During the last New Year’s festival an America knocked on a door in Guangzhou in order to give a gift to the owner of the dwelling. The gift was a picture of the U.S. President and his wife. The man who brought the gift came across the Pacific Ocean to do so. He was a body guard for the American President, and had come all this way to visit the famous Wing Chun teacher, Sum Nung. The man was named Henderson, and had followed a student of Sum Nung’s named Kwok Wan-Ping to learn Wing Chun Kuen. Sum Nung is famous in China, but how did he come to be so? This must be told from the beginning.
As a child, Sum Nung journeyed with his relatives from South America to Guangdong, China. Japan soon invaded, however, and cut China’s communication with the rest of the world. Over night, Sum Nung’s family went from a life of prosperity to one of poverty. At a young age, Sum Nung was introduced to the Tin Hoi restaurant in Foshan where he soon began working.
Sum Nung was a nice youth, but there were many bad people around. Time after time he was bullied and he desired to fight back. He thought he would have to make himself stronger, so he went out to the streets and watched the martial arts demonstrations. When he returned home, he tried to reproduce what he had seen. For conditioning, he tried to obtain the “Copper Skin Iron Bones” skill by striking himself repeatedly with a brick. His efforts did not lead to any great martial success, and ended up consuming his money to pay for the “Iron Hitting” medicine.
At the restaurant there was a Dim Sum chef named Cheung Bo, who was a famous Wing Chun teacher. Cheung Bo thought perhaps Sum Nung was dedicated enough to last a persevere and achieve good quality martial skills, so he took him on as a student. Sum Nung had a natural talent, understood the lessons quickly, and worked very hard, managing in 2 or 3 years to learn all Cheung Bo had to teach.
Cheung Bo thought Sum Nung had great potential and attain great things in martial arts, but he knew he had no more to teach. Cheung Bo decided to introduced Sum Nung to Yuen Kay-San, hoping Yuen could help Sum reach a higher level.
Yuen Kay-San was famous in Foshan, a wealthy merchant and lawyer for the county government. He was also a “center gate master” of Wing Chun and knew its principles at a very high level. Sum Nung, however, saw him as old and thin, and doubted that he could be any good. Yuen Kay-San saw that Sum Nung’s desire was great and thought perhaps that he could inherit his martial arts, so he decided to give the youth a lesson in his skills. Yuen Kay-San invited Sum Nung to use all he had learned to test him. Sum Nung took up the challenge and tried all his skills, attacking repeatedly, but each time, after only 1 or 2 movements, Yuen Kay-San would cut him off and leave him unable to continue. He then came to realize that Yuen Kay-San was very high quality.
Sum Nung followed Yuen Kay-San until Yuen passed away. Sum Nung will always remember his teacher, Yuen Kay-San. Yuen Kay-San liked Sum Nung and taught him the fists, dummies, pole, knives, flying darts, and medicine (which Sum Nung has previously been learning from Nationalist army doctor Wai Yuk-San). Sum Nung’s whole life became Wing Chun and medicine, When he soled Dim Sum, he would think of only Wing Chun and medicine and because of this, he often mixed up orders and the owner eventually fired him. Sum Nung was just over 20 at the time and he went to Guangzhou where he worked at some local Workers Unions, teaching some Wing Chun Kuen and practicing medicine until the Communists took over.
Since then, Sum Nung’s students have spread across China and around the world. Many professional fighters and wrestlers have come to him for lessons. Yuen Kay-San Wing Chun Kuen schools have been opened in New York, Washington, Australia, Canada, Columbia, Hong Kong, Macao, Venezuela, etc.by Sum Nung’s students, grand-students, and descendants.
Sum Nung retired from osteopathy and is now in his early 60s, but still looks like a man of 40. His “Inch Power” is very strong and he is known by the nick-name “Iron Arm”. He serves as an honorary advisor for the Guangdong Wushu Committee. If he were not so modest and did not refuse many interview requests, newspaper journalists have said that he would have been written about far more often.
This writer has a special relationship with Sum Nung and over the course of a year managed to get this story.
By Yuen Jo-Tong. Roughly translated from Chinese.