Birthday: October 1, 1893
Died At Age: 79
Sun Sign: Libra
Also Known As: Ip Man, Yip Kai-man, Yeji Q
Born in: Foshan
Famous as: Martial Artist
Spouse/Ex-: Cheung Wing-sing
father: Yip Oi-dor
mother: Ng Shui
siblings: Yip Kai-gak, Yip Wan-hum, Yip Wan-mei
children: Ip Ching, Ip Chun
Died on: December 2, 1972
place of death: Mong Kok
education: St Stephen's College
awards: 2009 - Hong Kong Film Award for Best Action Choreography 2009 - Hong Kong Film Award for Best Film
Who was Yip Man?
Yip Man, also known as Ip Man, was a martial arts master and teacher, best known for making the practice and instruction of Wing Chun popular. Brought up in an affluent family, he was very intelligent and, because of his family's wealthy status, well-educated. He spent his early life as a police officer, teaching Wing Chun privately. As the Chinese Communist party came to power in the mid-1900s, political turmoil upended his life and career as a police officer, forcing him to move to Hong Kong to escape prosecution. He turned to the art of Wing Chun to create a new life for himself. Opening the first public school of Wing Chun, business grew slowly and was difficult to maintain until a young Bruce Lee came to train with him. His career took off as Lee became famous for his TV shows and movies; his school and training program began to grow rapidly. Lee remained a close friend through the rest of Yip's career. Although Yip faced several personal challenges during his career, he ultimately achieved prosperity and left a long legacy. As a pioneer of Wing Chun, he has left an indelible mark on the history of martial arts.
Childhood & Early Life
Yip Man was born in 1893 to very wealthy parents Ip Oi Dor and Ng Shui and was the third of four children. His upbringing reflected his family's status - he was a determined student and received a high level of education including college. His martial arts education began at age 13 under Chan Wah-shun and continued throughout his early years.
It is reported that during his days at ‘St. Stephen's College’ in Hong Kong, Yip Man intervened in an altercation between a police officer and a woman and subdued the officer with martial arts moves. A student told a nearby man about the fight and Yip was invited to meet him.
The man challenged Yip to show him his martial arts skills and, after seeing Yip's form and moves, deemed them rudimentary. The man then revealed himself to Leung Bik, the master of Yip's former teacher Chan, and took him under his tutelage. Some of the details of the account have been questioned, but his education under Leung Bik was a critical point in his Wing Chun career.
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In 1917, he returned to his childhood home in Foshan, China to become a police officer. He began teaching Wing Chun privately.
From 1937 to 1941, he fought in the army against the Japanese invasion. During this time, most of his property was ruined or lost and his wife fell ill. After the war, he was recruited by the ‘Nationalist Party’ to serve as a police officer as China rebuilt.
During his career as a police officer, he taught many students Wing Chun on the side. He taught several students that would go on to teach Wing Chun themselves.
In 1949, after civil war, the political tides changed and the ‘Chinese Communist Party’ rose to power. As a police officer for the opposing ‘Nationalist Party’, he was likely to be arrested by communist officials.
At 51, he lost the rest of his fortune. Left with only the things he could carry, he fled to Hong Kong. He set up the first public Wing Chun martial arts training facility. His most famous student, Bruce Lee, came to study with him in 1953. Lee was 13 years old and remained a lifelong friend.
Business was initially poor, but Bruce Lee's role in 'The Green Hornet' brought fame and prosperity to Yip Man. He opened a large martial arts facility due to his school's growing popularity.
As his reputation grew the number of students enrolling in his school and his fortune also increased. He helped create the Hong Kong ‘Ving Tsun Athletic Association’ in 1967.
In 1970, he retired from teaching martial arts but did not stop practicing. Wing Chun training continued under the leadership of his sons.
He wrote the first comprehensive history of Wing Chun. A part of the text was supposed to be utilized for the proposal which was submitted for establishment of the ‘Ving Tsun Tong Fellowship’.
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Personal Life & Legacy
He was married to Cheung Wing Sing and they had two sons. His sons have played a major role in continuing the Wing Chun legacy began by their father.
Many recollect that he had drug use problems and experienced financial strain due to his vice. They say that he was never really happy after losing his affluent lifestyle in China.
Bruce Lee attributes him as a primary inspiration and a teacher he admired for all of his life. Yip and Lee were friends beyond Lee's years at the school. Bruce Lee's wife details the impact of his teacher in her book 'The Man Only I Knew.'
In addition to Bruce Lee, he taught several students that become well-known for their martial arts skills including Leung Ting, Lo Man Kam, William Cheung and Leung Sheung.
His life is chronicled in the book 'Ip Man: Portrait of a Kung Fu Master,' a biography based on stories from his son Ip Ching.
Several films have been inspired by his legacy including 'The Legend is Born: Ip Man,' 'The Grandmaster' and 'Ip Man: The Final Fight.'
He died in 1972 of throat cancer. Many of his personal effects are on display at a museum in Foshan. He is considered a martial arts pioneer and the spread of Wing Chun is attributed to his passion for the practice.
Six weeks before he died, this famous martial arts trainer asked his sons and a student to film him performing Wing Chun forms. The video has survived till date and digital copies may be seen on YouTube.
He nicknamed Bruce Lee 'Upstart.' He often gave nicknames to his students.