Literally wushu means “martial art, style, or method”; kung-fu has a wider meaning, which not necessary is related to fighting. Kung means work, fu means men, and the whole term means “art, set of high level skills, got through a hard systematic work on one's spirit and body”.
A legend states the kung fu was founded by Bodhidharma, Indian monk (Chinese name – Damo). Successor to the throne in the South India, he refused to have glory and wealth and started to preach Buddhism. In 520 AC, Damo came to Shaolin, the Chinese Temple. Damo saw the monks there and thought they were weak and lacked stamina. So he invented a set of exercises to perfect their physical state. The system revealed to be so effective that regular practicing helped them reacquire their live powers and even to create the self-defense method in order to fight burglars who often wandered around China at that time.
The Shaolin Wushu is considered to be the first style, which has got the status of the systematized Chinese martial practice. According to the ancient sources, the Shaolin monks participated in many battles starting from the 7th century AC. A wooden plate tells about the year 728, when they fought burglars, and about the year 621, the battle of Hulao, when 13 Shaolin monks helped Li Shimin, the second emperor of the Tang dynasty, to conquer the Luoyang City. Li Shimin won the battle and became one of the greatest Chinese emperors.
Many literature sources mention Shaolin martial practice. Different martial art manuals, martial encyclopedias, travelers' tales, novels, poetries have references to the kung fu system. One of the general of the Ming dynasty has included Shaolin monks' method description in his book “The New Book of the Effective Techniques”, that afterwards influenced at development of other martial styles in the Eastern Asia, including Okinawa and Korea.
Wushu of nowadays includes various elements of ancient Chinese systems: Bagua, Eagle's claw, Tai chi chuan, Monkey style, White Crane boxing, Dragon Style, and Wing Chun Kuen (“eternal spring fist”). According to the legend, the last three of these were invented by Ng Mui, Shaolin nun, the eldest of the legendary Five Elders of the Shaolin Temple, living in the 17th century, in times of the Qing Dynasty. Each of them possessed his unique style, and monks were working on creating a new universal technique, that would incorporate the best of each style. However, before this new form could be put into practice, the Shaolin Temple was raided and burned by the Manchus, so they had to run away, and the new art was never created.
Ng Mui fled to the White Crane Temple in the Daliang mountains. A nun took in the Zen Buddhism and was working on perfection her martial techniques.
One day, where she met a girl of fifteen named Yim Wing-Chun whom a bandit was trying to force into marriage. Ng Mui offered her help to this girl. “Let the guy come in a year, and try to fight with the girl”, - she said. If he win, Yim Wing-Chun will obey him. Being sure in his victory, the guy agreed.
The nun realized the one year is too short for the girl could learn all the techniques, which Ng Mui herself mastered perfectly. So she selected those martial arts elements which could help to Yim, a weak young girl, to defeat her stronger opponent. The new style was called after the girl's name – Wing Chun, meaning “eternal springtime.”
In one year that guy returned for his “trophy”... but Yim Wing Chun fought perfectly and defeated him, so he had to go empty-handed. Later, the girl married a guy she loved and passed on the knowledge of her teacher to next generations. This is the Wing Chun story that Yip Man used to tell to his disciples.
Wing Chun principles
In our days, the Wing Chun Kung Fu is still practiced after its founder's principles. The main of them are physical&spiritual balance, avoiding brute force, defensing one's base on the central line, attacking simultaneously with defensing.
Wing Chun is a close fight system, where a small man can defeat even stronger opponent. That's why there is no need in special physical training before starting practicing Wing Chun, and it can be learned by anybody.
Those who practice Wing Chun learn to be always balanced. It enables them not only attack and defense effectively, but also change their movement trajectory in any moment. Out of the kwoon, such a training helps to a person to be more flexible and take decisions quickly and adequately in any situation.
A principle when you use your opponent's force against himself is based on the relaxation, since the clumped body is an object easy to manipulate, because while extra tension, reaction&movement speed is lower, and fatigue comes earlier. Using only muscles, necessary for his movements makes a fighter more stress-proof and enduring. Such an approach is useful in other life aspects: instead of wasting his time and energy on unnecessary things, a practitioner use his resources effectively to reach a success.
Also, Wing Chun's adepts learn to make minimum of movements for a maximum result. Simultaneous participation of two hands and two legs activate both brain hemispheres. Due to this fact, body senescence lowers. And contact reflex exercises helps to develop sensibility and intuition.