Much is written about the life of Master Yip Man and his students in Hong Kong, his teachings and followers have received wide publicity. Generally little has been published about his teaching in Foshan and his disciples from these early days.
Over the last four years I have had the great pleasure of studying with one of Yip Man’s original students, Master Lun Jie.
With over 20 years experience learning learning and teaching Wing Chun I have had the opportunity to research this style and its many branches in England, Hong Kong and China. I have found Master Lun’s method illuminating. This is his story:
Sifu Lun was born in 1926, he began to study Wing Chun at the age of 14 under Yip Man who was about 40 at this time. This was during the occupation by Japanese forces. The class would meet in secrecy in a warehouse as the practise of martial arts was banned by the Japanese.
The classes were held during the evenings and attended by six students. Master Yip Man had no interest in teaching a lot of students, in fact Sifu Lun recalls Yip Man saying that he didn’t intend to take any more.
During training Master Yip laid great emphasis on the practise of Wing Chun’s first form Sil Lum Tao and on horse stance practice.
When they practiced Chi Sao they would cover their eyes, Master Yip would go around and play Chi Sao with all of his students, his sensitivity was so refined he could tell which one of his students he was training with just by the feel.
Master Lun recalls a story of when Yip Man was out walking with a relaitive. The relative got involved in an argument with a detective. As the argument became more heated the detective pulled out his gun to shoot, Yip Man grabbed the gun and broke it.
Yip Man left Foshan around 1949 before the liberation of China. As a policeman he feared that he might be arrested by the new regime. Some time later the members of the class scattered and lost contact with each other.
In the original class Sifu Lun’s older Kung Fu brother was Guo Fu. Sifu Lun recalls at this time Guo Fu was much better at Wing Chun than he was, being six years older he was much stronger and able to apply the techniques in a more realistic manner.
Sifu Lun made an effort to try and contact Guo Fu but to no avail, at the same time Guo Fu was also trying to find Sifu Lun. Knowing his old classmate was an electrician by trade he would always ask any electricians he met if they knew Sifu Lun.
One time Guo Fu was near Guangzhou he met an electrician who said he knew Sifu Lun and that he had returned to Foshan and was working in a pump factory. Guo Fu wrote a letter to the pump factory in Foshan which Sifu Lun received, the old classmates were reunited in 1958 and have been close friends ever since, They began to train and research Wing Chun and continue to do this up to the present day.
During the cultural revolution the practice of martial arts was banned, anyone practicing would be branded a counter revolutionary. Sifu Lun did practice throughout this period mostly in his home, sometimes lie would go to the park and to the Ancestral Temple.
Often the practice at the Temple would be watched by a policeman who was himself a martial arts practitioner so he never reported them. The authorities all over China were very nervous about the practice of martial arts, this was particularly true about the practice of Wing Chun with its emphasis on attack and combat techniques.
Many martial arts masters were persecuted by the Red Guards, this included torture, imprisonment and death.
I asked Sifu Lun if he had ever had to use his Wing Chun in a real life situation. He said that it is not his intention to right and he doesn’t want his students to fight. There was one occasion, however, just after the cultural revolution when he went out on his bicycle into the countryside at night. He was travelling along a dark road when two men jumped out in front of him, as he stopped the light on his bicycle went out. He quickly put the bicycle down, one man threw a powerful punch towards Sifu Lun. Lun applied the Kuo Sao movement from Wing Chun’s second form Chum Kiu. He heard the breaking of bone and the man screamed with pain, turning to the side the other man had already launched a kick which glanced on Lun’s thigh.
The man didn’t follow up the attack hearing his accomplice’s screams, both men fled.
Foshan Wing Chun, Hong Kong Wing Chun?
On the development of Wing Chun in Hong Kong and the differences between Foshan and Hong Kong Chun as taught today.
Sifu Lun doesn’t know why the teaching of Yip Man was different in Hong Kong, he can only assume that Yip Man might have added or dropped some movements, he also might have allowed his students more freedom interpreting the movements, this would account for the differences of his followers.
He does, however, know that Yip Man only taught the Bagua steps in Foshan. During Sifu Lun’s four year’s training with Yip Man he always taught the conventional method of punching, before he left Foshan he told his students to use the Phoenix Eye punch, a method which Sifu Lun still favours today.
Even in Foshan there are people who claim to teach Yip Man’s method yet Sifu Lun doesn’t know how this can be. As long as Guo Fu and Lun Jie can remember Yip Man only had six students, four of which are now dead.
Sifu Lun’s method is very direct, the amount of power he generates over such a short distance is phenomenal. I was on the receiving end of many “Jerk Hands” techniques and his “Slap Block” made my whole body shake.
Although nearly 70 his hands are still very fast, on one occasion we were discussing how to apply force with the Phoenix Eye punch.
Our training area was on a rooftop and Master Lun proceeded to demonstrate the punch on a large metal water tank, his right hand flicked into the tank with a thud as he continued to explain the point.
The point was lost for a while as the centre of attention was the dent that had appeared in the water tank, “Sifu you’ve dented the tank”. He laughed loudly then continued the explanation. Since that day I have seen him train by punching trees and brick walls.
Master Lun is a very humble man, during training he apologized for any deficiencies in his teaching. He said that Guo Fu and himself were not educated men, in fact Sifu Lun has only had one year’s schooling. Both men have concentrated on developing and researching the direct fighting method as taught by Yip Man in Foshan.
The Foshan method has the same number of forms similar to those taught in Hong Kong.
The first form is around the same length as the Hong Kong version but some of the angles are very different, all the other forms are longer with a greater variety of techniques.
Yip Man also didn’t teach the Single Sticking Hand or any other method apart from two handed Chi Sao.