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Wing Chun & the Thai Connection

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A map of South-western China. The circled region is Mount Da Liang, bordering Sichuan & Yunnan provinces. This is the place where the Venerable Nun Ng Mui created the style that would later be named Wing Chun Kungfu. The 2 arrows indicate the routes of its spread, crossing south to Thailand via Yunnan > Burma, & east back to Canton via Guizhou > Guangxi.

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ing Chun, as we all know, is the compact but combat effective style of Kungfu originating from Southern China. It was first made famous by Bruce Lee's movies, and since then Wing Chun had progressed from a closely guarded school in Canton & Hong Kong to the most widely practiced style of traditional Kungfu in the world. And what connection does this style have with Muaythai, the ultimate striking art? Lots. This discovery was first made by Dr Leung Ting's research and written down in his series of books discussing the origins of Wing Chun. However, as Dr Leung writes the books in colloquial Cantonese, that makes the extremely interesting material inacessible to the English speaking, or even the Mandarin speaking world for that matter. I have the fortune of being Cantonese, so I'd like to briefly translate and relate this extraordinary story for readers out there. This story proves that certain Chinese and Thai martial arts share a closer relationship than we imagine; they may actually be one in origin.

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ccording to history, around 280 years ago, the Manchurian Qing armies attacked and razed the Southern Shaolin Temple in Quanzhou, Fujian province due to its constant support of anti-government activities. 5 Elders (besides the 5 ancestors) escaped from the Temple, and among them was Venerable Ng Mui. She travelled inland and westwards, eventually reaching a Mount Da Liang, located between Sichuan & Yunnan provinces. At this time, she was already old, & no longer harboured the fire to overthrow the Manchus like many of her peers. So she decided to become a recluse, staying in a Monastery there permanantly. For a nun like her, her only pass time through the years were doing daily chores, meditation, & of course, practicing Kungfu. Now Ven Ng Mui was already a master in the Bak Hok (White Crane) style (originating from Yongchun, Fujian). She must have been a foremost disciple of the Founder of White Crane Kungfu, Mdm Fang Qiniang. Some believed that they are actually the same person, but the large gap between their years of existence made this theory unlikely. Incidentally, White Crane is also the style that heavily influenced Okinawan Goju Ryu & Uechi Ryu Karate. But something happened on Mount Da Liang made Ven Ng Mui gave up the style (not all of it anyway) she had practiced for decades and created a whole new one, a style that would later be named Wing Chun.

A comparison of the forms between the Wing Chun & Ling Lam (Flying Monkey) styles. Dr Leung Ting wrote that both are more than 70% similar. But notice that the Thai style does not use the traditional inner clamping stance but a normal open foot stance.

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egend has it that after Ven Ng Mui witnessed a battle between a fox (some say snake) & crane, she was inspired to create Wing Chun. Sort of like the way the Immortal Zhang Sanfeng created Taiji. But Dr Leung refuted this story. He wrote that it was neither a fox nor a snake, but a monkey. And it did not refer to real animals fighting, but rather to 2 persons; or rather 2 experts of the crane & monkey styles! The crane expert was of course Ven Ng Mui. While she was practicing Kungfu one day, one of the many minority tribesmen living in the region must have seen and taken an interest in her daily demos. This tribesman was an expert in the root style that would in the future be called "Flying Monkey" when it travelled to Thailand. Flying Monkey refers to Hanuman, the monkey god of Indian mythology. So this nameless tribesman befriended the Venerable, and eventually became her sparring partner - resulting in the battle of the monkey & the crane! Ven Ng Mui must have been very impressed by the Flying Monkey style, just as the tribesman was deeply moved by the White Crane style. So much so that when they parted ways, both masters had already formed a new art that combined the best of both styles in their minds. The Flying Monkey master with his descendants had probably emigrated south across Yunnan & a small part of Burma, eventually settling in Northern Thailand decades later. As for Ven Ng Mui, her first disciple was to be Mdm Yim Wing Chun (the Founder of Wing Chun) who lived in a small town called "Ning Nan" at the foot of Mount Da Liang. Ven Ng Mui went to the town to get supplies often and knew Mdm Yim & her father well. The name Ning Nan would also be linked to the Flying Monkey style. There was a high chance the tribesman also lived in Ning Nan for a period of time before. As for Mdm Yim, soon after she got married to Leong Bok Sau (her husband was her first student), her whole family migrated back east across Guizhou & Guangxi, finally settling in Canton.

A closer look at the Mount Da Liang (big circle) region reveals that there is a small town by the name of "Ning Nan" (the black dot within the small circle) near its foot. Legend has it that this was the place the Founder, Mdm Yim Wing Chun lived and first used the skills taught to her by Ven. Ng Mui on the mountain. Do you realize that "Ning Nan" sounds very close to "Ling Lam", the ancient Muaythai that is also very close to Wing Chun? From this Dr Leung Ting had concluded that they are actually one & the same thing.

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ll these were discovered by Dr Leung after he met a Muaythai Master (Mr Sunthus Suspatupong) in West Berlin who demonstrated the Flying Monkey style to him. That was in 1977. Mr Sunthus was an ex-champion Muaythai fighter honored before by the King, & also a master in Krabi Krabong and "Ling Lam", the local name for the Flying Monkey style. Like Wing Chun in the past, Ling Lam was a secret style taught only to a privileged few. According to Mr Sunthus, when he was still a young kid, his Ajahn told him that most styles of Chinese Kungfu was no match for Muaythai. But there was one style that if trained to an expert level, 1 expert would be able to defeat 2 Muaythai fighters. He continued to say that this style should still be in China, but he knew not the actual name for it. Mr Sunthus did not thought much of these words until one day, many years into the future & after many fights. He came back to his Ajahn with his golden championship belt presented by the King, expecting praise, only to be told that only now then was he qualified to learn some REAL martial art - the secret style of Ling Lam! Mr Sunthus was of course not convinced a bit, he was afterall one of the greatest fighters in the Kingdom. But his Ajahn asked him to test it for himself - he asked Mr Sunthus to attack him with all the Muaythai skills he know. At first, he was reluctant as his Ajahn was old, but out of curiousity he still threw a half hearted attack at the old man. To his utter shock, he found himself knocked down, but unhurt. He thought he was too careless so for the 2nd time he made a serious attack.. & a 3rd, 4th, 5th attack yet he still got himself knocked down by his old Ajahn! Mr Sunthus had no choice but to be absolutely convinced of the effiiciency of Ling Lam. He started to learn it whole-heartedly from his Ajahn, & it was only then he remembered the words uttered to him by the old man when he was young - this was the 1 Kungfu style that is able to beat 2 Muaythai fighters!

M

r Sunthus continued to tell Dr Leung that though Ling Lam originated from China, its roots could be traced back to India. But when asked what "Ling Lam" meant, Mr Sunthus said he had no idea. In later years, after Dr Leung did some research, he concluded that Mr Sunthus did not know the meaning of Ling Lam because it was not the name of certain specific things, but the name of a foreign location - Ning Nan in South-western China! This proved even more logical when Mr Sunthus himself said that Ling Lam's exact place of origin was somewhere between Sichuan & Yunnan. He of course had no idea that there is a little town called Ning Nan in that region. When the Flying Monkey style emigrated southwards with the nameless master, the pronunciation of "Ning Nan" must have been inevitably corrupted until it sounded like "Ling Lam" to the Thais. As for whether the style was first taught to Man by Hanuman in ages past as Mr Sunthus claimed, that is of course the stuff of mythology.

Chi Sao or sticky hands sparring is the most important aspect of Wing Chun, and being able to do it blind-folded is Chi Sao at its highest level. Surprisingly, Chi Sao is absent in the Thai Ling Lam style.

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r Sunthus then put on his traditional warrior attire and demonstrated everything in Ling Lam to Dr Leung. This was never seen by even many of his own students. Dr Leung returned his kindness by also showing to Mr Sunthus everything in Wing Chun, even the secret Muk Jong (wooden man) form. Dr Leung observed that Ling Lam is more than 70% similar to Wing Chun. An example is they punch by extenting the arm to the limit (so that the elbow is locked); this was exactly the same as Wing Chun. Many of Ling Lam's hand techniques & blocks were also the same as those in Wing Chun's basic Siu Lim Tao (Little Thoughts) form. Wing Chun in its beginning (in Mdm Yim's time) had only the Siu Lim Tao form & some Bart Jam Do (Butterfly Sabers) techniques. So it came as no surprise that Mr Sunthus' Ling Lam also revealed techniques mostly from these 2 forms. Then there was the 3 punches, 3 elbows & 3 kicks fundamental of Ling Lam, which could be found spreaded out in the Chum Kil (Seeking Bridge), Bil Jee (Jabbing Fingers) & Muk Jong forms. But what was sigificantly different was that Ling Lam did not used the traditional Inner Clamping Stance, & had no Chi Sao (sticky hands) sparring practice - both aspects which were brought over from the White Crane style!

The 108-116 technique Muk Jong (wooden man) form is the best guarded secret in Wing Chun instruction, for it contains the essence of Wing Chun. Even Bruce Lee failed to get Master Yip Man to teach him. When one is without a live partner to practice Chi Sao, the dead Muk Jong wold be the next best thing.

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ll these prove without a doubt that although Wing Chun & Ling Lam originated from the same place around the same time, Ven Ng Mui obviously took what she liked from the Flying Monkey style & combined it with her White Crane Kungfu. For the nameless tribesman, he had probably retained much more of the original Flying Monkey style, so much so that until today it still have not changed much when demonstrated by Mr Sunthus. Wing Chun, however, grew through the 2 & a half centuries to encompass much more syllables than when it was first created, becoming a complete system in itself. On the other hand, though Ling Lam remained simplistic, it received constant nourishment from mainstream Muaythai & Krabi Krabong in Thailand, making it no less combat effective than its sister style in China. For all those fighters out there that belittle the traditional styles, take heed - this is to inform you that you don't know everything there is to know about Martial Science. In fact, you can never know everything. And even when Muaythai & Sanda representatives today fight like 2 children trying to be the king of the hill, the relationship between the ancient styles of Wing Chun & Ling Lam hint to us how silly that actually is. I think the Thais might already know this, for they have already invited Dr Leung to Thailand to be a guest of honour for some important Muaythai events in recent times. Perhaps it is time for all those blind supporters of either side to re-examine their positions!

 

*I suppose readers might want to ask me that if Wing Chun trained to an expert level would allow 1 person to defeat 2 Muaythai fighters, then what would qualify one to be an expert? Well Dr Leung does have students who have convincingly defeated Muaythai fighters before. According to him, one must have at least received Muk Jong form instruction from your master. So that would make even Bruce Lee a non-expert, because he failed in his attempt to "buy" it from his master. But the truth was that he was quite near the expert level - even such that his hand technique was already quite formidable. Many people who get into contact with Wing Chun (even Bruce Lee himself) believe that it is a style with all hands & none or very little legs. Dr Leung tells us that is a mistaken impression - the true essence of Wing Chun lies not only in the Muk Jong form, but in its footwork & kicking! But the thing is very few people, even those who have trained Wing Chun for years, have ever fully learned or even seen these esoteric aspects of their style; thus the mistaken impression continues to prevail. Surely that is to the disadvantage of most people (except those who win the favour of certain accomplished masters) who learn Wing Chun. So can the average Wing Chun stylist beat 2, or even 1 Muaythai fighter? I will of course leave that to readers to ponder themselves, lest some of them give me hell again, haha - Author Chinese Martial Science.

AUTHOR :CHINESE MARTIAL SCIENCE

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