Wing Chun is a concept-based traditional Southern Chinese Kung fu (wushu) style and a form of self-defense, which utilizes both striking and grappling in close-range combat. Softness and performing techniques in a relaxed manner is fundamental to Wing Chun. On "softness" in Wing Chun, Yip Man during an interview said, "Chi Sao in Wing Chun is to maintain one's flexibility and softness, all the while keeping in the strength to fight back, much like the flexible nature of bamboo."
Ip Man and Bruce lee practicing Chi Sau
Wing Chun favors a relatively high, narrow stance with the elbows kept close to the body. Within the stance, arms are generally positioned across the vitals of the centerline with hands in a vertical "wu sau" ("protecting hand" position). This style positions its practitioner to make readily placed blocks & fast-moving blows to vital striking points, down the centerline of the body—neck, chest, belly, and groin. As described more below, some Wing Chun styles discourage the use of high kicks, since this risks counter-attacks to the groin. Additionally, the practice of "settling" one's opponent to brace them more effectively against the ground aids in delivering as much force as possible to them.
According to legend, Wing Chun was created by the Buddhist nun Ng Mui, who was a master of Shaolin Kung Fu. Using her martial training and personal experience, she synthesized a compact form of Kung Fu to exploit weaknesses inherent in the other combat styles of her time and give an advantage to smaller fighters like herself. This new system was well-guarded and passed on to only a few, very dedicated students. Her style became known as Wing Chun, after Ng Mui's first student, a woman named Yim Wing Chun.
Wing Chun began to quietly spread throughout southern China, evolving as it was adopted into various groups. It gained popularity when Grandmaster Ip Man began to teach openly in China and Hong Kong. His students continued the evolution and spread Wing Chun all around the world. Today, many people have learned of Wing Chun through the late martial arts superstar Bruce Lee or the popular Ip Man series of movies.
Wing Chun originated in and was developed for crowded urban environments such as the cities most people live in today. It is a close-quarters system that can be used even when assaulted in a confined space like a cramped hallway, stairwell, or elevator. It is primarily an empty-hands system, allowing someone to defend themselves even when unarmed. It is based on reflexive movements, training you to respond instantly and instinctually to a surprise attack as opposed to a consensual fight or sport combat match. Finally, Wing Chun is simple, direct, and efficient, eliminating techniques that are not needed so much in the modern world, such as high-kicking an enemy off his horse.