We greatly value our relationship with Master Ho and his students, and take every opportunity to participate in seminars and take private lessons. On these linked pages, you can find some of our seminar notes, and other records we thought worth passing along.
Ho Kam Ming related this Wing Chun story to us. I believe it was in 1999. We were gathered around a dinner table in a Thai restaurant in Chicago.
Yip Man attended St. Stevens College in Hong Kong. There were also sons of the English colonialists attending the school. Some times fights would erupt between students. The larger English students would always trounce the smaller Chinese students. However while playing basketball in the schoolyard an unusual fight broke out in which a smaller Chinese student beat up not one but two of the larger English bullies. Well this news spread around a little bit. A classmate of Yip's was relating the story to his parents back at their tailor shop. Their accountant was there at the time and upon hearing the story, he said to their son "Tell your friend I'd like to talk to him about this." So Yip Man was invited to stop over. When he visited the elderly man said that he was impressed by the story and wanted to know what kind of kung fu had he used to win this fight. Yip Man said he used Wing Chun Kung Fu.
The accountant asked him if he had learned Siu Lim Tao and Chum Kiu. But Yip was distracted and didn't really hear the question or it didn't register to him. The accountant asked Yip Man to try the techniques he had used on him. Yip Man said "you're an old man I wouldn't want to hurt you." The accountant remarked "oh you don't have to worry about that." Yip still declined. The accountant said "Don't worry, if you hurt me you won't have to pay me anything, or maybe you are afraid. Yip responded, "I've never lost a fight, why should I be scared of an old man?"
They ended up outside Yip Man attacked the man with a double punch technique. Figuring that even if the man blocked one hand the other would still do the job. The accountant calmly used a double hand block [kwun sau], which also opened up the lines for his own counterattack, a double palm strike to the chest, which hurt Yip and sent him down on the ground. Yip was stunned and embarrassed. He had had enough of this guy and without a word he went back in to pick up his coat and then just went home.
The next day in school the classmate said to Yip "the old man said that your kung fu is pretty good."
Yip said "oh sure he knocks me down and then says that I'm pretty good. What, is he making fun of me?"
"The old man says that if you want to know why you lost, to come and see him," said the classmate. So Yip, being curious, did make a return visit.
The old man said "you must be stupid. When I asked you if you knew Siu Lim Tao and Chum Kiu you should have known that I know Wing Chun too. "Do you know who I am? asked the old man. Yip did not know. "I am Leung Bik, the son of Leung Jon, the man who taught your teacher." Yip was told that his foundation wasn't bad but that he really needed further instruction in the art. Yip Man accepted the offer of learning from the old man. During his subsequent training Yip Man learned many things which were withheld from his teacher. This added greatly to his Wing Chun skills.
For the first two centuries of it's existence the art was only taught to family members and a few close friends. Leung Bik said that his father [Leung Jon] had intended to teach the art of Wing Chun only his two sons. It was also illegal to teach Wing Chun at this particular time. Because whenever the police tried to grab someone who knew Wing Chun, it never worked for them. They would simply do a "huen sau" motion to evade capture. But Yip Man's former teacher, Chan Wah Sun, was a neighbor of theirs. He had been peeking through the fence observing as Leung Jon taught his sons. When Leung Jon discovered this intrusion he called the neighbor out to see just what he had learned. So Leung Jon Asked Chan to fight with one of his sons to see how he would do. The neighbor Chan had won. But this was due mainly to his very large size and the sons incomplete training at the time.
Master Leung Jon thought that it would be wiser to agree to teach Chan even though he didn't have much trust in him. At least this way he felt more assured that Chan would not turn him in to the police for teaching Wing Chun. What Master Leung Jon decided to do instead was to teach Chan Wah Sun but to withhold the finer points of the art. Chan Wah Su eventually became the first to teach Wing Chun to the public. He had 16 students, the last of which was Yip Man. But Yip exclaims that his true understanding and skills in the art are due to training with his second teacher, Leung Bik.
Yip did later have a visit back to Fat Shan, China to see his old Wing Chun classmates. But I get the impression that he didn't make any attempt to impress them with his newfound skills or try to change his seniors over to accepting his new methods. He just let them continue doing what they were doing and went back to Hong Kong. Yip Man had learned these finer skills one on one, hand to hand. This is the best way to learn. Leung Bik taught only one student. Yip Man. This is why Yip didn't really have a method by which to teach a group of students.
During the reign of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) gung fu was practiced in the Siu Lum (Shao Lin) monastery in southern China primarily as a form of physical exercise. With the usurpation by the Manchurians and the establishment of the Ching Dynasty, however, many Ming patriots sought protection in the temple where their lives were not endangered and where some of the people were sympathetic to their cause. Meanwhile, they readied themselves for the day when they would attempt to overthrow the ruling government. It was during this period of time that gung fu reached its peak in China. Quite ironically, when almost everything was prepared for them to launch their strike, the Mings were betrayed by an insider. Consequently, the Ching emperor feared a revolution was astir, and his soldiers attacked and burned the monastery.
Only a handful of people escaped, and one was a Siu Lum nun named Ng Mui. Like the few surviving practitioners of the various styles of martial arts in the temple who had fled to dferent parts of China, Ng Mui, a Siu Lum master, began to teach the arts to laymen. These disciples were obliged to conceal their activities because the Ching government had dispatched numerous martial arts experts to exterminate them. Ng Mui realized that she would have to save the Siu Lum fighting arts from the emperor's efforts to erase all traces of their existence. Thus, she devised a new, modified system of fighting based on her knowledge of what she had mastered in the temple. In essence, the style utilized techniques of efficiency of motion and direct line attacks and could be perfected in a short period of time.
Ng Mui's best student, a beautiful young girl named Yim Wing Chun, lived with her father, Yim Sam Soak, in a small village where they earned their livelihood by making and selling bean cakes. Yim Wing Chun's popularity in the area and news of her beauty attracted the attention of a malevolent landlord named Wong. Although such matters were often customarily prearranged between two families before the birth of the children, and Yim Wing Chun was already promised, Wong decided he would marry her anyway. Upon presenting himself to ask for her hand in marriage, Wong was flatly rejected by both Yim Wing Chun and her father, so he plotted to take her by force. When he returned with his men, a confrontation ensued during which Wong was seriously injured by a straight punch that Yim Wing Chun had learned from Ng Mui.
Yim Wing Chun continued to study under Ng Mui, and later married Leung Bok Chau. During the years to come, she used the principles of the style that she had learned from Ng Mui and commenced to improve and simplify the art. After refining it significantly, Yim Wing Chun began to teach it to her husband. Leung Bok Chau was already rather adept in other styles of the martial arts. Impressed by Yim Wing Chun's knowledge and ability, he studied her style diligently and learned it quickly. Thus, although Ng Mui founded the art, it bears Yim Wing Chun's name owing to her improvements.
The art passed down from Leung Bok Chau to Leung Ye Tai, Wong Wa Bo, and Leung Jon. Leung Jon in particular achieved notable renown for spreading Wing Chun throughout the province of Canton in southern China during his lifetime. One of his best students, Chan Wa Soon, promoted the style even further and later accepted as his disciple a young man named Yip Man. Upon his masters death, Yip Man moved to Hong Kong where, quite by coincidence, he met Leung Jon's son, Leung Bic. Leung Bic accepted Yip Man as his student and ultimately taught him the most advanced stages of Wing Chun.
Some years later in Hong Kong, Yip Man began to teach his own students. One of his most skilled and devoted students, Ho Kam Ming, spent more than a decade learning the art of Wing Chun and was, in fact, one of the few men to complete the entire system under Yip Man. Ho Kam Ming was so highly regarded by the late Grand Master Yip Man that when he fell sick in his later years and had to go to a hospital, Ho Kam Ming was asked to take him there and subsequently requested that Ho Kam Ming accompany him during those times. As a result, the Grand Master revealed many of the fine points of Wing Chun to Ho Kam Ming during his final days. Yip Man also appointed him to assume the responsibility of instructing his private students.
By this time Master Ho had already opened his first school in Macao and another school in Hong Kong and organized the Ho Kam Ming Wing Chun Association which is authorized and approved by the Yip Man Wing Chun Association. Today, Master Ho is well known in Hong Kong and Macao, anhis full contact Wing Chun team which has fought in martial arts tournaments throughout southeast Asia has achieved considerable recognition.
Chicago Wing Chun is, above all, a positive group interested in building friendships as we grow in understanding of a martial art we all love.
We value our relationship with Master Ho and his students, and take every opportunity to participate in seminars or take private lessons.
Teachers and classmates who write articles, published or otherwise, are welcome to have their thoughts posted here for public consumption.
Curt James has written some great articles, over the years, and many are available on his site, linked here.