First of all, let me begin by saying that I am the legitimate descendant of Wing Chun jongsi Yuen Kay-San (Yuen the Fifth). I have received and retained many of my grandfather, Yuen Kay-San’s, notes and have often heard the accounts of Sum Nung and have thus come to know much about Wing Chun’s history. However, I can not say with absolute certainty that the accounts of my grandfather, Yuen Kay-San, and Sum Nung are the only correct version and the ones which should be held as the standard. Instead, I believe we should look at the authoritative historical records of Wing Chun kept by the Foshan Committee.
[Some have suggested that] there are more than five sects of the Wing Chun School, of which little is known. [and that] the reason for knowing so little is due to the discord and distrust among the various sects, the implication being that the Wing Chun school of martial arts is somehow in the midst of internal dissension. Factually speaking, according to recorded accounts at the Foshan Committee, the reason for there being five sects of Wing Chun is due to the natural evolutionary changes of the martial artists throughout the course of history, the subsequent development of different styles, techniques and practices, and geographical separation.
Records on the origins of Wing Chun, the five sects, and various masters may be found at the Foshan Committee. [Some have also mentioned] that the expansion of Wing Chun in Foshan is credited to Leung Jan. I would like to discuss this particular matter in greater detail if I may.
In the early days, Wing Chun was shrouded in secrecy. Outsiders had only the vaguest idea of the origins of Wing Chun. One may ask, why is it that Leung Jan is credited with such a breakthrough in the history of martial arts at such a late date? The reason may be found in a book written by Ngau Sui-Jee (currently more than years old, in good health, and living in Foshan) in the 1930′s- Foshan Jan Sin-Sang (Mr. Jan of Foshan), in which Ngau enhanced the influence of Leung Jan. This writing attracted much outside attention to Leung Jan, at which time the tradition of Wing Chun received more public exposure. Naturally, Leung Jan’s celebrated name was also related to his own broad range of highly developed skills and contributions toward the development of the Wing Chun fighting style.
The Foshan Committee and I both have a copy of Ngau Sui-Jee’s book Mr. Jan of Foshan.
Ngau Sui-Jee wrote yet another book about Yuen Kay-San jongsi. Upon completion of his book Juen Gai Yuen Kay-San (Biography of Yuen Kay-San), he submitted the book to Yuen Kay-San for review, however since Yuen Kay-San was a lawyer for the government, he did not wish the publicity and declined Mr. Au’s good intentions, thus the Biography of Yuen Kay-San was never published.
In the martial world, the writing of books on well known people was common place, not a special event, and books were written about many people. Today’s authors who write about the stories of martial artists are no different from Ngau Sui-Jee and his simplistic stories. I would be delighted if anyone wishing to understand the above would care to visit Ngau Sui-Jee, who is alive and well, and as him to substantiate what I am saying.
While I am not willing to get involved with controversies between outsiders and my grandfather, Yuen Kay-San, as far as the mistakes concerning my grandfather Yuen Kay-San, naturally I feel quite qualified to clear up any questions surrounding this issue. I also maintain that I am the most qualified authority on this issue, that is, when you consider that the accounts provided by my grandfather, uncle, father and Sum Nung (the student of Yuen Kay-San) are all in total agreement. Even minor details related to Yuen Kay-San have been substantiated by the accounts kept by the Foshan Committee.
Although I, Yuen Jo-Tong, am a middle age adult, my understanding of martial arts is somewhat limited. I have never been initiated into any style of Wing Chun. However, according to the consistent accounts of my father, uncle, Sum Nung and the documents of the Foshan Committee regarding my deceased grandfather, early in his youth, my grandfather Yuen Kay-San studied under the Qing dynasty Ngao Moon Bo Tao (imperial constable) Fok Bo-Chuen. In one of the records kept by the Foshan Athletic Committee it is written that:
Dai Fa Min Kam (Painted Face Kam) taught Wing Chun Kuen, to Fung Siu-Ching in Guangzhou. Fung, a native of Shunde, was later invited by Ma Bok-Leung of Foshan’s son, Ma Jung-Yiu; Jiu Gan-Heung, son of the owner of the Go Sing Tong (Charity Hall); Lo Hao-Po of the Yin Joy restaurant; Nanhai native Li Guang-Po; NgNgau Si of the Fai Jee (Chopsticks) street Butcher Shop; Leung Yan of Fa Hung Road; Yuen Kay-San, son of the owner of the fireworks store on Chen Bak Road (as well as Yuen Kay-San’s fourth brother Yuen Chai-Wan who was known as Dao Po Chai (Pock Skin Chai) and who was later invited to teach martial arts at the Nanhai & Shude Union in Vietnam) to teach Wing Chun Boxing in Foshan. At that time, Fung Siu-Ching lived and was cared for at the Yuen family’s ancestral home of Song Yuen (Mulberry Gardens) in Foshan (this building is now the tax office located on Fushen Road, Foshan City). Fung Siu-Ching remained there until he passed away at an age of 73 years. Ma Jung-Yiu, Yuen Kay-San, Jiu Gang-Heung, Ngau Si, and others officiated at Fung’s funeral.
Because Yuen Kay-San did not publicize who he learned from, I feel I need to explain things. I admire frankness and the discarding of the random creation of hearsay with regard to the history of Chinese traditions and culture, however when one is engaged in writing history, one should not substitute what one does not know with popular folklore. Such a practice is a crime against history itself. Please forgive me for my frank yet well-intentioned admonishment.
I maintain that, due to historical reasons and the results of the traditional concept of maintaining secrecy, the problems related to the history of martial arts which our forefathers left us must be tackled anew by this generation. Moreover, our generation must undo the various regrettable problems which still exist in the inner circles of Wing Chun.
I approve of those in the martial arts, especially the insiders, and their attempts toward friendly relations. I once met with sifu Leung Ting, a student of Yip Man. His friendliness and sincerity moved me greatly, not to mention my respect for his contributions to Wing Chun martial arts. There is also an article which appeared in the overseas edition of the Yang Sing Wan Po (Canton Evening News) in which I interviewed sifu Leung Ting. I feel it would be very beneficial if persons such as sifu Leung Ting and his teacher, Yip Man, were introduced to the Chinese reading public.
Feeling a deep sense of obligation and responsibility, my superior Sum Nung and I hereby present these facts.
By Yuen Jo-Tong. Roughly translated from Chinese