Evening Plum Blossom painted by Grandmaster Hsieh PengABOUT WU MEI PAI

Wu Mei Pai was named after its founder, the Shaolin Buddhist nun Wu Mei (Ng Mui in the Cantonese dialect). Wu Mei was one of the five Shaolin martial arts heroes who survived the Manchu persecution in the 17th century.

The daughter of a general in the Imperial Army, she was raised in the palace of the Forbidden City and received the benefit of a full scholarly education in medicine, art, military training, literature, and music. When Wu Mei developed her method, she removed the emphasis on the performance skills of strength, acrobatics, and the "flowery hands and embroidered feet" that characterized many of the martial arts styles of her time. She replaced these with innovative training.

Wu Mei created a new form of horse-step training using logs driven into the ground in a huge matrix of patterns of five, the number of mystical order and power in Chinese thought. She called the five pattern “plum blossom petals”, China's national flower, because the plum blossom has five symmetrical petals. As a highly educated scholar, she related all martial actions to natural symmetry and Chinese civilization. Wu Mei would later answer challenges in her training yard and defeated many skilled opponents who quickly lost their footing on top of the logs.

Being a woman, Wu Mei could not match the external strength of her male contemporaries with their greater muscle and bone mass. Therefore she developed ways to apply Chi Kung to fighting movements and innovated many internal sources of strength and power. Using multiple internal energy sources, Wu Mei enhanced internal power so that she not only equaled but even exceeded the strength of many of the most powerful martial arts masters. Her development of an internal martial art paralleled the creation of Chen family Tai Chi Chuan.

Wu Mei also developed unique fighting strategies: the "form from no form", and the "strategy of no strategy". Because she didn't train in prearranged fight sequences, her actions were unpredictable. "Form from no form" would appear as needed. With no strategy, her mind could be clear and still as a lake, free to spontaneously respond to her opponents' actions. Wu Mei believed in instantaneous counters, so the Wu Mei method today contains no blocks, grabs, or slaps, which would add an unnecessary step to the counter-attack.

In the mid-seventeenth century the Manchu invaded China’s capital and overthrew the Ming emperor. Wu Mei was traveling in the countryside at the time and when she heard the news sought amnesty in the White Crane Shaolin Temple in Kwangsi Province. Wu Mei never taught her martial art outside the temple so that her method would not fall into enemy hands. Because of this her method was preserved exclusively by the Shaolin monks and nuns of the White Crane monastery for over three hundred years, until the early 20th century.