Yip Man - Hong Kong Lineage


Wong Wah Bo
Leung Yee Tai
-Leung Jan


Many legends have replaced historical fact, on who Yip Man learned from. According to Yip Mans oral account of his life, in an interview with Mok Po On? for New Martial Hero? magazine, Yip stated he was accepted as the last disciple of Chan Wah Shun, at age 11. He was to be the 16th and last student Chan would accept paying two taels of silver for tuition. This would have been ruffly in 1903.

6 Months after accepting young Yip Man as his student Chan Wah Shun had a severe stroke. The once proud Wing Chun Master was left with paralysis, and had to retire back to Shunde province, to be looked after, by his family. Chan asked his top student, Ng Chun So?, to help young Yip Man continue his training. Accounts from Leung Tingsuggest Yip learned from Chan from the ages of 11-13 when Chan finnaly had his stroke and Ng Chun would take up Yips training.

Between 1920-1940 the Yip Family estate was set fire and burned to the ground. This was the ill feelings about the Yip Family wealth, and the involvment with Yip Mans grandfather with smuggling opium. Yip Man's father was close friends with Mr.Yuen the owner of the local fire works factory. It just so happend that Mr.Yuen had two sons, Yuen Kay Shan and Yuen Chai Wan who were also avid Wing Chun students. At the time of the fire, Mr. Yuen took in the Yip Family, allowing them to stay with the Yuens until other arangments could be made. According to oral accounts passed down by Yuen Kay Shan, his father knew young Yips master Chan Wah had gotten sick and died. Feeling bad that the young man now had even more adversity, asked his son, Yuen Kay to train with young Yip. Yuen Kay Shan agreed and during the time the Yips lived at the Yuen manor, introduced Yip to the Look Sau platform.

As Yip Man grew he spent much of his time at the club, Ng Chun So managed for the Yiu family. He also taught Wing Chun classes at night. Many famous Wing Chun masters spent recreational time here, gambling, smoking and discussing Wing Chuns finer concepts and principles.Ng Chun So?, Yiu Choi, Yuen Kay Shan, Lai Hip Chai, Lui Yu Chai, Jiu Chow?, and others spent alot of time interacting together in the spirit of friendship.

In 1943 after developing a well rounded understanding of the Wing Chun system, Yip Man accepted his first few students. Out of the students from the Foshan period of teaching, only Lun Gai? and Gwok Fu are still alive passing on the system.

Whats very interesting to note is that the Wing Chun Kuen that Yip taught in Foshan, is very similar to other mainland Wing Chun Kuen. If one examines the Chan Family (Chan Yiu Men), Jiu Family (Jiu Chow and Jiu Wan), Pan Nam Family (Lai Hip Chai and Jiu Chow), and Ng Chun So Family (Fok Joy and Yiu Choi) - (all one strain from Chan Wah Shun), one can see that the Wing Chun Yip taught in Foshan, was exaclty like what everyone else practised within his family branch, substantiating that what Yip taught in H.K, was a modernized version of Wing Chun, that he created, by streamlining and minimizing the system, for teaching the public.

In 1949, Yip Man fled the communist controled mainland for Britsh occupied Hong Kong. Yip Ching (Yip Man's youngest son) states that his father heard that his name was on a list of potential political "trouble makers". Yip was included in this list due to his work as a detective along side Jiu Chow?.

As is typical, to the historical events of Yip Mans life, many differant stories exist, on how Yip first opened a school in Hong Kong. The fact that Yip was alone, and facing poverty, is clearly his motivation, in teaching Wing Chun Kuen to the public, for the first time, in the history of the closed door tradition.

Some accounts suggest that " Yip Man opened the school on his own, relying soley on his own ideas and resources to get underway." - this is highly unluckly though considering the financial problems Yip Man was facing. Other accounts suggest that Yip Man had a friend or several friends in Hong Kong that assisted him, including Mr.Hui Yee, the Chairman of the Restaurant Union, who knew of Yip Man's martial arts background as well as his troubles in the Mainland.In this account it was Hui Yee that invited Yip to teach at the "Restraurant Workers Union". In yet a third account passed down by Ho Kam Ming, Yip mans friend named Chung Choui taught marital arts at two differant locations, and offered for Yip to take over the instruction at one of them, to assist him in supporting himself.

The fourth and most common account suggests that Leung Sheung, a famous Kung Fu master in Hong Kong, either found Yip Man homeless on the streets or they knew each other or of each other, via one of Leung Sheungs teachers named Tang Suen. It is said that Leung offered for Yip to stay with him, in a tiny appartment, situated above the Restaurant Workers Union, where Leung taught Long Ying Kuen, Pai Mei, and Weng Chun Kung Fu to the members.

Yet a fifth account, as passed down by later students of Yip Mans from the 1960s period of teaching, suggest it was Lee Man that found the destitute Yip Man. Lee Man was supposedly the assistant to the head of the Restaurant Workers Union, and introduced Yip to Leung Sheung, who after being bested by Yip in a friendly contest, asked to become Yips first student in Hong Kong.

Yip Man would watch the classes that Leung taught every night. At one point he commented an light-heartedly poked fun at Leungs hard kung fu skills.

After taking Yip Man's ribbing for a period of time, Leung's ego finally got the better of him, when he challenged Yip to teach him real kung fu. Leung being a fairly large man, and younger than his opponent, "was easily defeated." Leungs use of strength had no chance of overcoming the soft hands of the still young Wing Chun Kuen master. Being extremly impressed with Yip Man and Wing Chun Kuen, Leung asked Yip to accept him as a student. Yip did so, and Leung Sheung became his first Hong Kong student.

Shortly after Leung had started learning, another student joined by the name of Lok Yiu, who was a fellow employee of Leungs. Next Yip Bo Ching joined, considered by many of the remaining students of Yip, to be one of his closest and favorite pupils, as well as his nephew Lo Man Kam?, joined the class. Followed by Chu Shong Tin, currently the elder of the Hong Kong Wing Chun Clan. The school grew within four years and its reputation for producing good fighters spread in the surrounding area. Many Gor Sau matchs were held agaisnt other styles of Kung Fu including White Crane, Northern Mantis and Choy Lay Fut. It was at this time in late 1953, early 1954 that one of the most influencial masters of the Hong Kong Wing Chun Clan would join. His name was Wong Shun Leung. Known by many as the "King of challenge matches", Wong took the challenge matchs and victories to a whole new level, which brought in even more students. Several weeks after Wong Shun Leung joined, young William Cheung? also joined the school. It would be Wong Shun Leung and William Cheungs fierce fighting reputations that would reach the ear of a very young Bruce Lee? and Hawkins Cheung?, peaking their interest in the Wing Chun style of fighting.Ho Kam Ming and Chow Tze Chuen were next to join, and were known as the top fighters from the second period of Yip Mans teaching. Many challenges occured, due to the school being relocated into a very ruff area, that was under developed to the point of lacking running water. Than finnaly Moy Yat, Yip Ching?, Yip Chun?, Siu Yuk Men?, Duncan Leung?,Leung Ting and others joined in the 1960's.

Many students, public and private, came and went and the spread of Wing Chun Kuen is now history. Wing Chun can be found in every country of the world, thanks to the efforts of Yip Man, Wong Shun Leung, William Cheung?, Leung Ting, and movie star Bruce Lee?.


Sources:

  • VTAA
  • AWCKRI
  • Oral and written tradition Yip Man Family
  • Leungs Publishing
  • Written Geneology VTAA