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Who Is Ip Man aka Yip Man?

Learn the history of Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man aka Yip Man from Sifu Alex Richter in this Howcast video.


The late Grandmaster Yip Man is perhaps one of the most famous practitioners of the Wing Chun style, not just for the fact that he taught Bruce Lee, but also because he was one of the first to teach it, if not the first to actually teach it openly in Hong Kong. He came to Hong Kong in 1949, mainly to escape the communist takeover of mainland China, because he was a member of the Kuomintang party, which was the opposing party to the communists. He basically had to flee, very suddenly, out of mainland China. He first went to Macau and stayed there for a little bit, and then eventually made his way into Hong Kong. This was already, I believe, in his late 60's. Suddenly, in this late stage in his life, he was penniless, he had basically only the shirt on his back, and that was one of the reasons why he started to teach Wing Chun, was because he basically had no other choice. He had to find some way to survive.

When he first came to Hong Kong, he didn't actually think about teaching martial arts, and he was sweeping a temple called [inaudible : 01:01], as basically a commoner just doing some simple labor. He was convinced by one of his friends, Lee Man, who had also moved to Hong Kong, to start teaching Wing Chun. This is basically how he got started, was out of necessity.

His actual story is a bit different from the recent films with Donny Yen, which basically depict the fact that he left China due to the Japanese. Actually, the Japanese occupation was already over by the time he was forced to come to Hong Kong. The problem is that now in order to market a film . . . China's the biggest market so they unfortunately cannot make the Chinese the bad guys, otherwise, this film would be completely unmarketable in China. They did the standard default thing, which is to make the Japanese the bad guys. The real reason Grandmaster Yip Man left China was actually because of the communist Chinese, not because of the Japanese.

Over the years, he started teaching his first generation of students, including Sifus such as [inaudible : 02:02], and this was basically his first generation of students there. Then later, Bruce Lee came, [inaudible : 02:09], a lot of other students who later became famous in their own right. The late Grandmaster basically taught for about 22 years. He passed away in 1972, and his legacy continued on through a number of students, not just Bruce Lee, but a number of his students who went on to teach Wing Chun throughout the world.

One interesting thing to note about Grandmaster Yip Man is that a lot of people complain about the fact that all of his students teach differently or they do things in a different way. Part of the problem is that there was a huge gap between the time that he had finished learning Wing Chun in his early to mid-20's, and the time he started teaching it, which was already in his late 60's. In this big time span, he basically only taught Wing Chun for fun in China, and he of course, would practice it as a master in the fine art, but he didn't really have a very clear teaching program. When he first came to Hong Kong and he was forced to teach out of necessity, he basically had to remember a lot of things, and recall a lot of things from his past training so that he can start to teach people. That meant that his teaching tenure was basically a work-in-progress. What he taught his early students was very different from what he taught his latter period students, and that's one of the reasons why you see so many variations in his own students, is because he was figuring out the teaching system as he went along because he hadn't needed to teach it for so many years.

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