Whenever a word is translated into English from another language, variations in spelling will occur. This is especially true when translating something from the Chinese, as the language consists of so many different spoken dialects, each with a different way of pronouncing the same word.
Such is what happened when the Chinese for "martial art” (功夫) was translated into English. Although the popular version remains "kung fu”, some people call it "gung fu”, and others, including the late and legendary Bruce Lee, spelt it "gong fu”. However it is spelt or pronounced, it all refers to the same thing: a collective term for the different styles of (particularly Chinese) martial arts.
The same is true for the martial art system of Wing Chun. An ages-old style developed in the Southern Shaolin Temple, the origin of the name "Wing Chun” is highly debated. Some say that the martial art was named after a training hall of the same name in the Shaolin Temple. A more romanticised theory believes that the art form, developed by a Buddhist nun from the temple, was named after her first student, a maiden named Yim Wing Chun.
Whichever the case, the interpretation of the name "Wing Chun” is equally varied. Although the popular translation of "Wing Chun” remains "Eternal Spring” (永春), the name of the martial art is alternatively translated as "Beautiful Spring”, "Singing/Chanting Spring” (詠春), and so on.
With so many interpretations of the origin and the name, it is no wonder that there are not one, not two, but several ways to spell "Wing Chun”.
"Wing Chun” Is the popular, generic way of spelling the martial art. However, another version is "Wing Tsun”, a spelling adopted by Grandmaster Leung Ting, to differentiate his teaching branch from others. Similarly, "Wing Tjun” is another alternative spelling coined by Grandmaster Sergio Iadarola and adopted by his organisation.
Other ways of spelling the name include "Ving Tsun”, "Weng Chun”, and even "Yong Chun”. Because Wing Chun became most popular in Hong Kong, where Cantonese is widely spoken, variations of the style’s name are normally derived from the Cantonese dialect. However, "Yong Chun” is derived from Mandarin, which is more prevalent everywhere else in China.
Yip Man (葉問)
The late Grandmaster Yip Man’s life has been documented and dramatized in a series of recent films, and just like the martial art he devoted his life to mastering, the spelling of his name is equally varied.
While the spelling adopted by the movies is "Ip Man”, an alternative spelling is "Yip Man”.
Grandmaster Yip Man taught Wing Chun during the so-called Hong Kong period, when Wing Chun was particularly popular on the island state. While he was undeniably one of the great Grandmasters of Wing Chun, he was by no means the only one.
Other Wing Chun Grandmasters active during the Hong Kong period were:
- Grandmaster Tang Yick
- Grandmaster Tam Kong
- Grandmaster Chu Chong Man
- Grandmaster Lo Chiu Woon
- Grandmaster Lo Hong Tai
- Grandmaster Pak Cheung
A possible reason why Grandmaster Yip Man became more famous than the others could be because of who he taught: Grandmaster Yip Man was the sifu of Grandmaster Leung Ting, who went on to establish one of the world’s largest Wing Chun organisations. He also taught a young upstart who went on to become arguably the world’s most famous martial art star in history: the late Bruce Lee.
Different Spellings, Same Art
Regardless of how the name is spelt, Wing Chun as a martial art should encompass the following:
- Basic principle of never using strength against strength, but rather yielding to the greater force
- Proper stance and footwork (IRAS, meridian, etc.)
- Punches from the centreline, chain punches
- Empty-hand forms: Siu Nim Tau, Chum Kiu, Biu Tze
- Chi sao, or "sticky hands”, a method of training sensitivity
- For advanced students, weapons training with the long pole and butterfly knives
As a form of self-defence, Wing Chun levels the playing field: the style does not favour size and strength, but rather precision of technique. The principles behind Wing Chun work by exploiting the opponent’s brute force and momentum. As such, it is a popular style of choice for smaller people, women, children, and senior citizens, whose lack of strength or stature could disadvantage them in other martial art styles.
When trained well, Wing Chun techniques are easily applicable in real-life situations. In addition, our Wing Chun academy teaches awareness and conflict management strategies to avoid getting into an altercation in the first place.
With our affiliations with the International Wing Tjun Kung Fu Association (IWKA), headed by Grandmaster Sergio Iadarola, our school is committed to teaching Wing Chun in its purest and most traditional form, while adapting techniques and principles to suit modern settings and situations.
What is the difference between Wing Chun Kung Fu and Karate? We are asked this a lot!
Wing Chun Kung Fu is a close combat system where you position yourself close to the opponent from a self defence aspect, we look to defend and attack simultaneously. Karate compared to Wing Chun Kung Fu is a long bridge arm, weight on the front leg and uses a two stage thought process of block and then attack. A great deal of competitive Karate has now become Kick Boxing which is a combative sport.
Karate uses Katas to reply to self defence scenarios whereas Wing Chun Kung Fu has three empty hand forms for correct shape, hand positioning and movement.
Wing Chun Kung Fu has principles such as 'use the opponents force against them', 'go forward, stick to what comes, yield to the greater force and when the way is clear go forward'. The system is about evolving and not using strength to defeat an opponent in self defence.
So whether you’re seeking to learn an authentic version of Wing Chun, or you’re looking for an effective form of self-defence, you need look no further!
Why not take advantage of our FREE trial? We offer 30 days’ worth of lessons, at zero cost to you, so you can experience first-hand the authenticity and efficacy of our Wing Chun teaching. When you join you will receive a free t-shirt and please always ask us for our special offers!
Call us today on 0800 197 4660 or 0208 916 2102 to begin your Wing Chun journey!