Saturday, November 2, 2013

Yip Man- Origins of Bruce Lee



  Yip Man

Bruce Lee is widely known for revolutionizing on the martial arts during the twentieth  century that would carry onto present day . However, did you know that he was influenced into practice martial arts by one particular master? To popular belief, Bruce was a self-proclaimed martial artist. Contrary to that belief, Bruce turned to a notable master of Gung Fu in his younger years to guide him on his journey to becoming a spectacular martial artist. The master's name was Yip Man. He took Bruce into his thriving gung fu school, teaching him more than just fighting techniques. He introduced Bruce the philosophical aspects of Chinese martial arts, which would further motivate Bruce in creating his own method of fighting called Jeet Kun Do. Although Yip Man was no Mr. Miyagi, he was solely known as Bruce's most affluent figure. Yip Man also established a solid form of gung fu, called Wing Chun, that stood the test of time when other as equally as powerful styles disappeared off the face of existence.  This post expresses the life of a master who went against all odds to make his own art form an apparent part of knowledge all over the globe, inspiring his pupils such as Bruce Lee that would continue his legacy. 

Basic Facts for your convenience from 
  • NAME: Yip Man
  • OCCUPATION: Martial Arts Expert
  • BIRTH DATE: October 011893
  • DEATH DATE: December 02, 1972
  • PLACE OF BIRTH: Foshan, China
  • PLACE OF DEATH: Hong Kong, China
  • FULL NAME: Ip Kai Man
  • NICKNAME: Yip Man
  • AKA(English PRONUNCIATION): Ip Man

The origins of this renown mentor of the Dragon began in Foshan City of the central Guangdong Province, China. He was born on October 1, 1893 as the third child of four to Ip Oi Dor and Ng Shui. During his childhood, Ip Man had the privilege of receiving a high level of education due to his family's wealth. When Ip turned thirteen, his life took a turn for the better. He studied the martial art of Wing Chun under Chan Wah-Shun, which would soon become his life long passion.  However, Chan Wah- Shun died of old age after three years of teaching young Ip. His second eldest disciple, Ng Chung-sok, taught Ip the fundamentals consisting of the majority of techniques and skills of Wing Chun in order to full fill his former master's dying wish. 

Apparently, the art of Wing Chun was invented by a woman. Read more about the evolution of Wing Chun in this following link:

 At the age of fifth teen, Ip immigrated to Hong Kong with the assistance of a close relative, Leung Fut Ting. At Hong Kong, Ip attended St. Stephen's College, which was reserved for the wealthy families or foreigners who resided on the island(Hong Kong). Although Ip was known to be a peaceful as well as quite man, he used his knowledge of Wing Chun on several occasions. On one notable occasion where Ip made use of his martial art's training was when he decided to intervene in a situation where a foreign officer beat a woman. When Ip got in the way, the foreign officer tried to attack him but was quickly dispatched by a few strikes from Ip who utilized his Wing Chun training. A fellow classmate who witnessed the fight brought up the incident to a fellow elderly man who happened to live in the same apartment block as classmate. 

The man invited Ip for an conversation. When the two met, the old man asked Ip what martial art did he study. Ip told him but said that he would not understand his art form. So, the old man asked Ip to show him the first two forms of Wing Chun, which were Sil Lim Tao and Chun Kiu). The old man commented on Ip's forms as being "not to great." After receiving an invitation to train in Chi sau, Ip used this opportunity to prove his skill. The two sparred but an young/entergetic Ip was beaten by just a few strikes from a man who had the appearance of being frail. Apparently, the old man was the son of the master that trained Ip Man's master. After the friendly spar, Ip decided to learn under Leung Bik, the old man. After a nine year period, Ip returned to Foshon with a much improved skill set in Wing Chun. 

Back at Foshan, Ip became a police man. He did not run officially run a Wing Chun school, but taught several friends and relatives during this time.

Kwok Fu and Lun Kai(two of Ip's students/friends) went on to open their own schools in Foshan and
Guangdong area . 

During the SIno-Japanese war, Ip was forced to put all of his WIng Chun activities to a halt and hid at the Kwok Fu village house. These were hard times for Ip. Ip lost his two only daughters due to starvation since the occupying Japanese forces controlled the access to rice . His land was confiscated by the Japanese. His wife became gravely ill. Ip was defenseless as hundreds of innocent Chinese people were slaughtered by the Japanes military.  He only returned to Fohsan once the war in the Pacific had ended. But once Ip returned to Foshan, he faced another problem. By the end of 1949, the Chinese Communist party one two wars: one against the Japanese and one against the democratic forces who soon moved to Taiwan. Ip, an officer of a rivaling Kuomintang political party, headed to Hong Kong leaving his entire family behind when the Communist forces arrived at the city of forces. He landed at Hong Kong once again  in the 1950's, subsequently opening a martial arts school. 

Ironically, business was poor due to students departing after a few months of training. As a result, Ip moved his school twice: to Hoi Tan Street in Sham Shui Po and then to Lee Tat Street in Yau Ma Tei. Once settling in, Ip began receiving students would take the distribution of Wing Chun to a whole new level. Ip had many students who showed great potential, but no student became as notable as Bruce Lee. Bruce was admitted to the Wing Chun school as a young lad, training in Wing Chun under none other the former grand master, Yip Man. Being taught by Yip Man was extremely rare, especially when Ip had to endure the harsh symptoms of throat cancer due to the fact that he was an Opium addict. Out of the hundreds of students that came through the doors of Ip's school, only a select few had the honor of training under Ip. Unfortunately, the majority of students were taught by instructors appointed by Ip Man.  An account from William Cheung, one of Ip's former students proves the fact: “He never taught classes himself,  Well, only in some situations … with the big clients, the ones who could pay very heavily for a private session. At those times, he would often take me along. Then, suppose he was going to teach a wooden-dummy technique, he would show the technique once. After that, I would help the person.” Yip Man’s regular classes generally consisted of forms practice, chi sao (trapping hands) drills, wooden-dummy techniques and free sparring. There was no set pattern to the sessions. Each assistant instructor was allowed to exercise some personal discretion." 

The relationship between Bruce and Ip was very unique. According to Bruce's English essay for his freshman year at the Seattle technical school, he said that Ip taught Bruce to be aqueous, in which Bruce heavily incorporated into his own fighting method. Bruce's tutelage under Grand master Ip would soon blossom over many years as Bruce returned to Hong Kong as a martial arts icon to pay his master a visit. Amazingly Bruce still regarded Ip as his master after so many years of non- contact, in which Bruce invented a martial arts philosophy of his own. A humorous conversation was shared between the two when Bruce returned back to Hong Kong. The connversation in context was that Bruce said, "Do you still consider me as your pupil?" to which Ip cleverly replied, "Am I still your master?" 

In 1967, the Hong Kong Ving Tsun Athletic Association was established by Yip Man and some of his students. One of Ip's sons, Ip Chun, is an living member of this organization. 

By 1970, Yip retired from teaching Wing Chun. He left his flourishing school to his son Ip Chun, who would eventually become a grand master of Wing Chun who still teaches to this very day, and the rest of his disciples.During the final years of his life, Ip enjoyed the luxury of going out for a cup of tea in the afternoons and dining with fellow friends/students. He still provided lessons, but they were privately held at his home. In 1972, a medical check up revealed that he was diagnosed with throat cancer due to the constant abuse of opium and cigarettes over many years. My interpretation of his usage of drugs was to quell down the memories and pain he had to endure during World War 2. Six weeks before Yip's demise,  Yip decided to preform all of the Wing Chun techniques and sets on a Wing Chun dummy, a device where Wing Chun practitioners honed their knowledge by muscle memory, live on 8mm film. 

Here are pictures of a Wing Chun Dummy utilized by Yip Man(from the movie), Bruce Lee and Anderson Silva, a mixed martial artist fighting for the UFC promotion:


 He only managed to preform the Sil Lim Tau, Chum Kiu and the Dummy form, because of his weakened condition due to cancer. He was going to do Biu Gee, the Knife form and long pole. However Ip's two sons and Sifu Lau Hong Lam, a former student of Ip, stopped Ip Man because the Biu Gee, the knives/ full pole weapon demonstration require a lot of energy exertion. Since Ip had many students, he was worried some of them were adapting the system for their own benefit due to their own incomplete knowledge The purpose of  filming the majority of the moves was to legitimize  the art of Wing Chun against all the frauds and posers, before Ip succumbed to his illness. Unfortunately, Yip's condition worsened and spent the final weeks of his life on a hospital bed. He died on December 2nd 1972, a year before the fateful death of his most famous student, Bruce Lee. 

Yip's legacy lives on within his two sons as they continue to teach ambitious people their art form. Others(students of Ip)  proved the style of Wing Chun to be a formidable martial art by defeating other martial artists of different disciplines, such as Western boxing.

To martial artists, Yip could be identified as the man who first exposed to Wing Chun. But to the many fans, such as me, I would regard him as a legend among the greatest martial arts masters that has ever lived, like Mas Oyama, the creator of one of them most prevalent styles of Karate which Kyokushinkaikan. 

Separating Fact from Fiction: 

Once Bruce rose to stardom, Yip Man's name became known to the world. There have been countless movies and television shows made on this humble master of an practical martial art. However, these types of entertainment seem to blow Yip's true spirit/life out of proportion. I want to distinguish the rumors and the facts as best as possible out of respect for this legendary figure. 


1. Although Yip is a grand master in Wing Chun, he did not take down 10 Karate Black Belts at once. That would be very unrealistic in a martial artist's point of view considering that he had to maintain an high amount of awareness and concentration. 
2. Fight against a Japanese General:
This is heavily disputed among historians and fans of Yip Man. There has not been any documentation stating that Ip did face a Japanese general nor did any of his relatives or friends mentioned it. 

Spoiler!!! Read with discretion!!! 

In the first Ip Man movie, Ip managed to defeat General Muira in a no rules fight, after being captured by the Japanese due to their interest in Wing Chun Gung Fu. The two fought and Yip Man defeated the Karateka with ease. Once Ip defeated the general, he was shot by one of the general's subordinates in retaliation due to the fact that the Japanese are very honorable especially during World War 2 and found it almost impossible to accept defeat. I apologize for touching on this sensitive subject.

If this fact were true, the wound that Ip sustained would have contributed to Ip's usage of opium to relieve the pain of the  bullet wound itself. 

3. Yip did not face a British boxer to avenge the death of another practitioner of a different form of Gung Fu. 
As a matter of fact, the portrayal of Yip Man in the the movies:  Ip Man and it's sequel, Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grand Master  was based off of three real figures that had some connection to Ip. One obviously being Ip himself, an unknown figure, and Wong Shun Leung, one of Ip's former students who participated in over a hundred beimo matches  Beimo(比武) was a semi-organised bare-knuckle fight challenge fights in Hong Kong (sometimes referred to as 'Gung fu elimination contests').[18] There were no set rules, protective equipment, or time limits. Wong appeared victorious against almost every single style of Gung Fu in Hong Kong. He even defeated a Russian boxer, Giko. 

Even though I have proved these feats to be false, there are confirmed stories in which Ip did utilize his wing Chun training in situations you do not normally encounter in your day to day lives. So please do not bummed out by all of the busted facts.

Fact of Yip Man's feats: These are the real life stories that might have lead to Yip being recognized as a legend, besides teaching Bruce. Note: I had no prior knowledge of his feats, so don't hold the fact that I had to use resources from another website against me. I even put down the URL. Prepare to be shocked.



There was a wanted robber by the name of Tsu Ping, who was cruel, strong and skilled in martial arts. The local policemen were after him for quite a long time. One day Yip Man's squad was informed that the wanted robber had been sighted in Futshan. Yip Man led some of his detectives to lay a trap for the robber. He briefed his detectives that the robber was ferocious and armed, and that it was dangerous to cross fire with him in a crowded street. He told them that he would deal with him first and that when the robber was overpowered, they would then rush in to apprehend him, but before that they had to hide at some concealed corners. Soon the robber was located in a street. Yip Man walked towards him. Being well-dressed and gentle in outlook, Yip Man didn't cause the robber to be alarmed. The robber passed by casually. Yip Man then turned and called the robber's name. The robber became suspicious and began to run. But Yip Man stepped forward and grabbed the robber's collar who was then trying to draw his pistol. Yip Man grappled the robber's arms. The robber struggled. But Yip Man's arms were too powerful for the robber, and his stance too firm for him. At this moment the other detectives rushed forward and handcuffed the notorious robber and brought him back to the police station. When the robber was questioned, he admitted all charges laid against him. He only regretted that he never dreamt that he would be caught by a gentle scholar, because he had so far not met a real antagonist. Yip Man smiled and said, "You call me a scholar. Do you think you can defeat me with your techniques?" The robber said, "If I am allowed to fight with you bare-handed, I can defeat you within one minute." Upon hearing this, Yip Man asked his men to uncuff the man and promised him that if he could win, he would be set free. The two were then ready to have a free fight in the hall of the detective's office. The robber poised a wide stance, and adopted long bridge-arms, and attacked with thrusting punches which seemed fast and powerful. Yip Man dodged left and right, trying to keep himself evasive at first and avoiding to make direct contact with the robber. He waited for his chance. Suddenly, when the robber had just completed a reverse punch but had not withdrawn his forearm from the attack, Yip Man advanced, grabbed the robber's wrist with his right hand and pressed down the robber's elbow with his left hand, and exerted a powerful downward pull. The robber lost his balance and fell forward. At this moment, Yip Man raised his right leg to execute an upward knee thrust at the robber's chest. The robber fell to the floor and was out stone-cold. Since this incident, Yip Man was well-known as the unarmed scholar-detective of Futshan.


There is another story told by Yip Chun of his father's amazing finger strength which seems a bit unlikely or exaggerated to say the least. There was a man by the name of Yu Yiu. He served in the army during the war, and after the war, he was recruited into one of the divisional patrols of the local police in Futshan, under the command of Yip Man. But owing to the large number of patrolmen, neither Yu Yiu nor Yip Man knew each other. One day, Yu Yiu was patrolling along a busy street. But very soon for some minor reason, he argued with someone in the street. Both men started to shout at each other loudly. It happened that captain Yip Man passed by the crowded spot. He saw that one of the quarrelling men was wearing a badge of his patrolling teams and carrying a pistol and knew that the man must be one of his patrolmen. He wished to stop the quarrel, thinking that a police patrolman's duty is to keep order and peace and should not be arguing with people. He stepped forward to stop the two men from quarrelling. But the patrolman was too proud to be stopped by a well-dressed gentleman such as Yip Man. He started to shout at Yip Man, ordering him to step back and mind his own business instead of intervening their quarrel. As he shouted at Yip Man, he drew his pistol and pointed it at Yip Man. Yip Man realized that the patrolman was clearly losing his sense, and that drawing a pistol in a busy street was a dangerous move. To eliminate the danger, Yip Man rushed forward to stop the patrolman from pointing the pistol at anyone. He got hold of the bullet-chamber of the weapon, meaning to stop the man from mis-firing. The man struggled to free his pistol from Yip Man's grip. However, Yip Man's fingers were so powerful that after a few pulls and twists the bullet-chamber of the pistol broke off to the astonishment of the on-lookers.

Another version of this same incident has Yip Man attending a local festival in the town of Futshan and was accompanied by several young female relatives. Not far away from them was a soldier who also was a spectator of the festival's show. Yip Man had a special dislike for soldiers because it was said in those days that only vagabonds and outlaws joined the military service. Yip Man's female companions were luxuriously dressed and their beauty and graceful manner attracted the attention of this particular soldier. The soldier annoyed Yip Man as he approached them and started to speak disrespectfully to the ladies. Yip Man accused him of having bad manners which resulted in a fight between the two men. To the surprise of the soldier, Yip Man was not the delicate scholar he expected. This infuriated the soldier who drew his pistol and pointed it at Yip Man. At this critical moment Yip Man wasted no time. He quickly snatched the pistol and knocked the bullet-chamber away with his powerful fingers, leaving the soldier standing frightened and dumbfounded. Before the soldier had time to recover from the shock, Yip Man and his companions were already gone.


In another incident, Yip Man was noted for his competence in a duel with a boxer by the name of Kam Shan Mao from Kianghsi Province in Northern China. Kam arrived in Futshan and asked for the post of instructor in the Ching Wu Athletic Association of Futshan. He boasted of his own skill and degraded the standard of the martial artists of Futshan. The directors of the Ching Wu Athletic Association were reluctant to accept him. Nevertheless, he was invited to take part in a tournament, to be held in the Futshan Theatre, in which he was to fight the famous Yip Man. Yip Man at first refused to take part in such a public fight with this stranger, but at the earnest request of Lee Kwong Hoi, a famous herbalist physician of Futshan, he eventually agreed to the fight.
On the day of the tournament the spectators flocked to the theatre where the fight was to be held. To the disappointment of all, Kam was knocked down by Yip Man already in the first minute of the fight. The disappointed spectators became furious and restless, and disturbances at the scene would be inevitable it seemed. They were calmed down only by the fight-organiser offering them some instant boxing shows by a few other pugilists present at the scene.


The second time Yip Man fought for the fame of the Kung Fu circle of Futshan was in a duel with a comedian of the Red Boat Opera troupe. The groupe was at that time visiting Futshan. When the opera was not performing or when the show was over, the comedian of the troupe used to frequent a smoking den (a place where the people of Futshan could legally smoke opium). Non-smokers also used it as a meeting place. Whenever the comedian of the troupe went into the smoking den, he used to boast about his own Kung Fu skills. Once he even demonstrated his 'Phoenix-Eye Fist' in front of the smokers making a hole into the wall with just one punch. It was there that Yip Man encountered this man. The man, proud of his skills, insisted on having a fight with Yip Man who refused to accept the challenge. The fight would never have happened if it was not for the persistent urging of the meddlesome onlookers. To their surprise, Yip Man put his opponent on the floor with only one punch, giving him a bleeding nose.
The spectators cheered Yip Man and asked how he could win the fight so easily. Yip Man told them that, although the man was powerful with his 'Phoenix-Eye Fist' but that he had little knowledge of martial techniques used in fighting. That was why the man lost the fight.


During his time as the chief of police of Futshan, it happened once when Yip Man was having a chat about Kung Fu with some of his subordinates. In his enthusiasm, he took up the Wing Chun stance 'Yee Chi Kim Yeung Ma' and invited four strong men to pull his legs apart, two on each leg. To their surprise, no matter how hard they pulled, they could not cause the slightest movement of Yip Man's legs.


It was recalled by one of the retired detectives of Yip Man's squad that he once witnessed Yip Man's amazing strength. The story goes that one day Yip Man was leading his squad in hunting down a gang of robbers. They arrived at a large farmyard, where the robbers were suspected to be hiding. In front of the main door of the farmhouse there was a gate made of fir trunks as thick as a man's arm. It was extraordinarily strong and compact. Yip Man seeing that the gate was under lock and chain, realised that the robbers had made use of it to stop Yip Man and his team. They were not carrying any tools with them, so Yip Man, without further thought, gave the gate a kick which was powerful enough to break instantly four of the fir trunks forming the gate. They were then able to break into the farmhouse and arrest the robbers.
Best account in my opinion: 


Once, Yip Man was chasing a thief who had just ascended to the flat roof of a house by means of the inside stairway. When Yip Man came up onto the roof, the thief had already jumped over the parapet to the roof of the neighbouring house, which was quite close, and was about to go down the staircase from the roof of that house. Yip Man risking his life rather than allowing the thief to escape, followed suit by jumping over the space between the two roofs. The thief, seeing that Yip Man was hard after him, suddenly slammed the door of the roof stairway towards Yip Man, who had just landed in front of it. This scared all those who were watching him as the door might force him to fall back and Yip Man would fall off the ledge of the roof. But they were wrong, for Yip Man's upper body only slightly swayed backwards and he was able to retain his balance. After this, the people of Futshan were even more convinced of Yip Man's competence in Kung Fu.
The people of Futshan had very high regards for Yip Man's Kung Fu skills, but he had never the slightest thought of teaching his skills to anyone, always keeping the commandment of Wing Chun Kuen, that ‘to spread it is in contrast to the wishes of the founder’. He used to think that Wing Chun Kuen was a deadly form of martial art. The more he knew of the profundity of Wing Chun Kuen, the more he admired it as an art of self defense. That was why he never imagined that he would one day become an instructor of this art.

Although these accounts present Ip to be violent however in personality Ip was a peaceful man and discouraged his students from using their knowledge of Wing Chun to intimidate others. Instead Ip motivated his students into participating in organized competition, rather than just duking it out with the street gangs of Hong Kong. 

Resources and Clips:

Link 1:
Link 2:
Link 3:
Link 4:

List of biographical movies based on Yip Man(the main ones):
All or most of these movies are available on Netflix or any other movie distributor. They are also available for DVD and Blu-Ray.
- Ip Man (released in 2008)
- Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster( released in 2010)
- The Legend is Born- Ip Man(released in 2010, same year as Ip Man 2)
- Ip Man: The Final Fight( released in March 22, 2013)


Ip Man-

Ip Man 2 Trailer:

The Legend Is Born- Ip Man Trailer:

Ip Man- The Final Fight Trailer:


Yip Man vs 10 Karate Black Belts:

Yip Man vs the Twister( A notorious British boxer):
Youtube Video(Finally Found One which is rare since Yip man 2 is supposedly copyrighted , Mind the title please): 

Yip Man vs General Miura: 

Wing Chun Repetitive Straight Lead Punches: Break Down and Analyzed  from the Human Weapon Episode of Gung Fu: 

Yip Man, in  his final years, holding his own against a practioner of Dragon Style Gung Fu and his students in the crime ridden district of Hong Kong, named the Kowloon Walled city to save one his disciples for certain death in an exibition match between Wing Chun and other disciplines(styles).  The walled city was not controlled by the British government; thus being influenced by Triad(the Chinese mafia) rule. High rates of prostitution, drug use, and gambling ran rampant for a twenty year period, 1950's to 1970's. Just think of it as Arkham City people and Yip Man could be identified as the the Dark Knight. 


  1. Really like how in depth you went into the movie. Also noticed that you accidentally posted the video ip man vs general twice.

  2. Yes, I am aware of that. For some unknown reason, the text is overlapping the actual embedded video to the point were it is virtually inaccessible. I will try and see if I can fix that issue. Anyways, thanks for commenting. Any response is much appreciated.