Yong Chun Quan originally was part and parcel of Shao Lin’s Buddhist theoretical studies. It stressed mainly the formation of one’s personal character and ethics. Quan Fa (fist combat techniques) was initially human’s imitation of the movements of animals and birds. After a long period of in-depth study and trails, those movements were arranged into a series.
The original founder of the series of Yong Chun Quan Fa was an intelligent, innovative female disciple of Shao Lin called Wu Mei Shi Tai. She studied diligently and humbly at Shao Lin and eventually became one of the top gongfu masters. The objectives of her Quan Fa were not only to inculcate the high morality of the learner, but also to provide ample physical exercise for fitness and health, through a series of nimble movements. In addition to building up a strong and tough body physically, it also aimed to prevent diseases and defend oneself against any attack from wild animals.
Fighting Oppressive Regime
During the Qing Dynasty, Wu Mei Shi Tai created and founded this series of Quan Fa. At that time, China was ruled by Manchuria from the north, i.e. Qing Dynasty. The Emperor of Qing used all sorts of barbaric means to suppress the people of China. All those who dared to oppose the regime were cruelly massacred. The people of China had suffered miserably due to political suppression as well as shortage of food.
It was indeed timely that Wu Mei Shi Tai appeared on the scene during that critical period. Though the Quan Fa founded by her was not yet properly named, it was already widely learned by people as a means to fight the Qing oppressors.
In order to stem any sign of uprisings against the regime, Qing Dynasty banned all forms of martial arts practices throughout the country. They even resorted to setting fire to the famous Shao Lin Temple and banishing all the learners of martial arts. Wu Mei Shi Tai also had to evade arrest by the Qing’s secret squads by constantly moving from one place to another. Finally she settled down in Guangdong Province where she recruited students and taught them her Quan Fa. Meanwhile, they planned collectively to overthrow the Qing and restore the Ming.
During that time Wu Mei Shi Tai’s Quan Fa was not known as Yong Chun Quan, but as Shao Lin Quan Shu. In Guangdong, she came across a gifted disciple called Yan Si who became Wu Mei Shi Tai’s favourite student. Wu Mei Shi Tai instructed and trained him until he mastered all that she had acquired in her life.
After inheriting everything from Wu Mei Shi Tai, Yan Si did not make his great mentor disappointed for he continued her work in uniting all the anti-Qing forces, vowing to fight the oppressive regime of Qing to the end. He recruited many capable people and became the spiritual symbol of patriotism and nationalism in an effort to oust the Qing and restore the Ming.
Master Yan Si, once a Red Boat coach, trained and taught his disciples in a temple. It was there that his daughter Yan Yong Chun was born.
Naming of Yong Chun Quan
Yan Yong Chun took martial arts lessons from her father at an early age and became very competent in it. But she realized that Shao Lin gongfu emphasized on rough and tough combat techniques which were not suitable for the weaker ladies to practice. Being a lady herself, she tried to find ways and means to ‘soften’ Shao Lin gongfu so that it would be more suitable for the fairer sex. She began to change the tough and rough movements into tender and graceful movements. This included skills such as “hand snatch” skill and foot skill. She eliminated rough combat techniques, made use of the opponent’s force to fight back, and initiated the so-called” tough and soft combination” wushu.
The new series included such changes and improvements. It had the good effect of making the learner’s body and limbs soft, elastic, nimble and agile after a round of practice. Its main combat method was Chi Gao Shou, using the opponent’s own force to strike against him. Yan Yong Chun had surpassed her father’s achievement in wushu. This series of Quan Fa, from the time of Wu Mei Shi Tai to Yan Si, had never had a proper name. After the improvements and refinements by Yan Yong Chun, people decided to name this series of Quan Fa after her, to commemorate her tireless efforts and contribution to the development of this branch of wushu.
As a result, a complete series of “ tough- and- soft” Yong Chun Quan Fa was ‘handed’ down from generation to generation, from Guangdong to Fu Shan and then to Fujian Province.
The Spread of Yong Chun Quan
Yong Chun Quan was formally named. Then, there lived a man in White Clouds Mountain in Fan Yu county. Being a wushu master himself, he took an active part in the campaign to topple the Qing and restore the Ming. He used Zheng Dan Jin as his alias. His love and devotion to martial arts propelled him to practice very hard and became an expert in wushu and Chinese drama. The spread of Yong Chun Quan in Fan Yu county fell on his shoulders. He was very competent in wushu and the lion dance and was reputed to be the best wushu master among the older folks.
However, due to the changes of political situation, this old master decided not to move around too much. He preferred to lie low and settle down to set up school to train students, rather than involving deeply in external affairs. He actively taught and spread the wushu of the early founders. At that time, a lot of people came to him to learn wushu because of his great reputation. He had indeed trained a lot of capable and competent disciples who then spread Yong Chun Quan throughout China. He could be considered as the founder of Yong Chun Pai (Yong Chun Sect).
Master Ye Jian was tutored by this old master and had learned the essence of high morality of Yong Chun Quan Fa. Besides, Master Ye Jian had also learned Ying-Yang Ba Kua Stick from Master Ye Xing Sheng of the Ye Clan Memorial Hall. He also acquired the Five Weapons skills from Master Cao Fei Hong. In addition to this, he learned more about martial arts under Master Yi Jin who imparted to him the essences of various sects of wushu. When he left China to immigrate to the south sea known as Nanyang, he chose to settle down in Kuala Lumpur and began his legendary life history there.
And so Yong Chun Quan was spread around and learned in various parts of South East Asia. Though some parts of the Quan Fa are already lost over the years, the main and important components are still intact. From generation to generation, Yong Chun Quan has spread to Hong Kong, USA, Europe, Malaysia and so on. In the past few hundred years until now, there were/are descendents of Yong Chun Quan all over these countries. It is proof enough that Yong Chun Quan is a very valuable asset and deserves its place in wushu today.
Today, there are many grand masters of Yong Chun Quan: In Fu Shan: Liang Zan, Chen Hua Shun, He Han Lu, Cao Quan, Cao De Sheng; in Hong Kong: Ye Wen, Gongfu Master Bruce Lee, Liang Ting, Ye Zhun; in Kuala Lumpur: Ye Jian and Ye Fu Cai. They are all direct disciples of Yong Chun Quan. Their names are well known locally and even around some parts of the world.