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Virtue And Honor - Ip Man's Legacy To Wing Chun

Article posted Jan 5, 2012

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    The Dragon's List is honored to reproduce this article by Master Ron Heimberger with permission. For additional information about Master Ron Heimberger and Wing Chun please visit

    Grandmaster Ip Ching, one of four living grandmasters of Wing Chun, lives in Mongkok, Kowloon, Hong Kong, in the very house where his father, Ip Man, died. Although not much is known about Grandmaster Ip Ching, due in large part to his penchant for avoiding attention and his humble personage, he is the inheritor of his father's tradition of Wing Chun. During the last ten years of Ip Man's life, Ip Ching lived and trained with his father, and under Ip Man's watchful eye, Ip Ching learned the Wing Chun system. In his first exclusive interview, Ip Ching talks with his student Master Ron Heimberger and answers questions about Ip Man and the tradition of Wing Chun he so proudly embodied.

    Master Ron Heimberger:
    We know that during the 18th century, a non-Chinese people known as the Manchurians ruled China. Because the Manchurian government was not popular, many Chinese people organized into secret, underground societies. These meetings were revolutionary in nature and most who attended were kung fu practitioners. The Manchurian government attempted to stamp these underground societies out of existence. The rebels took refuge in the famous Siu Lim Gee (Shaolin in Mandarin). This so enraged the Manchurians that they sent troops to burn down the temple and kill all those who lived there.

    It is at this point that the history of Wing Chun becomes shrouded in legend. For purposes of historical accuracy, will you recount the history of Wing Chun as told to you by your father, Ip Man

    Grandmaster Ip Ching:
    One of the masters who escaped the temple's destruction was Ng Mui. Ng Mui escaped the destruction and fled to Guang Sai. While in Guang Si, Ng Mui met a man named Yim Yee. This man had a daughter by the name of Yim Wing Chun. In return for the kindness that the family had shown Ng Mui by giving her a place to live, Ng Mui began teaching Yim's daughter, Yim Wing Chun. As Ng Mui instructed the girl, Yim Wing Chun asked Ng Mui what the name of the style was. The style had not received a name in the temple and since Ng Mui did not know where the other masters were, she decided to name the style after her pupil, Wing Chun.
    Yim Wing Chun continued to learn from Ng Mui and when Yim Wing Chun married she taught her husband, Leung Bok Chow. Leung Bok Chow then taught Wang Wa Po. Wang WA PO taught Leung Yee Tai. Leung Yee Tai taught his nephew Leung Jan. Leung Jan was a successful and capable Chinese physician who ran an herb shop. Having mastered Wing Chun, Leung Jan began teaching his two sons, Leung Chun and Leung Bik, and Chan WA Shun (a fellow merchant) in the herb shop after he closed up for the day.

    Master Ron Heimberger:
    Since Chan WA Shun was Ip Man's formal Sifu, will you tell us more about him

    Grandmaster Ip Ching:
    One day, during a particularly severe rain storm, all of the shops in the marketplace, including Leung Jan's herb shop, closed up early. Chan WA Shun, a fellow merchant, operated a money changing booth in the market place in front of Leung Jan's shop. That day, during the rainstorm, Chan WA Shun sought refuge under the awning of Leung Jan's shop. Safely out of the rain, Chan WA Shun noticed that a light was escaping from around the crack's of Leung Jan's door. Curious, he peeked into Leung Jan's shop. He watched in fascination as Leung Jan instructed his sons in Wing Chun. Amazed by what he saw, Chan WA Shun secretly watched Leung Jan's instruction every opportunity he could. Eventually he implored Leung Jan to teach him kung fu. Because Leung Jan had known Chan WA Shun for a long time and because Leung Jan knew that Chan WA Shun was a very moral and upright man, Leung Jan accepted Chan WA Shun as his student. Chan WA Shun was Leung Jan's loyal student and the only non-family member that Leung Jan ever taught.

    Master Ron Heimberger:
    At what point did Chan WA Shun begin teaching your father, Ip Man

    Grandmaster Ip Ching:
    Only after Leung Jan died did Chan WA Shun open his own kung fu school in the Ip clan family building at Fatshan. The Ip family building was a hall where plaques were hung to remember the ancestors of their family. It was in the family hall that my father, Ip Man, first saw Wing Chun kung fu. When he was 12 years old, Ip Man went to Chan WA Shun and asked if Chan WA Shun would teach him Wing Chun. Chan WA Sheun told him that people who were rich and came from comfortable surroundings made poor students of Wing Chun. But because he was teaching at the Ip family building, Chan WA Shun could not simply refuse Ip Man's request. So he reluctantly said okay. However, he required my father to pay 600 silver pieces to become a student. 600 silver pieces was enough money to buy several houses. Chan WA Shun knew that such an amount would be almost impossible for a 12 year old boy to raise and felt that this would softly discourage him. It took my father 6 months to raise the money. Chan WA Shun was shocked. Chun WA Shun suspected the 12 year old Ip Man of stealing the money. Chan WA Shun immediately took Ip Man to see his father. My grandfather explained that he had given the boy the money so he could study kung fu from Chan WA Shun. From this time forward Ip Man became an official student of Chan WA Shun. All together, Chan WA Shun only taught 16 people. The Dei Si Hing was Ng Cheung So and Si Dei or lowest brother was Ip Man. Ip Man learned directly from Chan WA Shun for three years before Chan passed away. (Even though many people had heard of Leung Jan's kung fu, only three people had actually learned it.).

    Master Ron Heimberger:
    At what point did Ip Man move to Hong Kong and how did he meet Leung Bik

    Grandmaster Ip Ching:
    Ip Man went to Hong Kong at the age of 17 to attend High School at Saint Francis College. At the time the British, who ruled Hong Kong, were using Indian and Pakistani police officers in Hong Kong. The policemen were not very supportive of the Chinese people and were often quite cruel. One day, on the way to school, Ip Man and a classmate came across an Indian police officer who was beating a Chinese lady. Both kids told the officer that if this lady was a thief or if she had done something wrong then the policeman had every right to take her into custody. But even if she was a thief, he had no right to beat her. In actuality, she had done nothing wrong. The police officer was just being cruel. And the officer, realizing that Ip Man was just a kid, took a swing at Ip Man. Unfortunately for the police officer, Ip Man had four years of kung fu under his belt. Ip Man responded to the police officers attack with what appeared to his classmate to be a very simple move, but the police officer went down with blood all over his face. Ip Man and his classmate ran very quickly to school.
    Ip Man's classmate told an older man who lived in the same building about what had happened that day. The old gentleman, who was also from Fatshan, asked the young man to show him what Ip Man had done. When he saw what the young man showed him, the old man asked Ip Man's classmate to ask Ip Man to come and see him.
    The next day both Ip Man and his friend went to see the older gentleman. The older gentleman asked Ip Man what type of kung fu he had studied in Fatshan. Ip man replied that it was the best type of kung fu in the world and that if he told him the old man wouldn't understand. After a little cajoling, Ip Man relented and told the old man that he had studied a famous kung fu called Wing Chun. The older gentleman replied that he had heard of it and that there was a person named Chan WA Sheun teaching there. The old gentleman asked Ip Man to show him the Siu Lim Tao form. After the demonstration the old man said, "eh, not too great." This did not make Ip Man very happy because he felt that he was doing the best kung fu in the world.
    Then the old gentleman asked Ip Man to perform his Chum Kiu form. One must remember that at this time the respect between young people and older people was greater than it is now. Ip Man was obviously unhappy with the old gentleman's request, but he complied anyway. During his demonstration, the old man kept shaking his head and saying, "not very good." This made Ip Man very, very unhappy. At this point the old man asked Ip Man to demonstrate the Biu Gee form. Not wanting the old man to know he didn't know the Biu Gee form, Ip Man said, "I really don't feel like showing you the form." Then the old man asked if Ip Man would chi sau with him. Ip Man happily complied, thinking that he could finally teach the old man a lesson. Ip Man threw a punch. The old man simply blocked it and threw him to the side. Ip Man got up and attempted to heal his wounded pride with another punch. Once again the old man just blocked him and threw him aside. Ip Man got up and stormed out.
    The next day Ip Man's friend told him that the old gentleman wanted to see him but Ip Man didn't want anything to do with him and told his friend no. The friend reported Ip Man's response to the old gentleman. The old gentleman told the teenage boy to let Ip Man know that he was Leung Bik. The next day in class Ip Man's friend told him the old gentleman was Leung Bik. Right there, before class was over, Ip Man jumped up and went straight to Leung Bik's home. Ip Man was so excited because Leung Bik was Ip Man's Si Pak (older uncle, the youngest son of his teacher's teacher, Leung Jan).

    Master Ron Heimberger:
    Knowing that Leung Bik received the entire Wing Chun system from his father Leung Jan, what type of relationship did Ip Man have with Leung Bik

    Grandmaster Ip Ching:
    Ip Man lived with Leung Bik for five years and learned the entire system of Wing Chun. Through out his life, Ip Man referred to Leung Bik as Si Pak. Even though both of his kung fu teachers had the same kung fu, they both had different teaching styles. Chan WA Shun was a relatively uneducated man whose metaphors and understanding were more grounded in the earth, in the common man's language. On the other hand, Leung Bik was very educated and his metaphors and understanding were shaped by philosophy. His understanding of the principles of Wing Chun was deeper and more refined than his kung fu younger brother Chan WA Shun. When Leung Bik died, Ip Man returned to Fatshan to help his kung fu brothers with the knowledge he had gained in Hong Kong.

    Master Ron Heimberger:
    In 1942, Ip Man moved back to Hong Kong to avoid the communist rule in the mainland. After many years of teaching and struggling, Ip Man brought his Wing Chun to the fore and gave the public a tremendous gift. As his son, how would you define Ip Man's legacy

    Grandmaster Ip Ching:
    The gift that Ip Man left was a legacy of virtue and honor that is all too vacant in much of today's martial arts scene. Ip Man was born in China in 1893 and began his Wing Chun training around 1903. He was literally the link between the old ways and the new ways. He was the bridge that integrated the old ways of honor and virtue with a public martial art. Without Ip Man, Wing Chun would be lost today. Not only did Ip Man popularize Wing Chun to the point that the entire world wants to learn even the worst forms of it, but he was the only disciple to ever learn from Grandmaster Leung Jan's son, Leung Bik. If you'll recall, Leung Jan only taught 3 people his two sons (Leung Chun and Leung Bik) and Chan WA Shun. Leung Chun never taught anyone. Leung Bik only taught Ip Man. And Chan WA Shun taught Ip Man and a handful of others. Ip Man learned the entire system intimately. Because of his Leung Bik lineage, he could have claimed the title of Grandmaster of Wing Chun. But he did not. Ip Man was tutored in martial virtue. He considered his first teacher his Sifu, even though he learned more from his later teacher, Leung Bik. In doing so, he honored his kung fu brothers, his teachers , and Wing Chun. Ip man understood the role of tradition and honor in Wing Chun.

    Grandmaster Ip Ching and Master Ron Heimberger pose in theformal Master/Disciple relationship photo. This photo shows special relationship between two individuals in Kung Fu.

    Master Ron Heimberger is a direct disciple of Grandmaster Ip Ching and one of only three masters in the United States fully certified by the Grandmaster himself. As author, instructional program developer, teacher, and researcher, Master Heimberger travels nationally conducting seminars for martial artists, military personnel, law enforcement agencies and youth organizations. He is recognized in national and international circles as an expert in Wing Chun as it is the only martial art he has ever done and currently presides as Advisor to the Yip Ching Wing Chun Athletic Association and President of the Wing Chun Kung Fu Council, an organization designed to promote honor and integrity, maintaining the highest quality of instruction throughout the United States.

About The Author: webmaster

The Dragon's List founder is Chris Hall. Chris retired from professional fighting in 1995 and after much disapointment in finding a good website for kung fu founded The Dragon's List. Chris holds black belt or black sash ranks in both Chi'ing L'oong Wu and Shao-lin and masters rank in Tai Chi. Chris has been featured on The Learning Channel and...

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