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Wing Chun Practitioners: Leung Dai-Chiu, Teacher of Wing Chun Kuen

The Wing Chun system began with Ng Mui Si Tai who taught it to Yim Wing-Chun. Yim taught her husband, Leung Bok-Tao. In Foshan, Leung took a student named Wong Wah-Bo who was a member of the Red Junk Opera. Another Red Junk student, Painted Face Kam, taught Wing Chun Kuen to Fok Bo-Chuen and Fung Siu-Ching. They passed the art on to Yuen Kay-San. Yuen’s nickname was Yuen Lo Jia (Yuen The Fifth) because, in his family, he was the 5th brother and in Guangdonhua, Jia signifies the 5th. Yuen Kay-San taught the art to a student named Sum who in turn taught Leung Dai-Chiu.

Leung Dai-Chiu now teaches in Kowloon and where he also runs a medical clinic and treats many specialized conditions such as falling and hitting, wind damp, and the loss of feeling children experience in their limbs. While teaching Wing Chun Boxing, Pole, and Knife, he also does a good job at medicine.

According to Yuen Kay-San grand-student Leung Dai-Chiu, Yuen Kay-San Wing Chun Kuen has forms like Siu Lien Tao (Little First Training), Chum Kiu (Sinking Bridge), Biu Jee, (Darting Fingers), Muk Yan Jong (Wooden Dummy), Sup Yee San Sik (Twelve Separate Forms), and applications.

Siu Lien Tao is the foundation form of Yuen Kay-San Wing Chun Kuen and every beginner must learn it. Its main focus is to develop the horse and bridge positions. The next form is Chum Kiu, which continues the step by step progression that allows a student to understand the methods of Wing Chun Kuen. The last form is Biu Jee, which combines the use the straight body and horse and the side body and horse together in the practice of attack and defense.

When a student has finished the Siu Lien Tao, they can use soft and hard to develop bridge feeling and strength. This is called sensitivity training. After, sticking hands involves the methods and rules from all three forms and the Sup Yee San Sik. The last stage of training is Jee Yao Pok Gik (free fighting).

After, the Muk Yan Jong is used, allowing a student to pretend they have an enemy present in training. With a classmate in chi sao, a student must be careful not to cause harm, but with a dummy more power is possible. This brings the techniques together, giving the practitioner flexibility.

In Yuen Kay-San Wing Chun Kuen, there is also a Juk Jong (Bamboo Dummy) that has twelve bamboo hands. The Juk Jong methods are all freestyle, using the only the methods of Wing Chun Kuen as guidelines. The Juk Jong was used many years ago on the Red Junks. They would put bamboo arms through the cabins that had weights on the back ends. In use, they functioned like the Lien Wan Sa Bao (Linked Chain Sand Bags- a group of sandbags hung together). If a student is slow, they will be hit by the return of a previously struck arm (or sandbag).

Leung Dai-Chiu sifu explained that Yuen Kay-San Wing Chun Kuen uses the Yee Jee Kim Yeung Ma (”Yee” Shaped Groin Clamping Horse). In this, the horse clamps, the chest is hollowed, the stomach relaxed in, and the shoulders dropped. When a hand goes out, the elbow protects the chest. Each elbow can be used like half a hand so that together, a student can employ three hands at once. The wrist is very important in the transmission of power. The gallbladder is important as the source of courage. These two allow Yuen Kay-San Wing Chun Kuen to use an opponent’s own strength against him with both soft and hard.

When the arms are chambered, the body and horse should be straight. The hands should be drawn up and the elbows no allowed to be out or over the stomach. To the left and right, they should not be over the ears.

Yuen Kay-San Wing Chun Kuen uses the Twelve Methods of Join, Intercept, Sink, Dart, Stick, Feel, Steal and Leak, Swallow, Slice, Press, Swing, and Detain. Other methods for helping students practice include hitting sandbags, splitting rattan rings, twisting chopsticks, pressing paper, hitting candles, hitting telephone books, etc.

Yuen Kay-San Wing Chun Kuen uses the Luk Dim Boon Gwun (Six-and-a-Half Point Pole). It is 7′2″ in Chinese measurements. The knife method is Yee Jee Kim Yeung Dit Ming Seung Do (Parallel Shaped Groin Clamping Life-Taking Double Knives).

In addition, Leung Dai-Chiu worked hard and so his teacher gave him knowledge for the treatment of falling, hitting, cuts, long-term blood stagnation, chronic pains, long-term wind damp, follow-up treatment, children’s lack of feeling in the extremities, rare problems, half body paralysis. This included both compresses and internal medicine, cleaning, operation, massage, and therapeutic massage.


Wing Chun From Guangzhou: Same Origin, Different Development

For many decades, Wing Chun Kuen stayed around the Foshan and Guangzhou area and never spread much further. Today many people still don’t know this “short bridge narrow horse” boxing art. Decades ago in Guangdong Wing Chun Kuen was known as “Gwai Ga Kuen” (”Returning Home Boxing”). This meant Wing Chun Kuen was not like the “long bridge big horse” boxing arts which look good in demonstrations. Wing Chun Kuen is not good looking in demonstration but then, that is not where Wing Chun Kuen’s value lies.

20 years ago, Wing Chun Kuen had not spread far and its circle remained very small. Not many people had learned the art and those with good quality did not easily teach others. Thus, only a few were successful with it. Since then, however, the Wing Chun Kuen of founder Mr. Yip Man has been spread in Hong Kong and around the world. Now, many people know of Wing Chun Kuen. Besides the branch of Mr. Yip Man, there is another system with different methods and techniques.

The reader may ask, why are there different branches? Like Taijiquan, it has spread and developed different branches. Now in Hong Kong a different branch is becoming popular.

Wing Chun Kuen Has Two Branches

This branch has the same origins as Mr. Yip Man’s branch but the techniques and methods are a little different. This article will introduce the “Guangzhou Wing Chun Kuen”.

The name Guangzhou Wing Chun Kuen is only used to distinguish the system from Mr. Yip Man’s style. Like Taijiquan has Yang, Chen, and Wu branches, but they all remain Taijiquan. While the distant origins of Wing Chun Kuen may lie with Siu Lam, its development must be traced to the Foshan area. One teacher of Guangzhou Wing Chun Kuen is Kwok Wan-Ping sifu who operates the Guangzhou Wing Chun Institute. So we refer to it as Guangzhou Wing Chun for convenience.

According to Kwok Wan-Ping sifu, he learned Wing Chun Kuen in Guangzhou from Sum Nung. 20 years ago, Sum Nung and Mr. Yip Man knew each other. Now, Sum Nung is still in Guangzhou. This branch of Wing Chun comes from Jee Shim and Ng Mui – Red Junks – Fung Siu-Ching – Yuen Kay-San and Cheung Bo – Sum Nung – Kwok Wan-Ping.

Difficult to Research the Origins & Development

Kwok Wan-Ping says:

“Today, if you want to trace the origins and development and find out what happened a long time ago its very difficult. You commonly hear two different origins. One is that Jee Shim taught it to the Red Junks. The other is that it comes from Ng Mui. After this, this boxing art spread to a few people on the Red Junks. After, Fung Siu-Ching, Yuen Kay-San, and Cheung Bo’s skills were all passed down to Sum Nung.”

New Martial Hero: “So, is this Wing Chun Kuen different then Yip Man’s?”

Kwok Wan-Ping: “I don’t know much about Mr. Yip Man’s Wing Chun Kuen. I can only tell you about the Wing Chun Kuen I learned. This Wing Chun has the three fundamental forms of Siu Lien Tao (Little First Training), Chum Kiu (Sinking Bridge), and Biu Jee (Darting Fingers). It also has Sup Yee San Sao (Twelve Separate Hands), and more the 150 Wooden Dummy techniques. These are the important points for training wrist power.

“Do you have a Wooden Dummy?”

“Yes, we have the Hong Jong (Air Dummy) and the Yut Jong (Real Dummy). I learned Wing Chun Kuen with sunken chest and dropping shoulders. The body shape faces the side.”

“You go to the side for simultaneous canceling and hitting?”

“Yes, but we have front body, facing body, chasing body, etc. For example, when I am at the center, I can follow the opponent with my stance like the radius of a fan.

“You said Air Dummy and Real Dummy before, what does that mean?”

“They are two methods of training the dummy form. One trains flexibility, the other power.”

Wing Chun Kuen Kicks Are Not Higher Than the Chest

“Kwok sifu, does Wing Chun Kuen have leg techniques?”

“Yes, but never higher then the chest, like Invisible Kick, Heart Piercing Kick, Tiger Tail Kick, Lifting Groin Kick, Side Nailing Kick, etc.

“And Weapons?”

“Wing Chun Kuen has Yee Jee Kim Yeung Dit Ming Do (Parallel Shaped Groin Clamping Life-Taking Knives) and Luk Dim Boon Gwun (Six-and-a-Half-Point Pole).

“I’ve heard the pole has a Dummy too?”

“The Six-and-a-Half-Point Pole has a Dummy, but since there is not a lot of space it’s easier to use a ball hanging from a string. The aim is to train speed and accuracy, there’s no secrets.”

“Kwok sifu, I saw you teach your students before and some of the movements did not look like Wing Chun Kuen.”

“Those were Gai Bun Gung (Basic Work). You have to train the whole body- joints, muscles, and tendons. It’s just basic work. Its goal is to build power, inner strength, speed, flexibility, and softness. In my opinion, when learning kung-fu, the basic work is the mother of the fists. I studied at the Guangzhou and Wuhon Sports Institutes where these exercises come from. They’re important so I never forgot them. In every activity, you need good basics, fist fighting is the same.”

Kwok Wan-Ping learned at the Guangzhou and Wuhon Sports Institutes for 4 years. He won the All-China lightweight wrestling championship during this time. At the institute, he studied Mongolian, freestyle, and Greco-Roman wrestling. He also learned weightlifting, fencing, and Chinese martial arts. Besides the Wing Chun Kuen of Yuen Kay-San and Cheung Bo he also learned Chen and Fu Taijiquan, Xingyi, Wuxing Bashi, Yin Yang Bagua, and Longxing Bagua palms, spear, knife, pole, flying dragon sword, etc.

Kwok Wan-Ping teaches Wing Chun Kuen, Taiji, Xingyi, Bagua and other methods.

With Kwok Wan-Ping, New Martial Hero. Roughly translated from Chinese


Northern Internal Pao Fa Lien Wing Chun

My style of Wing Chun is an internal system which came from the north. During the revolutions against the Manchurians, a monk, nicknamed Dai Dong Fung (Great East Wind), while trying to escape arrest, came to the south. In the area of Qingyuan, Guangdong, he was made a guest by bothers named Tse Gok-Leung & Tse Gok-Jeung. Of the two brothers, one was a literary mandarin while the other was a military mandarin. Even though they were working for the Manchurians, but since they were of the Han tribe, and seeing how their kinsmen were being mistreated, they had a hope that one day the Manchurians would be over thrown by the Hans. After a period of time, when the monk observed that these two brothers were decent people and not corrupted mandarins, and that they also treated him with honor and respect, he taught them Wing Chun. He also disclosed that all disciples of Wing Chun are revolutionists. Since this had been discovered by the Manchurian Court, so in order to hide identity, they broke down the two characters “Wing Chun” into a secret three lined poem. That is: “Wing Yin Chi Ji” (Always speak with determination), “Mo Mong Hong Juk” (Don’t forget the Han Nation), “Dai Day Wu Chun” (Spring will be back again).

The Tse Brothers adopted a son named Lao Dat-Sang and taught him Wing Chun from age 9. Later on Lao Dat-Sang moved to Foshan and worked as a treasurer at an establishment. He never openly taught martial arts, but little by little, his skills became known, and many people sought to be his disciples. He was very straight in choosing students, so he did not have too many disciples. When he was over 70 years of age, there was a young man named Chu Chong entered as his disciple because of Karma. He learned all the essences of Wing Chun from the meticulous instruction of Lao Dat-Sang. Later, Chu Chong along with his wife and kids moved to Sam Shui Po in Hong Kong where they opened an osteopathy clinic. Now it is many decades later, and Chu Chong is 101 years old. He still has great mobility and walks as if he is flying. However his son, Chu Wing-Ji, has taken over his medical practice. His kung-fu “brother”, Kok Gai, who still lives in Foshan, was the last disciple of Lao Dat-Sang. He’s over 80 years old and ceased to practice martial art for many years now.

Sigung Chu Chong spent many years in Hong Kong. Although he followed the way of Wing Chun, which is “only to pass down but don’t teach the art”, still he accepted many disciples. One of them is my deceased teacher Mok Pui-On. He first learned Weng (Always) Chun from Chu Chong-Man, a style passed down from Fung Siu-Ching. But later on he learned Wing (Praise) Chun from Sigung Chu Chong. From 1977 to 1978 I learned Wing Chun separately from Ho Kam-Ming and Yip Chun, which is the Wing Chun style passed down from Yip Man. [Hong Kong has Pao Fa Lin Wing Chun, Yip Man Wing Chun, Pin San (Side Body) Wing Chun, Yuen Kay-San Wing Chun; also known as Guangzhou Wing Chun, and Singapore and Malaysia also have the opera style of Wing Chun.] In 1979, I was fortunate enough to learn from my deceased teacher Mok Pui-On the Pao Fa Lin style of Wing Chun. In these 16 years, I also got a lot of tutors and instructions from my martial art “uncle” Chu Wing-Jee. Started in December of 1994, I began teaching openly for the first time my style at the Hong Kong Ching Wu athletic association. But since 1989, there were several occasions when foreigners had come from England and South Africa for the sole reason of studying the art.

Pao Fa Lien was so called because it was just the nickname of Lao Dat-Sun. When he was young he had a job to do Pao Fa (planing wood). These are plants which they boiled down the shavings to get the sap. This was used as a hair tonic in those days. The character Dat, when written in script form, looks a bit like the character Lien (Translator’s note: this is a feminine name). Therefore, the people at the time always mockingly called him “Little Lien”. After my deceased teacher had obtained permission from Sigung Chu Chong, he added this to the name of our style to distinguish it from other Wing Chun styles.

By Leo Man, Hong Kong Chin Woo Annual. Roughly translated from Chinese.


Shaolin [Pan Nam] Wing Chun

The true origins of Wing Chun are not very clear. It is said Yip Man altered the Wing Chun he originally learnt before passing it on to the world. What did it look like before? The author gives us a possible answer.

1989 was the year I returned to Mauritius (an island west of the Indian Ocean) to visit my parents and relatives. I was prepared for a relaxing and lazy holiday lounging on the golden beach of this tropical island paradise and unexpectedly all of this went out of the window. One afternoon when I visited my father’s shop, I noticed an advert in the Chinese newspaper that a certain person was recruiting students for a Wing Chun class. This came as a total surprise that Wing Chun had even infiltrated this remote part of the world. When my father read out the name of the instructor (Leung Tong Sing), I immediately realized that I had met him previously. A few years ago, as a Wu Shu instructor who recently came from China, not knowing then that he also knew the Wing Chun also. The only thing I knew about him was through my father-in-law who is a committee member of a Cantonese speaking organization which sponsored Mr. Leung from Fatshan, China, to teach Chinese Wu Shu on the island. Mr. Leung, a Wu Shu champion in the Fatshan area of the Guangzhou province of China, came highly recommended by the Chinese Wu Shu organization. A coincidence of passing interest, Port Louis, the capital of the island is twinned with Fatshan in China, the home of Wing Chun. When I first met him several years before, he was teaching Wu Shu which incorporated the monkey, drunkard and other styles. These were the jumping and flowery stuff which I was not very keen on.

Upon hearing of the advert, I immediately arranged a meeting with Mr. Leung to find out what he knew about Wing Chun. When I met him, I was totally surprised to see that the Wing Chun he practiced was not the same as the one I knew and was more surprised to learn that he had heard of Yip Man’s style of Wing Chun but he had never seen it. So mutual curiosity took the better of us and that was the beginning of lengthy and interesting conversations and training sessions. I had to kiss good-bye to the long hours I planned to lounge on the golden beach; given the chance, my wife might have had a few words to say about that.

Mr Leung’s Wing Chun teacher was Pang Lam [Pan Nam], an old master, still living in Fatshan, the legendary home of Wing Chun. This style of Wing Chun has had a separate development from that of Yip Man’s. In fact Pang Lam’s Wing Chun carried on its development in Fatshan and never left the area and it has retained many old characteristics which are similar to Shaolin Kung Fu confirming once again the Shaolin ancestry of the style. This style of Wing Chun is also known as “Shaolin Wing Chun” for its obvious ancestral connections. Yip Man, uprooted from Fatshan, continued his development in Hong Kong from where it spread to the rest of the world with a large contribution to the populanty of the style from the film star Bruce Lee, himself a former student of Yip Man.

Both Yip Man and Pang Lam shared the same lineage up to Chan Wah Shun’s generation. Yip Man, as a young man, first studied under Chan Wah Shun, then under Ng Chung So, a senior student of Chan, after the latter’s death. He later completed his studies with Leung Bik, the son of Leung Jan. Pang Lam also had three teachers but took a somewhat different root. His first teacher was Chui Chau who was a student of Chan Yu Min, the son of Chan Wah Shun. His second teacher was Lai Yip Chi another student of Chan Wah Shun and classmate to both Ng Chung So (the second teacher of Yip Man) and Yip Man himself. His third teacher was Dai Fa Min Kam, a very old man by then, who belonged to a generation previous to Leung Jan’s and was classmate to Wong Wah Bo and Leung Yee Tei. If all this sounds complicated, just imagine that you have to trace back your ancestors for the previous two centuries without much written records; it won’t be easy.

The question is therefore, why trace back the history of Wing Chun? There is a Chinese saying which goes, “Always remember the source of where you drink the water from”. Indeed you may know when you might want to drink from it again. Tracing back is not just a sentimental or academic exercise, we can still learn from the past, not only to understand the present but also to build for the future. Indeed we have a unique opportunity to look as to how Wing Chun could have looked like in the past from what Pang Lam has preserved. The style is different and sometimes off putting to those who have trained for many years in Yip Man’s method. I personally have been practicing Yip Man’s Wing Chun for about fifteen years and Pan Lam’s Wing Chun for four years; I can appreciate how the two complement each other. One is fast and dynamic, the other is slow, well focused and subtle. It might not be a good idea for a beginner to learn both, this will only create confusion. To the advanced students of Yip Man’s style, if they put aside their ego’s and vested interest and look deeper into Pang Lam’s style they will gain a deeper understanding and go into the heart of the Wing Chun system. To learn something which is opposite to our beliefs is very difficult and the only way to progress is to keep an open mind as this little story illustrates:

In olden China a well renowned scholar went to a master asking to the educated in spiritual matters. The master poured tea into the scholar’s cup and kept pouring even though the cup was overflowing. The scholar was taken aback and told the master that the cup was overflowing. The master replied, “Your mind is like this cup, full and overflowing with vour own ideas and if I teach you now, that’s what will happen (pointing to the overflowing tea). So if you want to study with me, then empty your cup (mind) so that it can receive what is being poured”.

The lesson here is to keep an open mind, don’t be judgemental until you have learnt enough to enable you to assess what you have or have not gained. Discovering Pang Lam’s Wing Chun for me was like finding a long lost love which mades me feel whole again. I feel I have merged the past with the present and can confidently look to the future because of my better understanding which filled many gaps and cleared the many unanswered questions I had about the system.

How do the two systems differ? This will be the first question that a Wing Chun practitioner is likely to ask and I can probably answer this question better by looking at the similarities first. If someone looks at Pang Lam’s forms, they obviously look different to Yip Man’s. But when you look deeper, the similarities with Yip Man’s forms are self-evident; thc ovements, techniques and emphasis may, differ visually but the principles and concepts are similar. It’s like two pilgrims setting off on different roads to reach the same destination. The basic techniques like Tan Sau, Bong Sau, Jum Sau. Kan Sau etc. are the same. Pang Lam’s Wing Chun like that of Yip Man’s have three hands forms: Sui Nim Tao, Chum Ku and Bui Chee. There is also the wooden dummy, the pole and butterfly knives techniques.

The movements in Pang Lam’s forms are more rounded, flowing, subtle, more internally focused and less ’snappy’ than those of Yip Man’s. The forms are performed at a relatively slow pace, more like Taiji but marginally quicker and stronger and this is probably why Pang Lam’s forms seem to be longer. Pang Lam’s emphasis is more on the physiological and Qi development in contrast to Yip Man’s emphasis on speed and simplicity of movements. Pang Lam has also retained the “artistic” aspects more than Yip Man who emphasized on the practicality of the movements for fighting. If we may venture into the realm of speculation, it may be possible that to better fit his character. Yip Man has removed certain movements which he felt superfluous. Maybe Pang Lam’s style is closer to the originator of the system? Who knows?

On the technical level, here are sonic examples how Shaolin Wing Chun differs to that of Yip Man’s. In Siu Nim Tao, the Horse Stance, instead of being ‘pigeon toe’ the feet are parallel like in Shaolin Kung Fu. The Bong Sau, the angle between the forearm and the upper arm is closed and the elbow is ninety degrees to the centreline which makes it resemble an elbow strike. The fists are kept to the sides ~’itli the knuckles in a vertical line. The Gum Sau is performed to the front as well as to the sides. In Chum Kiu. the moving stances are wide and deep and the manner in which the stepping is done is completely different to Yip Man’s sliding stance. In Bui Chee, the pressing down elbow movement (Kup Jam) is performed by bending the torso forward. The upward chop to the side (Man Sau) is replaced by finger jabs to the sides. The wooden dummy form includes grabbing techniques, finger and claw strikes to the nerve points. The wooden dummy arms are not fixed to the main body but can slide in and out for arm pulling/pushing techniques. The six and I half point pole techniques are performed with the arms fullv stretched with short snappy movements reminiscent of the one inch punch; whereas Yip Man’s pole techniques usually comprise of larger circles. The butterfly knife techniques comprise of slashing in four directions against multiple opponents, simultaneous slashing in two different directions, left and right, front and back, are very common. Whereas Yip Man’s techniques are usually in one direction at a time. These are by no means the only visual differences but only a few examples.

As far as auxiliary exercises are concerned, more emphasis is placed on grabbing techniques, stance stability, rooting training, waist and leg strengthening. The Chi Sau resembles more the pushing hands of Taiji Quan and the grabbing techniques (if Chin-Na than Yip Man’s dvnamic Poon Sau. In addition to arm and leg sensitivity training, Pang Lam has additional drills to develop body sensitivity, to deal with an opponent’s force when there is body to body contact.

For me, the simplicity and dynamism of Yip Man’s Wing Chun mixed with the strong, subtle and artistic aspects of Pang Lam’s Wing Chun are complementary to each other, like the left hand helping the right. Which method is better you may ask? My answer is, it does not matter whether your left hand is stronger or right hand is stronger, its making them work together which is more important.


Enter the Wing Chun Time Machine

The following is presented in the interest of preserving and promoting the history and practice of Wing Chun Kung Fu. The information contained in this article was obtained from a recognized Master of the art and is in no way intended to offend anyone or to disparage any organization or in any way to demean the history and practice of Wing Chun as it is taught by the disciples of Yip Man. It is recommended that, before conclusions are drawn, both Part I and Part II should be carefully read and even reread because most answers are contained in the text.

WHO REALLY ORIGINATED and developed Wing Chun? Exactly which martial arts did its originator draw upon when formulating Wing Chun? Since it is supposed to have originated in the Shaolin Temple, did any internal arts influence its development?

The information which follows addresses these intriguing questions, and is derived from a small book commissioned by Master Pan Nam, from information told to Sifu Eddie Chong by Pan Nam, and from the observations and opinions of the author. Wing Chun’s unusual approach to empty hand fighting has generated much speculation regarding its origin and practice. Some have tried to draw parallels with the techniques of other fighting arts, speculating that in the past there may have been some cross-influence. Due to the lack of information, these and other questions have remained unanswered. The fact that the history and practice of Wing Chun has literally come down to us from one individual, Yip Man, has in itself caused speculation, debate, animosity, and on occasion, even violence.

Anyone who has been fascinated with Wing Chun, studied its “family tree” and read or heard its history, knows about the legendary figures who developed and refined this amazingly effective fighting art. As the accompanying chart “A” indicates,some of the notables are the Buddhist nun Ng Mui, Ng’s student Yim Wing Chun who taught her husband, Leung Bok Chau, who taught Leung Lan Kwai, who taught both Wong Wah Bo and Leung Yee Tei each of whom taught the great Dr. Leung Jan who became known as “King of the Boxers” because he defeated all challengers. Leung Jan taught, among others, his son Leung Bik and Chan Wah Shun, who each taught the world renown Yip Man, the undisputed Grandmaster of the Wing Chun system generally known outside of China today (often referred to as “Hong Kong Style” to distinguish it from several others).

While training for the past half dozen years, this author has often contemplated what those individuals must have been like both as people and as martial artists. Unfortunately, except for just a handful of stories, there are few details regarding the lives of the early practitioners or regarding the development of this unusual fighting art.

One cannot look at the chart hanging in the Sacramento Wing Chun school for very long (reproduced in part as “Chart A”) without wondering what it would be like to travel to China and find the descendants of the “others” referenced as having been students of Leung Jan or to find students descending from other unrecorded “branches” of the Wing Chun family tree. How fascinating it would be to see how their Wing Chun compares to that known to us here in the West and to hear the history they have preserved.

Sacramento based Wing Chun instructor Eddie Chong has done just that. Sifu Chong (who taught in San Francisco from 1972 to 1990, has two schools in Sacramento, one since 1981, and currently has affiliated schools in thirteen American cities and one each in Singapore and Germany) has recently returned from a lengthy trip to Fatshan, China where he traced the “roots” of his martial art to Wing Chun Master Pan Nam. Master Pan is very well known in the regions around Fatshan by the nickname “Blackface Nam” due to a large birth mark on his right cheek. (Author’s note: Fatshan or “Fat Shan” is Cantonese. On many maps the City, about 20 miles Southwest of Canton, is referenced by its Mandarin spelling, “Foshan” or “Fushan”.)

From the age of thirteen until he was about 30, Pan Nam was a practitioner of Sil Lum Kung Fu. He then changed to the Wing Chun System which he has been practicing and teaching now for over fifty years.

Pan Nam’s first Wing Chun instructors was Chiu Chau who learned from Chan Wah Shun’s son and Yip Man’s classmate, Chan Yu Mint. Pan Nam’s second teacher was Lai Yip Chi, who was another of Yip Man’s classmates under instructor Chan Wah Shun (in fact, Lai was Chan’s live-in apprentice). When Chan became an invalid as the result of a stroke, Lai Yip Chi continued training for a time under senior classmate Lui Yu Chai, while Yip Man followed Ng Chun So. Subsequently, Lai Yip Chi apprenticed to teachers whose lineage goes back to the founder of Wing Chun on a branch of the family tree about which most practitioners are totally unfamiliar.

The Shaolin Temple monk, Yi Chum, is said by Pan Nam to be the true founder of Wing Chun. Yi Chum taught Tan Sau Ng who taught Dai Fa Min Kam, Wong Wah Bo and Leung Yee Tei (Leung Jan’s teachers). “Dai Fa Min” is a nickname meaning “painted face” and refers to the makeup he wore as an actor. “Kam” is all of his true name that has survived. Painted Face Kam taught Lok Lan Koon and his nephew who taught Pan Nam’s teacher Lia Yip Chi.

This branch of the Wing Chun family tree has not only preserved a different, possibly older, form of Wing Chun but has preserved the chi gung exercises that Master Pan says have been a part of the Wing Chun System from its inception. When Sifu Chong learned that there still lived a Wing Chun practitioner who had preserved this older form of the art, he fairly jumped at the opportunity to meet and become his student.

Prior to meeting Master Pan, Sifu Chong’s dedication to his art brought him to the realization that something was lacking. While it is obvious that, at the highest levels, the proper execution of Wing Chun involves characteristics that fit the definitions used by internal stylist to describe that which makes their systems “internal,” there existed a missing “connection” with regard to history, theory, and, to a large degree, technique.

In the West, Sifu Chong observed that the fighting art taught at many Wing Chun schools varied, sometimes dramatically. Although a highly effective martial art, he recognized that the system had been modified, and therefore resolved to trace back and find as original a form of Wing Chun as possible. Obviously, the closer he could get to the system’s founder, the more pure the art would be. Eddie Chong realized the possibility existed that a practitioner might still be living who had been trained by one of the early masters. With China now open to travel, Sifu Chong decided to seek him out.

On a trip to his Singapore school, Sifu Chong took an excursion to Fatshan, the traditional home of Wing Chun. While in Fatshan, his inquires regarding local Wing Chun instructors brought information about 81 year old Master Pan Nam, the last known disciple on Painted Face Kam’s branch of the family tree. Sifu Chong learned that Pan Nam had ceased teaching in 1990 and had, in fact, “closed the door” to his gymnasium. Unknown to Sifu Chong, Master Pan had delayed officially retiring (involving certain formal rituals) because he had a premonition that someone, his final student, was coming.

There are great changes occurring in China today, everyone is busy trying to make money, and sadly, interest in the martial arts has declined. Because of this, Pan Nam had nobody outside of Fatshan he felt could or would perpetuate the art entrusted to him by his teachers, an art which, while a young man, he had gone to great lengths to trace back to Painted Face Kam’s version of the art, and which he has spent 50 years perfecting. And so Pan Nam waited for the last student to whom he intended to give his knowledge.

When they finally met, Master Pan recognized Eddie Chong’s desire and sincerity, and accepted him as his final student and, eventually, as the heir (outside China) to the original Sil Lum (Shaolin) Wing Chun system of his teachers. Sifu Chong told Master Pan that, in order to promote a better understanding of this very popular fighting system, he wanted to let the people in the United States see the difference between the Wing Chun they had been practicing and the original Sil Lum Wing Chun system preserved by Master Pan.

Mr. Chong went through the traditional Chinese ceremony of kneeling and giving a cup of tea to the old Master, asking to be accepted as his disciple (see photo above). This was followed by a special meal. Afterwards, Master Pan took out his family tree and entered Eddie Chong’s name as his closed-door student, the last he would accept.

Having fulfilled his desire to train a successor, Master Pan Nam officially hung out the scrolls that proclaimed his retirement when Eddie Chong left Fatshan in late Spring of 1992. Sifu Chong has returned to visit Pan Nam every year since.

This article will discuss the fighting art of Wing Chun as it has been preserved by Master Pan Nam, and now by his designated heir, Sifu Eddie Chong.

Motive is everything

For those who may be wondering, Pan Nam has not been in hiding. Many well known Wing Chun instructors came from Hong Kong and the West to see Master Pan in Fatshan but, apparently, none were prepared to “empty their cup.” They listened to the history and saw the art preserved by Pan Nam and, for one reason or another, decided not to accept this knowledge (some of these visitors borrowed and never returned irreplaceable books depicting the historical and technical aspects of Wing Chun). It is unknown whether they were merely comfortable with their own system or too proud to acknowledge the possibility that, just as there are different styles of Tai Chi, White Crane, etc, there exists another style of Wing Chun which has preserved a somewhat different practice and history.

Being comfortable with one’s martial art is understandable and will not cause malicious contention. However, the unfortunate nature of ego is often to favor the protection of vested interests, and to reject anything that does not conform by attacking dissenters and by “playing politics.”

Sifu Chong sincerely hopes that his efforts to preserve this significant part of Wing Chun history and practice does not meet with such animosity. He hopes that the information presented here and in subsequent articles and books will be met, if not with acceptance, at least with the open mindedness and tolerance befitting mature martial artists. After all, this isn’t a religious discussion.

The conflict between the stories of the origins of Wing Chun and between the theories and techniques of the various Wing Chun systems is not really a problem when understood and considered objectively. Though at first glance some of the differences are dramatic, each system in fact complements the other, and knowledge of the theories and techniques of the Wing Chun taught by Master Pan can only improve one’s martial skills. Understanding the differences and the reasons for any changes that have occurred gives us our only glimpse into the martial minds of the early masters, a type of “martial arts time machine,” if you will.

Certainly, the history Pan Nam has preserved fills in many gaps and explains much. Even the renown Dr. Leung Ting expresses doubts about the traditional story of Wing Chun’s origin (sometimes spelled “Wing Tsun” or “Ving Tsun”):

“I have some doubt about the authenticity of Buddhist Mistress Ng Mui’s creating the Wing Tsun System after seeing a fight between a fox and a crane, of Miss Yim Wing Tsun’s encountering the local bully, of the fire at the Siu Larn Monastery or even of the existence of Ng Mui herself! *** Of course, the final decision on their authenticity still rest with the reader.” From WING TSUN KUEN, eighth edition (1986), pages 30-31, by Leung Ting. (note: others record the legend of the fight observed by Ng Mui as being between a fox and a snake).

Similar opinions regarding the story of Ng Mui and Yim Wing Chun are expressed in an article entitled “Researching the Origins of Ving Tsun” by Yip Man’s son, Ip (Yip) Chun, that appeared in the recently published GENEALOGY OF THE VING TSUN FAMILY, 1990, pages 27-29, edited by Leung Ting, and published by the Hong Kong Ving Tsun Athletic Association Ltd. On page 28 of that article, Ip (Yip) Chun reports having visited Pan Nam in Fatshan, and that Master Pan credits Tan Sau Ng as bringing Wing Chun to Fatshan “from the North” (”Tan Sau” is a nickname meaning “palm up,” and refers to a particular technique unique to Wing Chun). On page 29, Ip (Yip) Chun also notes that Painted Face Kam was a contemporary of Wong Wah Bo and Leung Yee Tei.
On page 28 and 29 of his article, Ip (Yip) Chun reports independent substantiation in two books of the historical existence of Tan Sau Ng and of his martial skills. First, from A STUDY ON THE HISTORY OF THE CANTONESE OPERAS, by Mak Siu Har:

“In the years of Yung Cheng (Manchu emperor, 1723-1736), Cheung Ng of Wu Pak, also known as Tan-Sau Ng, brought his skills to Fat Shan and organized the Hung Fa Wui Koon (now the Chinese Artist Association)”; (author’s note: Hung Fa Wui Koon is literally, “[Red Flower Union]“).

And from the same book:

“Besides being very accomplished in Chinese opera, Cheung Ng was especially proficient in martial arts. His one Tan-Sau was peerless throughout the martial arts world.”

And, secondly, from A HISTORY OF CHINESE OPERA, by Mang Yiu, Vol. III, page 631:

“For some reason, Cheung Ng could not stay on in the capital, so he fled and took refuge in Fat Shan. This was during the reign of Yung Cheng. This man, nicknamed Tan-Sau Ng, was a character “unsurpassed in literary and military skills, and excellent in music and drama.” He was especially proficient in the techniques of Siu Lam. After settling down in Fat Shan, he passed on his knowledge in traditional opera and martial arts to the Hung Suen (Red Boat) followers, and established the Hung Fa Wui Koon in Fat Shan. Today, Cantonese opera groups revere him as Jo-Si (Founding Master), and refer to him as Master Cheung.”

It is highly probable that Tan Sau Ng had to flee the capitol because of his revolutionary activities. Also, note that the reference to “Siu Lam” (Sil Lum or Shaolin kung fu) and not to Wing Chun is probably because, as will be explained, the system did not receive its name until sometime after Tan Sau Ng.

What conclusion did Yip Man’s son, Ip (Yip) Chun, draw from this astounding information? From “Researching the Origins of Ving Tsun,” page 28 of the GENEALOGY OF THE VING TSUN FAMILY, 1990: “Comparing the legend of Yim Ving Tsun with the information on Tan-Sau Ng, I consider the latter more acceptable in our examination of Ving Tsun’s origins.”

Even though there are some differences and inconsistencies (especially regarding dates), if Sifu Chong’s introduction of this information is objectively considered by each of the contending factions of the Wing Chun community, perhaps the individuals involved will reconsider any animosity felt and be drawn closer in the realization that each system’s history and practice is a legitimate part of Wing Chun tradition.

As for the story of exactly who originated Wing Chun, Yi Chum the nun and her disciple Tan Sau Ng, or Ng Mui the nun and her disciple Yim Wing Chun, Dr. Ting’s advise is sound: let the reader consider each version with an open mind, and then decide which makes more sense. Actually, no decision is really necessary. Whatever its origin, both histories are a part of the art’s tradition, and both tell us important things about the old masters and the forces that shaped Wing Chun. Personally, this author likes the story of Ng Mui and of her first student, Miss Yim Wing Chun. At the very least, it is very romantic. However, intellectual honesty demands open-mindedness, and an objective review of the details of the history Pan Nam has preserved and of the independent corroboration of that history discovered by Ip (Yip) Chun cannot permit an out-of-hand dismissal of this information.

Perhaps the examples set by Sifu Ip (Yip) Chun and Sifu Eddie Chong will be followed by others, and further efforts can be made to trace this fascinating history so that the Wing Chun community can better know its illustrious founders and the fighting art to which they were dedicated.

Critical to the following discussion of the two systems are these facts:

  1. Pan Nam’s association with instructor Chiu Chau gives him intimate knowledge of the system of Wing Chun taught to Yip Man by Chan Wah Shun (Master Pan refers to this as “fast hands” Wing Chun)
  2. Pan Nam’s association with Lai Yip Chi gives him not only intimate knowledge of the earlier version of Wing Chun as it was practiced by the opera actors (Painted Face Kam, Wong Wah Bo, Leung Yi Tei, and Lai Fook Shun) of the Eight Harmony Union, but because of his own and Lai’s knowledge of “fast hands” Wing Chun, he has a solid basis for comparing the two.

Therefore, Pan Nam has the rare qualification to authoritatively comment on the Wing Chun practiced by both branches of the family tree. In Pan Nam, and now in Eddie Chong, this knowledge is perpetuated, and a better understanding of the differences between the two histories and between the fighting theories and techniques of these two great systems of Wing Chun is now possible for the first time outside of China.

By Michael Nedderman, Inside Kung-Fu


Beginning of Modern-Day Wing Chun

Most of the information surrounding the life of the grandmaster Yip Man revolves around anecdotes. But by dealing wither his approach to teaching we also can gain excellent insight into wing chun’s greatest modern-day teacher. Through this introspection we will be able to answer many of the question students have about Yip Man.

Yip Man’s Beginnings

The China of the early 1900s was an empire on the verge of collapse. Most of the Western powers had carved spheres of influence out of the country’s sovereignty. Yip Man was born in Futsan in 1895. He was 5 years old at the time of the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 and 16 when the Ching dynasty crumbled and Sun Yat-sen’s Republic was proclaimed. His family had money and he was raised in the fashion befitting a child of wealth – educated, but sheltered as much as possible from the turmoil in the country. When he was 14. Yip Man started wing chun training with Chan Wah Sun, his first sifu. After approximately one year, master Chan died and Yip Man continued his studies with Chan’s senior student, Ng Chang-so.

Leaving home to attend high school in Hong Kong, by then an established British colony. Yip Man continued his wing chun education with Leung Bik. After graduation he returned to the Mainland, and worked in his family’s business. He was not teaching at the time.

Yip Man lived through the Kuomintang’s revolution warlord period of the 1920s, the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, and the upheaval of World War II. When, in 1949, the Communists succeeded in consolidating their hold on the Country, Yip Man, now 55, was forced to leave his possessions and wealth. He escaped with his family to Hong Kong.

Yip Man turned to teaching to survive. He had several schools. His first location was at The Hong Kong Kowloon Restaurant Union. This lasted only a short time. Next he moved to Li Dai Strect (1953-54) and then to the Government Resettlement Area (1955). The average size of his school was 350-to-400 square feet, which doubled as a living space for his family. In essence, his was a school within a school within a school. The daily classes held from 2-4 p.m. and from 4-6 p.m. were open and informal. Anyone who paid could train. Information was passed on by the senior students, but for the most part you either trained by yourself or with a few friends. The high number of people passing through during these hours made it impossible to know everyone who was training. Bruce Lee and I didn’t realize we were training with Yip Man until Bruce transferred into my class at St. Xavier Junior High School. Having Yip Man in common. we started spending most of our time together.

At these open sessions. Yip Man barely paid attention. Most of the time he was watching what was happening Out in the street, while his senior students did the teaching. He did, however, know what was going on, although he was generally unconcerned with the progress of the public group.

The Old Man’s Students

Before continuing with the story, let me explain the three basic student groups that formed much of what has been taught since Yip Man’s death. The first group was predominantly people who had studied other martial arts styles. The most notable of these were Leung Sheung, Lok Yiu and Tsui Sheung Tin. They were older than us and their approach was more traditional, and perhaps more intellectual because of their maturity.

The second group was made up of myself, Bruce Lee and other teenage school kids. We wanted to learn how to fight. We were the fighters and partly through our victorious efforts in the street, wing chun began to get a good reputation as an effective fighting method. I make this distinction because other martial artists looked down their noses at us, claiming we were all brawl and no art. We didn’t give a damn. We wanted the techniques as fast as possible so we could fight. Just like other teer-agers, we wanted to show off our skill and courage.

The third group was comprised mostly of individuals or small, groups studying privately. Most in this section were professionals for whom wing chun was a hobby. It is believed there are people, unknown to us, who trained privately with the old man and are probably excellent fighters.

One should also remember Yip Man started teaching at the approximately age of 56. By 1954-55 he was 60 and by 1965 he was 70. Obviously, as he became older he was forced to change his teaching approach either because experience had shown him better ways to get his points across or because physically he had to adapt to his physical limitations. Also remember that each of his students was different. I was 5-foot-1 and weighed 98 pounds. Bruce was 40 pounds heavier and William Cheung was even bigger. Our needs were different.

Our training went like this. Each day after school we would go to the roof of the Rose Hotel for a couple of hours of sticky hands practice. Next door to the hotel was the gym where Bruce began weight training and several days a week he would go there after a session on the roof.

However, three or four times a week we would head for Yip Man’s after our rooftop session, where we would do regular, informal training. The training regime allowed us to work out with many different people, each of whom had a unique way of doing things. This gave us the experience to adapt to different situation and different feels. We would train with seniors, union workers and juniors.

During this time I never saw Yip Man stick hands with anyone in the school. He was so busy watching what was happening in the street, or telling jokes. It took me a long time to realize how the improving students were getting their information. Finally, I asked Bruce and learned that after 6 p.m., Yip Man taught private groups by appointment. The name of the game was money and for school kids in Hong Kong like us, the amounts he charged were considered a fortune. However, I teamed with Bruce and several others. We pooled our money and trained privately.

These private groups were small and usually composed of students, lawyers, policemen or businessmen. Usually one or two senior students would accompany Yip Man and take the bulk of the physical training. Yip Man would watch and coach. Again, he never stuck hands with anybody at these sessions. Occasionally, he would show a few moves to illustrate his points or he might satirize a student’s inability to perform by exaggerating the student’s technique. This was done partly to help the student, but also to have a good laugh. What I want to share at this point is that Yip Man Wasn’t into the “sifu image” you see in the movies. He was a friend, a coach. He had a sense of humor and a sense of fun. Our respect for him was like one friend to another. That is not to say that he didn’t have a serious side. If you lost a fight or had a problem, he became very serious.

His Teaching Method

I went with him to many of the different groups, both as a senior instructor or a friend to keep him company. Each group was taught differently. Business or professional people treated wing chun as a hobby or sport. So, he concentrated more on theory and sticking-hands training. Our group wanted to fight, so he concentrated on entry techniques, closing the gap and combination.

Furthermore, he adjusted his methods to the student’s character, natural ability, size, coordination and need. For example, if someone couldn’t get the swivel (e.g.. keeping both heels planted and shifting the front of the feet simultaneously to the right or the left. while the upper body shifts). he had the person step and turn. This became two-count instead of one-count technique, but it allowed the student to do the job.

The student gained something, but he also lost something, By stepping, you lose the inside game because the timing is stretched and the body is moving away from the opponent. However, if the student felt comfortable and natural, and honed the technique, the compromise became minimal because of the increase in the student’s ability to perform the maneuver. This meant that each person learned something different, because each had a different level of ability. Then, a person worked on the techniques he liked, and made them his own. Even though everyone is different, everyone is right.

To better illustrate this point, let’s look at lap sau. Lap sau changes relative to the size of the person performing the technique and the job he wishes to accomplish in various situations. One is strictly defensive. Another is strictly offensive. The size and shape of the opponent dictates usage. You might decide to smash your opponent’s forearm while pulling him off balance, or you may decide to set up a flow so a heavy second punch can he landed. The choice is yours.

When I returned to Hong Kong after attending a university in Australia, I trained privately under Yip Man. By then, he was 70 and primarily offering private training to older students. I had trained with him as an adolescent, and now I was training with him as an adult. We had a certain affinity that was built on being the same size and of similar character. Most of this later training was control technique and theory.

To capsulize the theory of the system, as it was imparted to me by Yip Man, the essence of wing chun is to get the mind and body working at speed to process the information of a given situation in microseconds and then perform the correct maneuver with the best possible coordination and timing. Within this is the ability to read your opponent before he acts or to trick him into acting. This is the control level of wing chun, which requires a great deal of experience. It was the ultimate game Yip Man played toward the end of his life.

There are many stories, rumors and anecdotes about Bruce and Yip Man. I am not about to go into which are true. But there are three which for me are the most important; they show Yip Man’s character, Bruce’s humanity. and the relationship between the old man and his prized pupil.

A Student Named Chou

During our high school days, Yip Man had another student named Choy. He was the son of a restaurant owner. Bruce and Choy just didn’t get along. They couldn’t stand each other, and each wondered if he could best the other if it came down to a fight. Choy went to Yip Man and asked if he could beat Bruce. Yip Man showed him a technique and said now he could beat Bruce. Bruce also went to Yip Man with the same question. Again, Yip Man showed Bruce a technique and said now he could beat Choy. The joke was that each thought he could beat the other and proving it didn’t matter because sifu had told each he was better. When Yip Man told me the story, he laughed and said, “What else could I do? They’re both my students. They both respect me. They both have the wing chun attitude. I have to satisfy both and keep the peace between my students.”

Bruce Wanted to Quit

When those of us in the second group were growing up, we would challenge any style. This gave us a great deal of experience in dealing with many different opponents. Choy Li Fut practitioners became our foremost enemies because their long-range style was opposite our short-range style. In the mid-1950s, wing chun’s high reputation was very much because of our efforts in the street. The rules for these fights were simple. Each side would provide a referee. The fights lasted two rounds. In the first round, one opponent would attack first. In the second round, the other opponent would attack first.

Bruce Lee’s first fight took place on a rooftop in Kowloon City, against a Choy Lee Fut practitioner, it was the second fight of a two-fight afternoon. The opponent was first to attack. His attack was violent, with a wild flow of techniques. Bruce handled the situation as best he could. He got in a few punches, defended himself, and absorbed quite a few blows. At the end of the first round, Bruce was scared and wanted to quit. We had already lost the first fight thanks to our fighter’s inexperience. We told Bruce the worst was over because he had survived the first round. We told him to go for his face as soon as possible. His fear and excitement became focused and he moved in. He broke the guy’s jaw and won the fight. Often, in his letters to me from the U.S. he would relate how good the wing chun served him arid how he was still practicing. Regardless of what he went on to achieve, I still think this first fight was one of the turning points in his life.

His Fued with Yip Man

In 1964, Bruce came back to Hong Kong for his father’s funeral. When he visited Yip Man, he asked him for permission to film him doing the dummy techniques. Yip Man refused, although Bruce was one of his favorites, he was not his senior student. If he let Bruce film him, he would have to let all his seniors film him. Later in his visit, Bruce did a television demonstration and referred only to his “gung fu.” To me, this was the first indication of Bruce’s departure from wing chun.

This turn of events is consistent with Yip Man’s way of teaching. The style was only the raw material; the system was the means by which the material was made to work. The forms of sil lim tao, chum kil, and, bil jee create a dictionary or shop manual of the basic material and its application. Usage is dependent on size, coordination, timing and situation. When two opponents meet and the fight is hand-to-hand, the larger person wins. When a physical challenge is met with, for example, superior timing, control techniques, or trapping (the opponent’s mind as well as hands), the physical will usually be contained This doesn’t mean you should not train for a physical game. It just means the more games you can play, and the more games you can recognize being played, the more often the odds are in your favor.

Using a straight lap sau on a big man will produce little success. In this situation, the timing of the lap sau and the use of a smashing lap sau instead of a rolling one, will give the smaller man a chance to use lap sau and follow through with his attack.

A Wing Chun Recipe

Yip Man tried to get each of his students to make the system his own. Consider if you will that all the moves found in wing chun are raw foods – eggs, flour, water, carrots. Onions, beef, or fish, for, example. The theory is what helps you cook the raw food, changing it into a meal. Your level of mastery of the style is that when confronted by your opponent (the guest), you have to cook a meal (fight). You choose those ingredients which are necessary (techniques) to the situation, and you cook and serve them (timing, control. experience). If you serve up a good meal and deliver it in the fastest conceivable time, you have a proficiency in this type of meal for this type of guest. This may not he the right meal for your next guest. You have to serve something else. This comes from experience and is a guide to your level of fighting. Furthermore, given the same materials, different cooks and different guests, every meal will be different even if called by the same name. One person’s usage will differ from another’s because each person is different and each sees things in different ways.

Yip Man’s Death

This rift between Bruce and Yip Man continued until 1971 when Bruce visited Yip Man. They got along well. In 1972, Yip Man died of throat cancer. Everyone wondered if Bruce, now a world-recognized film star, would attend the funeral. Rumors circulated that Bruce had betrayed the old man by leaving wing chun. However, Bruce’s respect and loyalty never strayed. He attended Yip Man’s funeral and paid homage to his teacher. Six months later, Bruce Lee died.


History of the Red Boat Opera

At the beginning of Qing Dynasty, the opera activities in Foshan were very popular. With the elements of Cantonese music, folk song melodies, performing and singing in Cantonese, integration of south school of wushu, and musical instruments like gongs, drums and flutes etc, it has become a local opera with popular style, featured with vividness, popularization in language, specialty in tunes and novelty in actions. The Cantonese Opera Teams always took red boat as traffic vehicle for circular performance, thus the performers of Cantonese Opera were also called “Red Boat Folks”.

According to records, in Foshan there once appeared over 30 opera performance centers. In Qing Dynasty, a poem described: “Prosperous is opera performance, with red boats berthing along beach in the evening. Especially in Tiankuang Festival each year, thousands of audiences come to watch Qionghua.” It shows the popularity of Cantonese Opera performance activities.

In 1854, Fenghuangyi Cantonese Opera performer Li Wenmao and Chen Kaihe, the leader of Guangdong Tiandi Assembly, rose up in Guangzhou, changing the members of several thousand red boats into soldiers, wearing opera costumes and red muffle, called “Red Muffle Army”. The insurrectionary soldiers fought with Cantonese Opera vaulting skills. After capturing Foshan Town, they set Qionghua Guild Hall as headquarter. The insurrection of Cantonese Opera performers led by Li Wenmao is an unprecedented event in the world history of opera.

After defeat of the insurrection, the Cantonese Opera was once prohibited. The performers were scattered to the street or the villages to perform for living, under constant pressure from the officials. Liu Huadong, a Nanhai native, educated the Cantonese Opera performers to perform in the name of “Beijing Opera” in order to dodge persecution by the Qing Dynasty.


Lee Man-Mao (Li Wenmao) of the Red Boat Opera

Li Wenmao was an actor of Guangdong opera at the end of Daoguan and beginning of Xianfeng of Qing Dyansty, who was physically robust, with voice like large bell, skilled at sword etc. He regarded low the fortune and high the personal loyalty, full of knightly spirit and anti-oppression thoughts.

In 1853, after Taiping Army captured Nanjing, Hong Qiuquan accepted the recommendation of the inferior officer Luo Dagang and sent emissary to Guangdong for looking for the leaders of anti-Qing organizations so as to plot armed force for south-north cooperation to overthrow Qing Dynasty. The emissary first found Li Wenmao in the Qionghuaguan at Dajiwe, Foshan, and then contacted the leaders of Guangdong Tiandi Association Chen Kai and Chen Jingang before plotting uprise. In July 1854, they started to upsrise at Damaogang, Foshan, with Chen Kai as the Generalissimo, Li Wenmao as the Vice Generalissimo, Kuang Neng (Monk Neng) as the Military Counsellor, Feng Gun and Feng Man etc as the generals. They soon captured Foshan Town. Chen Kai called himself “Daning”. At that time, the operas were resisting opera taxes and beat the tax officers, so the Red Boat disciples and the city poor people ran after them. So Li Wenmao organized three Troops with the valiant opera disciples, respectively “Wehu Army”, “Menghu Army” and “Feihu Army”. He himself and the other general officers wore the opera clothes. Later as the insurrectionists increased radically, the opea clothes fell short. So they used the red kerchief instead of the helmets, hence they were called Red Kerchief Army. They used their opera Kung Fu of vaults and jumps in attacking the enemy cities. The Qing soldiers were frustrated and escaped. At the beginning of Wemei Uprise, they had only several thousand of soldiers, and soon they grew to tens of thousand soldiers. After several weeks, they had conquered tens of prefectures and couties. Even the Qing Dynasty ruling class had to admit “they were remarkable in fighting”.

From summer of 1854 to spring of 1855, the Uprise Army occupied Foshan for half year. About one million peasants responded to the insurrection and occupied fourteen prefectures and counties around Guangzhou. Li Wenmao and Chen Kai besieged Guangzhou City. They advanced the slogans of “capture dragon”(Shilong), “catch tiger”(Humen), “kill goat”(Guangzhou was also called Five-Goat City), “visit Buddist”(Foshan), “go to west” (to establish base area in Guangxi Province). However, as the British imperisalists helped a tyrant to do evil, shipping foodstuff, munition and troops to Liangguang Viceroy Ye Mingchen, the Uprise Army failed to capture Foshan after fighting for half year. So they gave up Foshan, and turned to attack Guangxi from Zaoqing. Under the help of the uprise army of the minorities in Guangxi, they captured Xuzhou Prefecture (now Guiping County), and established Dacheng State, where the Xunzhou was renamed Xiujing, and Chen Kai was called Pingxun King.


Pien San Wing Chun

Side Body Wing Chun, also known as Gulao Wing Chun, originates from Mr. Leung Jan. Mr. Jan’s ancestral home was Gulao village, Heshan county. It is said that when he was 73 years old, he retired to his native village. There, he accepted Wong Wah-Sum, Yik Ying, Leung Bak-Cheung, etc. as students. They say what he taught them was Side Body Wing Chun, not Straight Body Wing Chun. It had one set of hand techniques and a 3 1/2 point pole method. Leung Jan taught them until he died at age 76. Following his death, Mr. Jan’s Kwan Knife was placed in the Heshan Ancestral Hall and every year a memorial ceremony was held.

Wong Wah-Sum taught the skills to Koo Siu-Lung and Fung Lim. Pien San Wing Chun thus has two branches- the Fung Family and the Koo family.

Pien San Wing Chun was generally only taught to students in the same village. Trusted to teach it outside were Fung Lim (Fei Lo Lim or Fat Lim) and Fung Joi-Hoi (called Seung Hoi). In Guangzhou, Fung Lim’s son, Fung Sang, received instruction from Koo Siu-Lung, thus learning from both families. In Hong Kong, there are very few students. Fellow villager Lee Ding (Bak Tao Lao or White Head, also known as Lee Bak) moved to Vancouver, Canada in 1988 where he taught a few students.
Fung Lim had studied Fujian Siu Lam (Shaolin) and mixed the methods. Therefore, the Fung family fist method was compartively harder and more fierce.

Pien Shen Wing Chun uses short bridge and narrow stances. The “Yee” Character Clamping Yang Stance is the foundation, the stances and steps turn and move with agility, like the wheels of a cart. The elbows sink and the shoulders drop. The fingers are together and the fists are empty. The specialty is sticking and striking.

Gulao Wing Chun is 7 parts soft, 3 parts hard. Foshan Wing Chun is 3 parts soft, 7 parts hard.

New Martial Hero. Roughly translated from Chinese.


The Story of Mr. [Leung] Jan’s Employee and Student Big Mountain [Ngau] Shu

By canceling the millstone palms, Moneychanger Wah knew in his heart Shu was better but when he pushed down the elder son, Leung Bik, trouble came.

Chu Chong-Man was a Foshan native. His name was originally Chu Yee-Sheung and his older brother was Chu Yee-Han. When Chu Chong-Man was young his body was not healthy, so his father had him learn martial arts to promote his health. He liked martial arts a lot and followed several teachers to learn. He gained his greatest understanding in Wing Chun Kuen. When he was young, he followed Ngau Shu, known as San Dai (Big Mountain) Shu. Later, he followed Dong Jik and Wong Jeet-Sing. This article is based on a story Chu Chong-Man heard, and what he saw.

Ngau Shu Became an Employee To Steal Martial Arts

In Foshan, the southern sects of martial arts are popular. There were many masters of the martial world in Foshan. For example, one famous master was Foshan Jan Sin-Sang (Mr. Jan of Foshan). Mr. Jan’s history has been made famous by many writers and many stories and his martial arts have spread to Hong Kong, making him an important figure.

The history for these many stories has come through the line of Mr Jan’s student, Chan Wah-Shun, known as Jiao Chin Wah (Moneychanger Wah). Chan Wah-Shun’s story has also become very popular in the martial world. This article, however, will talk about martial world expert, Mountain Shu.

Before, many people did not know much about Mountain Shu. Some have said Mountain Shu learned Hung Kuen. Another said he learned “tense-fist tense-stance” based martial arts. This is not true. Mountain Shu’s real name was Ngau Shu. His original occupation was in Siu Lap (Bar-BQ) and he was good at it. He learned Wing Chun Kuen from Mr. Jan. This history can be proven.

How did Mountain Shu come to learn from Mr. Jan? Through many twists and turns.

Mountain Shu discussed methods with Chan Wah-Shun. Chan Wah-Shun’s Mor Poon Gong Jeung (Millstone Palms Attack) was canceled by Mountain Shu

This story Chu heard as a young child, because his family were the neighbors of Mountain Shu’s Mao Sing Hall on Sing Ping Street. So, how did Ngao Shu, come to learn martial arts? Chu will relate the story.

When Ngau Shu was 20 years old he was very poor and did not have a lot of relatives. For a living, he worked at the Foshan Siu Lap (Bar-BQ) shop. At the time, Ngau Shu was young, strong, and had a lot of power. He used a fork to turn the pig rapidly in the cooking fire. Because he could turn it so fast, his pig’s always retained more juice and were heavier then other cook’s. While Ngau Shu worked at the shop, he came to know that Mr. Jan’s martial arts were first class.

Mountain Shu very much liked the martial arts, he wanted to learn from Mr. Jan. At the time, however, this martial art was not taught to poor people. This is because learning the martial arts was like learning scholastics. One had to have enough money to afford a good teacher and enough time to learn. Mountain Shu had neither of these things. Also, because Mr. Jan was very famous and had quality skills, one could not simply approach him for lessons. One had to have a trusted friend who could gain one and introduction.

Mountain Shu did not give up, however, he kept trying to figure out a way. Every day he stood outside and peaked in on Mr. Jan’s classes. Whenever Mr. Jan entered or existed his shop, Mountain Shu smiled broadly and tried to make a good impression.

After a long time, Ngau Shu became familiar to Mr. Jan and came to know the workers and family around his shop. Mr. Jan get accustomed to him. One day, Ngau’s chance came. Mr. Jan needed to employ someone to clean the shop and, hearing the news, Ngau Shu asked the people of the shop to recommend him for the job. In the end, Mr. Jan agreed to hire him.

Ngau Shu quit the bar-bq job, hoping he would have a chance to see more martial arts. During that time, class distinction was rigidly enforced and the workers could not mingle with the wealthy people who made up Mr. Jan’s class. Thus, Mountain Shu could not simply stand and watch, but had to make sure he stayed busy or stood off to the side. Because he could only watch and not participate, he worked very hard on his own to gain skill. In the beginning, Mr. Jan did not realize what Ngau Shu was doing. Eventually, however, he caught on.

One day, when no one was around, Mr. Jan approached Ngau Shu and told him he knew Ngau was stealing his martial arts. Ngau Shu confessed honestly and explained that he had neither the money nor the connections to gain proper lessons and spying was his only way to learn. Because of his honesty and good character, Mr. Jan gave his tacit approval. Since the wealthy and workers couldn’t mix, however, Mountain Shu could not join the class and had to settle for only words of encouragement. From time to time, however Mr. Jan would let him come close and watch clearly.

Double Uplifting Hands To Cancel A Grinding Palms Attack

Watching Mr. Jan’s classes let Ngau Shu progress fast. In fact, since Leung Jan had over ten students and Ngau Shu got to watch each one of their lessons, he got to see more then any one individually. After work, he would practice hard by himself. In this way, Ngau Shu got good quality boxing methods.

One night, Mr. Jan was invited for food and drink at a party and asked Chan Wah-Shun to teach the students. Chan Wah-Shun often said that 90% the masters could not stop his side millstone palm. That night, one class member asked Chan Wah-Shun how to apply the side palm. Ngau Shu watched from the side as Chan Wah-Shun showed the class member. He made it look very easy. Mountain Shu, however, did not think the technique was perfected and saw a problem with the elbow power.

Ngau Shu did not say anything when the class member was there. When his younger martial brother left, however, he went over to Chan Wah-Shun. Mountain Shu told dai sihing (eldest classmate) Chan Wah-Shun that something was wrong. Mr. Jan did not use the palm in that manner and he felt if one did, it would not be effective since the elbow would not be powerful.

Chan Wah-Shun saw Ngau Shu as a low-class worker in the shop and himself as an experienced student of Mr. Jan. Jan had told him many things. He felt it was impossible for the worker to have more the knowledge them him. Due to his pride, Moneychanger Wah asked Mountain Shu to practice with him.

Ngau Shu agreed and they began to practice. Chan asked Ngau Shu to punch first. Ngau Shu punched with high speed and hit Chan in the chest. He used center-line punch to hit Chan. Chan Wah-Shun used the Wong Jeung (Side Palm), using one hand to Fook (Control) the bridge and with the other tried to grab his throat. Chan thought Ngau Shu must block his hand, and both of their bridges would be in contact. Chan’s bridges ended up on the outside. He wanted to use the millstone palm like he had previously. He made up his mind and repeated the side palm to set it up. As their bridges moved around, Chan felt Ngau Shu’s bridges were not easy to control. Ngau Shu’s two bridges were very powerful. Chan wanted to retreat and change, but had not time. Both his shoulders were then lightly pressed by Ngau Shu. Chan lost his center of balance and fell back several steps before regaining his feet. Chan Wah-Shun felt Ngau Shu’s hands were fast like lightning. He didn’t know he had been pushed back. Ngau Shu worried that Chan Wah-Shun would hold a grudge. He immediately spoke to Chan but at that time Leung Bik came home.

Leung Bik listened to their story and thought Chan Wah-Shun had used the palm reasonably. He wonder if Ngau Shu’s skill was good or not and asked Ngau Shu to practice. Ngau Shu was thus forced to try it with Leung Bik as well. They switched positions and began to compare. This time it was serious. Ngau Shu’s hands were still fast as lightning and Leung Bik fell on the ground. Because Leung Bik wanted to understand Ngau Shu’s methods, he tried again, this time with 80% power. Ngau Shu responded with the increased power and again Leung Bik fell to the floor. This time, however, the fall was hard, sending him flying back many meters and falling over a chair that Leung Jan always relaxed in. Because he fell heavily, the leg of the chair broke. Ngau Shu, recognizing the situation, quickly helped Leung Bik up and apologized. Leung Bik, however, was happy. Even though he had fallen and hurt himself, it wasn’t serious. He was more concerned about the bamboo recliner. Mr. Jan, after finishing teaching, liked to lie back on the chair to relax. Thus Mr. Jan was certain to discover the broken leg and from there, that they had been practicing. So, the three had to fix the chair. They thought Mr. Jan would this way not find out.

When Mr. Jan Taught You Techniques, He Hit You

Many days later, bad things happned. That day, Mr. Jan finished his course and, as usually, lay down on his recliner. When he lay down, he felt it was wobbly. He discovered the leg had been broken and repaired. Mr. Jan, thinking something was wrong, called Ngau Shu and asked for an explanation. Mr Jan was very serious when he asked, and Ngau Shu could not lie to him. He told that he had practice with Chan Wah-Shun and pushed him down. Mr. Jan smiled and asked why the chair was broken. Ngau Shu had to admit he practiced with Leung Bik and pushed him down over the lounge-chair, breaking it. This time, when he heard Ngau Shu explain, Mr. Jan’s face was dark. Because Chan Wah-Shun was a student, if he compared with this lower-class guy, is was not important if he won or lost. But for the low-class person to practice with the master’s son and use heavy power was not good. Mr. Jan was not happy with Ngau Shu for hitting his son. He was very angry but could not show it in front of people. Instead he kept it in mind and though of a way to settle the problem with Ngau Shu, unobtrusively. Ngau Shu thought everything was finished and okay.

10 days later, Mr. Jan finished the class and turned to Ngau Shu. He said that Ngau has been there many years already, and he thought Ngau had at least learned some techniques, so he wanted Ngau to practice with him. Ngau Shu was happy and afraid at the same time. Leung Jan told him not to worry, that he only want to know his level. Ngau Shu though he could practice with Mr. Jan only because Mr. Jan was the master and he was just the worker. He thought Mr. Jan wouldn’t kill him, only hurt him maybe. Ngau Shu could not await this point and very pain. If Mr. Jan wanted to kill him it would have been very easy. Mr. Jan only use the heavy power to hit his rib, and he would be dead. But, Mr. Jan didn’t want to kill him or permanently injure him, just hit him a little. This time Mr. Jan, instead of using his palm, used two fingers to pinch Ngau Shu.

The pinch was hard and Ngau Shu felt a lot of pain, he lost strength in his whole body and his face turned green. Because he had taught him a lesson and resolved things, Jan thought everything was fixed. Ngau Shu didn’t die but for a long time after felt something was wrong.

Chu Chong-Man said that when Ngau Shu taught him the martial arts, he would lift his clothes and show him the spot. Everytime it rained or got windy, he felt pain. From this story we know Ngau Shu learned martial arts the hard way.

How did Chu Chong-Man learn from Ngau Shu? By chance. When he was just over 10 years old, his body was not healthy. His father knew martial arts was popular in Foshan. It was good exercise like sport andcould make you healthy but was also useful for defense. He wanted to go learn one system. One problem was that martial schools had people from everywhere and it was hard to know if the sifu’s behavior good or not. His elder brother, Chu Yee-Hon made sure he found a good teacher. By chance, his elder brother had a frined named Fok Yui, who was know as Jong Biu Yui. He liked martial arts had a rich family. His family had a big house in Foshan and he had money to martial arts. He learned from many famous teachers. Like the pole from Leung Sai-So, who Jong Biu Yiu had paid a lot of money to learn from. After that he’s paid a lot of money to learn kicking methods from another. By then, Jong Biu Yui thoungt nobody could match him in Foshan. His cousin was Ngau Shu. One time Jong Biu Yui and Ngau Shu compared methods and Jong Biu Yui failed. From then on, he followed Ngau Shu to learn Weng Chun. Chu’s elder brother heard this story, that Jong Biu Yui had learned a long time but failed to beat Ngau Shu, so thought Ngau Shu was first class.

By Mok Poi-On, New Martial Hero. Roughly translated from Chinese.