Phenomenal Woman: Ng Mui and Yim Wing-chun

Surprise, legendary fighter Ng Mui isn’t just a DC character! Jackie Chan and Yip Man (and Donnie Yen, TBH) have this incredible, real-life woman to thank for the success of their martial art.

Ng is credited as the founder of not only Wing Chun, but also the Wu Mei Pai, Dragon Style, White Crane, and Five-Pattern Hung Kuen styles of martial arts. This formidable abbess was trained at the Shaolin Temple and was one of Five Elders who survived its destruction by Qing forces.

Upon Shaolin’s destruction, Ng fled to the White Crane Temple, where she encountered a fifteen-year-old girl, Yim Wing-chun, who was on the run from bandit attempting to force her into marriage. Despite her own difficult plight, Ng was moved by compassion for the girl, and undertook to teach her how to defend herself using a style that she could learn quickly and did not require great physical strength to overpower an opponent.

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According to the Michigan Shaolin Wugong Temple, Ng Mui’s system de-emphasized the use of size and strength, favouring deflection over blocks and simultaneous defensive and offensive moves. Other basic principles were:

  • The shortest and fastest distance between two points is a straight line
  • The essentialness of control and striking along the centerline (the plane between the center of one’s body and that of an opponent’s)
  • Executing 2-3 techniques simultaneously rather than one
  • Receiving what arrives, following what retreats, and striking when open

After her marriage, Wing Chun taught her martial arts skills to her husband, Leung Bok Chau. He, in turn, passed these techniques on, and so the knowledge travelled from person to person in a direct line of succession, creating a sense of shared community and responsibility.

To this day, Wing Chun is the only style of Kung Fu created by a woman.

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