• A Note About History and Lineage
• The Founder Wu Mei
• Grandmaster Xia Peng
• Sifu Ken Lo
• Sifu David Berman
• Lineage Chart
The Founder Wu Mei
Although the Buddhist nun Wu Mei (Ng Mui) figures prominently in the martial stories and legends of the Qing dynasty, little is known about her that can be confirmed, and the stories told about her cover a period of time longer than a normal life span.
The oral tradition of Wu Mei Pai has it that she was born Lu Si Niang (Leui Sei Neung), the daughter of a Ming general, and that when the Ming dynasty was on the verge of falling to the invading Qing, her father sent her away to the south, to be the one member of the family to survive and carry on the family traditions. (This would have made her a young woman in 1648.) Another story tells us that Lu Si Niang was the swordswoman who assassinated the Qing Emperor Yong Zheng to avenge her family’s massacre. (This would have made her an extraordinary martial artist in 1735.) Wu Mei also turns up in the legends of the founding of Wing Cheun Gungfu (Wing Chun, mid-18th century), and in the stories of the martial hero Fang Si Yu, which take place at the end of the 18th century (giving Wu Mei a martial career of 150 years).
The best-known of the Wu Mei legends is the story of her duel with Li Ba Shan, who challenged her to avenge the death of his nephew at the hands of her student, Fang Si Yu. Li was a large and powerful fighter, so Wu Mei accepted his challenge on the condition that they fight atop the mui fa jong, the plum-blossom posts. (These are a system of logs, set vertically in the ground in a diamond pattern. Wu Mei practiced her footwork on top of these posts, where a single misstep would cause a dangerous fall.) Li was arrogant; he accepted the condition, confidant that he could beat a woman under any circumstances, and he was killed. (The mui fa jong were made famous by this story; if you have seen Hong Kong kung fu movies you have probably seen them, even though the plum-blossom horse step that is practiced on them does not exist in any style but Wu Mei Pai.)
We should remember, while enjoying such a story, that if our biographical information on Wu Mei is correct, she would have been well over 100 years old when she defeated Li Ba Shan. We should also remember that Wu Mei was a Buddhist nun, and that the first precept of Buddhism is the rule against killing. No Buddhist monastic would ever participate in death matches to defend honor, or to prove the superiority of their style, or for any reason other than to prevent an even greater harm from being done.
We also have no information about the 2nd, 3rd or 4th generations of Wu Mei Pai; we only know that the system was cloistered in the White Crane Monastery in Hunan, and that throughout the history of the Qing dynasty, with all its rebellions and martial rivalries, the Wu Mei system was never seen again until the 20th century.