Grand Master Ip Man
Grandmaster Ip Man was born in Foshan (China) in 1893 to a wealthy merchant family and lived to the age of 79, passing away at his home in Hong Kong in December 1972.
He began learning Wing Chun sometime after 1906 under Chan Wah-Shun who was said to have been teaching out of the Ip Family Ancestral Temple at the time.
Ip Man became Chan Wah-Shun's youngest and last student, as Chan was old and nearing the end of his teaching. Around 1908 Chan suffered a stroke and retired, leaving Ip Man's kung fu instruction to be continued by his senior kung fu brothers such as Ng Jung-So.
After Chan Wah-Shun's death in 1911, Ip Man went to attend St. Stephan's College Hong Kong. Here he met his kung fu uncle, Leung Bik, who was the second son of Leung Jan. Ip Man apprenticed himself to Leung Bik learning Wing Chun for another 7 years and polishing his skills to the most advanced level.
Sifu Ip Chun (Ip Mans son) quotes his father as having said that he got a good foundation from Grandmaster Chan Wah Shun, but learnt sophisticated techniques from Mister Leung Bik.
Sifu Chan Wah Shun and Sifu Leung Bik were both doing two different variations of Wing Chun. Through learning from both, Ip Man acquired complete mastery of Wing Chun of Yin and Yang.
Ip Man returned to China and developed an extraordinary reputation for his great Wing Chun skill. He even joined the Chinese army for a time. He did not however teach for many years. In 1942 his resources became severely depleted under the Japanese occupation of China and he took on some students in Yongan.
In 1949, Yip fled the Communist rise in China eventually arriving in Hong Kong. Where in 1950, he began teaching his Wing Chun for a living.
In Hong Kong he accepted his first batch of disciples in on a professional basis. Over his long teaching career in Hong Kong Ip Man taught many outstanding and famous students. The most recognized name being that of Bruce Lee whom Ip Man taught for 5 years before Bruce went to America.
Ip Man taught all of his students differently, depending on their natural ability, personality, understanding, how he felt Wing Chun would best suit them and the level of trust that he had with them. Hence all the Wing Chun's being taught around the world today vary from each other depending on which branch of the Wing Chun family tree you are learning from.
What is apparent though is that all Wing Chun's learnt from Ip Man are variations of the two versions of Wing Chun that Ip Man himself originally learnt (One from Grandmaster Chan Wah Shun and one from Mister Leung Bik). These two versions are often called traditional and modified (or advanced) Wing Chun.
Wing Chun as taught by Grandmaster Ip Man has three empty-hand forms, a wooden dummy form, and two weapons forms. Integrated into drills and sticky hands practice, Chi Sau, the motions of the forms are the Wing Chun practitioners self-defense and fighting skills. Allot of Ip Man's students including his Family members, both sons and nephew, have gone on to teach new generations of excellent wing Chun practitioners, spreading Wing Chun into what has become the fastest growing martial art in the world.
Grandmaster Ip Man spent his whole life as champion of the cause of Wing Chun Kung Fu. He taught that Wing Chun is not for sale, but students may apply for lessons. He promoted honesty and respect and almost all the Wing Chun being taught in the world today traces its lineage back to him. He was responsible for advancing Wing Chun Kung Fu to the high point that it is at today, and we are thankful to him and his family for the opportunity we all have to learn and know such an amazing art empowering the good. Those who use Wing Chun in any bad, are not considered Wing Chun at all. -Jo Fen