Chow Tze Chuen
Master Chow Tze Chuen was born in 1925, the year of the Ox in Chinese calendar. Master Chow first joined Grandmaster Yip Man's Wing Chun school in Lee Tat Street in the Yau Ma Tei district in Hong Kong in 1955. In 1957 Grandmaster Yip Man shifted his school from Yau Ma Tei to Li Cheng UK Estate. Sited in one of the poorest and oldest public housing in Hong Kong , living conditions in the new school was deplorable, claustrophobic, incessantly hot and basic sanitary amenities was absent. Because of this, few students followed Grandmaster to the new school and new enrollment was low. To help out Grandmaster Yip, Master Chow organised a class comprising his colleagues from the Kowloon Motor Bus Company.
During the Li Cheng UK Estate period, Master Chow who had reached Chum Kiu level before the move from Yau Ma Tei, attended class daily and was taught the complete Wing Chun system by Grandmaster Yip Man covering all the boxing forms, wooden dummy form, Lok Dim Boon Gwun, kicking techniques, footwork and Baat Jam Dao form. This period spanned the years 1957 to 1962. Master Chow was also assisting Grandmaster Yip in teaching newcomers.
An interesting story lies behind Master Chow's learning of the wooden dummy form. As land in Hong Kong is limited, consequently living area for public housing was very small as it is still today. Because of this constraint, the wooden dummy could not be installed in the school. Rather Master Chow overcame this obstacle by installing the wooden dummy in the terrace of a small house at Kau Wah King. Grandmaster Yip then imparted to Master Chow the eight sections that comprise the wooden dummy form. To achieve a flawlessly high standard of performance, Master Chow could be found drilling the wooden dummy form every evening after his work shift. Such was Master Chow's dedication in mastering the wooden dummy that he even turned a disadvantage into an advantage. The wooden dummy was situated on an area grown with moss. Whenever it rained the damp moss would result in a slippery surface which made it difficult to move about without slipping. Despite this hazard, Master Chow took this as an opportunity to develop the precision and strength of his stances and footwork.
Master Chow was one of the first few disciples to be inducted by Grandmaster Yip Man into the hitherto highly secretive Baat Jam Dao form. Grandmaster Yip Man used a pair of wooden knives for teaching. Though the form was taught and its relationship to the boxing forms was mentioned, application of the knives against other weapons was not taught. Grandmaster Yip would also stopped instruction whenever someone else came in while teaching was ongoing.
Come 1961, Grandmaster Yip Man moved his school to Hing Ip Building in Castle Peak Road . Master Chow was encouraged by Grandmaster Yip Man to strike out on his own as a teacher of Wing Chun instead of following Grandmaster Yip to the new location. To encourage Master Chow and give his blessing, Grandmaster Yip presented Master Chow with a wooden dummy that he had bought from Guangzhou for Master Chow's new school. From this point on Master Chow carried on the transmission of Wing Chun on a part time basis until today.
Grandmaster Yip continued to refine Master Chow's skill even as Master Chow was teaching on his own. Grandmaster Yip would visit Master Chow to see how his class and teaching was getting on. During the course of his many visits, Grandmaster Yip taught Master Chow a separate wooden dummy section that focussed on kicking. Grandmaster Yip encouraged Master Chow to blend in more sparring and defending techniques in the Chi Sao exercise saying that ˇ§Lut Sao Kin Kung Fuˇ¨ (literally : the real kung fu is seen in free sparring). This means that the Wing Chun practitioner can check his own standard and progress in his training through his ability in free sparring practice. After Master Chow finished teaching class for the day, he would go out for Dim Sum with Grandmaster Yip and took the opportunity to learn more from the Grandmaster.
Master Chow started his first class on the roof of a building in Kowloon City . Thereafter he shifted twice; first to Kwai Lin Street in Shamshuipo and later to another building in Butt Street in Mongkok. In 1975, the school was moved to a building in Camp Street in Shamshuipo. The 1980' s saw two more shifts ˇV to Ap Liu Street in Shamshuipo and finally to its present location in Hung Yue Mansion in Castle Peak Road .
A soft-spoken person, Master Chow had been quietly carrying on the mission of spreading the teaching of Grandmaster Yip Man's Wing Chun without asking for personal gain and fame. Though he has been teaching for the past few decades, Master Chow continues to hone his skills by practicing his boxing forms daily. Master Chow carries on the tradition by transmitting the complete Yip Man Wing Chun system that was taught to him by Grandmaster Yip.
- Oral and written tradition Chow Tze Chuen
- Written tradition Donald Mak
- Interviews and video documentation Lee Gar Lin