Wing Chun history is controversial, and depending on who you speak with the story may be different. Here is one story of how it started, which was around 400 years ago.
The common legend as told by Yip Man involves the young woman Yim Wing-chun, (Wing Chun literally means ‘forever springtime’ or ‘praising spring’) at the time after the destruction of the Southern Shaolin Temple and its associated temples by the Qing government:
After Yim Wing-Chun rebuffed the local warlord’s marriage offer, she said she’d reconsider his proposal if he could beat her in a fight. She soon crossed paths with a Buddhist nun – Ng Mui, who was one of the Shaolin Sect survivors, and asked the nun to teach her fighting. The legend goes that Ng Mui taught Yim Wing-Chun a new system of martial art that had been inspired by Ng Mui’s observations of a confrontation between a Snake and a Crane; this then-still nameless style enabled Yim Wing Chun to beat the warlord in a one-on-one fight. Yim Wing-Chun thereafter married Leung Bac-Chou and taught him the style, which was later named after her.
Wing Chun Lineage
Most Wing Chun practitioners strongly believe that who ever has the best structure will always win. The primary focus of the structure is to deflect, redirect, or penetrate their structure/attack.