Story about Yip Man’s teachers is probably the best known among wing chun practitioners today. Written by Yip Man himself and later edited by his students it became a romantic story about learning and practicing one of the best known wing chun practitioners of all times . Like most of the other ‘histories’ this story may be loosely based on some facts , but most of it’s content is pure fabrication, hype and exaggeration.
It is true Yip Man learned from Chan Wah Shun , but careful exam of the time line and different sources shows that Yip Man spent only 6 to 8 month with his first teacher . After famous master died , and I seriously doubt he mention young boy he knew only for short time on his death bed ( like Yip Man’s sons claim), Yip Man continued his study with Chan Wah Shun’s senior student , Ng Chun So. He spent with him around two years before he went to Hong Kong to continue his education . Could he complete the system in this two years we cannot say , neither we can know what he was practicing , today there is no pure Chan Wah Shun’s style , nor Ng Chun So’ style . That part of his training will remain a mystery . Yes, it is possible to learn the system in two years , so he may learned quite a lot in that time .
Now we are coming to the interesting part . The part that includes Leung Bik , son of the famous master Dr. Leung Jan . A part from the fact that there was no evidence to support existence of such a person (Leung Bik) , no documents, pictures , passports, grave site , tax records , nor such a person is ever mentioned in records of other people of the time , how much could young boy in his teens learn and understand . Again He stayed couple of years in Hong Kong and then he returned to Foshan . For years Yip Man worked as a police officer, he didn’t teach wing chun , he didn’t have students , he only practiced in his free time in his old teacher’s Ng Chan So school where Yiu Choi hold classes and his neighbor Yuen Kai San came sometimes . From Yip Man’s side ,stories told by his students leave impression that Yip Man and Yuen Kai San were good friends and equals but that is not truth . Yuen Kai San was Yip Man’s senior and at one point became his teacher . Yip Man’s and Yuen Kai San’s fathers were friends and fellow merchants . Yip family traded opium while Yuen family traded fireworks . At one point angry mob burnt Yip’s mansion and Yip family hid at their neighbor house , Yuen family saved their lives . Yip Man’s father used his friendship and asked Yuen Kai San’s father to convince his son to accept Yip Man as a student. Reluctantly , Yuen Ki San accepted and taught Yip Man some chi sao and superficially ,empty hand forms . Yuen Kay San only taught Yip Man the fixed structure but the system of dynamic structure and its moving through space . Also he taught him only front facing, linear vector rolling hands platform ( tan\ fook \bong ) , which is beginners form of chi sao , but not the other platforms found in YKS and other systems like big huen sao platform, small huen sao platform , free form of chi sao which includes all of the previous platforms with actual moving through space while maintaining the structure . That is why Yip Man’s system today has only one single hand chi sao platform and one double hand chi sao platform , and that is why empty hand forms of Yip Man’s system resemble to forms from Yuen Kai San’s system .
In later years , Yip Man accepted several students but what he taught was visually different from Yuen Ki San’s system but in essence that was an incomplete system without knives form(at least that is what Lun Gai , Yip Man’s student from that period said , Yip Man never taught him knives) and besides visual difference it is actually the same system Yip Man taught later in Hong Kong .
From this we can see that “Leung Bik” was most probably Yuen Kai San , bit Yip Man never used his name because he was never a disciple of Yuen Kai San and he had no permission to teach his system . There is one other important thing, legendary ancestor like Leung Bik , which gives direct connection to the most famous wing chun master of all times Leung Jan gives much more ‘face”, prestige that quiet and Yuen Kai san who lived far from public eye and had only couple of students .
Story is even more interesting if we consider what some of the Yip Man’s students said about Leung Bik. According to Moy Yat , Yip Man’s student and relative ‘Leung Bik “ was actually Fung Wah a student of Leung Jan. Yip Man’s sons and Moy Yat officiated on Fung Wah’s funeral and continue to pay their respect. Whether Yop Man really learned from Fing Wah or nor ( we will probably never know) , this gives the story an interesting twist .
The question still remains , who is hiding behind “Leung Bik’s” name ? Fung Wah , Yuen Kai San , Leung Bik himself or maybe someone else ? Future research may shed some new light on this subject …