The interview with Grandmaster Yip Man in the magazine „New Martial Hero“
One of two ever published interviews with the famous Kung-fu grandmaster
At that time there was a magazine called “New Martial Hero”. It sold quite well between the very late 60s and early 70s. In the mid 70s, due to various problems, the magazine’s sales declined until it closed down in the early 80s.
The interview took place when New Martial Heroes magazine was at its peak circulation during the early 70s. The reporter Mok Pui asked Leung Ting if Grandmaster Yip Man would give an interview for the New Marial Heroes magazine. As everybody knows, Grandmaster Yip Man was quite an odd character in some ways:
First of all, he hated to give interviews to the media. Secondly, he hated to take photographs, especially photographs of him in kungfu postures.
For quite a long time prior to Mok’s request, reporters dared not ask him for interviews or information for their publications. Mok Pui On, of course, knew this very well. When Leung Ting told Mok Pui On that the Grandmaster had promised to be interviewed by him, he was more than happy to invite Leung Ting to dinner!
The interview took place in Grandmaster Yip Man’s house. Mok Pui On first took out his notebook and started asking the Grandmaster a lot of questions. He began by asking about how and when Grandmaster Yip Man began to learn Wing Chun in Fatshan. He asked such precise questions concerning some aspects of Grandmaster Yip’s early training that even Leung Ting was eager to learn the answers!
For example, Mok asked “How much did you pay to your si-fu Wah-Kung in the Red-packet at the student-admitting ceremony?”
While Mok was asking questions, Leung Ting helped out by taking photographs of them for the magazine.
After the interview in Grandmaster Yip’s house, Leung Ting suggested that they take lunch in a restaurant call Sam Hei Lau or the “Three Times of Happiness Restaurant”. This was the Chinese Restaurant where the late Grandmaster used to have his breakfast. Leung Ting remembers two things very clearly:
1.Grandmaster Yip Man emphasized very clearly to Mok Pui On that “Wing Tsun is not the same as Weng Chun!”
2. Mok Pui On told Grandmaster Yip Man that he had learnt Weng Chun with his Sifu Chu Chung Man for 13 whole years. He added that there were still lots of the movements he could not master. Grandmaster Yip Man comforted him by saying: “Just be patient. You’ll learn everything one day.”
However, right after Mok Pui On said good-bye and left us, it took no more than two seconds for Grandmaster Yip Man to deliver the punch line!
The ironic old Grandmaster wasted no time and minced no words: “You see how stupid Mok Pui On is? If anyone has to use 13 whole years to learn nothing, he would be better of studying nuclear physics!”
This interview was later printed in New Martial Heroes. Some of its contents were added to coincide with Mok Pui On’s own “Weng Chun” ideas.
The original interview:
… difference between the Weng Chung and Wing Tsun/Wing Chun styles. They think these two clans are just the same style of kungfu using two different names. In fact, the Wing Tsun style is quite different from the Weng Chun style. In Hong Kong, the leader of the Wing Tsun clan is Grandmaster Yip Man, whereas the leader of the Weng Chun clan is Grandmaster Chu Chung Man.
The techniques and boxing sets are also quite different. For example, in the Wing Tsun system there are kungfu sets such as Siu-Nim-Tau, Chum-Kiu, Biu-Tze, Wooden Dummy and the Six-&-a-half Long Pole Techniques. However, in Weng Chun, there are Wooden dummy, Bart-Mo-Dan-Da or “Eight-Single-Fighting-Ways”, Lin-Wan-Kou-Da or “Chain-Punches with Trapping Hands”, as well as the Six-&-a-half Long Pole Techniques.
The reason these two styles are perceived as being the same style is that they have some techniques in common, though some of the concepts are different. For example, both of them apply the Noi-Lim-Sau or “Indoor sickle-like hand” technique, and both of them exert the Chuen-King of “Inch-force”.
Noi-lim-sau is a technique for a practioner to get into his opponent’s indoor-area from outside. Just as though he was using a sickle to cut in. This technique requires elbow-force and a very small circling movement. Therefore it is a very quick counter-attack technique.
Two different Styles from the Same Source
Grandmaster Yip was a Fatshan native. When he was very young, he was quite weak. Therefore, his parents sent him to learn Wing Chun from Chan Wah Shun, the most outstanding student of the famous Dr. Leung Jan.
When Grandmaster Yip described his past, he did so with great warmth. Here is a segment of the interview in its original format.
New Martial Hero: “Did Chan Wah Shun have the nickname Jau-Chin Wah (Wah the Money-Changer)?”
Yip Man: “This nickname does not represent my instructor’s character. Other than ‘Wah the Money Changer’, he had also a less graceful nickname. ‘Ngau-Chin Wah’ of ‘Wah the Bull’. He was the headstudent of Dr Leung Jan”.
New Martial Hero: “This name indicates that Wah the Money Changer was a very bad tempered person who liked fighting all the time, right? How many students did Wah the Money Changer admit? How were you ranked amongst your kungfu brohters?”
Yip Man: “Including me, Wah Kung only admitted 16 students since opening his kungfu school. I was 11 years old when I became his student during his latter years.”
New Martial Hero: “We Chinese have a saying that the last son is the most beloved one. According to the Chinese custom, since you were his last kungfu son, you must be the most beloved student of his. Right?”
Yip Man, smiling: “You’re right. When I learnt under Wah Kung, he was already 70. He was a bit weak at that time. However, he still corrected my mistakes with great patience. Futhermore, he also told his other students to teach me. As a result, my techniques improved at high speed.”
New Martial Hero: “It’s a good question. Let me tell you why. In olden days, people were very strict concerning the teacher/student relationship. Before they admitted a student, they had to know the character of this would-be student very clearly. This is what is called ‘to choose a right student to teach’. Secondly, it also depended on whether the student could afford to pay his school fees or not”. Grandmaster Yip stopped for awhile. He then talked i a rather low tone: “The fact is, not too many people could affordd to pay for such a high school fee. For example: at the time I paid, the red packet for the ‘Student-admitting Ceremony’ had to contain 20 taels of silver. And I had to pay 8 taels of silver each month as my school fee.”
A Lot of Money for Learning Kungfu
New Martial Hero: “How much was 20 taels of silver worth, in terms of your living standards?”
Yip Man, after thinking for a while: “For 20 taels of silver you could marry a wife, say if you did it economically. Also, with no more than 1 and a half taels of silver you could buy 1 picul of rice.” The Grandmaster continued: “That was why, at that time, most of the people who learnt kungfu were rich people. These people could leave their jobs and live in the old temples in deep mountains for training. It is not the same as today when people can easily learn kungfu anywhere.”
New Martial Hero: “After the death of Wah the Money Changer, you left Fatshan and came to Hong Kong to study in St. Stephens’s College. Did you learn Wing Tsun kungfu again when you were in Hong Kong?”
Yip Man, smiling: “Of course I did! And I can say that it was because of a highly proficient Wing Tsun expert whom I met that I learnt the most advanced Wing Tsun techniques.”
New Martial Hero: “Who was that highly proficient expert?”
Yip Man: “It was Leung Bik, the eldest son of Dr Leung Jan. The story of how I came to meet my teacher Leung Bik was really quite dramatic. It’s a long story.”
After repeated requests by the writer, Grandmaster Yip Man started telling this story in detail:
At the time Grandmaster Yip left Fatshan to go to study in Hong Kong, was already very skilled in the basic wing chun fighting techniques. He always fought with his classmates at the school. Although Yip Man was not tall, he was very skilful in fighting techniques. Therefore, he could defeat all his classmates, even those that were much taller and stronger than he. For this reason, he became arrogant for he believed that nobody could match him.
Meeting Leung Bik in Hong Kong
After six months, one of Yip Man’s classmates, surnamed Lai, whose father ran a big silk company named “Kung Hang Silk Company” in Jervois Street of Sheung Wan, told Yip that there was a friend of father’s living in their house. He was in his 50s. This man knew some kungfu techniques. He offered a friendly sparring with Yip Man.
At that time Yip had never been defeated, and so he wasted no time in accepting the challenge. Lai made an appointment to introduce them to each other on one Sunday afternoon.
On that Sunday, Yip went to the house of his classmate. After being introduced to this middle-aged man, Yip looked at him appraisingly. To Yip’s eyes, he looked more like a typical slim-gentleman than someone who really knew kungfu.
After a short, Yip Man frankly challenged the man to a sparring match.
With a smile, the middle-aged man said: “Well, Yip Man, so you are interested in doing some sparring with me. Before your fight me, I can tell you not to worry about me. All you need to do is attack me to any part of my body with your full strength and that’s all!”
On hearing this, the arrogant Yip Man, though apparently still unruffled, was actually so mad that all he wanted to do was to beat this man up!
No sooner did the middle-aged man give Yip Man a hand-signal inviting him to attack than he was subjected to Yip Man’s aggressive rain of punches. However, this man was so quick that Yip Man could not match his counter-attack movements. In an instant, Yip Man was forced to withdraw into a corner. The man stopped at the same moment.
After the first contact, and already defeated, Yip Man could not believe that this man had gained the upper hand so quickly. Therefore, he asked the man if he could try again. Once again, Yip Man was completely controlled by this man. He could not do anything against him! This time, Yip Man knew that he had surely been beaten by a real kungfu expert. Without saying a word, Yip Man went away with great disappointment.
After that friendly sparring match, Yip Man was so depressed that he did not even dare to mention that he knew kungfu.
One week afterwards, Yip was told by Lai that the middle-aged man wanted to see him again. At that time, Yip Man rather afraid and too ashamed to see the middle-aged man again. He told Lai: “I feel too embarrassed to see him again. I am not his match at all.”
However, to Yip Man’s surprise, Lai told Yip that his father’s friend actually praised Yip’s kungfu techniques highly. That was why he wanted to see Yip and talk to him again. Lai started telling Yip Man the secret of his father’s friend. In fact the one who had fought with Yip Man was none other than Leung Bik, the son of Dr. Leung Jan!
After learning the truth, Yip Man thought to himself: “Gosh! That is why he is so good in kungfu techniques. Actually this time I was fighting with a high-rank Wing Tsun expert!”
Immediately Yip Man’s realized what an opportunity this was. He was still not that highly skilled in the kungfu techniques taught to him by his si-fu Wah the Money Changer. This would be the best chance for him to learn the more advanced Wing Tsun techniques. Therefore, he wasted no time in asking Lai, his classmate, to take him to the Kung Hang Silk Company to meet Leung Bik.
Since Yip Man was a genius in terms of learning kungfu, Leung Bik was very happy to teach all he knew to Yip Man.
A few years later, Leung Bik got tired of living in Hong Kong and was thinking of going back to Fatshan. At that time Yip Man had already attained the highest proficiency in kungfu techniques.
Notes by the editor:
This interview with GGM Yip Man is very interesting for several reasons:
1. Because it was one of the very rare interviews he gave, and only his private student Leung Ting could persuade him to oblige.
2. Because it gives a first-hand account of GGM Yip Man’s time as a student of Chan Wah Shun and Leung Bik.
3. Because GGM Yip Man himself confirms that he began to learn from his Si-Fu Chan Wah Shun at the age of eleven. GGM Yip Man’s sons had stated that their father already started at the age of nine.
4. Because it discusses the differences between WingTsun and Weng Chun.
More about these differences can be found in the book “Roots of WingTsun”.