Unraveling the History of Wing Chun's Butterfly Swords

Unraveling the history of Wing Chun's Butterfly Swords

Benny Meng and Richard Loewenhagen


Wing Chun Kung Fu has become one of the most widely practiced martial arts of the 20th century, yet its history remained aloof and shrouded amidst myths until a courageous and unselfish teacher recently stepped forward and shared serious historical knowledge with the Ving Tsun Museum and, ultimately, the Wing Chun world. Since 1993, the Ving Tsun Museum in Dayton, Ohio has aggressively pursued leads around the globe in an all-out effort to help the Wing Chun community identify its true roots and origins. Recent publications and press releases from the Museum have revealed one of the most promising links to date to the actual origins of the art -- Master Garret Gee and other members of the Hung Gun Bui family practicing Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kuen.

Fabled stories of a woman named Yim Ving Tsun exist in virtually every Wing Chun family. Books and even movies have popularized the myth that the art originated with her defeat of a local bully in Fatshan, China. In truth, Wing Chun's history is much more complex and far-reaching than this simple myth can convey. This article will reveal the developmental history of Wing Chun's unique swords as taught by one of its original founders, Cheung Ng (Tan Sao Ng), and remove some of the myths that have previously pervaded any study of their origin. In Wing Chun, learning the Butterfly Swords is considered to be a highly advanced stage of learning that represents completing the system. In many cases, only a few students are ever taught the sword level of Wing Chun because it requires advanced comprehension of the nature of the art itself and how the sword is woven into every aspect of the system. Consequently, knowledge of the sword is considered very sacred and oftentimes protected secretively.

Although there are those who perform and practice the Wing Chun Swords today, very few people are familiar with the history and background of their origination. Before examining these origins, it is essential to validate the background and credentials of our information source -- Master Garret Gee (Chu King-Hun). Master Gee comes from a family line renowned for intellectual leadership, statesmanship, and excellence in martial arts and military matters. One prominent ancestor was Zhu Xi, a political leader and teacher in the Song Dynasty. Zhu Xi is credited as being one of the key figures in the revival of Confucianism through the establishment of academic institutions, active correspondence with fellow scholars, publication of over 90 books, and extensive instruction of personal disciples. An imperial decree issued decades after his death designated several of his published commentaries as required reading for all government students. During the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Xi was officially elevated to the stature of Confucius and his birth was celebrated twice yearly.

In more recent history, Master Gee's grandfather, Chu Jun-Bak, achieved prominence as a military leader and master instructor at the prestigious Wong Bo Military Academy. The Wong Bo Academy is the foremost military school in China with a reputation and distinction that makes it China's equivalent to the West Point Military Academy in the United States. China's greatest generals have traditionally been schooled at Wong Bo Academy.

Master Gee, himself, displayed significant martial arts talent at a very early age. He began training under the tutelage of his father at the age of 5. He quickly demonstrated a profound affinity and talent for swordsmanship, as well as other Kung Fu weapons. By the time he was 13 years old he so impressed Dr. Wang Ming (one of the descendants of Cheung Ng and a teacher of Wing Chun from the Hung Fa Yi Secret Society) that he became the last of Dr. Ming's four disciples.


**A Note About the Authors:** Sifu Benny Meng is the principal founder and Curator of the Ving Tsun Museum. He has traveled extensively throughout the world researching the roots of the art and studying the training methods and applications employed in virtually every lineage of Wing Chun Kung Fu. Sifu Meng has been certified through Senior Instructor's level by the Ving Tsun Athletic Association. Likewise, he is a full-time teacher of Wing Chun Kung Fu and is available for professional seminars on historical, as well as technical, aspects of the art and its training methods.

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