Ng Mui was the principal contributor in the restructuring of Shoalin Kung Fu in terms of simplifying it to accommodate the minimal time span in which they had to train proficient fighters for the revolution. Her ideas of close quarter combat were completely different from those around at the time. Discarding many of the animal forms (although it is thought she was partly influenced in developing Wing Chun after watching a battle between a crane and a snake) she began to develop this new system based on the principles of winning at all costs, using speed and subtlety to overcome an opponents’ natural advantages. Her system, as yet unnamed had less stress on muscular strength (lik), bone conditioning, or muscular flexibility. The emphasis lay in sudden contraction and relaxation (ging) causing one to explode into action with natural weapons such as finger jabs to the eyes, elbow strikes to face and the powerful use of the knees and feet to the opponents lower body.
Ng Mui took refuge in the distant White Crane Temple in Yunnan. Periodically, she travelled to a nearby village for provisions including bean curd (tofu), which she bought from a shopkeeper named Yim Yee (or Yim Say) and his daughter, Yim Wing Chun.
Yim Yee and his daughter had fled Fatshan province narrowly avoiding wrongful arrest and imprisonment for a crime Yim Yee had been falsely accused of by the the Manchus. They moved to Mt. Tai Leung along the border of the Szechwan and Yunan provinces and settled into this remote area, selling bean curd for a living. However, their lives were not yet free from trouble. One day Ng Mui entered the shop to find the young girl in tears.
Wing Chun was a beautiful and intelligent young woman, and had attracted the unwanted attentions of a brutal gang leader, who had sworn to take her as his wife.
Ng Mui’s immediate inclination was to fight off the gangster herself, but realised that such action was likely to attract the attention of the Manchus, from whom she was still a fugitive. Instead, Ng Mui undertook to teach the girl combat techniques, thus allowing her to defend herself and her honour.
Wing Chun told the gangster that she would fight him in one year, and that if he could defeat her, she would be his. The gangster, a master of Eagle Claw Kung Fu, saw this as a fait accompli and agreed, laughing.
Ng Mui took Yim Wing Chun into the mountains and taught her the techniques she had developed.
With only months in which to train Yim Wing Chun, Ng Mui concentrated only on the most essential, direct and effective techniques and training methods in her instruction. The techniques would need to allow Wing Chun to overcome the gangster, who was bigger, stronger, and more experienced than she. As the 108 dummies of the Shaolin temple no longer existed, Ng Mui developed a single dummy on which all 108 dummy movements could be practised. Yim Wing Chun trained Kung Fu religiously and, when the gangster returned, she was ready. Soundly beaten, the disgraced gangster left and never returned. After this event Ng Mui is said to have named this new style Wing Chun Kuen, after her protg.
Shortly thereafter, a salt (or silk) merchant from Shangxi named Leung Bok Cho visited the area. Leung Bok Cho had been a student of Kung Fu at the Honan Shaolin Temple. He stayed at an inn next to Yim Yee’s shop, and witnessed Wing Chun practising her Kung Fu beside the tofu grinders. He fell in love with this beautiful and skilful young woman, and soon, with Yim Yee’s approval, they were married. Wing Chun passed on her skills to her husband and he then began a search to find a suitable student to pass on the art.
Ng Mui eventually left the White Crane Temple. Before leaving, she made Wing Chun promise to adhere to the Kung Fu traditions, to continue to develop her Kung Fu after her marriage, and to help continue the struggle against the Manchus to restore the Ming dynasty.
Wing Chun and Leung Bok Cho moved back to Shangxi, but soon moved on to northern Guangdong to escape constant fighting between bandits and soldiers. Then they moved to Siu Hing, where they would eventually encounter members of the Red Junk Opera Company.
Meanwhile, Ng Mui’s fellow grandmaster at the temple, Jee Sin, was also travelling the country. Among other styles, he was a master of the dragon pole. He sought suitable students to train in his ongoing quest to assist the overthrow of the Manchus and the restoration of the Ming dynasty. Like Ng Mui, he was hunted by the Manchus and, to evade detection, he disguised himself as a dishevelled beggar. It was in Guangdong that he heard of the Red Junk Opera Company, and its prized performer, Wong Wa Bo.
The Red Junk Opera members were trained in the performing and martial arts from an early age, and Jee Sin reasoned that, with such backgrounds, they could quickly be trained to become formidable fighters. Jee Sin went to see a Red Junk performance, watching Wong Wa Bo very closely. He was impressed with Wong Wa Bo’s considerable skills and enormous strength, but noticed a few technical faults which he felt he could correct.
As the performers were packing up to travel on to a performance in Guangzhou, Jee Sin approached them and asked for passage. The poler of the ship saw only a ragged beggar and informed him that the Red Junks were not passenger ships, and that the only way that he would get to Guangzhou was by walking. The opera staff continued their packing, ignoring Jee Sin, and then boarded the boat, preparing to shove off. The poler saw Jee Sin take up a stance, one foot on the shore and one on the boat. The poler decided that the foolish beggar was overdue for a surprise bath, and began to push with his pole as hard as he could.
Try as he might, he could not move the boat. He summoned the others, who also thrust poles into the river bed, but the boat remained unmoved. Finally, in desperation, the poler summoned Wong Wa Bo, the best poler of all, still sleeping after an unusually long performance the previous evening. Even he was unable to make a difference.
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