Grandmaster Ip Man (aka Yip Man) spent his whole life as a champion of Wing Chun (aka Ving Tsun) kung fu. He is largely responsible for advancing Wing Chun kung fu to its eminence today. Throughout the world, students of various arts such as Ving Tsun, Wing Chun, and Wushu enthusiasts as far away as Hollywood continue to publish articles, write books, and even make movies about Grandmaster Ip Man’s life and achievements.
Grandmaster Ip Man was born on October 14th, 1893 in the Qing Dynasty (Kand Shoui – September 5th in the Chinese calendar) in the town of Fut Shan, within Kwong Tung province which was then located in Lam Hoi county. His birthplace is often referred to as “Lam Hoi” in Kwong Tung.
Grandmaster Ip Man’s father was called Ip Oi Dor, and his mother was Ng Shui. He was one of four brothers and sisters. His oldest brother was called Gei Gak (Grandmaster Ip Man was originally called Gei Man), and his sister’s name was Wan Mei (Sik Chung).
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. During Ip’s time at St. Stephen’s he saw a foreign police officer beating a woman and intervened. The officer attempted to attack Ip, but Ip struck him down and ran to school with his classmate. Ip’s classmate later told an older man who lived in his apartment block. The man met with Ip and asked what martial art Ip practised. The man told Ip that his forms were “not too great”. The man challenged Ip’s Wing Chun in chi sau (a form of training that involves controlled attack and defence). Ip saw this as an opportunity to prove that his abilities were good, but was defeated by the man after a few strikes. Ip’s opponent revealed himself to be Leung Bik, Chan Wah-shun’s senior and the son of Chan’s teacher, Leung Jan. After that encounter, Ip continued learning from Leung Bik. Ip returned to Foshan when he was 24 and became a policeman. He taught Wing Chun to several of his subordinates, friends and relatives, but did not officially run a martial arts school.
Ip went to live with a close friend during the Second Sino-Japanese War and only returned to Fut Shan afterwards, where he continued his career as a police officer. Ip left Fut Shan for Hong Kong at the end of 1949, after the Chinese Communist Party won the Chinese Civil War, due to his officer status in the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party). In 1967, Ip and some of his students established the Ving Tsun Athletic Association (詠春體育會).