Ip Man movies
Wing Chun in action
By Ronald Kho
Article taken from local English newspaper in China
As movies “Ip Man” and “Ip Man 2” swept international movie theaters with impressive box office takings, many have become interested in the life story of the master and his kung fu. Ronald Kho Hian-qui, a veteran Wing Chun practitioner, reveals the myths and legend of Wing Chun.
WHO the blazes is Ip Man and what is Wing Chun, you may ask? These two names have recently been given prominence by the very successful movie, “Ip Man,” which took the 28th Hong Kong Film Awards last year for Best Film as well as Best Action Choreography. Now the sequel, “Ip Man 2” is showing at local cinemas.
Both are great martial arts movies, filled with moral teachings and one man’s struggle to keep a family together.
Ip Man, or Yip Man, was no less than the kung-fu teacher of Bruce Lee. Originally from a wealthy family in Foshan, he fell on hard times during the Japanese occupation in World War II. He made his way to Hong Kong as a virtual pauper in 1950. The only resource he could muster in Hong Kong at that time was the knowledge of kung fu he learned as a boy, when his wealthy family could afford the best teachers.
The style of kung fu Ip Man practiced was called Wing Chun. In a small office at the Restaurant Workers Association he taught his first Hong Kong students. After several moves of venue thanks to growing classes, in 1955 they were joined by a teenager called Lee Siu-lung, aka Bruce Lee. Ip Man was later joined in 1962 by his two sons, Ip Chun and Ip Ching, who helped him teach until his passing in 1972.
Known as Wing Chun in Cantonese, Yong Chun in Mandarin, the history of the style is clouded in myth and legend. It was created at a time of turmoil and rebellion at the conjunction between the defeated Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) of the Han people and the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) who were Manchurian invaders from the north. Wing Chun is said to have originated from Shaolin martial arts, from the temple in Central-China’s Henan Province, some 350 years ago. It was necessary at that time for the Han rebels to come up with a quicker martial training system to teach their new recruits to match their Qing overlords, who already had knowledge of the existing Shaolin martial arts.
Then comes the legend. With the burning of the Shaolin Temple by the Qing troops, a few of the abbots and kung-fu masters of different martial disciplines escaped. One of them was the nun, Ng Mui (or Master Wumei), who was already a great pugilist. In her new hideaway on the Sichuan border, one day she saw a match between a crane and a snake (some say fox). Each time the snake lunged at the crane, the bird would raise its wing and deflect the strike. Ng was struck by the principle of deflection used by the crane, which appeared more sensible than attempting to use force to confront force. With this in mind, she revised and modified her kung-fu techniques.
One fateful day, according to legend, Ng met a beautiful young girl in the village where she regularly bought bean curd. The girl explained that she was being bullied by a local thug who was attempting to force her to marry him — even though she had already been betrothed. Ng told her not to be dejected, and that she would teach her kung fu. The girl worked hard at learning kung fu from the nun. After some time the bully returned. This time the girl challenged the bully and asked for a fair fight. With her new-found martial skills she easily beat the bully and saved herself for her true love. Ng then decided to name her new style after the girl, Wing Chun.
Wing Chun is a simple and logical martial arts system teaching the avoidance of meeting force with force, so that a weaker person can take on a stronger opponent. Since Bruce Lee’s emergence into the martial arts limelight, many schools have begun teaching different versions of Wing Chun. By the time Ip Man began teaching Wing Chun in Hong Kong he had stripped the system down to its essentials, to make it an effective yet efficient fighting system.
Essentially, Wing Chun is a close-quarters fighting system. When the fight starts one moves towards the opposition, shutting down the opposition’s long-range techniques and replying with fists, palms, elbows, shoulders, knees and kicks. Kicks are aimed mainly below the waist, as these are easy to execute and difficult to stop. There are takedowns as well, but these are not emphasized as they are in judo or wrestling. Some students also learn ground fighting using Wing Chun principles.
To make the training realistic, Wing Chun training incorporates the famous Chi Sau or sticking hand. At close quarters the protagonists are too close and the hands too fast for the eyes to follow. So the visual contact is replaced by tactile contact of the skin. Playing Chi Sau is like a chess game, with each practitioner using their own skills. Ip Chun defined Chi Sau as an intermediate stage of learning between learning the regimented forms of Wing Chun and free fighting, in which there is to be no winner and no loser.
Built into Wing Chun practice is Chi Gung training, to invigorate the body’s bioelectrical energy. Chi Gung helps practitioners remain lithe and agile: Ip Chun is 85 years old and can still keep up with much younger students in Chi Sau. Chi Sau exercises can keep the muscles supple, the joints loose and the mind alert. In Chi Sau, one can shut the mind off from ones problems of the day and focus on the martial problems at hand.
The popularity of Wing Chun has been accredited to Bruce Lee. In turn, the star benefited other Chinese martial arts and helped to spread Chinese culture worldwide. Millions of people around the world are now learning Wing Chun. Its importance has been recognized by the Foshan municipality and the Ip Man Tong museum has been set up in central Foshan’s Ancestral Temple to remember the great Grandmaster of Wing Chun — Ip Man.
About the author
Born in Hong Kong, Ronald Kho Hian-qui, learned Wing Chun under martial arts practitioner Samuel Kwok in England for 20 years. Both Kwok and Kho have also learned from Ip Chun and Ip Ching. Kho, a chartered building manager, has been in Shenzhen since 2007. He is a member of the Hong Kong-based Ip Man Athletic Association and Ving Tsun Athletic Association, the British Council for Chinese Martial Arts, a fellow of the Society of Martial Arts (Salford) and has been a regular contributor for the Huddersfield-based Martial Arts Illustrated magazine.
Ronald at the 83rd birthday party of Lun Guy who was one of the first students of Ip Man in Foshan. Ip Man taught in Foshan China before moving to Hong Kong.