Ip Man Portait of a kung fu master

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Who is Ip Man?

A portrait of Ip Man the famous Wing Chun master
A portrait of Ip Man

The late Yip Man, or Ip Man, was the greatest martial arts master best known for teaching the Wing Chun style of kung fu. As a great Kung Fu master he is best known for teaching one of the greatest martial artist of all time Bruce Lee.

The Childhood

Ip Man with Yip Bo Ching
Ip Man with Yip Bo Ching

Yip Man, also known as Ip Man, was born on October 1, 1893, in Foshan, China. He studied Wing Chun and went on the become one of the most respected martial arts masters of his time. Among his most notable students was Bruce Lee. Yip Man died on December 2, 1972, in Hong Kong. In 2013, two films about his life were released, The Grandmaster and Ip Man: The Final Fight. Early Life Yip Man, also known as Ip Man, was born Ip Kai Man (or Yip Kai Man) on October 1, 1893, in Foshan, China. He was the third of four children and was raised by his wealthy parents, Ip Oi Dor and Ng Shui. Political upheaval served as the backdrop for Man's younger years, but he received a traditional education until, at age 12, he was able to begin studying Wing Chun--a system of martial arts developed in southern China more than 300 years ago--under the tutelage of Chan Wah Shun, who charged him an exorbitant amount of money for the service, initially believing he would discourage the boy. But Man would learn much from his teacher in the three short years before Wah Shun's death.

Career At the age of 15

At the age of 15 Ip man moved to Hong Kong with help from Leung Fut Ting, a relative. At age sixteen, Ip Man attended school at St. Stephen's College in Hong Kong. It was a secondary school for wealthy families and foreigners who lived in Hong Kong. While in Hong Kong he also continued his martial arts training. Man eventually returned to Foshan at the age of 24 and was employed as a police officer. By this point, his Wing Chun skills were such that he was able to begin giving private lessons. In 1949, when the Chinese Communist Party came to power, Man fled to Hong Kong, where he opened a Wing Chun school, charging for his services and becoming the first martial arts master to train students publicly. One of Man's most notable students was Bruce Lee, who studied under the master in 1953. At the age of 13, Lee was an excellent and intense student and became proficient in the Wing Chun art. Lee would return to visit Yip Man in later years, the two having become friends. Personal Life, Later Years and Legacy Yip Man was married to Cheung Wing Sing, and the couple had two sons, Ip Chun and Ip Ching, both of whom became martial arts specialists. Man died from complications of cancer on December 2, 1972, in Hong Kong. He was 79. Since his death, many works have been made about his life, including the 2001 book Ip Man: Portrait of a Kung Fu Master by Ip Ching and Ron Heimberger, and the films The Legend is Born: Ip Man (released in 2010) and 2013's The Grandmaster and Ip Man: The Final Fight.


Ip Man training wooden dummy
Ip Man training wooden dummy

According to Ip Man's two sons (Ip Ching and Ip Chun), while at St. Stephen's Ip Man intervened after seeing a foreign police officer beating a woman. The story goes that the police officer tried to strike Ip Man who used his martial arts to strike the officer down, at which point Ip Man and his classmate ran to school. The classmate is said to have told an older man who lived in the same apartment block. Ip Man was invited to see this man and the man asked Ip Man what martial art he studied. Ip told him, but said he would not understand. The man then asked Ip Man to show him his first 2 forms (Sil Lim Tao and Chun Kiu). The man then told Ip Man that his forms were "not too great." Ip Man was then invited to Chi Sau (a form of training that involves controlled attack and defence). Ip Man saw this as an opportunity to prove his Kung Fu was good, but he was beaten after just a few strikes. It turned out that the old man was his master's elder fellow-disciple (and so, by Chinese tradition Ip Man's martial uncle or Sibak), Leung Bik , son of his master's master Leung Jan. After that encounter, Ip Man continued his training lessons from Leung Bik. Ip Man recounts the story himself in an interview with Martial Hero Magazine, although in his own account he does not mention a fight with a police officer and claims it was because he was always causing trouble at school that his friends spoke to Leung Bik about him.

By the age of 24

Ip Man had returned to Foshan, his Wing Chun skills tremendously improved. Jiu Wan and Yip Bo and Ching and Ho Luen and Ip Ching and Ip Man and Ip Chun In Foshan, Ip Man became a policeman. He did not formally run a Wing Chun school, but taught several of his subordinates, his friends and relatives. Kwok Fu and Lun Kai (2 of Ip Man's students and friends) went on to teach students of their own. The art of Wing Chun in the Foshan and Guangdong area was mainly passed down from these two individuals. Ip Man went to Kwok Fu's village house during the Japanese Occupation. He only returned to Foshan after the war, to once again take up the job of a police officer. While in Foushan Ip Man met Yuen Kay Shan and they became friends despite being from different lineages of Wing Chun. Ip Man and Yuen Kay Shan became close enough with that he taught Ip Man let Yeun Kay Shan teach his son, Ip Chun, the first form of the art[2]. At the end of 1949, the Chinese Communist party won the Chinese civil war. Ip Man being an officer of the opposing Kuomintang political party, decided to escape to Hong Kong without his family when the Communists came to Foshan. In Hong Kong, Ip Man opened a Wing Chun martial arts school. Initially, business was poor because his students typically stayed for only a couple of months. He moved his school twice, to Hoi Tan Street in Sham Shui Po, and then to Lee Tat Street in Yau Ma Tei. By then, some of his students were skilled enough that they were able to start their own schools. Some of Ip Man's students and descendants compared their skills with other martial artists in combat. Initially many were defeated, but later, before Ip Man's death their victories over other martial artists helped to bolster Ip Man's reputation as a teacher. Ip Man wooden Dummy In 1967, Ip Man and some of his students established the Hong Kong Ving Tsun Athletic Association.

In 1972

Famous photo of Ip Man punching
Famous photo of Ip Man punching

Ip Man suffered cancer and subsequently died on the 2nd of December that same year. About 6 weeks before he died he asked his 2 sons and his student Lau Hon Lam to film him performing the Wing Chun system as practice by him. He only managed Sil Lim Tau, Chum Kiu and the Dummy form. This is because he was in a lot of pain and was weak and unsteady on his feet. He was going to do Biu Gee, the Knife form and long pole. However Grandmaster Ip Chun and Ip Ching and Sifu Lau Hong Lam stopped Ip Man because Biu Gee, the knives and full pole form require a lot of energy to perform. Ip Man had many students and worried some of them were adapting the system due to their own incomplete knowledge and felt that filming it was the only way to stop the frauds and cheats.

Comments by the Master:

Ip Man with Bruce Lee
Ip Man with Bruce Lee

This is a great photo of the late Bruce Lee with his master the late Ip Man. We have seen this photo thousands of times in the last forty years. At least true martial artists such as myself. We will always miss these two greats

Can I say more about Ip Man. If he were around today I would challenge Ip Man and test his great skill. He was definitely legendary in Wing Chun. If not for Ip Man we may have never heard of Wing Chun. Is Wing Chun pratical for todays self defense. I don't know. It can be helpful. If you were stuck in a street fight with Mike Tyson do you think your Wing Chun can help you?

The Real Ip Man (Rare Video Footage)

Rare video footing of Ip Man training