YIP MAN (1893-1972)
Grandmaster Yip Man was the first master to teach the martial art of Wing Chun openly.
He had several students who later became martial arts teachers in their own right,
one of them being Bruce Lee.
Born in Foshan in 1893, he started learning Wing Chun from Chan Wah-shun
at the age of thirteen. Because of his sifu’s old age,
Yip Man had to learn much of his skills and techniques
from his master’s second eldest disciple Ng Chung-so.
Three years into Yip Man’s training Chan Wah-shun died,
but one of his dying wishes was that Ng will help Yip complete the system.
In 1908 he went to Hong Kong and enrolled in St. Stephen’s College,
a secondary school for wealthy families and foreigners who lived in Hong Kong.
Through a classmate he came to meet Leung Bik, the son of his master’s master
and he learned from him for four years.
In 1914 he returned to Foshan and until 1937 his job was mainly in the army
and police force. He married Cheung Wing Sing and had four children,
sons Yip Hok Chun, Yip Hok Ching and daughters Yip Ar Sum and Yip Ar Woon.
When Yip was not working, he liked to get together with other martial artists
to practice and exchange kung fu ideas with his wing chun schoolmates
in his house.
He installed a wooden dummy in the corner of his living room.
Practicing at that time with Yip Man were Yuan Kay Shan, Yiu Choi,
Yip Chung Hong, Lai Hip Chi, Tong Gai and others.
He became famous among the martial arts community of southern China .
In 1937 Japan invaded China. Yip Man swore not to be used
by the puppet Japanese government so he became very poor.
Luckily his good friend, Chow Ching Chuen gave him financial support
from time to time. In order to repay his friend’s kindness, Yip accepted his son,
Chow Kong Yiu as student.
From 1941 – 1943, he taught Wing Chun Kuen in Luen Cheung Cotton Mill.
After the surrending of Japan in 1945, for Yip Man started a very busy period at work.
He even had to give up training for a while.
After the communists took over in 1949, Yip Man went through Macao to Hong Kong.
In July 1950, at the age of 57, Yip Man started teaching in Tai Lam Street, Kowloon .
The first Wing Chun class was for the Restaurant Workers Association.
There were only people including Leung Sheung, Lok Yiu in the first class.
Later, the class was joined by Tsui Sheung Tin, Yip Bo Ching, Chiu Wan,
Lee See Wing and others. This period of time was called the forefront
of the Restaurant Workers Association.
Yip Man also taught in the Restaurant Workers Union Headquarters in Hong Kong Island .
Between 1953 – 1955 the school was moved twice and students like Wong Shun Leung,
Wong Kiu, Ho Kam Ming, Lee Kam Sing, William Cheung etc. started training.
Yip Man moved the school in 1955 to Lee Tat Street, Kowloon.
Students like Chow Tze Chuen, Lee Siu Lung (Bruce Lee), Chan Shing,
Cheung Hok Kin (Hawkins Cheung), Siu Yuk Man, Pang Kam Fat and others
joined by that time. In the following years the school was moved again
a few times, the last location being
on the top floor of the Tai Sang Restaurant on Fook Chuen Street.
In 1965 this school was closed. Because of his advanced age, Yip Man was partly retired.
Despite this, he was still teaching one to one private tuition.
The Ving Tsun Athletic Association, founded in 1967, was the first
martial arts society to be officially registered with the government.
The Association decided to open Wing Chun classes at the headquarter,
with Yip Man in charge and assisted by Chung Ching On, Fung Hon,
Wong Hon Chung and others. However, this was only for about 3 months.
Yip Man passed away at his home on Tong Choi Street on 1 st December 1972,
at the age of 79 years. His tomb is now situated in Fanling.