Grand Master Yip Man

Next in the lineage was Leung Lan Kwai, a herbalist by profession, who introduced the Iron Palm training into the system. Leung Lan Kwai passed his knowledge to Leung Lee Tai, who then passed it on to Leung Jan, a famous herbal doctor in Fatshan. Leung Jan was famous for his Iron Palm technique.

Leung Jan had chosen his sons, Leung Bak and Leung Chuen, as his successors. However, a neighbouring money changer, Chan Wa Soon, was greatly interested in Leung Jan’s Kung Fu and began to spy on Leung Jan and his sons while they were practising. Leung Jan became aware of this very early in the piece, and intentionally modified the techniques he taught to his sons to reduce their effectiveness whenever Chan was watching.

Eventually, Leung Jan became impressed with Chan’s keen interest, accepting him as a disciple. However, he continued to teach only the modified version of Wing Chun to Chan, because he feared that Chan would dispute the grandmaster title-ship of Wing Chun with his sons after his (Leung Jan’s) death.

This fear manifested itself after the deaths of Leung Jan and Leung Cheun, with Chan, a much larger and more powerful man, driving the surviving son, Leung Bak, from Fatshan. Leung Bak went to Hong Kong.

Chan began to teach the modified version of Wing Chun to selected students. Despite his reputation and popularity as a Kung Fu exponent, he only accepted eleven students. Then Yip Man, twelve years old at the time, came to Chan with three hundred pieces of silver, seeking acceptance as a disciple. Chan assumed the boy had stolen the coins from his parents, and marched him home to confront them. There he discovered that Yip Man had indeed saved the money on his own. Impressed with Yip Man’s commitment, Chan accepted him as his final disciple.

After four years of study with Chan Wa Soon, Yip Man became a skilled fighter with a considerable reputation. After Chan’s death, Yip Man moved to Hong Kong. Through some martial arts colleagues, he was introduced to an eccentric old man renowned for his Kung Fu ability. Yip Man, with the impetuosity of youth, challenged the old man, only to find himself soundly beaten.

The old man was Leung Bak, the hitherto lost surviving son of Leung Jan. Leung Bak explained to Yip Man the story of the modified Wing Chun system which was taught to Chan Wa Soon, and then accepted Yip Man as a student of the Traditional Wing Chun system. He stayed with Leung Bak for four years, and then returned to Fatshan, challenged and defeated his seniors, and declared himself grandmaster of Wing Chun Kung Fu. While respected throughout China for his Kung-fu skills, Yip Man took no students.

The communist uprising forced Yip Man to flee Fatshan for Macau, leaving his fortune behind, as did many of his contemporaries. Leung Shan, a master of Pak Mei (White Eyebrow) Kung Fu found Yip Man living there in impoverished circumstances, and took him to Hong Kong.

Leung Shan ran a Kung Fu school on the premises of the restaurant workers’ union in Hong Kong. Yip Man was put up in a small apartment there, and would occasionally watch the classes, occasionally criticising the techniques taught by Leung Shan, without intending offence.

One night in 1951, Leung became annoyed by Yip Man’s criticism, and challenged him. Though Yip Man was older and less powerful than Leung Shan, the latter could not match the techniques of Wing Chun and was easily overcome.

Yip Man then revealed himself as the grandmaster of Wing Chun, and took Leung Shan as the first of a small number of disciples, who included the late Bruce Lee. Master James Sinclair, founder of the United Kingdom Wing Chun Kung Fu Association received personal tuition from the late Grandmasters son, Grandmaster Ip Chun, on several occasions and visited Hong Kong and Fushan where Wing Chun Kung Fu has its strongest roots.



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