the way Mandarin was written at the time of the Qing take over the term ‘Siu Lim Tao’ could have been read as the ‘Way of the Shaolin’.
This post is not to argue that there is no such thing as Internal Kung Fu or to argue that it works or does not work, in fact, for this post I am accepting the proposition that Internal Kung Fu is real and does work.
The question I wish to pose is whether or not Wing Chun can be seen as an Internal Kung Fu and still be regarded as Wing Chun.
The genesis myth of Wing Chun talks of the Shaolin Abbess Ng Mei observing a fight between a Cran and a Snake and as such developing the IDEA for Wing Chun.
The emphasis here is Shaolin.
There is an alternative genesis myth that says 5 masters of the mythical Southern Shaolin Monastery convened and brought there best attack and best defences to develop a fighting style to combat the imperial troops of the Qing Empire.
Again here the emphasis is on Shaolin.
Finally, I was told by a very well educated Chinese friend that the way Mandarin was written at the time of the Qing take over the term ‘Siu Lim Tao’ could have been read as the ‘Way of the Shaolin’.
You may ask what is the deal here with Shaolin?
Firstly the Shaolin monastery and all associated with it are Buddhist, everything they do is influenced by their Buddhist philosophies, more on this later.
Secondly, Shaolin Kung Fu is hard, physical and athletic, they are renowned for this, it deals a great deal with conditioning to take punishment, with quick movement and distance control, physical conditioning is super important if any progress is expected.
The influence of Shaolin spread all through the northern Chinese Kingdoms and as a result, northern Chinese Martial Arts are hard, physical, fast, and their practitioners are hardy and well-conditioned what is commonly referred to as ‘External’, being of the body.
Wing Chun’s own history tells of its appearance in Foshan through the players on the Red Boat Opera, although this is highly unlikely, the Red Boats did not appear until late the 1700s, it is worth noting that the Red Boat Opera was a spin-off from the Beijing Opera, northern Chinese, so any style they would off used in the Operas would have been Shaolin.
How did Wing Chun morph into a Daoist style?
In a lot of today,s Wing Chun, especially from the C.S.T. lineage of the Ip Man Tong, are practising what is clearly a Daoist influenced style, it is well known that Ip Mans family where Daoist, they had a family temple that they allowed Chan Wah Shun to use as his Kwoon, and of course there is the story of Ip Mans students copying his ‘Peach Wood’ Baat Cham Do and having him a set made in aluminium.
To a conscientious Daoist ‘Peach Wood’ knives or swords are not weapons of combat, they are symbolic spiritual weapons that the superior man uses to cut the bonds that bind him to the ‘world of men’.
Ip Man would recommend that his student Chu Shong Tin spend many hours doing the first and least effective of all of the Wing Chun Forms, this is the Daoist idea of Wu Wei, non-doing, brought into and influencing Ip Man’s Wing Chun.
The modern followers of C.S.T. Wing Chun spend as much time doing nothing, non-doing, mindfulness as anything that could be considered ‘martial’.
For the thousands of C.S.T. followers out there I am not saying that it is not effective, but it is certainly Daoism influencing the work and not informed by Buddhist philosophy.
Is this of any importance?
Yes, it is.
Viewing what we know as Wing Chun through the lens of Buddhism leads us to the uncarved block, a parable that says we must work hard to remove all that is not us.
We must cut away the softwood and get to the solid heart.
It leads us to the parable of the ‘finger pointing at the moon’ if we waste our time looking at the finger we will never see the moon.
The friend of mine that studied the different type of Chinese writing over the years told me that ‘Biu Gee’ could also be read as ‘pointing finger’, if we spend our time looking at the ‘Biu Gee’ or any Form, then we will never see Wing Chun.
If our approach is tempered by Daoist thinking as Ip Mans surely was, we are working in a realm that is removed from the world of men, ‘action’ that does not involve struggle or excessive effort, this is the philosophy of the thinker, not the fighter.
The Kuen Kuit, the ancient wisdom songs of Wing Chun reads completely differently if you approach it with a Buddhist “work hard to cut away the soft wood, finger pointing at the moon” mentality than it does when you approach it with a Daoist ‘non-action’ mentality.
They become different martial arts.
Hopefully, this post can encourage all that read it to stop following and start studying.
At the end of the day, styles do not win fights, men do, and better thinking is what separates the men from the boys.
WORK ON YOUR WEAKNESS, PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTH.