четвртак, 30. новембар 2017.

Yip Man - the man behind the myth

 WARNING : This article may upset , or cause other pscycho-somatic probmels to people who are unable to accept differet oppinions and poits of wiev. If you are one of those people please do not read the following article. 

After Donnie Yen made one of the best Kung Fu movies ,’’ Yip Man” ,interest in Yip exploded .Then add in a sequel and no less than two other versions of essentially the same movie (such as the Grand Master and Ip Man, The Final Fight) and suddenly Yip Man's name is listed alongside of true martial art greats of the past.  WCK community had an interest in Yip Man before this , but after these movies Yip Man became the most famous WCK master of all times and even people who never had interest in Wing Chun have heard his name. While moves present Yip Man as hero, patriot, philanthropist, freedom fighter and most of the best martial master of his time who never lost a fight the truth is a bit different. So let’s answer some question about Yip Man and his style as well as his influence on martial community.
So, what is the truth about Yip Man’s fighting skills? Could he really fight? The answer is, probably not. Yip Man has no documented fights with named fighters. The only people give credence to his fighting prowess are Wing Chun people/organizations. Of course, there are stories about his exceptional fighting skills, but again, these stories come from his students and sons and there is no evidence to support these claims. No one outside Wing Chun circles, more precisely outside the circle of his students and relatives gives him any credit in any way. With true martial artists the story is quite different , Mas Oyama for example was recognized and credited as a fighter in martial circles in general , regardless of the style. In essence Yip Man didn’t do anything to deserve the place he as now besides being connected to Bruce Lee.
Is Yip Man’s Wing Chun an effective martial style? Let’s take a look closer in what Yip Man taught to their students. Here are few examples of “techniques” and “drills” from Yip Man’s linage.
"Fighting technique"

"Fighting Drill"

 There are variations to this kind of training but all Yip Man's students are doing things pretty much the same way. Applying more than one block on a punch and endless exchange of attacks and defenses where no one ever gets hit is what is a certain recipe for disaster. Let’s look how Wing Chun works in real situation against well trained sports fighter.

The truth is, no one in Yip Man’s linage since the style was invented had any fighting experience. Wong Wah Bo and Leung Yee Tai taught Leung Jan during Taiping rebellion time. They found refuge at Leung Jan’s home to avoid fighting. Despite legends Leung Jan never had any fights, his students as well. Yip Man’s teachers , Chan Wah Shun and Ng Chan So have no recorded fights against any opponent. Yip Man as well never fought. He was a member of a wealthy merchant social level and he had no reason to fight. If he had any problems his money would make that problem disappear, that much more in spirit of time and society he lived in than direct confrontation and fist fighting. Since neither Yip Man nor his teachers and Wing Chun ancestors had nay fights he simply couldn’t develop a training system concentrated on fighting. Most of his students never had a fight and the line of development of nonfighting training concept continues. Of course, all of his students claim they had some “secret , underground fights” but no one ever heard about this fights outside Yip Man’s linage circles.  There are also a stories about ‘famous” “rooftops” fights. Here is a recording of one of those fights.

                                                          rooftop fight

There is no need to analyze this , level of these ‘fighters “ is obvious. And there are stories about street fighting experience of some of Yip Man’s students. That may be true but “street fighters’ are usually thugs who prey on weak and easy targets. Here is a fight between two “masters” from Yip Man’s lineage , they both claim they had a lot of street fighting experience and one of them that he is undefeated and the best fighter on the world. What is interesting, it is impossible to see any Wing Chun in this fight.

Emin vs. William 

Besides urban legends it is impossible to find any fighting record of Yip Man and his direct students and that fact explains why Yip Man’s Wing Chun training system is like it is today.If we compare training method of Boxing, Kick Boxing , Thai Boxing , Wrestling and Yip Man’s Wing Chun we can see tremendous differences. Comparing to even light Boxing training , YMWCK is nothing more than light fitness training  system.

Is Yip Man’s “Wing Chun” really Wing Chun? This an interesting question and not easy to answer. What a system must contain to be called Wing Chun. Let’s see first how much of the system Yip Man really knew. He spent 6 or 7 months learning from Chan Wah Shun and less than two years learning from Ng Chan So. There is a claim that Yip Man completed his training under Leung Bik but neither Leung Bik’s existence can be proved nor his connection to Yip Man. So, could Yip Man learn the whole system in less than 3 years? Maybe , maybe not, we will never know the answer to that question. He certainly spent some time with Yuen Kai San and it is possible that he picked up some things from him.  If we close examine the system Yip Man taught in Hong Kong we can see few things , first his system missing several  things that can be found in other wing chun styles. Yip Man’s system doesn’t have san sik forms which are part of all other WCK lineages, also rattan rings form is missing as well soft(bamboo) dummy. Chi sao is pretty simplified in Yip Man’s system and  several Chi Sao platforms  are completely missing  . But the most important thing , the concept of body structure and power generation as well as a system of developing those are completely missing from Yip Man’s system, it is just like having a beautiful sports car but without an engine and wheels. Later , some Yip Man’s students , feeling what is missing in the system tried to fill the gap ( like Chu Song Tin) but they obviously borrowed their “internal’ concepts from Tai Chi and Bagua styles. So, the question remains, can Yip Man’s system , which is missing some key components found in other lineages , be called Wing Chun at all?  
What was Yip Man as person? In recent movies Yip Man was depicted as a true hero, a selfless man who puts wellbeing of others before his own. In movies , he was a freedom fighter and a patriot , fearless warrior and caring father and husband. Even before movies ,Yip Man was depicted by his students and sons pretty much the same way. He was idolized and worshiped like some kind of demi god. In reality , we have not much data about Yip Man but we know some key events from his life and we can draw some conclusions based on his actions. While things were good and he enjoyed his wealth without any obstacles his life was peaceful and he enjoyed careless life style spending time with other people from his social class. With Japanese invasion and later second world war he kept low profile, left his house and found a quiet place outside the city with one of his students where he could be out of sight of all sides involved in a war. He was not a hero , nor a freedom fighter, he escaped and hid himself. After communists took over China he escaped to Macao and later to Hong Kong bringing with him all his family wealth and leaving his family behind on mercy of the communist regime. In Macao he gambled away all his fortune and started to smoke opium. He was an opium user till the rest of his life. As we can see, he cared only about himself and in a moment of crisis he abandoned his family. He started to teach Wing Chun because he had no other skills , he couldn’t do anything and being a martial teacher , especially in a way he taught martial arts was actually an easy job. During his teaching career he had no significant  events , he was just one of many martial teachers of the time and during his 20 years long teaching career he had about 200 students. The only significant event is expelling young Bruce Lee from the school because he was not pure ethnic Chinese.

 What is Yip Man’s legacy? There are few significant things left by Yip Man for future generations.

Martial legacy. Yip Man has no martial legacy, he has no fighting record and his students never competed in any full contact competition. Despite all the legends and stories there is no proof that he or his students had any real fighting skills.

Moral and ethical legacy. Yip Man was the first Wing Chun practitioner who actually wrote the “history” of the style. The story was many other “histories” written at the time , historically inaccurate with the aim to give the style prestige. But in this piece of writing Yip Man started something that later grew and spread over generations of his followers and like cancer is eating a name of the style. In his “history” Yip Man lied about his teachers. In order to give himself and his newly formed style a credibility he invented story about Leung Bik. From that time all his students lied about their time spent with Yip Man and there were numerous examples of document and photography forgeries and of course unsupported stories and claims. Although laying is socially acceptable in kung fu circles to give the style or the teacher “face” since the time of Yip Man that habit grew to enormous proportions. There is one other thing Yip Man started with his “history” tale , bashing other styles and lineages. He said that his first teacher didn’t understand Wing Chun very well, that being physically stronger than average population he was also somewhat mentally deficient and couldn’t understand style well and that he (Yip Man) learnt the original ,advanced Wing Chun from Leung Bik . From that time Yip Man’s students are looking down and talking crap about other lineages and do the same among them self. Infighting and politics became integral part of the system and so important that majority of teachers explain their techniques with words: “ Some people( meaning other styles) are doing it like this and I \we are doing it correctly “. Saying lies, fabricate rumors , even physical attacks on people who cannot defend them self are real Yip Man’s legacy, his martial descendants just do what they have learned from their idol. 

Young WCK  thug molesting old and sick WCK teacher

Socio-political impact. Yip Man was racist, he expelled Bruce Lee from his school because he was not pure ethnical Chinese. Many people overlook this fact like it is not important but in fact it is extremely important. Yip Man’s direct students and some relatives also had racist remarks. Many Chinese today justify Yip Man saying that he was a man of his time. Saying that means only that they agree with what he did. Saying that he was a man of his time does not make racism justified, just like Hitler was a man of his time or slave traders were people of their time. Wrong things are wrong in any era. Even today in 21st century it is not rare to hear that non Chinese cannot learn Wing Chun. 

As we can see Yip Man was just an ordinary martial teacher form the middle of the 20th cetury whose only achievent was conncetion to Bruce Lee which made him and his style famous. If Bruce Lee practiced some other kung fu style, today we would talk about totally different people. Behind all legends and stories is just an ordinary man, no better nor worse than most of the people from his time who strugled through the life the best he could using all the means at his disposal.