Great Grandmaster Yip Man

Grandmaster of the Chinese martial arts Yip Man (Ip Man, also known as Yip Kai-Man) is known as brilliant representative of the Kung Fu style. He is considered the great expert and originator of the contemporary martial art Wing Chun.

Yip Man is well-known in Europe and America as the teacher of movie star Bruce Lee, who widely applied this knowledge in creation of his exciting films.

Now we know the main events of Yip Man’s life from the chronicle written by his sun Ip Chun.

The great master was born in October 14, 1893, in Fatshan, Kwangtung. He was the youngest sun in the rich and aristocratic family but due to the Chinese traditions he couldn’t inherit neither social status nor considerable capital from his parents. Yip Man studied hard, for leisure time he practiced a lot in calligraphy, wrote poems and observed the students Chan Wah Shun training, who was well-known Wing Chun Kung Fu master. Once he came and asked master to accept him in group. He was nine years old at that time, when he had become the student of Chan Wah Shun. After master’s death in four years, the senior student of Chan Wah Shun - Ng Chung So continued Yip Man’s training.

In 1908 Yip Man, sixteen-years old boy, set off for study in St. Stephen's College in Hong Kong. There he was presented to master Leung Bik, the son of Chan Wah Shun’s teacher. Leung Bik was the owner of the famous silk factory. The kindness of Yip Man and his attitude to trainings conquered the heart of Leung Bik and teacher decided to train Yip Man everything he had known. Later Yip Man told he had received all fundamental skills from master Chan Wah Shun, and had improved skills under Leung Bik‘s teaching. When Yip Man was young he paid more attention for the external form of movements, not thinking about its internal substance. But later he understood that Wing Chun drill theory and practice are important both.

When Yip Man returned to the native Fatshan, he was twenty-one year old. He had been already experienced martial art master. He won repeatedly combats with famous fighters and arranged trainings right in his garden. His art of fight was growing up for years and helped him at work – he was a police officer. Master disdained firearms and preferred not to use them. Taking part in chase in the apprehension of dangerous criminals, he had always relied on his art.
Yip Man married the girl named Cheung Wing Sing. After she bore him two suns and two daughters. Master devoted himself to his family and teached Wing Chun only several relatives and colleagues.

In 1937 the Second Sino-Japanese War began, Fatshan-city appeared quickly under the dominion of occupation regime. Yip Man refused to cooperate with Japanese administration. He was deprived by job firstly and, consequently, by the means of subsistence. Only one of his friends, the owner of the cotton factory, helped him anyway. In gratitude to the friend Yip Man started to teach his sun as the personal student and all the factory employees also. When the Japanese authority knew about it, they proposed to Yip Man to train the Japanese solders to fight hand-to-hand. Yip Man didn’t want to burst into open conflict because it could harm his family and friends. So he left the native city and went to the remotest depths of provinces for a long time.

After the end of the World War II, Yip Man returned to Fatshan and got back to the police service. But the civil war began… He took the side of Conservative Party Kuomintang, which governed the Chinese Republic at that time out was loosing control of the country. In 1949 communist party won elections and continental China turned off in its hands. Yip Man escaped in Macao, after in Hong Kong. Aristocrat by descent and supporter of Kuomintang therewith police officer, he was exposed to a mortal danger with the communists came to power. His wife and children left in China.

In 56 years old finding himself without livelihood and with almost no ties to the foreign country, Yip Man was forced to break the tradition of clan and became board openly taught Wing Chun skills. Firstly it was the school union of restaurant workers, which consisted of only eight people. One of his first students was Leung Sheung, who would later teach modern master Leong Ting. Three year later Yip Man opened new school; in 1955 William Cheung appears in it, who once will lead to the hall the young Lee Siu Long (Bruce Lee).

But Yip Man was still far from the modern commercial approach to teaching martial arts. According to the testimony of his son, the master has never given the ad, and usually did not even hung signs, which would told that he had teached martial arts. Pupils found him themselves. At the same time Yip Man had never promised to teach all comers. "The disciple is difficult to find a good teacher, but for the teacher it’s even harder to grow a good student", – said Yip Man.

Yip Man began teaching Wing Chun openly under pressure, but gradually promoted Kung Fu became the matter of his life. At the beginning of the seventy years of XX century Wing Chun style is taught in America, Europe and Australia. Yip Man never claimed to be the head of the school, so his students have completed training course, started to teach Wing Chun in his own name.

In 1962, the sons of Yip Man, Ip Ching and Ip Chun moved from China to Hong Kong and also became disciples of Yip Man.

Only in the last few years of life Yip Man ceased to group sessions, but continued to give lessons at home. In 1972, on the fifth of December Yip Man died from the cancer of the throat. To keep the system as Wing Chun and pass it on to future generations of pupils, a few weeks before his death, Yip Man had recorded his performance of the main forms on film. When you see the power with which terminally ill person is cracking down on the wooden dummy, it becomes clear: the skill with Yip Man remained until the end.
In Hong Kong Yip Man was well-known, but in mainland China his name had not known for a long time. At the end of 2002 in Fatshan in the Historical Museum opened a museum of Yip Man. So the great master was well recognized at home.

The disciples, who practice the different branches of Wing Chun, recall Yip Man’s name with respect and gratitude. And although during his lifetime he had no official titles but now the followers called him the

Patriarch/Grandmaster of Wing Chun. Indeed, thanks to him Kung Fu Wing Chun is widespread and become popular now. He firstly refused the closed clan system of knowledge transfer and began gaining students to evaluate their abilities and not giving value kinship or friendship ties. As a result, Wing Chun became extremely popular not only in Hong Kong but in the world also. Of particular surge of interest in Kung Fu originated in Europe and America in the seventies of XX century when the screens began to appear films with Bruce Lee, one of the disciples of Yip Man. Prior to that the Western world has known Japanese martial art. Yip Man and Bruce Lee met in Hong Kong when Bruce was in college of St. Francis. Bruce's father was a countryman and good friend of Yip Man. A close relationship between them influenced that Bruce chose martial art as life style. At the end of the third year Bruce was forced to leave Hong Kong to continue his education in the United States. Before parting Yip Man recalled to Bruce that the Chinese Kung Fu is one of the secret arts of China which Chinese use to defend themselves, maintain health and, moreover, art techniques could not be accessible to foreigners (thought so all the old masters of Kung Fu). Bruce Lee promised to keep all instructions in mind, but when he came to the U.S. he opened the Chinese Kung Fu school and began to teach foreign students to Wing Chun that really upset his teacher.

Unfortunately, in China after the Cultural Revolution traditional martial arts were in disgrace, many masters were persecuted.

Today Wing Chun is known as the compact and efficient style: instead of memorizing obscure movements from the start, pupils are provided with the small set of principles. After examining them the follower evaluates the accuracy of the performance and suitability of the particular technology.

The theory of Wing Chun is stated in clear terms, such as the "central line", "withdrawal from the line of attack, and so on. It`s necessary to add that at the beginning of XX century in Wing Chun like in the other styles of Chinese Kung Fu dominated the esoteric terminology, many movements imitated habits of animals.

Yip Man transformed traditional Wing Chun to modern style. Now modern system is graceful; free from religious, mystical and "savage" elements; understandable to most persons who has not been familiar with the traditional religions of China and the characteristics of local animals yet.
Almost before the death Yip Man decided to create an association that would unite many disciples. Today, such movement seems to be natural but in 1967 "Wing Chun Athletic Association" became the first officially registered in Hong Kong organization that set the task to disseminate and develop the martial art. The Association has turned into international form and the number of participants is growing constantly.

Today there are many versions of the popular legends about the origins of style Wing Chun. They differ in details but agree on key points. Source of knowledge, many researchers have called the Southern Shaolin Monastery — not the one that existed before the XX century, and its sister monastery, which was located in Fujian province (it was destroyed Manchu rulers of China in the XVII or XVIII century). The system of Wing Chun initially was based on the fight between two animals: crane and snake. In addition, it is supposed style was created by two women: the nun and her student, the village girl whose name was Wing Chun.

This beautiful legend was written by Yip Man. At first glance it seems that text is compressed versions of the narration with its picturesque details, but what is interesting: any earlier record of the legend does not exist! It is difficult to determine what part of manuscript was based on information received from the first master Chan Wah Shun, and to what extent - added by his own imagination. But Yip Man could present the legend in the form of the short coherent narrative story and could skillfully stylized it under Wing Chun`s canons. As a result, his version of the style origin has been unconditionally accepted by the followers of Wing Chun and then began to grow into more details.
Despite the constant attempts to understand the historical roots of Wing Chun Kung Fu, the legend set forth Yip Mann is still not confirmed, but not disproved - as well as everything that has to do with the mythical Southern Shaolin Monastery. In the Internet you can find various versions for the legend portrayed as the true story of Wing Chun under Yip Man`s manuscript usually does not mentioned. 

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