Women and Weng Shun Kuen
By Dr. John Vince (M.B., B.S.)
When I started Weng Shun Kuen, our Sifu entranced the class with stories of its origins. I felt the story of Ng Mui and Yim Weng-Shun added to the experience. Over the last few years there seems to have been an increasing outcry to relegate as myths the idea of these two women having been involved in Weng Shun Kuen’s development.
There have been suggestions that the Ng Mui/Weng-Shun myth was propagated to downplay the effectiveness of this "new" martial formulation. Its early developers - revolutionaries, are said to have been in hiding from the Manchurians and indeed that this new fighting style was developed to fight the Manchurian authorities. Legend has it that the Northern Shaolin Temple was attacked and burned to prevent the very development of such a revolutionary tool. To help hide them selves, a story was supposedly created of being a women’s style. After all, just how good could this fighting style be, if women developed it? This suggested "weakness", was supposedly used to keep the authorities from investigating too closely. Is it now Western male ego trying to prove that Weng Shun Kuen is a "manly" pursuit by denying the possibility of any female input?
Although the lineage of Weng Shun Kuen can be traced back somewhat into history, the mists of time blur the past and facts and myth must inevitably blend. What exactly lies in the past can only be speculated at. Even the documented lineage is almost certainly incomplete. Who today can really say what other influences such people as Leung Bok-Chao and Wong Wah-Bo were exposed to over the decades that they developed, adapted, changed and advanced their fighting approach now known as Weng Shun Kuen. It is impossible for anybody to conclusively say that no women were ever involved in some aspect of the development?
Our Sifu has often told us that those few women he has taught over the years have always tended to do very well. I have seen this for myself when females have been in class with me. As a medical doctor I was able to offer a possible explanation for the apparent greater ease with which female students were able to perform.
At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, there are physical differences between males and females. The nature of some of the less well known different attributes make females highly suitable to Weng Shun Kuen’s punches, blocks and kicks.
The major first difference is the carrying angle of the arm. When you have your arm out straight, the angle the forearm takes away from a straight line between shoulder and elbow is the carrying angle. Females in general have a much greater carrying angle than males. I believe the greater carrying angle of females, makes learning and deployment of the centerline punch and such Weng Shun Kuen techniques as Tan Sao easier for women. Learning to keep the elbows in probably comes more naturally in those with greater carrying angles.
The hips of women are also different. This is due to female pelvis being wider than the male pelvis. There are also other differences. These differences are used in Archeology to help determine the sex of human remains. Thus the female hips are set wider and the legs have a greater internal rotation. I believe the female hip structure makes the kicks commonly used in Weng Shun Kuen also easier for women to learn and deploy. Again this style of kick comes more naturally to those with the so-called gynaecoid pelvis. It also makes it easier to achieve a proper Yee jee kim yeung ma stance with the knee the requisite fist distance apart.
At this point I would like to relate another story that our Sifu told us. I write this here, as I have not come across this explanation anywhere else at this time, although in two movies I have seen, there is a hint. He told us that the Weng Shun Kuen kicks were called the invisible kicks of Weng Shun Kuen. He related that the low, short-range kicks of Weng Shun Kuen were developed by women as it was not considered lady like to perform "high kicks" while wearing skirts/dresses. He related that they were called "invisible kicks" because when fighting their opponent, at close range, they were able to deliver the kicks unseen, being hidden under their skirts.
Another factor somewhat favouring women is Weng Shun Kuen techniques of not using force against force, of borrowing power and "yielding". Now although these techniques work equally well for women and men, and help to create a fundamentally superior form of fighting, the "weaker/smaller" female must in some ways be more advantaged by this method of fighting. Women are also generally not as used to using their physical strength against physical strength and do not have unlearn a way of doing things when they first commence Weng Shun Kuen. In class one problem often encountered in new male students is their "stiffness". This often makes them slow to learn Chi sao and Luk sao exercises, whereas the female students tend to grasp the sensitivity exercises quickly. Now being effective for males and females, this does not necessarily indicate the involvement of women in the development of Weng Shun Kuen, it is nether the less interesting.
Whether women were involved in the development of Weng Shun Kuen I cannot say, but I also do not think anybody else can say they were not, with absolute certainty. All I can say is that there is some physical evidence, which when applied to fundamental Weng Shun Kuen Principles, make the suggestion of female contributions to the development of Weng Shun Kuen a possibility. Either way I feel that to deny the possible myth of Ng Mui and Yim Weng-Shun is to cheapen the rich experience of this special fighting style as well its Chinese Martial Arts ancestry in general.
About the author: John Vince has been a practicing medical doctor since 1986. He was introduced to Wudang Weng Shun Kuen in February 1998 by Ian Garbett Sifu.