Ye Wen (Yip Man)







           Yip Man almost single-handedly popularized Yong Chun (Wing Chun) all over the world, and was considered a martial arts master of an era. He is also well known as the teacher of Bruce Lee.


Yip Man was born in Fo Shan, in the province of Guangdong, to a very large and prosperous family. When he was seven years old, he started learning martial arts from Chen Hua Shun, who had been one of the students of Liang Zan. Chen considered Yip to be his favorite student, and stopped accepting additional pupils after Yip came under his tutelage. Chen's other students, such as Wu Zhong Su, Chen Ru Mian, and Lei Ru Qi, were also very generous to their younger peer. After Chen Hua Shun's death, Yip continued to study kung fu with Wu Zhong Su. When he was sixteen, Yip left for Hong Kong to learn foreign languages. There, he met Liang Bi, the son of Liang Zan, and the two further studied Yong Chun. Within the span of two or three years, Yip, with the guidance of many other martial artists, had become a Yong Chun master.

   There are many tales regarding Yip Man. Once, during a parade, his cousin was harassed by the platoon leader of a local warlord. The platoon leader disregarded the presence of Yip, who was of small built and was dressed like a scholar at the time. Yip ran forward, used his Yong Chun, and defeated the platoon leader in just a few moments. Discontent at defeat in the hands of a scholar, his opponent reached for his pistol. Yip reached out quickly, grabbed the other man's gun, and, using the strength of his thumb alone, pressed down on the barrel and broke it. After the Japanese occupied Fo Shan, they wanted Yip to become the trainer of the military police. Yip rejected the offer. The Japanese sent many martial artists to fight against Yip, but they were defeated one by one. Yip, knowing that he had angered the Japanese, left Fo Shan, and secretly assisted the resistance movement. After World War II, although Yip was a highly regarded martial arts master, he did not establish his own school, but rather worked in the local government.


In 1949, after the end of the Chinese civil war, Ye Wen traveled to Hong Kong. There, he was introduced to several wealthy men by his friend Li Min, which included Liang Xiang, also a martial artist. Liang Xiang wanted Yip Man to become his teacher, and also recommended for him to open up his own martial arts school. The popularity of Yong Chun gradually increased, more schools were opened, and soon it was taught all over Hong Kong.

   In 1956, Bruce Lee became one of Yip Man's students. He was very intense in his training and never missed a single session. However, because he later moved to the United States, he was unable to learn all of the Yong Chun style. Later, after Bruce Lee became famous, he again visited Yip Man, and asked to learn additional Yong Chun skills. He offered an enormous sum of money, and requested Yip Man to personally demonstrate additional Yong Chun skills. Bruce Lee wished to videotape the demonstrations and learn it by himself after returning to the United States. However, Yip refused the request. Many of his students thought it was unfortunate that he was unwilling to take up the offer, considering that Bruce Lee had to conditions to further improve the style.  However, Yip said that if he accepted, it would have appeared as if he were selling his knowledge like merchandise.


     Even when Yip Man was seventy years old, his martial arts skills were still very impressive. There were several instances when he beat up hoodlums who viewed him as an old man and tried to rob him.

     Yip Man, Yong Chun master of an era, died in 1972, some thirty years ago. His spirit, however, will always live among men and he will always be respected by future generations.