Yip Man was born in the year 1898 in the
town of Fatshan in Namhoi County, Kwangtung
Province, in Southern China to a wealthy merchant family. The
Yip family permitted Wing Chun master Chan Wah Shun to live and
teach a small group of disciples in the family temple, since Chan's
local reputation as a fighter discouraged thieves and highwaymen
from attacking the family businesses.
Yip Man would watch Chan
Wah Shun drill his disciples in the
ways of Wing Chun. Soon the boy's visits became more regular until,
Yip Man was about nine years old he approached Chan and asked
to be accepted as a student. Chan Wah Shun was about 60 years
old at the time and didn't want to accept another disciple this
late in life.
To discourage him, Chan told Yip that
he would admit him as a student as soon
as he could pay the tuition price of
three taels of silver. But when Yip Man
returned the next day with 300 pieces
of silver, which was his entire life
savings. So once Chan and Yip Man's parents
saw that this boy had such a strong desire
to learn Wing Chun, his parents agreed
to let him study. And Chan Wah Shun accepted
him at which point, Yip Man became the
last of Chan's 16 disciples.
Yip Man studied with Chan Wah Shun for
four years, until the old master's death.
Yip subsequently spent another two and
a half years training with his senior,
Ng Chung So. When Yip was 16 years old,
his parents sent him to Hong Kong to
attend St. Stephen's College. There,
he quickly fell in with a clique of classmates
who liked to offer and accept kung fu
challenges. He welcomed the opportunity
to put his Wing Chun training to the
Yip discovered that he liked to fight.
He would accept a challenge on the slightest
provocation. On one such occasion, a
classmate named Lai dared Yip to go after
an old kung fu practitioner who worked
at the silk company of Lai's father.
The man was well into his 50s and very
eccentric, but Lai insisted the man's
kung fu was very good.
That evening Yip Man found the man living
on a fishing boat anchored near the typhoon
breakers in Hong Kong Bay. Yip first
performed the entire Siu Lim Tao form
of Wing Chun. After that the old man
agreed to a match. Yip promptly attacked
the old man and quickly found himself
in Hong Kong Bay. After repeated attempts
and repeated soakings, Yip Man wanted
to learn from the old man. Yip Man soon
found out that the old man was Leung
Bik. Leung Bik explained the difference
in his Wing Chun compared to Chan Wah
Shun's and proceeded to take Yip Man
as a student. Yip Man studied with Leung
Bik for two and a half years.
Yip Man returned to Fatshan and told
his seniors about the old man that he
had met. When his seniors scoffed at
him, Yip Man challenged them and defeated
them with his newfound knowledge. Yip
Man stayed in Fatshan where he was involved
with the police and raised a family.
In 1948 Yip Man fled to Hong Kong during
the People's Movement.
In Hong Kong, a homeless and penniless
Yip Man was given refuge at a restaurant.
Yip Man watched the instructor(Leung
Sheung) there conduct a kung fu class.
Leung Sheung at the time was a practitioner
of Bak Mei and Dragon kung Fu. After
watching the class for a time, Yip Man
demonstrated his skill to Leung Sheung
and Leung Sheung promptly became Yip
Man's first student in Hong Kong. After
this Yip Man started teaching Wing Chun
to the Restaurant Worker's Association.
Yip Man eventually moved his place of
Yip Man trained excellent fighters,
chief among them are Wong Shun Leung,
Grandmaster William Cheung, and Bruce
Lee. After 20+ years of teaching in Hong
Kong, Yip Man passed away in 1972.