уторак, 21. новембар 2017.

300 fights of Leung Jan

Leung Jan is probably the most famous Wing Chun ancestor, embodiment of all virtues and undefeated fighter, in one word a true hero. As the legend goes, Leung Jan was true philanthropist, always ready to help those in need and being a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine gave him an opportunity to help treat poor people for free. When not working at his medical shop, he spent his time fighting challengers from other styles. As the story goes he had over 300 challenge matches and he never lost a fight.  The truth is , although Leung Jan is such a famous character there are almost no real facts about his life, how he lived , what his martial style looked like , the exact year of his birth and death , number of children and number of students, all these things are uncertain and are a matter of argument among Wing Chun practitioners over last several decades. The most interesting thing of course is number of fights he supposedly had , so let’s analyze this claim from different angles.
From purely physiological point of view, number of 300 fights, won or lost is incredible. Giving the claim that those fights had no rules and no protective gear was involved the amount of physical trauma Leung Jan must had over time must be tremendous. Even today, with all the achievements of modern medicine, professional fighters tend to have shorter life expectancy than the rest of the population and they suffer from various health problems as a direct consequence of these fights. Let’s have in mind that professional fighters today use protective gear and have the best health care as well as the best coaches and training conditions and number of fights is not even close to 100 let alone 300.  In the time of the Ching dynasty average life expectancy was little over 30 years of age , giving the fact that Leung Jan lived double that time it is safe to assume that he didn’t have any serious physical or psychological trauma during his life, 300 fights , giving the living conditions at time and the level of medical care and knowledge would definitely shorten his life span, unless he was never touched during those fights (which is only possible in action movies , even the best fighters got hit tremendous amount of times during matches).  There is one other important thing we have to keep in mind. Professional fighters are exactly that, professionals. Their job is to fight and they dedicate all their time to rigorous training. Their life style, diet, seeping patterns , everything is dedicated to training. There are no professional fighters who  have day job and train in free time. Leung Jan had a good business and he had to spend a lot time maintaining it , how much time he had for hard training regime required from someone to  become the best fighter of his time is questionable. From this angle it is impossible to believe Leung Jan had 300 fights. Did he had any? It is unknown but it is obvious he was not a professional fighter, he was a medical doctor who practiced martial arts in his free time. It is hard to believe that he was challenged by the best fighters of his time (professionals who spent all their time training) and won, and not only won a few fights, but 300. It is also completely unbelievable that he never lost a fight. There is no fighter who never lost a fight, even the best of the best lose some time. If he fought 300 times he must have been lost at least few matches.

From sociological point of view it is highly unlikely that Leung Jan had any fights. He was a member rich upper class , the highest class of Han Chinese during latest period of Ching rule. Members of rich upper social classes never participated directly in competition fighting, wars or other conflicts. In any given time and place in history upper social classes styed aside and took care of their affairs. Giving the fact that challenge fights were forbidden and Leung Jan lived in turbulent times of Taiping rebellion and survived the aftermath of that conflict says a lot about his way of life, especially having in mind he was a practitioner of martial arts and he never had trouble from Ching government.  If the government saw him not as a threat but only as a disturbing element of the society in those times he would definitely be persecuted by authorities. Win 300 (illegal) fights and become a sort of a hero for people would not be allowed , especially during Taiping rebellion times and years after that. So if not for fighting, why Leung Jan practiced martial arts? During his time martial arts changed tremendously and shifted role socially and technically.  Becoming absolute in era of fire arms, martial arts shifted from weapons training to empty hand training. Not needed by military any more, martial arts were adopted by wealthy social class as a status symbol. Only those who had a lot of money could afford to learn kung fu. Martial arts represented same thing what sports cars represent today. Leung Jan didn’t have martial arts school, not in a sense we perceive martial school today. He ran an elite social club which members were other businessman and merchants from Foshan. They practiced kung fu as a sign of their social status. Leung Jan was rich , successful businessman, he reached the top of the society and had everything life could offer at time he lived on. It is highly unlikely he would risk his life, health, freedom, wealth …just to prove someone he could fight. Aside the fact that challenge fights were forbidden and if caught he would be punished, why would he risk to be killed or crippled if he had everything he could have at the time. It is highly unlikely that he had any fights, he simply had no reason to fight unless he was incredibly stupid.
From historical point of view during Ching dynasty rule martial arts were marginal activity reserved for people who needed them for work and rich people who could afford them. Of course, civilians were not allowed to carry weapons and only people with government permission could carry and use weapons (body guards, bounty hunters …) . So were there any challenge matches or death duels? No, we have no records of such a thing. These kind of things were forbidden by law and punishments for breaking the law were extremely cruel at the time.
Before Taiping rebellion we have no records of any challenges or death duels. After Taiping rebellion when things settle down, social and political climate changed, martial arts changed and competition started. Competition started because new social establishment came to existence, for the first time in history martial arts schools, in a form we know them today started to operate and some of them gathered a lot of students. Although majority of the people still lived in a very poor condition, more people could earn enough to join martial schools and more people worked better payed and not so physically exhausting jobs. Those famous wooden platforms from Hong Kong action movies were actually competition grounds, something like octagon today. People fought for fame and money. Like every competition, these also had rules and although there were pretty brutal, they were not much different from today’s MMA competitions, even the rules were pretty much the same. Many people got seriously injured but there is no record someone was killed in any of these events.  There are no records that Leung Jan participated in any of these competitions. If he was such a famous fighter we would have at least some historical records of his fights. Even if we presume that all his fights were illegal and happened far from the eye of the public we would still have some records of those fights and what is more interesting we have not even one name of his opponents. Beating down 300 people , and not some ordinary people but more or less famous fighters and there is not even one record that nor even one name …Lack of written evidence ,first hand witnesses stories recorded at time of Leung Jan’s life or any other evidence from that time suggest that he never fought . If he was such a fighter there must be at least some trace of his fights , but we have no mention of any fights connected his name .
First mention of Leung Jan as a tremendous fighter can be found years after he died in pulp fiction novels. During republican period Leung Jan became a popular character of pulp fiction novel and that is a starting point of the legend of his extraordinary fighting skills. He became a hero of cheap entertainment magazines and people could read about his adventures for decades. This is the place where we find a starting point off Leung Jan’s legend.  What was a fiction once, when Wing Chun became popular , became history  in 70’s and 80’s .
From cultural point of view, ancestor worshiping is part of kung fu tradition. Giving the ancestor attributes (physical, moral and ethical) unreachable for ordinary man has two purposes, first to give style a “face” and second to be a role model for young students. All kung fu styles have some famous ancestor who had fighting powers never seen before (or after). Over time these powers grow and every generation add something more. At the end it is impossible to find even a shred of truth in these “histories” but that is not important , the purpose of “history” in Chinese (Japanese ,Korean) martial arts is not to present facts of the past events based on evidence but to be a cultural, ethical and moral guide and to offer a role model for future generations of practitioners. Wing Chun history need Leung Jan exactly as he is presented now, 300 , 500 or 1000 fights , it doesn’t matter. What is important is that his character is standing high above all others giving an example what a Wing Chun practitioner should be what may become. No matter if all evidence point that Leung Jan didn’t have any fight, for the purposes mentioned above, and because people like to consider them self as inheritors of such an important person, story of 300 fights will be repeated over and over again and it will be wildly believed.  

To conclude this article, there is no evidence that Leung Jan ever had any fights. Stories about his fights and fighting skills emerged for the first time years after his death in pulp fiction novels. Stories from this novels became “history” in late 70’s when Wing Chun became popular and since that time Leung Jan’s fame grew as well as stories about number of his fights.

понедељак, 13. новембар 2017.

Taiwanese "Lady Kung Fu"

China ’s been putting kung fu women heroes on screens since 1930 when the country’s first major movie star, Chin Tsi-ang, starred in a series of swordswoman flicks. Famous for doing all her own action scenes, she went on to produce Hong Kong’s first kung fu film The Adventures of” Fong Sai-yuk”. While there were several well known woman  actresses in kung fu movie history only one is known as ‘’ Lady Kung Fu”.
Angela Mao Ying was born in Taiwan in September 20, 1950, as the third of eight children to a family of entertainers for the Peking Opera House. Her father Mao Yung Kang, was  Beijing  Opera star, who escaped China to Taiwan in 1949. At the age of 5, Angela Mao was enrolled into an Opera School in Taiwan. Some of her classmates were Judy Lee, Charlie Chin and James Tien (all future actors) and she trained for the next 14 years. She was trained rigorously in both voice and martial arts, developing astonishing facility in both and had a successful career as a Chinese Opera actress, where her flexibility and martial arts first developed.

When she was 17, Huang Feng an action movie discovered her. Feng was looking for a young woman who knew martial arts to be the leading lady for his upcoming sword fight film, called "Angry River". She signed the contract for Golden Harvest movie company and made her best movies working for them. With her experience in acting and martial arts, Angela quickly began taking leading roles other action movies in Golden Harvest productions, including "Hapkido", "Lady Whirlwind", and "The Fate of Lee Khan" She was also successful in other movies such as "The Association", "The Himalayans", and a number of others.
Her career, if not long, was impressive, as she was one of the rare women to make that sort of break-through in the film industry. She played Bruce Lee's sister in Enter the Dragon (1973) which gained her planetary popularity , and she also worked with Jackie Chan several times. In 1974, she fell in love and married Kelly Lai Chen . At the peak of her fame in the 1970s, martial arts star Angela Mao was marketed as the female equivalent of Bruce Lee.

She retired from films in 1983, when her son George King was born. She moved to Queens, New York in 1993 and eventually opened several Chinese restaurants that she runs with her son and daughter-in-law: Mama King, Nan Bei Ho, New Mei Hua, Guo Ba Inc.

Unlike Bruce Lee, who actively sought and needed stardom, she was never obsessed with pursuing fame or her career. She worked to support her family, and movies were simply the best-paying assignments she could get in those days. Then, she had a baby, her husband’s job in construction took him to New York, and that was pretty much that for her movie career. She left everything behind and dedicated herself completely to her family and family business.  

четвртак, 02. новембар 2017.

Wing Chun as a militay art

In Wing Chun tradition prevalent opinion is that art has military origin and was in fact made by the best military officers at the time. As the legend goes , best military leaders of the Ming dynasty , better known as Five Elders, gathered in Shaolin monastery ( either southern or northern ) and created superior martial style which supposed to make training period short and give an advantage to the rebel army which according to the Wing Chun tradition had over a million people. There are of course many variations to this story, in different traditions, different characters were credited for creation the perfect military art and sometimes these characters stay unnamed but still labeled as high ranking military officers.
From historical point of view the story is complete fabrication with no basis in real events. Let’s start with Shaolin monastery. Northern Shaolin was never a place of Kung Fu research and development. It had, like any other feudal estate, a large portions of fertile land and monks were trained in basic infantry tactics to defend the land from outlaws. Also, monks were required to participate in wars as infantry because Shaolin, as every other feudal estate had an obligation to send a certain number of soldiers to the imperial army in a time of war. Monks practiced to fight in organized units using long weapons and shields and later, when introduced to China, fire arms. There was no such a thing as “Shaolin Kung Fu”, just a classical infantry training. On top of all , Shaolin was one of the most significant religious centers in China and monks’ main focus was on religious practice , as in all other monasteries all over the world, not Kung Fu practice. More about North Shaolin temple and its true history can be found here:
Southern Shaolin never existed. There are no historical records of such a place, no written records nor physical evidence. Today,  there are  3 or 4 places under that name but no “Southern Shaolin” existed before the end of 20th century. Those places are just tourist attractions made for one purpose only, to draw Kung Fu enthusiasts from all over the world and make them spend as much money as they can. History as science is very clear about Southern Shaolin- it never existed in reality, only as legend which first appeared by the end of the 19th century.  More about Southern Shaolin can be found here:
Same goes with Five Elders. According to Wing Chun creation myth all of them were high ranking officers on Ming court, descendants of important families who served the dynasty for generations. They had best education and of course they were the best Kung Fu fighters at the time. After the fall of the Ming dynasty they found refuge in Shaolin monastery and used it as a base of rebellion. One of their priorities was to make superior fighting style which would significantly make the training time shorter and give the rebels an advantage in combat. They combined their knowledge and experience to create that art. One of them betrayed  the rebellion and the monastery was destroyed by Ching soldiers who used English artillery. Elders scattered all over China and founded their own styles. Wing Chun supposed to be the product of Five Elders’ effort or at least the closest thing to it. There are at least three out of five Elders who are in different accounts credited for founding Wing Chun. In some legends even after the destruction of the monastery two of them (Ng Mui and Miu Shin) combined their knowledge and created Wing Chun.  It is said that Wing Chun is superior to all other fighting systems because it requires short time to be mastered (3 to 5 years), it is close combat system so there is no need to waste time on learn fighting on all other distances and it uses only two weapons,  long pole and  twin knives.

For all martial styles, being included in military training, was always a sign of special status and quality. There are a lot of stories in which brave soldiers and generals are using their Kung Fu skills to defeat enemy and win great victories. But how much really Kung Fu was important in Ming dynasty army and military tactics and is possible that Wing Chun legends have at least some foundation in reality and the art has military origin?

Military system of Ming dynasty

Hongwu Emperor, the founder of Ming dynasty, organized a military system known as the Wei-suo. The goal was to have soldiers become self-reliant farmers in order to sustain themselves while not fighting or training .During the Ming Dynasty, soldiers had one of the lowest social standings .In the Ming Dynasty military was an inherited job and they came from a warrior class. They got land to use form the government in exchange for obligation to join the army when invited. They also had to buy their own military equipment and weapons. This system collapsed in 1430’s and the army was reorganized and composed from the professional soldiers who worked for salary. Ming were allowing individual generals to put together private full time professional armies, though disguised under the term "house servants", these retinue warriors were usually very well equipped and trained.  In total, the Ming army in the late 14th century numbered approximately 1.2 million hereditary soldiers, number of soldiers in the 17th century reached 3 million people. During the reign of Yongle (Zhu Di) three training camps were established, which troops were sent to in rotation. The first specialized in infantry warfare, the second in cavalry warfare and the third in artillery. While this worked very well at first, it stagnated after 1435 and had to be revived in 1464 by the Chenghua emperor.

At first, standard company numbered 100 men. Each 100 man squad consisted of 40 shielded spearmen, 30 archers, 20 shielded swordsmen and 10 men operating firearms. Later, the army was reorganized and the standard company increased in number to 112 men, though they were likely similarly equipped. These soldiers undertook a sophisticated training program, whereby infantry were well trained for maneuvering around the battlefield and performing specific drills in the heat of combat, taking different attacking or defensing formations, changing positions and other necessary tasks.
Chinese armies of the Ming period used a wide variety of spears. All were generally quite long, from 2,5 to 3 meters or even longer. Some types were specially designed for dismounting horsemen.
                                                       Ming heavy armor 

Ming archers were armed with long composite bows and various types of arrows, including specialized designs tipped with deadly poison and rocket arrows. Crossbows were also used on large scale.
Chinese swords of the Ming period had their origins in central Asian sabres. Ming infantry swordsmen usually carried a goose-quill or willow leaf sabre. Sabres were used in combination with a shield by special fighting squads.

                                               Ming rifleman 
In the late 14th and early 15th centuries. Chinese firearm technology was the most advanced in the world. Ammunition came in the form of both arrows and solid balls.  In later period, number of firearms in Ming army significantly increased and brought a lot of change in tactics and military equipment.

Cavalry were a minority in the Ming military. However, they were still an essential component of Chinese armies.
Ming cavalry were divided into two types--lancers and mounted archers. The former were equipped with helmet, armor and sabre, as well as a long spear and round shield. The latter were also armored and carried a sabre, but the primary weapon of a horse archer was his composite bow.

Chinese armies of the Ming period made wide use of artillery. Both on the field as well as for the siege and defense of fortifications. Almost every military expedition had a substantial artillery train. This contributed greatly to the success of early Ming armies against Mongol nomads and rivals.
Ming era cannon

Officer core
Military officers were ranked in a hierarchic grading system and were given merit evaluations every five years. However, military officers had less prestige than officials. This was due to their hereditary service (instead of solely merit-based) and Confucian  values that dictated those who chose the profession of violence (wu) over the cultured pursuits of knowledge (wen).Military officers were not excluded from taking civil service examinations, and after 1478 the military even held their own examinations to test military skills. In the early half of the dynasty, men of noble lineage dominated the higher ranks of military office; this trend was reversed during the latter half of the dynasty as men from more humble origins eventually displaced them.

 Military Tactics
One of the notable features of the Ming military was its centralized planning. The entire army would be re-equipped and re-trained for a specific campaign to meet specific tactical requirements which depended of the enemy’s number , tactics, technology ,also important were geography , logistics , climate ect.
Some insight in Ming army tactics can be found in manuals written by Qi Jiguang (November 12, 1528 – January 17, 1588) a military general of the Ming dynasty. He is best known for leading the defense on the coastal regions against Wokou pirate activities in the 16th century. Qi is also known for writing the military manuals Jixiao Xinshu and Record of Military Training ,which he based on his experience as a martial educator and defensive planner in the Ming military forces. He is regarded as a hero in Chinese culture. In his own words :” Fighting in large formation, against great enemies, is different from fighting in rings or arresting few bandits. In great formation, thousands of men are advancing in order. The braves are not allowed to advance (further than the rest of the army), and the cowardly are not allowed to withdraw. (If our enemy) thrusts with a forest of spearheads, (then we can only) thrust back with a forest of spearheads. (If our enemy) slashes with a storm of blades, (then we can only) strike back to return the favor. (Everyone) can only advance together, there's hardly any room to flip one's hand, let alone dodging left and right! If even one man looks behind, everyone will be left in doubt. If even one man is distracted and missed one step, everyone will lose morale. There's no way one can advance and withdraw freely (when fighting in formation)."
Ming dynasty shield formation

The writings of general Qi Ji Guang  give us some insight into how a large formation battle would look like in Chinese warfare. Qi Ji Guang described thousands of soldiers fighting with pikes and sabres in a formation so dense that "there's hardly any room to flip one's hand", and discipline was of utmost importance. Ming Chinese placed great emphasis on the use of spear and pike. Chinese did not use their pikes to perform smashing or slashing attack in the same manner as Japanese pikemen, although some experienced Chinese pikemen could smash their pikes to the ground and use the bouncing effect to guide the pikes into the abdomens of their enemy.
Ming infantry formation

During an engagement with other pikemen, Ming shieldmen were instructed to hack off enemy pikes using their sabres. Behind the rows of shields and pikes there were rifleman and bowman who supported them with constant fire. Infantry was generally supported by artillery fire while cavalry was used for sudden attacks after artillery preparation to break enemy lines and enable infantry to enter.

Military system of the early Qing dynasty

Eight Banner System
 Before official founding of the Qing dynasty and conquest of China , Nurhaci, a chieftain of the Chien-chou Juchen  Manchurian tribe who is considered to be the founding father of the Manchu state in China, established a banner system The Banner system was developed by  Nurhachi  in 1601.He organized his warriors into four companies of 300 men each. The companies were distinguished by banners of different colors—yellow, red, white, and blue. In 1615 four more banners were added. As the Manchu increased their conquests, the size of the companies grew until each came to number 7,500 men divided into five regiments, divided, in turn, into five companies.
In 1633, during the early Qing dynasty, the Manchu rulers began to incorporate Mongols and other tribal groups, as well as Han Chinese, into the Eight Banner system. Beginning in the late 1620s, Nurhaci's successors incorporated allied and conquered Mongol tribes into the Eight Banner system. Eventually, the numbers of Chinese soldiers caused Manchu leaders to form them into the "Old Han Army" , mainly for infantry support. In 1631, a separate Chinese artillery corps was formed. In 1635, a Mongolian "Eight Banners" was created. Four Chinese banners were created in 1639 and finally the full eight were established in 1642.  . 
Among the Banners gunpowder weapons, such as muskets and artillery, were specifically wielded by the Chinese Banners who also served as infantry and were also used classic Ming dynasty infantry tactics and weapons. Manchu and Mongolians served traditionally as cavalry, mostly as bowman.

Green Standard Army
After capturing Beijing in 1644 and gained control of large of former Ming territory, Manchus accepted in their service Ming forces that surrendered to the Qing. They were integrated a new military unit called the Green Standard Army, named after the color of their battle pennants.. Green Standard armies were created in Shanxi, Shaanxi, Gansu, and Jiangnan in 1645, in Fujian in 1650, in Lianguang (Guangdong and Guangxi) in 1651, in Guizhou in 1658, and in Yunnan in 1659.They maintained their Ming-era ranks and were led by a mix of Banner and Green Standard officers. These Chinese troops eventually outnumbered Banner troops three to one.
Even though the Manchu banners were the most effective fighting force during the Qing conquest of China, most of the fighting was done by Chinese banners and Green Standard troops, especially in southern China where Manchu cavalry could play less of a role.The Banners and Green Standard troops were standing armies, paid for by the central government. In addition, regional governors from provincial down to village level maintained their own irregular local militias for police duties and disaster relief. These militias were usually granted small annual stipends from regional coffers for part-time service obligations.

Ming Dynasty fall and Qing occupation of China.

Reasons for the fall of the Ming Dynasty
One major cause of the Ming collapse was a succession of relatively weak and disconnected emperors. Early in the Ming period, the emperors were active administrators and military leaders. By the end of the Ming era, however, the emperors had retreated into the Forbidden City, never venturing out at the head of their armies, and seldom even meeting in person with their ministers.
A second reason for the collapse of the Ming was the huge expense in money and men of defending China from its northern and western neighbors. This has been a constant in Chinese history, but the Ming were particularly concerned because they had only just won China back from Mongol rule under the Yuan Dynasty.  
Next major reason of the fall was corruption of the officials. Very few government officials were not corrupt during this period. A large portion of all taxes, military wages, even disaster relief funds from the central government were pocketed by officials from all levels of government. The administration went bankrupt and couldn't even make wage payments on time. As a result, soldiers often fragged their officers to demand wages or looted civilian villages. Needless to say, most of these troops had terrible morale
Next major reason for fall of th Ming dynasty was the shifting climate, and disruptions to the monsoon cycle of rains. Heavy rains brought devastating floods, particularly of the Yellow River, which swamped farmers' land and drowned livestock and people alike. Peasants had no food, but corrupt officials pocketed disaster relief money and didn't relieve any tax burden. The masses couldn't survive like this and rebelled against the government. Weak government and low moral of the army simply couldn’t do anything to stop the uprising. Peasant rebels run rampant all over central and western China, resulting in severe damage to the Ming heartland. There were fewer and fewer generals capable of dealing with these threats. When peasant rebel leader Li Zicheng marched on Beijing, the commanders of Datong and Xuanfu (two entire military districts!) surrendered to him without a fight. This gave him a direct path to Beijing, which he conquered after only two days of siege, resulting in Emperor Chongzhen committing suicide.
Failing economy, political factions internal wars, government corruption, low moral in army, incompetent rulers, peasants rebellions , all these factors caused the fall of the Ming empire even before Manchus came to power.

Qing conquest of China
The Ming faced several famines, floods, economic chaos, and rebellions. Li Zicheng rebelled in the 1630s in Shaanxi in the north, while a mutiny led by Zhang Xianzhong broke out in Sichuan in the 1640s. Many people were killed in this self-proclaimed emperor's reign of terror.
Death of the last Ming emperor

In February 1644, rebel leader Li Zicheng had founded the Shun Dynasty in Xi'an and proclaimed himself king. In March his armies had captured the important city of Taiyuan in Shanxi. Seeing the progress of the rebels, on 5 April the Ming Chongzhen Emperor requested the urgent help of any military commandant in the Empire. But it was too late: on 24 April Li Zicheng breached the walls of Beijing, and the Emperor hanged himself the next day on a hill behind the Forbidden City. He was the last Ming emperor to reign in Beijing.
Soon after the emperor had called for help,  Ming general Wu Sangui who was guarding the Great Wall rushed with his army to Beijing .Wu Sangui and his Ming army were on their way to Beijing, marching through the Shanhai Pass at the eastern end of the Great Wall of China.  Wu received word that he was too late, and the capital had already fallen. He retreated to Shanhai.  Li Zicheng sent his armies to confront Wu, who defeated them in two battles. Frustrated, Li marched out in person at the head of a 60,000 men-strong force to take on Wu. It was at this point that Wu appealed to the closest large army nearby - the Qing leader Dorgon and his Manchus. He agreed to attack Li's army, but only if Wu and the Ming army would serve under him instead. On May 27, Wu agreed. Dorgon sent him and his troops to attack Li's rebel army repeatedly; once both sides in this Han Chinese civil battle were worn out, Dorgon sent his riders around the flank of Wu's army. The Manchu set upon the rebels, quickly overcoming them and sending them flying back toward Beijing.Li Zicheng himself returned to the Forbidden City and grabbed all the valuables he could carry.
The newly allied armies captured Beijing on June 6. On October 30, 1644, about 5 months after the Qing army occupied the capital, Hong Taiji's son Fulin became the Emperor Shunzhi, and he announced the new dynasty was founded.The Manchus, who had positioned themselves as political heir to the Ming emperor by defeating the rebel Li Zicheng. Soon after Manchus  wiped out the last remnants of rival regimes established by Li Zicheng (killed in 1645) and Zhang Xianzhong (Chengdu taken in early 1647). Finally, they managed to kill claimants to the throne of the Southern Ming in Nanjing (1645) and Fuzhou (1646) and chased Zhu Youlang, the last Southern Ming emperor, out of Guangzhou (1647) and into the far southwestern reaches of China.
Qing conquest of entre territory of Chine took a while, last Ming loyalist stronghold , Taiwan, surrendered in1683. While the entire country was in chaos new established  Qing government accepted all the generals from the Ming dynasty into their ranks and allowed them to keep their positions. It was actually the Green Standing Army who did most of the fighting against Ming loyalist led by Han Chinese Banners. Chinese were fighting against Chinese for the Manchu’s benefit.
After gaining control of the Chinese empire the Manchus quickly absorbed much of Han high culture. They also kept much of Ming dynasty government organizations system with few differences. Military personal and intellectuals were highly valued by new dynasty. Manchus need capable people to establish and strengthen their rule over China so they change their policy toward these two groups which were discriminated during Ming rule. Towards the end of the Ming dynasty, from the late sixteenth century on, intellectuals had become increasingly disaffected with the Ming and had tacitly withdrawn their support. Many scholars had spent most of their lives preparing to hold an official post, only to end up with nothing. The new dynasty needed men of talent, and shrewdly made a show of respecting scholars. Same thing was happening with military officers.


Ming dynasty haven’t lost the war with Manchus because Manchus had stronger force or had better technology or better strategy. In fact, Ming dynasty fell apart before Manchus even engaged in the events. Manchus simply seized the opportunity and took the place of the already fallen dynasty. Ming dynasty caused its own demise creating political and economical chaos. When Manchus came there was no one to fight against them. Ming generals massively betrayed former rulers and sided with conquerors in order to keep their positions , titles and property. The truth is most of the fighting against pockets of the resistance were done by former Ming army who turned against few loyalists. There was between 250 and 350 thousands Manchus ( actually only 120 000 Manchus , the rest were Mongolian and Han banners) who conquered Ming China who nominally had over 3 000 000 soldiers. 
Knowing all these facts was there a need for inventing new fighting style that rebels could use in order to restore Ming dynasty? The answer is no. There are two main reasons why there was no need for inventing any new style of fighting, not only Wing Chun, against Qing dynasty.
-       First, Ming dynasty already had superior strategy and tactics to fight Manchus and they fought them successfully for centuries. From the very beginning of Ming rule they had to fight with Mongolian tribes on the northern borders of the empire and they developed effective tactics to keep them outside their borders. As long as the empire was politically and economically stabile Mongolians had no chance against Ming army. Simply there was no need to invent any new way to fight the Qing, it was already developed and successfully used for centuries.
-       Second reason is that people of China were not eager to fight against Qing. It was in fact common people of China who rebelled and took down the Ming dynasty. At the beginning of its rule Qing dynasty brought social and economical order and growth. The most significant fact of early and mid-Qing social history was population growth. The population doubled during the 18th century. Such a population growth is not possible without stable economy ,strong and competent  government , social and political order. People simply weren’t interested in rebellion and Qing dynasty included Han people in every aspect and level of the government .
In terms of historical development of Chinese martial arts, styles like Wing Chun and other southern (and northern) styles as we know them today developed in second half of 19th century. Martial styles are invention of the modern times, something that first appeared in 19th century. Although many “histories” and “traditions” are pushing back their origins far back in the past the truth is no style today is older than 150 -180 years. During Ming and most of the Qing dynasty rule martial arts were concentrated strictly on military use and put accent on weapons techniques. Only high ranking officers learned how to fight “one on one” and had full systems of fighting with preferred weapon, the rest of the soldiers practiced to fight in formation. Styles in today’s sense of meaning didn’t exist. There were prominent teachers and someone traced his lineage through the line of teachers but there defined styles didn’t exist, same teacher would teach completely different things to different students. Wing Chun simply couldn’t exist before 19th century because martial styles didn’t exist before that time.
From tactical point of view, story that Wing Chun is invented to fight Qing army is complete nonsense. Qing dynasty with Ming army adopted their way of fighting and military technology. Let’s think for a moment could be Wing Chun used against Qing army?
-       First, no martial style as we know them today could be used against any army from 17th or 18th century. Modern styles are focused on individual fighting and empty hand techniques with rudimentary weapons training. Armies of the past fought in organized groups and put all their time in weapons training , various maneuvers used in a battlefield . No matter how good someone’s skill can be a group of single fighters stand no chance against a group well trained army unit. Wing Chun has no trace of any training for organized group fighting. Even if all participants in some imaginary conflict use same weapons , let’s say long poles, a group of fighters which fight in a formation will simply run over any group of a group of fighters without any formation. Individual skill was never a determining factor in any army, in any war at any point of history.
-       Second, Wing Chun uses two weapons, Long Pole and Double Knives. It is obvious that Wing Chun is a style invented to be used without armor nor shields. Wing Chun is almost impossible to use if a fighter is wearing an armor and usage of shield is also impossible. Even if opponents use same weapon but one has protection of the armor and shield it is obvious who will win.
-       Third, Qing army had cavalry, infantry and artillery. Imagine fighters without armor, armed with long poles without any formation fighting against cavalry. There are enough examples in history of exactly the same encounters and all finished exactly the same, cavalry slaughtered the opponents.
Wing Chun against artillery? I think the answer is pretty obvious, The artillery was the main reason why Ming dynasty manage to fight off Mongolian tribes for such a long time.
Wing Chun against infantry? On one side there are people without any protection, no formation and armed with short knives and long poles. On the other side there is a wall of shields and a forest of pikes, longer than WCK poles with long steel points. They move as one and simply cut to pieces everything and anything on their way. Behind countless rows of pikeman there is a great number of archers who support advancing of front rows and among them there are a significant number of rifleman who either supported pikeman from the flanks or shoot before close quarter engagement. We have many examples in history how similar encounters ended.

From this reasons, story that Wing Chun is invented as some miracle solution for restoring the fallen Ming dynasty is pure nonsense. It is nothing more than a marketing that aims at the particular emotional and psychological points in practitioners. Wing Chun is invented in particular moment of history for particular reason and it is a perfect solution for the problem and the environment which it was invented for and there is no need to give it credit and attributes that art does not have.


уторак, 10. октобар 2017.

White Crane tradition - short report

On Saturday, October 7th, like every year in Master Hong school was held a ceremony and performance to honor the founder of Vibrating Crane ( Zong He) style , Fang Shi Pei.  Around 1840 Fang Shi Pei started his White Crane training and spent 10 years with his teacher refining new style of White Crane inspired by natural vibrations of plants and animals which he considered a the most sophisticated way to generate power. He had few students and couple of them came to Taiwan and brought this rare and probably the softest and truly internal style. Today there are several distinct lineages of this art on Taiwan and at least one in Mainland China.
On this day, in Master Hong’s school all people who are practicing or practiced this particular linage, are gathering to honor founder of the style. Master Hong’s Kung Fu brothers who learned the art alongside him as well as several masters who completed the system under master Hong and few current students.
The ceremony started with burning the incense sticks and offerings put to the little altar dedicated to Fang Shi Pei. After that everyone did a performance and demonstrated some parts of the system. After everything was finished , Master Hong gave a little present to all participants.

It is a great honor to be part of this elite group of martial artists and to practice this rare and beautiful style of White Crane .

недеља, 01. октобар 2017.

True origin of Wing Chun

True origin of Wing Chun is a matter of research and debate for decades. At first everyone believed in Yip Man’s “history”. Mythical characters were considered as real people who participated in important events which led to the creation of Wing Chun. In time most of the story was proven false. Even a superficial research of historical sources proves that Five Elders never existed and foundation for their stories came from triad folklore. Southern Shaolin, mythical place of research and development of Kung Fu also never existed, there are not physical, written nor oral sources what so ever that can even remotely suggest such a place ever existed. While there are still people who believe in a stories of Five Elders and Southern Shaolin, majority of people today know the true facts.
Over the years many people invested a lot of time and energy in search for the origin of the art. What is important to say is that none of these people is a professional historian or archaeologists. They didn’t have enough knowledge nor enough founding to conduct the real scientific research. Furthermore, they all got caught up in lineage pride and their researches, if they can even be called that, were aimed to prove particular lineage or style superiority in historical sense over all others. In absence of real evidence, a lot of “researches” fabricated stories, sources, facts …Even those who approached Wing Chun history research from seemingly neutral angle had a problem of the style’s pride. Instead to collect available facts from all sources, validate and sort them out and then see what will be the result, “researchers” still dwell in a small , limited area of thinking and viewing the art’s history which was established by Yip Man.
People like to believe their art is special, exclusive, with some special or higher historical purpose. When stories about Five Elders, Yim Wing Chun, her husband and Southern Shaolin were proven false, connection to mythical ancestors , places and events , with a lot of prestige and pride , was lost.
In order to restore style’s prestige, “researches” turned to real, verifiable and important historical events and people involved in those events. There were numerous attempts to connect creation of the art to various to Taiping uprising, one of the most significant events in Chinese history and probably the bloodiest one. There were also numerous tries to connect people involved in these events to the creation of the art or to give the art a significant place in Taiping uprising.
Besides Taiping rebellion there were numerous tries to push styles history further back in the past and a search for verifiable historical characters who could even remotely have any connection to Wing Chun.
Everything is turning around Taiping rebellion, Red Boat opera troupe, secret societies and special purpose of the art. “Face” of the art must be saved by any means necessary! Instead to let evidence to trace the path of research, researchers already have the final answers and the whole process is about connecting these answers with available evidence one way or another.   
Without serious, independent history research conducted by professionals with enough founding and resources and peer review the results we will never know who actually created Wing Chun and we will never know exact time of the art’s creation. Even the full scale historical and archaeological research cannot guaranty any substantial results.  On the other hand we can be pretty sure how was the art created and why. On disappointment of majority of Wing Chun practitioners, the origin of the art is much more mundane than anyone wants to believe.
In absence of historical sources we have to turn to the art its self, to technical analysis and what may the purpose of creating the art with all the features that Wing Chun has.
Biomechanical efficiency, often referred as “Qi” or “Internal” power is not something characteristic only for Kung Fu. Actually, this kind of efficiency is used in Kung Fu only for the last 150 years. On the other hand, in all manual labor that require long hours of working, like different chores on the farm, working in fields, mining, boat riding ect , a kind of biomechanical efficiency was developed to maximize effect of the work with minimum of the strength used. People developed different kind of “internal” power for different kind of jobs out of the pure necessity. Working in the field all day require a lot of energy and power , if the worker relies only on raw  power of the local muscle group he would be exhausted after very short time. This kind of biomechanical efficiency eventually found its way into Kung Fu practice so we have a whole bunch of “internal” styles today.
Wing Chun stance with feet pointed inward, abducted knees, specific position of the spine and weight projected on the balls of the feet was probably invented by people who spent most of their time on the boats. This stance allows far superior balance on the unstable and constantly changing surface of the boat over any other stance. The main feature of this stance is that, being relaxed, enables constant fine repositioning of the center of the gravity and maintains balance. Whatever job a person has on the boat this stance is best solution for it. To navigate boats in a shallow waters of Pearl river delta, people used long poles. Using a long pole to push and navigate the boat is a whole day job which requires a great deal of strength, endurance and skill. To cope with a problem of long term physical engagement people again used Wing Chun stance and body structure to generate power and still keep their bodies relaxed and able to work long hours. Instead of quick exhaustion caused by using raw muscle power, boat riders came with a solution which allowed them to be active for a long period of time and conserve energy and protect the body from damage that comes from heavy physical engagement. The way they generated power to push the boats, same way they generated power to fight of river pirates and other intruders.
 Long pole is not only a tool for riding a boat but also a perfect weapon to keep intruders from coming even close to the boats. This is most probable scenario how Wing Chun stance, body structure and power generation came to existence.     
Red Boat Opera Trope spent most of their time (more than 95%) on the boats. It is only natural that all the crew adopted stance and body posture to make their life on the boat easy and to be able to finish daily chores. While most people do not have clear picture what Red Boat Opera trope looked like or have rather romantic view, in reality, the trope was made from very different kinds of people. Among opera staff, actors, musicians, prop master, lived cooks, prostitutes, professional gamblers, pickpockets, “snake oil” sellers, spies…it was a perfect place for their operations.

Model of the "red boat"

Being most of the time on the boats, the boats were the place where most of fights occurred. Unsatisfied customers, cheated and robbed people, law enforcement, gang members, bounty hunters and many others came to boats and fought with the crew members. Boats were always overcrowded and full of opera props, sailing equipment, food and other supplies and there was little free space on or below the deck. There was only so much space for narrow passages in order to enable most necessary traffic for maintain the boats and life of the crew. Naturally, people on the boats developed the system of fighting suited for the condition they lived in.  If Wing Chun is put in a condition of fighting in a small, limited narrow spaces and passages
than the style’s techniques and theories get perfect sense. Since possessing a weapon was forbidden yet necessar , having a hidden weapon was a solution to this problem. Two short wide blades were perfect for fighting on the boats. Wide blades were strong enough to withstand the blow of much stronger weapon but for perfect length to control the space on the boats. Twin knives could be used with a full range of techniques while usage of other, longer weapons , usual for that time like sabres, swords, spears and others were extremely limited. In this condition chi sao training get perfect sense, in a narrow space where it is impossible to move or movements were extremely limited , fighter trained to fight in a very short range and to control opponents movements who is unable to maneuver is in great advantage.


Actual boats from Guadong in 1880

It is commonly believed that Wing Chun empty hand techniques came from Fujian White Crane and unknown Snake style and weapons , long pole and twin knives were added later. In reality almost all modern Kung Fu styles were derivate from some older weapon fighting system and Wing Chun is not exception. No art was made in the vacuum and there was a lot of exchange between different fighting systems at time.
White Crane or predecessor of White Crane was the most influential art in 1800’s and it highly possible that there was some influence on Wing Chun. On the other hand, all southern Kung Fu styles share certain similarities and it is possible that Wing Chun was influenced from multiple sources. People on the Red Boats came from different places and had different martial experience and they all contributed in Wing Chun creation. On the other hand , Wing Chun is highly specialized art for fighting in certain conditions and most of Wing Chun hand techniques highly resembles, or to be accurate , are exact copies of  Twin Knives techniques. This is especially visible in Wooden Dummy form and Biu Jee form.

Wing Chun came to existence out of the necessity of the situation and was adapted to fit the requirements of that situation. It is a highly specialized art for fighting in closed quarter conditions on Red Boats. It is more probably invented by petty criminals , boat riders and additional opera stuff than some significant historical figure or opera actors who definitely didn’t have time to waste on inventing new martial style. Actors of course adopted the art for personal self defense and probably gave some contribution to its technical foundation but they were not main creators of the art. Wing Chun didn’t came to existence at some particular moment but was refining and growing for several generations until it got its shape recognizable today. 

недеља, 17. септембар 2017.

Snake Crane Wing Chun in UK

Sifu Wayne Yung spent more than month in UK promoting SCWC and meeting prominent Wing Chun teachers. This is first in a series of stories about his trip .

четвртак, 07. септембар 2017.

Wing Chun master Yves Vertommen

It is my pleasure to present kung fu enthusiast , humble and quiet man and tru master of Yip Man’s  lineage Wing Chun,  Yves Vertommen . He is opening a new Wing Chun school and in that spirit I would like to say a few words about his knowledge and experience.
He started his martial journey at the age of 7. His first arts were Judo and Taekwondo and he has instructor’s licence in both of these arts. His first encounter with Wing Chun was in 1983 while he was active soldier in Belgium military force.
After finished military service he devoted him self to Wing Chun training and practiced 6 to 8 hours daily. His teacher also sent him occasionally to other prominent Wing Chun masters to expand his knowledge. Master Simon Lau and Wang Kiu  were some of these teachers he visited and learned from. In the early 1990’s his teacher asked him to open his own school.
Over the years hundreds of students passed through master Yves’ school. His students as well as himself actively competed in various categories and won numerous prizes in full contact , semi-contact matches and forms.
His talent, knowledge and training approach were recognized by many. He is a frequent lecturer in many major traditional Chinese martial arts events. He is recognized and accepted as a teacher by Chinese martial community as well.

Over the years master Yves was main subject of various martial magazines stories and was interviewed by national TV  in several occasions. He  also , in a TV  interview , received  an award of gratitude and special service from the French Minister of Sports in Belgium.
Master Yves' school is right place for Wing Chun enthusiasts who seek knowledge,quality of information and  training in a relaxed and positive atmosphere.

website and contact info


 Master Yves with his first teacher in the early days (left), Master Simon Lau (small photo on the right)
Award from French Ministry of Sport 



Vraious invitations for martial arts events and competitions .

 Sifu Yanou San
One of the stories about Master Yves published in a martial arts magzine

Another newpaper release

From competition...