti-grappling, throwing and ground fighting.

The sixth set and seventh set are the pole and the knife. In Chi Sim Weng Chun,

the pole is considered the teacher. This set is the longest in the system and teaches the

student fighting in the long range with emphasis on being alive and responsive to changing

situations. The pole training introduces the 6½ point concepts of Chi Sim Weng Chun, use
of the whole body for power, and "springing" footwork. A fourth dummy training set, Gwan

Jong, was a secret set and a specialty of Chi Sim Weng Chun. This set teaches a

practitioner to bridge from long to short distance as well as short to long distance both

with the long pole and weaponless. The Fuh Mouh Seung Dou set, meaning Father-Mother

Double Knives, are thought of as the father and mother of the system and represent the

Yin and Yang concept and training of combat spirit. The knives teach the student the

ultimate subduing method.

The second petal in the flower of Chi Sim Weng Chin consists the exercises to

teach the student to flow freely from one technique to another and to react intuitively to

changing situations. Chi Sim Weng Chun makes use of a three line reference on the limbs

to train and coordinate the body. These lines consist of the Wrist/Ankle, Elbow/Knee, and

Shoulder/Hip. One of the primary exercises for training at the Wrist/Ankle line is known as

Kiuh Sau, meaning Bridge Hand. This exercise only slightly resembles the more widely

known Wing Chun exercise of Chi Sau. In Kiuh Sau, the partners engage each other with

both hands at the same time. Each hand resembles a taan sau with the palm turned up.

The hands can meet with one partner outside the other partner's hands or each partner

with one hand inside and one hand outside the other. From the initial touch, both partners

react to the openings felt in the other's structure. These reactions can flow from kicking to

striking to kuhm nah (joint-locking) to takedowns.


As the student learns, Kiuh Sau incorporates reaction development in all three lines. There
are 14 concepts that are taught to the student as they progress in their training. These
concepts, translated by Sifu Tang Chung Pak are:
1 Tiu (Pick up "with a stick")
2 Buot (push aside)
3 Da (hit)
4 Pun (fold)
5 Juar (grasp)
6 Lai (pull)
7 See (shear)
8 Tshai (quick pull)
9 Bik Force (cornering someone)
10 Hup (continue to put pressure on - "overpowering")
11 Taan (swallow)
12 Tuo (spit)
13 Buort (taking change - "gamble")
14 Saat (stop - "kill/subdue totally")

The Kahm Nah exercise is similar to the often seen Laahp Sau exercise in other

Wing Chun lineages and trains for the Elbow/Knee line. Kahm Nam training is specifically

for flowing from one range to another and begins with strikes first and then progresses

into basic locks, chokes, and traps. Another exercise, known as Tip Sau, has both partners

moving into shoulder-to-shoulder contact for training and developing reactions on the third

line. This exercise focuses on training for throws, locks, and close range body weapons

such as the head, knee and hip. As the student progresses, this exercise moves into a free

flow format and training for ground fighting as well as escaping from locks, holds, and
strikes. Another exercise known as Taan Tou, meaning Push Pull, is one of several

exercises focusing on bridging from long to short distance by a) Moh Kiu, touching the

bridge or b) Kou Kiu, not touching the bridge.

The third petal in the Chi Sim Weng Chun flower is training to Fuhk, meaning

Subdue. Every engagement in Chi Sim Weng Chun seeks to subdue an opponent and

prevent further struggle. All attacks are aimed at destroying an opponent's center of

balance. Each attack also has a finishing movement to pin or incapacitate the opponent.

The fourth petal in Chi Sim Weng Chun is Saan Sau training, meaning Separate

Hand. In Saan Sau, or sparring, training the student comes to understand what fighting is

all about. The student will experience all the emotions that result from fighting as well as

training to push him/herself to the limit. It is only though extensive experience with

sparring and fighting that a student can understand the reality of combat.

The fifth petal of Chi Sim Weng Chun is the Principles, Poems, Chan Buddhism,

History, and Hei Gung. The Ng Jong Hei Gong serves as the core hei gung training in the

Chi Sim Weng Chun lineage. It helps to develop the small and large Universal Hei circles

and balances the hei for ultimate health. These aspects provide the setting against which

Chi Sim Weng Chun was developed and serve to connect the fighting skills developed in

training to the moral cultivation of a better individual and a better society.

Connections

Many southern styles claim a connection to the Southern Shaolin Temple, and most are

technically, tactically, and philosophically similar. In examining the sets of Chi Sim Weng

Chun, it is possible that each set is the pre-cursor to several southern styles. The Fa Kuen

set, with its flowing motions, connected movements and being the first set taught, could

be the precursor to many of the family systems in Southern China. The Sahp Yat Kuen,

with its emphasis on economy of movement and short bridge power could have been the

foundation for further refinement into what is known as today's Wing Chun with the three

forms of Siu Nim Tau, Chum Kiu, and Biu Ji. The Saam Baai Fuht and Jong Kuen, with

emphases on whole body energy and all ranges of combat could have been the precursor

to modern Hung Ga. In several oral legends of Hung Ga, Chi Sim is credited as being the

creator of the style. It is possible that the legends refer to the art of Chi Sim Weng Chun

rather than Chi Sim as a person. The existence of Chi Sim as an individual is open to

historical debate. No explanation is given in Chi Sim oral legends for Chi Sim Sim Si's

abnormally long lifespan, of up to or over 180 years. (Destruction of the Southern Temple

occurred in the late 17th Century, while the Red Boat Opera arose in the mid-19th

Century; yet legends reflect Chi Sim Si as a man playing roles in both environments.)

Whatever the possible connections from the Southern Shaolin to today's modern

martial arts, strong evidence exists to support the hypothesis that Chi Sim Weng Chun was
directly involved in the evolution of modern Wing Chun. The core of the Chi Sim system is

the weapon sets of long pole and double knife along with the dummy sets. Throughout the

martial arts community, the unique hallmark of all Wing Chun lineages is the long pole, the

double knives, and the dummy. The hypothesis that Wing Chun was a series of loose

movements that later added the dummy and weapons does not match the evidence

presented in Chi Sim Weng Chun. This system was founded on the pole and knife, using

the dummy as an integral part of the training. In ancient China, priority was placed on

weapons training due to the reality of combat in those times. A warrior did not have years

to learn empty hand sets before uniting body and mind through weapons training. Chi Sim

Weng Chun's philosophy and technical knowledge constitute credible evidence that it was

most likely the foundation for modern Wing Chun some time before the advent of the Red

Boat Opera Troupe.


Conclusion

While many styles lay claim to a direct connection with the Shaolin temples, Chi Sim Weng

Chun backs up its claims with a training system based on Chan teachings and training

methods that support Chan philosophy. A complete system that trains in all ranges of

combat in addition to long and short weapons, the Chi Sim system of Weng Chun is a

complete system preserved for the benefit of all martial arts. Perhaps with more

communication and closer ties between martial art families, more people will come to

know this lineage and appreciate the roots, depth and breadth of Chinese martial arts.