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Yip Man

By Anthony Chow

There was an owner of a silk shop in Wing On Road called Lun Cheong. His father was called Chow Yu Guan, an honest merchant. At that time the Japanese, who occupied China, rationed silk, which made the silk business very profitable. Although Chow Ching Chung was a merchant, he was very fond of martial arts. After he heard that Yip Man was very skilled in the martial arts, he hired Yip Man to teach him. In order to earn a living during the difficult time of the Japanese occupation, Yip Man accepted the invitation to teach. They put sand bags and wooden dummies in the back yard of the silk shop for practice. This was the time that Yip Man first started his teaching career. Chow Ching Chung's two sons Chow Chan and Chow Wing also study under Yip Man.

Yip Man startled many of his contemporaries when he began teaching martial arts.

In the Fu Shan Chamber of Commerce was a member named Lai Hip Fu. He learned Wing Chun from Yip Man's SiSok Lai How Pu. Lai Hip Fu knew a boxer called Wan Tai Au, nicknamed "Charlie." He and his brother Wan Yee Au were very good at Choi Lee Fat. They had started in Choi Lee Fat when they were young under Chan Ngau Sing of the Hung Shing Association. The two brother's father was called Wan Kwan Hing, the owner of the Yee Sam Resturant.

Knowing that both Yip Man and Wan Tai Au were good in martial arts, Lai Hip Fu along with Lee Kwong Hoi and Chung Pak Shak persuaded Yip and Wan to enter into a fight. Both Yip and Wan agreed to fight. They decided to hold the fight at the Fu Shan Chamber of Commerce. All those who loved martial arts were notified and they swarmed to attend this event. Each one donated some money as they entered the Fu Shan Chamber of Commerce. Dr. Tam Shun Chi was nominated to be the referee of that fight. Wan Tai Au attacked Yip Man vigorously and hard. Yip Man was able to neutralize each attack and waited for an opportunity to counter attack. Wan Tai Au used too much energy at the beginning of the fight and was unable to defend himself against Yip Man's counter attack. His only defense was to step back as Yip Man began to move in. The referee seeing this stopped the fight. The fight only lasted for two minutes. Although the official result of the fight was a tie, all who were there saw how skillful Yip Man was.

After the Second World War, the Chow family was under investigation by the Anti-Corruption Committe. The charge was that they did illegal trading in silk during the war. The Chow family fled for their lives. Yip Man stopped his teaching also. Someone asked Yip Man to be a detective but he refused. Yip Man just hung around everyday. When the Communists took over China, Yip Man went to Hong Kong.

In Hong Kong, Yip Man was invited by his good friend Hui Yee, the Chairman of the Resturant Union, to teach martial arts for the Union. Hui Yee knew that Yip Man was very good. Wanting to get established in Hong Kong, Yip Man accepted the job. Yip Man knew that the son of Chan Yee Men, Chan Kar Wing, was in Hong Kong teaching Wing Chun right after the War. However, at that time as not too many were interested in the art, Chan Kar Wing eventually went back to China. Yip Man called the art he taught Wing Chun. This was to follow Leung Bak's instruction to remember the founder of the art, Yim Wing Chun.

Among the first to take lessons from Yip Man was Leung Shung and Lok Yiu who were members of the Resturant Union. Yip Man taught on the roof of the apartment where the Resturant Union was. Ever since Yip man started teaching, more and more people came to learn. Soon the place was crowded and could not hold that many people. Also some union members were from Hong Kong island (Hong Kong is separated from the Kowloon peninsula by Victoria Harbor). They asked if Yip Man could teach somewhere on Hong Kong island. The owner of Ying Wah Resturant in Stanley Street opened his place for the second location. Yip Man thus added one more location to teach Wing Chun everyday.

After two years, Leung Sheung and Lok Yiu were quite established in Wing Chun and started to assist Yip Man in teaching the art. Yip Man wanted to spread Wing Chun more. Incidentally, there was a "Three Prince Temple" where all the monks were from Fu Shan and were friends of Yip Man. These monks loved martial arts and asked Yip Man to take some time out to teach them Wing Chun. Wanting to spread the art, Yip Man thus added another location for teaching. There were around thirty to forty who came to learn. They were either monks or employees of this Temple. Lee Han was the best from this location.

At the Hong Kong Island location, as more and more people come to learn from Yip Man, he requested that the school be moved to the Public Safety Union where the facility was bigger. Everyday Yip Man and Lok Yiu would spend two hours in this location. Hui Yee was the best from this location.

At this time all those who learned from Yip Man were members of the union, and thus it was in a way very exclusive. Yip Man thus started "Fu Shan Wing Chun Club" in an apartment in Hoi Tan Street.

Besides teaching Wing Chun, Yip Man also healed broken bones. In the "Fu Shan Wing Chun Club", more students joined Yip Man. Among these were Yip Po Ching, Tusi Shan Tin, Wang Kiu and Chiu Yau [Chiu Wan?]. Chiu Yau was from Fu Shan and had studied Wing Chun before. Yip Po Ching was originally working as a secretary for the Joint Union. He wanted to learn from Yip Man for a long time but because he was not a member of the Resturant Union he was excluded. It wasn't until the "Fu Shan Wing Chun Club" was formed that he could learn from Yip Man. Yip Po Ching was not the athletic type but he loved martial arts. Yip Man was very fond of Yip Po Ching's dedication to the art. Later, when there was a job opening in the Resturant Union, Yip Man referred Yip Po Ching to work for the Resturant Union. After that Yip Po Ching could practice at the Resturant Union location along with Leung Sheung and Lok Yiu. Yip Po Ching's skill improved rapidly.

One night while Yip Man was teaching Tsui Shun Tin, a young lad came up to the roof of the apartment to watch. During a break, the young lad introduced himself to Yip Man. His name was Wong Shun Leung. He loved the martial arts ever since he was a kid. He had learned a few different styles and was very good at each. Now that he had heard of Wing Chun being so good, he wanted to learn. But first he wanted to try it out. Yip Man thought this young man was a little ridiculous, but he liked Wong's courage. Yip Man asked Tsui Shun Tin to try him out. At that time, Tsui Shun Tin had practiced Wing Chun only for a few months. Wong Shun Leung tried his best to attack Tsui Shun Tin but wasn't able to take the upper hand. Eventually, Tsui Shun Tin counter attacked and defeated Wong Shun Leung. Wong Shun Leung was thus impressed and asked Yip Man to teach him Wing Chun. After a few years of practice, Wong Shun Leung became very good in Wing Chun.

There was another student called Cheung Cheuk Hing (William Cheung) who was the same age as Wong Shun Leung. Cheung Cheuk Hing's father, [Cheung Wing Kam], was the chief detective for the Kowloon Precinct? Since Wong Shun Leung and Cheung Cheuk Hing were of similar age, they became good friends. In order to try out how well their Wing Chun was, these two often challenged people from various martial arts. At first, they challenged the students. Later, they even challenged masters of those styles. There were wins and losses, but because of their boldness the two names Wong Shun Leung and Cheung Cheuk Hing became very well known in martial arts circles. In 1958, the "Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau Martial Art Competition" was held in Taiwan. Wong Shun Leung and Cheung Check Hing signed up. Cheung Check Hing was unable to attend because he had to go to Thailand, so Wong Shun Leung went alone. Wong Shun Leung lost in the competition. After his defeat, Wong Shun Leung's fighting spirit was broken. He no longer went to challenge different people, but instead worked hard to improve his Wing Chun. Now Wong Shun Leung is a master of Wing Chun with many students. He opened a Kwoon in Nathan Road.

Yip Man taught Wing Chun in Hong Kong for almost twenty years. Among his first batch of students were: Leung Shun, Lok Yiu, Wong Shun Leung, Chiu Yau (Jiu Wan?), Law Ping, Wang Kiu, Lee Han, and Koo Shang. The second set included Wong Chalk, Lee Wing, Cheung Cheuk Hing and Ho Kam Ming. All these students now have there own Kwoons.

In 1967, the South East Asia Martial Art Invitational was held in Singapore. The Wing Chun people formed a team, headed by Tang Shan. The assistant team leader was Leung Sheung. The coach was Tsui Shun Tin. The team doctor was Koo Shang. Team members included: Wang Kiu, Pang Kam Fai and Choi Kam Tim. The results of the Wing Chun team were not satisfactory. The team leader Tang Shan determined that the reason for this poor result was that they were too proud of themselves. Tang Shan thus formed a Wing Chun club. The objective of this club was to unify everybody in the Wing Chun community in preparation for another tournament. Yip Man was than 70 years old and said, "Let the young take care of it!"

Thanks to Anthony Chow, who went through the trouble to translate a Chinese article I had sitting on my bookshelf for the past 15 years. I have a little bit more which could be added to this in the future. Only some first generation students of Yip Man or people like Kenneth Chung would be able to verify these stories. I have heard similar stories from different sources though. Thanks Anthony for a job well done.

- Ray Van Raamsdonk

This is my first cut of the translation. There may be grammatical errors. The translation doesn't flow well because the orginal text isn't very well organized and different thoughts come up even within one paragraph.

- Anthony Chow