The Legend of Yim Wing Chun //

​July 10, 2019

Written by Richard Block

Most martial arts take great pride in their history and many of them can be traced back several generations and some even hundreds of years. But they all have their own wonderful and mysterious stories that stretch back even further and are always popular tales to eager young student’s ears.


My experience in my art is no different.


There are many exciting stories of challenges won, combats survived and mysterious monks with secret teachings to be shared. Myself and my fellow students often enjoyed the moments when our teacher would take a few minutes in class to tell us one of these tales.


One of the most romantic is the story of Yim Wing Chun, the beautiful woman who our art is named after.


The legend goes - Yim was the daughter of Yim Yee, the owner of a small and very popular tofu shop in Guangxi. But Yim Yee’s past harboured a deadly secret – he was once a member of a secret organisation called the Red Sects who opposed the Ching Dynasty and who were responsible for many uprisings and assassinations.  


When Yim Yee’s membership of the organisation was discovered, he fled, taking his young daughter into hiding with him and eventually establishing their new lives in Guangxi.


They both prospered and by day they would work creating wonderful dishes for their customers but by night Yim Yee would teach his daughter his closely guarded martial art.


As their shop become more popular, Yim Yee’s daughter caught the attention of a local bully, who became enamoured with her beauty. After she refused his advances, he swore he would return and force her to marry him.


When the bully returned with several friends, and she once again refused to marry him, he exploded into a rage.


Fearing that he might attack his daughter, Yim Yee gave her a slight nod and in the blink of an eye she advanced on the bully and effortlessly knocked him to the ground.


Red faced and in a state of shock, having seen how easily this small girl had thrown him off his feet, the bully fled with his friends and never bothered her again.


Because of the encounter, Yim Yee’s daughter gained the reputation as a fearless and strong woman, and the locals became a bit more wary of her. She remained un-married for many years, until Yim Yee took into hiding a young revolutionary named Leung Bok-Lao.


While Leung was living with them, Yim Yee noticed that there was a growing regard between Leung and his daughter. Eventually, after watching their love for each other blossom, he agreed to allow them to marry.


After her father’s death, Yim continued to hone and refine her skills and when Leung later learned about his wife’s martial prowess, he asked her to teach him. Yim did this until the day she passed away from a sickness.


Leung promised that her name would always be remembered and he named her art in her loving memory – Wing Chun.


Of course, this is just one of the many variations of this story, but it has always appealed to me for many reasons. One of which is the subtle hint that our art was indeed developed by a woman.


When you study Wing Chun you find that the concepts and principles in the teachings cleverly harness many of the natural attributes that women have.


I often say jokingly to my students, ‘I’ve spent the last twenty years learning to fight like a girl!’


We are told these stories to inspire us to protect and treasure our art. We do this in honour of our ancestors such as the inspirational and legendary Yim Wing Chun.