“Sifu, I was watching one of the Ip Man movies, and was wondering where the long pole form came from. And, is it still practical way of training today?”
Two excellent questions. I’ll give you some insight into the first one in this blog, and will come back and write another to answer your second question.
Before We Begin:
There are many versions of the history of Wing Chun. What follows is the most popular version of history as it relates to my lineage in Wing Chun. Keep in mind there are some variations of this story out there, and there are other records of Wing Chun origins and history.
There is a lot of mystery surrounding the history of Wing Chun Kung-fu. For example, prior to the destruction of the temple and private life of Ng Mui, it is not known whether or not the Siu Lam Monastery taught a form of Wing Chun Kung-fu. History has Ng Mui developing it in my lineage and other lineages have someone else. The main point of this blog is to teach you a general history leading up to the Luk Dim Boon Kwan (i.e., six and a half point pole, or “long pole” in the United States) as it is taught in my lineage of Wing Chun while outlining the linage back to the destruction of Siu Lam Monastery.
China was mainly divided between the Ming Empire (1368-1644) and the Qing Empire. As these two were at war, the Qing Empire began to take over the Ming (and held control from 1644-1912).
Located in the Ming Empire was the Siu Lam Monastery (Southern Shaolin). This temple was overcome and burnt to the ground during the Qing Empire’s invasions. Only a handful of “elders” survived. Of them were two important people in Wing Chun history: Abbess Ng Mui and Abbot Chi Sim. Chi Sim hid aboard an opera boat as a cook; while, Ng Mui hid in the mountains (some say forests…). While separated, these two will be key to the development of Wing Chun Kung-fu.
Ng Mui, while in retreat in the mountains, came across a crane attacking another animal. Some say it was a fox; others say it was a snake. Regardless which animal the crane was attacking, it was at this time Ng Mui decided to merge, simplify and condense the Shaolin crane and snake forms of Kung-fu. (Some say she did this because she needed something efficient and effective to defend herself in old age; while, other say she did this out of pure interest and maturation in Kung-fu.)
While in the mountains Ng Mui met Yim Wing Chun, a young woman who was fleeing a warlord. This warlord was trying to force Yim Wing Chun to marry him against her wishes. This is when Ng Mui taught her new Kung-fu to Yim Wing Chun. After learning from Ng Mui, Yim Wing Chun challenged the warlord and easily defeated him. After defeat, the warlord left Yim Wing Chun to marry her fiance , Leung Bok Chao.
Leung Bok Chao, impressed with his wife’s Kung-fu, learned the system and named it after his wife: Wing Chun. He, along with Yim Wing Chun, then taught the system to his nephew, Leung Lan Kwai. Leung Lan Kwai taught the system to his nephew, Wong Wah Bo.
Meanwhile, Chi Sim, while working on the opera boats, met Leung Yee Tai, who was a pole-man for the boats. Chi Sim was impressed with Leung Yee Tai’s strength and stance. Observing how that strength was built upon his working the boat’s pole, he decided that Leung Yee Tai would be a perfect student to learn the Shaolin Long Pole techniques (or form). Leung Yee Tai naturally picked up the form.
Leung Yee Tai and Wong Wah Bo, both members of the opera troupe, happened to be friends. Consequently, they shared their respective martial arts techniques with one another. This is when the Long Pole was incorporated into Wing Chun.
I hope you’ve enjoyed. If you have a question or subject you’d like to see me address on my blog page, or if you have an interest in learning self-defense in or around Tallahassee, Florida, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.