Ip Man

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Ip Man
Yip Man.jpg
Ip Man (also known as Yip man)
Born(1893-10-01)1 October 1893
Fatshan, Kwangtung, Qing Dynasty
Died2 December 1972(1972-12-02) (aged 79)
Mong Kok, Kowloon, Hong Kong[1]
Other namesYip Man
Yip Kai-man
Ye Wen
ResidenceBritish Hong Kong
NationalityRepublic of China
StyleWing Chun
Teacher(s)Chan Wah-shun & Wu Chung-sok (吳仲素),
later Leung Bik
Years active1967–1972
OccupationMartial artist
SpouseCheung Wing-sing
(simplified Chinese: 张永成; traditional Chinese: 張永成; pinyin: Zhāng Yǒngchéng; Cantonese Yale: jēung wíhng sìhng)
Notable relativesIp Chun (son; b. 1924),
Ip Ching (son; b. 1936)
Notable students
Bruce Lee,
Ip Chun,
Ip Ching,
Chu Shong Tin ,
Lok Yiu,
Leung Sheung,
Wong Shun Leung,
Ng Chan (伍燦),
William Cheung,
Moy Yat,
Lo Man Kam,
Leung Ting
Ip Man
Ip Man (Chinese characters).svg
"Ip Man" in Traditional (top) and Simplified (bottom) Chinese characters
Traditional Chinese葉問
Simplified Chinese叶问
Yip Kai-man
Traditional Chinese葉繼問
Simplified Chinese叶继问

Ip Man, also known as Yip Man,[2] (Chinese: 葉問; 1 October 1893 – 2 December 1972), was a Cantonese martial artist, and a master teacher of Wing Chun. He had several students who later became martial arts masters in their own right. His most famous student was Bruce Lee.

Early life[edit]

Ip Man was born to Yip Oi-dor and Wu Shui, as the third of four children. He grew up in a wealthy family in Foshan, Guangdong, and received traditional Chinese education, alongside his elder brother Yip Kai-gak, his elder sister Yip Wan-mei, and younger sister Yip Wan-hum.[3]

Ip started learning Wing Chun from Chan Wah-shun when he was 12. Chan was 64 at the time, and Ip became Chan's last student.[4][5] Due to his teacher's age, Ip learned most of his skills and techniques from Chan's second eldest disciple, Wu Chung-sok (吳仲素). Chan only lived for three more years after Ip's training started, and one of his dying wishes was to have Wu continue teaching Ip.

At the age of 16, Ip moved to Hong Kong, with help from his relative Leung Fut-ting. One year later, he attended school at St. Stephen's College—a secondary school for wealthy families and foreigners living in Hong Kong.[3] Six months after moving to Hong Kong, a classmate of Ip's named Lai told him that a friend of Lai's father who was an expert in Kung Fu techniques was living with them, and had offered to have a friendly sparring match with Ip. At the time, Ip was undefeated so he eagerly accepted the challenge. He went to Lai's house on a Sunday afternoon, and after exchanging brief pleasantries, challenged the man to a duel. The man was Leung Bik, and he easily overwhelmed Ip Man. Incredulous at the speed with which he had been countered, Ip requested a second duel and was beaten again, just as soundly. Discouraged by his defeat, Ip left without a word and afterward was so depressed that he did not dare mention that he knew Kung Fu. A week later, Lai told him that the man he had fought was asking after him. Ip replied that he was too embarrassed to return, at which point Lai told him that Leung Bik had highly praised his Kung Fu techniques and that he was the son of Leung Jan, who trained Ip's master Chan Wah-shun. Ip proceeded to train with Leung Bik for several years, until Leung Bik moved back to Foshan[6].

Ip returned to Foshan when he was 24, to become a policeman.[3] He taught some Wing Chun to several of his subordinates, friends and relatives, but did not officially run a martial arts school. Some of his best known informal students were Chow Kwong-yue (周光裕), Kwok Fu (郭富), Lun Kah (倫佳), Chan Chi-sun (陳志新), Xu He-Wei (徐和威) and Lui Ying (呂應). Among them, Chow Kwong-yue was said to be the best, but he eventually went into commerce and stopped practicing martial arts. Kwok Fu and Lun Kah went on to teach students of their own and they passed down the art of Wing Chun in the Foshan and Guangdong region. Chan Chi-sun and Lui Ying went to Hong Kong later but neither of them accepted any students. Ip went to live with Kwok Fu during the Second Sino-Japanese War and only returned to Foshan after the war, where he continued his career as a police officer. Ip left Foshan for Hong Kong at the end of 1949 after the Chinese Communist Party won the Chinese Civil War, as Ip was an officer for the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party), the Communists' rival.[7]

Life in Hong Kong[edit]

Ip Man and Bruce Lee.

Initially, Ip Man's teaching business was poor because Ip's students typically stayed for only a couple of months. He moved his school twice: first to Castle Peak Road in Sham Shui Po, and then to Lee Tat Street (利達街) in Yau Ma Tei. By then, some of his students had attained proficiency in Wing Chun and were able to start their own schools. Some of his students and descendants sparred with other martial artists to compare their skills and their victories helped increase Ip's fame.

In 1967, Ip and some of his students established the Ving Tsun Athletic Association (詠春體育會).[8][9] The main purpose of the Ving Tsun Athletic Association[10] was to help Ip tackle his financial difficulties in Hong Kong,[11] which was said to have caused his supposed regular use of opium.[12] One of his former students, Duncan Leung, claimed that Ip used tuition money to support his opium addiction.[13]

Death and legacy[edit]

Ip Man's gravestone

Ip died on 2 December 1972 in his unit at 149 Tung Choi Street in Hong Kong,[1] from throat cancer, only seven months before the death of Bruce Lee.[14]

Ip's legacy is the global practice of Wing Chun. Ip Chun, the eldest son of Ip Man, is as passionate and relentless in keeping his father's Wing Chun kung fu legacy alive and in 2014 Ip Chun was selected to represent Wing Chun as the inheritor of the legacy of Wing Chun-style kung fu.[15] Ip's notable students include: Leung Sheung, Lok Yiu, Chu Shong-tin, Wong Shun Leung, Bruce Lee, Moy Yat, Ho Kam Ming, Victor Kan, his nephew Lo Man Kam, his sons Ip Ching and Ip Chun, and closed door student Leung Ting[16].

Ip wrote a written history of Wing Chun.[17] Many artifacts of his life are on display in the "Yip Man Tong" museum in the Foshan Ancestral Temple grounds.[18]

In popular culture[edit]

Ip Man, a Hong Kong film based on the life of Ip Man, starring Donnie Yen as the martial artist, was released in cinemas in 2008. The film takes a number of liberties with Ip's life, often for dramatic effect. Ip's eldest son Ip Chun appears in the film and served as a consultant on the production, which focuses on Ip's life during the 1930s to the 1940s during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The film is the first to be based on the life of Ip.

The sequel Ip Man 2 focuses on Ip's beginnings in Hong Kong and his students, including Bruce Lee. Ip Man has taught many other people. Amid a surge of Ip Man–related film projects in production, Donnie Yen told the Chinese media in March 2010 that after Ip Man 2, he will no longer play the Wing Chun master. He stated, "I would never ever touch any films related to Ip Man. This will be my final film on the subject. Whenever something becomes a success, everyone would jump on the bandwagon, this is very frightening. Did you know how many Ip Man films are in production? Under such condition, we would not progress, it'd only lead to over-saturation of the subject matter."[19] However a new film to the same series - Ip Man 3 - was released on 24 December 2015 having Donnie Yen again starring as Ip Man.[20]

Ip Man was played by Wang Luoyong in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story and by Yu Chenghui in The Legend of Bruce Lee,[21], respectively a 1993 American biographical drama film and a 2008 Chinese television series, both based on the life story of Bruce Lee, who was one of Ip's students.

Another Hong Kong film based on Ip Man's life, called The Legend Is Born – Ip Man, was released in June 2010. Herman Yau directed the film and it starred Dennis To as Ip Man. Ip Chun makes a special appearance in the film as Leung Bik.

Wong Kar-wai's The Grandmaster is a 2013 film starring Tony Leung as Ip Man. The film concentrates more on the end of an era in Chinese martial arts history as the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out. It was created in an almost biographical style, highlighting parts of history. In contrast with the other Ip Man–related projects, The Grandmaster is a more reflective film, focusing more on the musings and philosophies between martial arts and life, as well as Ip Man's journey through the early 1930s to the early 1950s.

The 2013 Hong Kong film Ip Man: The Final Fight, directed by Herman Yau and starring Anthony Wong as Ip Man, focuses on Ip's later life in Hong Kong. Ip Chun makes a cameo appearance in the film. This film also focuses on the loyalty of his pupils towards him.

The 2013 Chinese television series Ip Man, based on Ip Man's life, was aired on the television network Astro On Demand between March and May 2013. It was directed by Fan Xiaotian and starred Kevin Cheng as the eponymous character.

Martial arts lineage[edit]

Wing Chun lineage according to Ip Man.[17][22]

Ng Mui (one of the Five Elders of Shaolin Monastery)
Yim Wing-chun (taught Wing Chun by Ng for self-defence)[citation needed]
Leung Bok-chau (Yim's husband)
Leung Lan-kwai
Wong Wah-bo ( was taught the pole form by Leung Yee-tai for the exchange of the empty hand system)
Leung Yee-tai (added his pole form to the empty hand system he learned from Wong)
Leung Jan (also taught his son Leung Bik)
Chan Wah-shun
Yip Man (also learned from Wu Chung-sok, Leung Bik)
Known students: See Branches of Wing Chun


  1. ^ a b "影武者‧ 葉問次子葉正專訪 (Exclusive Interview with Ip Man's second son Ip Ching)" (in Chinese). Ming Pao Weekly Online. Archived from the original on 8 September 2013. Retrieved 18 February 2013. 旺角通菜街一百四十九號一個單位內, ... 傳奇的老者在那個單位的一張沙發上遽然離世。 [Translation: ... in a unit at 149 Tung Choi Street, Mong Kok, ... the legendary old man passed away suddenly on a sofa in that unit.]
  2. ^ "Ip Man or Yip Man". kwokwingchun.com.
  3. ^ a b c Title: Yip Man – Portrait of a Kung Fu Master, Page:3, Author(s): Ip Ching and Ron Heimberger, Paperback: 116 pages, Publisher: Cedar Fort (23 January 2001), ISBN 978-1-55517-516-0
  4. ^ "Sam kwok Wing Chun – Yip Man Family Tree". Kwokwingchun.com. Retrieved 29 November 2011.
  5. ^ Mastering Wing Chun, By Samuel Kwok
  6. ^ "An Interview with Grandmaster Yip Man". www.kwokwingchun.com. Retrieved 2018-07-02.
  7. ^ "Ip Man's Biography". Kwokwingchun.com. 20 July 2012. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  8. ^ Ip Ching, Ip Man: Portrait of a Kung Fu Master (Springville, UT: King Dragon Press, 2001)
  9. ^ Ip Man Wing Chun 50th Anniversary Journal (Hong Kong: Wing Chun Athletic Association Limited, 2005)
  10. ^ Chiang, Christabel (9 June 2016). "Wing Chun master Dennis Lee may open school in Singapore". The New paper (Online). SPH Digital News Copyright © 2017 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Retrieved 19 April 2017.
  11. ^ "Origin". www.vingtsun.org.hk. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  12. ^ Bruce Lee: Fighting Spirit: A Biography, Bruce Thomas, p. 208 "Both Bruce's father and even his wing chun master Yip Man were no strangers to the opium pipe."
  13. ^ 16 May 2009. "Asia Times Online :: China News, China Business News, Taiwan".
  14. ^ Complete Wing Chun: The Definitive Guide to Wing Chun's History and Traditions, Robert Chu, Rene Ritchie, Y. Wu, page 9, Tuttle Publishing; 1st edition (15 June 1998). ISBN 0-8048-3141-6, ISBN 978-0-8048-3141-3.
  15. ^ Boehler, Patrick (27 August 2014). "Chinese kung fu masters battle over inheritance of Yip Man's Wing Chun legacy". South China Morning Post (Online). South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  16. ^ "An Interview with Grandmaster Yip Man". www.kwokwingchun.com. Retrieved 2018-07-02.
  17. ^ a b "external copy of the History of Wing Chun Written by Yip Man". Vingtsun.com.hk. Retrieved 29 November 2011.
  18. ^ "Ip Man tong virtual tour". Foshanmuseum.com. Archived from the original on 28 November 2011. Retrieved 29 November 2011.
  19. ^ "Donnie Yen Has Had Enough of Ip Man - Wu-Jing.org". Guangzhou Daily. 8 March 2010. Archived from the original on 11 March 2010. Retrieved 4 February 2011.
  20. ^ "Ip Man 3 (Hong Kong, 2015)". VCinema. 9 January 2016. Retrieved 2018-03-14.
  21. ^ "Ip Man (Character)". Retrieved 4 February 2011. TV episode, Played by Cheng-Hui Yu (as Ye Wen)
  22. ^ "History and Philosophy of Ip Man including family tree". Southfieldswingchun.co.uk. Retrieved 29 November 2011.