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kung fu wisdom: the Ving Tsun Kuen Kuit

| introduction | proverbs | lineage | seal reproductions |

The Kuen Kuit are proverbs which encapsulate the wisdom accumulated through generations of martial arts experience in the Ving Tsun family. Over hundreds of years the Grand Masters came across the same experiences and principles which they formulated into maxims to pass to their disciples when they came into a similar situation. The Grand Masters generally passed down the proverbs by word of mouth to their students on an informal basis.

To preserve the knowledge and history of Ving Tsun, Grand Master Moy Yat carved the Kuen Kuit into a set of stone seals in 1967. In addition to the main proverbs, the stone chops contain the Grand Masters' names from the founder Yim Ving Tsun to Grand Master Yip Man, Sifu of Moy Yat. They also cover the main training stages and techniques of the martial art.

The Kuen Kuit was reproduced in book form in the English language in 1982. Although it is impossible to capture the full meaning of the Chinese idioms in translation, a dozen of the proverbs are presented below as an example of their content and style.

Others walk the bow
I walk the string.
The hand that hits
also blocks.
The punch comes
from the heart.
Face your opponent
with your centerline.
Hand against hand,
foot against foot,
there is no
unstoppable technique.
When you should hit, hit
When you shouldn't, don't
Don't when you can't
Don't when you mustn't.
When facing your opponent
with your side,
your shoulder becomes
the centerline.
Whenever kicking, the heels
face each other.
Beginners must not
use strength.
Pak Sao (slap block),
avoid the inner gate.
If you don't train hard
when you're young,
you will have nothing
when you're old.
When using the fist,
don't stand on ceremony.
When using the quan (pole),
don't expect two sounds.

The following text is a translation of three seals from the Kuen Kuit which detail the origins and lineage of the Ving Tsun family.

The Ving Tsun system started during the Ching Dynasty under the rule of the Emperor Yung Jing. The Siu Lam Temple was burned down. Five of the senior monks hid themselves in different mountains. The nun Ng Mui lived in White Crane temple in Wan Nam. She saw a snake and a crane fighting. This gave her an idea to modify the kung fu she knew. She met a girl named Ving Tsun and taught her the new kung fu so she could defend herself against a bully who wanted to force her to marry him.

Ving Tsun later divided her new system into siu nim tao, chum kiu, biu je, mui fah jong, luk dim poon kwan, and bot jom doa. Her followers named the style after her. She passed the art on to her husband Leung Pok Toa, who passed it on to Wong Wah Po. Wong Wah Po passed it on to Leung Lan Kwai, Leung Yee Tai and Leung Tsun.

Leung Tsun passed it on to Fung Wah and Chan Wah Shuen. Grand Master Yip Man learned the complete system from Chan Wah Shuen. Grand Master Yip Man is the leader of the style now. From what I have heard, that is how the family tree has grown. I have set the legend of Ving Tsun in stone carvings for the future generations.

Grand Master Moy Yat, 1967

seal reproductions
The images below are copies of a few of the Kuen Kuit seals made by taking rubbings of the stones. Click on a picture to view a magnified version.
link to Yim Ving Tsun Kuen Kuit seal Yim Ving Tsun, honored founder of the system link to origins of Ving Tsun Kuen Kuit seal the origins of Ving Tsun
link to proverb Kuen Kuit seal When you should hit, hit... link to horse stance Kuen Kuit seal ye chi kim yeung ma, the horse stance

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