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Wing Chun Academy of Thailand


Yip Man

Wing Chun would not be where it is today if not for the venerable great-grand master, Yip Man. It was he who lifted the tightly closed lid on the sophisticated and secret art.

Yip Man was born to a wealthy family in Fushan, Guangzhou. His father rented the Yip ancestral temple to Mr.Chan Wah Shun, the local money-changer, who used it to teach Wing Chun. Mr. Chan treated Wing Chun as a part-time hobby, so never ran a full-time school. Nevertheless, he was well known for his skills, and was hired by the Imperial army to teach a selective few. He was in his seventies when he setup the Wing Chun center in the Yip ancestral temple. He was very particular with who he accepted as his student. During his 36 years of teaching, he was known to have had only 16 students. The last one, being Yip Man.

Yip Man was thirteen years old when he first saw Wing Chun in action. He had watched Mr. Chan teach a handful of students, and was fascinated by the way the elderly master took control of robust men, as if they were puppets on strings. Yip Man, broke his piggy bank and presented three taels of silver to Mr. Wah, and begged to be accepted as his student. Mr. Chan, when he found out that it was his own money rather than his father's, was moved, and took young Yip Man as his 16th and last student.

Yip Man became very proficient in Wing Chun. He put it to test by accepting challenges and challenging other martial artists. He was undefeatable in his hometown, as well as in Hong Kong, where he went to study.

One day, a friend of Yip Man told him that he knew of a middle-age martial artist who was undefeated in all the fights he has had. The friend asked if Yip Man would like to tackle him. Yip Man confidently replied that he would, and asked for the contest to be arranged.

The contest was held in the back street of the silk shop where the fifty-five-year-old man, Mr. Leung, worked. Mr. Leung, looked at young Yip Man, who was still in his teens, and told him to attack him as he wished, and that he (Leung) would only defend himself and not make any offensive moves. Yip Man was infuriated with this man's arrogance and wanted to humble him. However, all his attacks were deflected with ease. As he said, Mr. Leung, made no attempts to strike Yip Man, but brought him down to the floor, using only Yip Man's uncontrolled force and balance.

Yip Man was embarrassed, and left quickly after accepting defeat. Later, he learned that Mr. Leung Bik was the son of Leung Jan, his grandmaster, the teacher who taught his master. He went back to Mr. Leung, and asked to accept him as his student. Mr. Leung saw Yip Man's potential and earnesty, and accepted his request.

What Yip Man lacked in his youth was the knowledge of Wing Chun science. Mr. Chan, Yip Man's master in Fushan, was an excellent fighter. He was not an educated man, and could not express himself eloquently. He initially learned Wing Chun watching Leung Jan's classes through a key hole. When he finally joined the class, Leung Jan was surprised to learn how much Mr. Chan knew from just watching. He had a natural gift for martial arts. Mr. Chan learned the physical aspect of Wing Chun, but not the physics. He knew how to do a move, but did not know the principles behind it. He therefore could not teach the science behind Wing Chun. This is what Leung Bik had to offer Yip Man. Yip Man excelled in Wing Chun under the guidance of Leung Bik. Not only did he learn from Leung Bik the fine art of Wing Chun, but the art of humanity. Yip Man, under his tutelage, became a modest and humble man.

Yip Man returned to Fushan after graduation and did not go back to Hong Kong until after WWII. The war had stripped his family of its wealth. Like his masters before him, he viewed Wing Chun as a part-time hobby, and did not want to earn a living from it. Because of his financial state, he reluctantly accepted a post as a martial art instructor for the Hong Kong Restaurant Workers' Association. Initially, the members were not impressed with the little man and his little kungfu, until he was tested by the instructors of other styles. He easily took control of the fights and knocked down every challenger. Word spread quickly and people outside the association began asking Yip Man to teach them. Yip Man filled the demand by opening his first school in Kowloon. Thus the first seed was sown for the Yip Man's branch of Wing Chun, which is found worldwide today.

Copyright © Daniel Y. Xuan

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