History & Lineage
Yip Man learned for only a short period from Chan Wah Soon before the old master passed away. On his death bed, Master Chan Wah Soon summoned Ng Chung So, his eldest and best student, and instructed him to continue teaching Yip Man. Yip Man diligently practiced until leaving for school in Hong Kong.
At school, Yip Man's Kung Fu skill impressed his schoolmates. Not more than a year had passed when one of his classmates stated that an old man wanted to speak to him about his Kung Fu art. It took a number of requests before the disinterested Yip Man decided to follow his classmate to meet this mysterious old man. The old man was of small physical stature like Yip Man himself. The elder man was in his late fifties and was introduced as Mr. Leung. Mr. Leung invited young Yip into the warehouse and asked him about his teacher. The old man asked Yip Man to demonstrate his skill. To young Yip's surprise, the old man was able to counter Yip's counter attack. The old man's moves forced Yip Man off balance. Similarly, the next several exchanges between the old man and Yip Man proved to be disheartening: The old man easily countered Yip Man's techniques and redirected Yip Man's movements. Upset at this unexpected setback against the old man, young Yip Man left the premises in disgust.
On the following day in school, his classmate once again stated that the old man wanted to meet with Yip Man. After being persistently pressed by his classmate to see the old man, Yip Man agreed to another meeting. This time, Yip Man was determined not to be humiliated. He would power through the old man's techniques; but during the second meeting, Yip Man found himself out-maneuvered again by the old man. The old man easily read and rode off of the driving force that Yip Man vigorously applied. Sensing Yip Man's disgust with himself, the old man unveiled himself as Chan Wah Soon's Kung Fu classmate. Furthermore, the old man turned out to be Dr. Leung Jon's eldest son, Leung Bik. Yip Man instantly realized that he had run into a great Wing Chun master. This explained all the setbacks that he had suffered earlier.
The meeting between young man and old master proved to be a most important and fortunate meeting for the Wing Chun art. Leung Bik explained that his father, Leung Jon, taught Chan Wah Soon and himself differently. Chan Wah Soon was a big man in stature and never needed or used the many angular slipping techniques of Wing Chun. However, Leung Bik and his younger brother were small in physical stature and so were taught differently. Leung Jon knew that one day his two sons would have to challenge Chan Wah Soon for the right to become head master of the Wing Chun Art. Due to the smaller stature of his two sons, Dr. Leung Jon taught his sons various lateral body shifts, pivots and slips, and pinning hand techniques for smaller opponents to use when facing bigger opponents. Yip Man was now blessed by an opportunity to further refine his Wing Chun training. Having no son, Leung Bik imparted all his knowledge to Yip Man.
Returning to Fatsan, Yip Man's expanded knowledge of the Wing Chun art shook many of Chan Wah Soon's former students who were now under Ng Chung So's guidance. Ng Chung So told the other Wing Chun followers of Yip Man's encounter with Leung Bik. Yip Man's exposure to two great Wing Chun elders, Chan Wah Soon and Leung Bik, had provided him with a greater understanding and interpretation of the Wing Chun art. In contrast, Ng Chung So and his classmates had only exposure to Chan Wah Soon's version tailored for a large body-frame.
Throughout much of his twenties, Yip Man taught Wing Chun to only a few students. Turmoil in China made living difficult. Later, Yip Man worked for the county government as a law officer and later joined the Kuo Min Tang military. As an educated man, Yip Man was given a junior officer's rank. By his early forties, Yip Man fought against invading Japanese forces in southern China and rarely saw his wife and two sons. When World War II ended, Yip Man had reached the field grade rank in the army. By 1949, Colonel Yip Man found himself on the losing side of the war against communism. Facing sure death, Yip Man managed to reach British occupied Hong Kong.
Already at the age of 54, and with nothing but his martial arts skill to survive, Yip Man decided to teach Wing Chun. He started his Hong Kong school in the union hall building for restaurant workers. On his first day, a burly restaurant union member name Leung Shung challenged Yip Man to a fight. Leung Sheung was a noted Dragon Kung Fu stylist and aggressively attacked Yip Man. Yip Man easily countered the attack by driving Leung Shung's lead hand over his opposite arm to create a cross-arm pin. Yip Man repeatedly countered Leung Sheung's frontal attacks before countering with his own fast multiple chain punches. Yip Man's counter attacks were masterfully controlled. He pulled each of his punches, not once hitting Leung Sheung's exposed face. The defeated Leung Sheung recognized Yip Man's skill and became Yip Man's first student. Soon, other students were destined to become famous teachers. The names of some of these early Yip Man students include Yip Po Ching, Lok Yiu, Choy Sheung Ting, Lo Man Kam, Wong Sheung Leung, Wong Chok, Wong Long, Ho Kam Ming, Yip Ching (Yip Man's younger son), Jiu Wan, Wong Kiu, Cheung Chok Hing, Kou Sung, Yip Chun (Yip Man's oldest son) and many others.
In the early Hong Kong years, two prominent fighters established the Wing Chun name as a fighting system. Their names were Wong Sheung Leung and Cheung Chok Hing. Wong fought dozens of contenders throughout Hong Kong. In one week, Wong Sheung Leung beat ten Praying Mantis instructors in one-on-one fighting. As a highlight during this week-long string of fights, Wong beat three Praying Mantis fighters in one day. This was an incredible feat by any standard because Wong was suffering from a bad cold. Wong, humbly reflecting back to his younger years, states: "I was not as good as everybody makes me out to be--All my opponents were junk." The late grandmaster Wong has two grown children, a daughter and son.
On the other hand, Cheung Chok Hing was known for his bad-boy rowdiness. Bigger and stronger than the average Hong Kong male, Cheung also enjoyed the clout of having a father who was the chief of the police inspectors. This clout bailed the young Cheung out of many sticky situations with the law.
Cheung enjoyed the fighting more than spending time to perfect the Wing Chun art. He diligently practiced Wing Chun through the Sil Lim Tao (the first of three Wing Chun hand sets) and through most of the second set, the Chum Kiu. Despite his later inconsistent practice under Yip Man, Cheung is noted for being a naturally-talented and fierce fighter. Cheung quickly became known as the best street brawler. During one of his fights, Cheung defeated Chen Ting Hong, a noted Tai Chi expert in Hong Kong. Later in life, Cheung settled down to develop the Wing Chun art and today actively teaches in Australia.
Wong Sheung Leung and Cheung Chok Hing proved that Wing Chun Kung Fu was a practical and efficient martial art. The system was not filled with useless and flowery movements, but instead contained techniques that were both logical and street-tested. Word quickly spread throughout Hong Kong that Wing Chun was the name of a fighting system.
After more than two decades of teaching in Hong Kong, Grandmaster Yip Man passed away on December 2nd, 1972, at the age of 72. His small kung fu association grew and gave birth to thousands of Wing Chun practitioners around the world. Yip Man's son, Yip Chun, reflecting back to the early years in Hong Kong, stated that his father never in his wildest dreams thought that Wing Chun would become so popular with followers around the world.
Today the Wing Chun Art is practiced in all major countries and in almost every major city around the world. The highly relevant techniques for personal defense and the short learning curve make Wing Chun a very popular art to study. Wing Chun is also an art that allows for the greatest amount of personal adaptation, allowing the many parts of the art to fit the person rather than making the person fit the entire art.
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