Wing Chun is a martial art based on concepts that originated in southern China that focuses on close-range combat and employs striking and “sticking” or controlling techniques. It is a young martial art, with most historians agreeing that it originated in southern China around 300 years ago. According to legend, the Buddhist nun Ng Mui, a Shaolin Kung Fu master, created Wing Shun. Using her martial training and personal experience, she developed a compact form of Kung Fu to exploit weaknesses in other combat styles of the time and give smaller fighters like herself an advantage. They guarded well the new system, and only a few dedicated students could access it. Wing Chun comes after Ng Mui’s first student, a woman named Yim Wing Chun.
On October 14, 1893, Ip Kai Man was the third of four children born to wealthy couple Ip Oi Dor and Ng Shui in Foshan. Ip Kai Gak was his older brother, Ip Wan Mei was his older sister, and he only had one younger sister, Ip Wan Hum. His lineage was prosperous within the Ip clan. His own family had a significant stake in land and business. Their holdings spread across Foshan and the surrounding countryside, as well as Hong Kong, where they owned several businesses.Chan Wah Shun approached Ip Oi Dor when Ip Man was about twelve years old and arranged to rent the family temple as a location for his martial arts school to reopen. What he saw captivated the young Ip Man. Despite being educated in the Confucian manner appropriate for a child of his social standing, Ip Man would rush off after class to watch the strangely lyrical movements of the family temple’s kung fu students. Soon after, he approached Chan Wah Shun and asked to be his student. This request would have put Chan in an awkward situation. Ip Man was a bright but sickly child. It must have seemed unlikely that this bookish youngster would become a great martial artist. Wing Chun gradually spread throughout southern China, evolving as different groups adopted it. It grew in popularity after Grandmaster Ip Man began openly teaching in China and Hong Kong. His students carried on the evolution, spreading Wing Chun worldwide. Many people today are familiar with Wing Chun thanks to the late martial arts superstar Bruce Lee or the popular Ip Man film series.
Furthermore, the initial examination of Ip Man’s early years provides a complete picture of both the individual and his surroundings than is usually provided. We have tried to reconcile contradictory timelines and shed as much light as possible on his true personality. Also, when discussing Ip Man, it is clear that his insights into the essential nature of the art did not stem from his unique skills or the breadth of his knowledge of the Wing Chun system. Ip Man most likely received less formal instruction than many of Chan WahShun’s other students or grand-students. What was most remarkable about Ip Man was his importance in the unfolding story of Wing Chun.