The first acquaintance with Yip Man

Ving Tsun, at that time was relatively unknown style of kung fu and as Yip Man was the only known teacher, Wong had never had an opportunity to witness a real Ving Tsun fighter. However one day his cousin introduced him to Ao Yuing Ming, one of Yip’s junior students. Ao was about to have a match with a southern praying mantis stylist named Law Bing. Although Ao was much younger, weaker, and less experienced than Law, it became evident to everyone present that Ao’s martial art was technically much superior. Convinced by this Law decided to learn Ving Tsun. The match ended peacefully and Yip Man had a new student. 

Wong, however, was still quite sceptical of this new kung fu system until he by chance observed one of Yip’s senior student, Lok Yiu, toy with a northern praying mantis stylist named Lam. Lok Yiu was so skilled that he seemed to be making a joke out of the whole event. This impressed Wong enough to incite his curiosity further; he wanted to meet Yip Man. During the day of the lunar new year celebration when most of Hong Kong remains at home, Wong, then only 17 years old, went in search of his next door neighbour, who was none other than Law Bing, at Yip Man’s studio. Law was absent, but there were a few junior student practicing Chi Sau (sticky hands). Wong’s first impression of this method of training was far from flattering. To him it was an impractical form of movement that limited a fighter’s capability to withstand any attack that didn’t come head-on, face-to-face. He made the ultimate error in any martial art circle by scoffing at the style itself, comparing it unfavourably to the sophistication of Western boxing. 

Yip Man was quietly observing all this. As could well expected, one of the students challenged Wong. It turned out to be a short but sweet encounter. Wong’s opponent hit the deck in matter of seconds. Yip, becoming somewhat upset, asked if Wong would like to try one of his more senior students-his own nephew for instance. Wong agreed. 

This time his opponent was a much more serious fighter, but Wong still managed to throw him around the gym like a rag doll. Yip, by now raging inside with all the insult Wong had afforded him, suggested that perhaps Wong might consider trying him on for size. 

Recollecting the last incident with his own boxing coach and noticing that Yip appeared pretty much over the hill in comparison (Yip was 56 years old), Wong decided that this watch was going to be real “pushover.” Even though Yip had very large hands and strong forearms, Wong felt that he could easily tire out this thin old man by using some fancy footwork and moving around him. 

Yip was by far the greater strategist. He carefully manoeuvred his opponent into a corner and just when Wong was halfway through a kick to the midsection, Yip pushed him on the chest knocking him, off balance, into the wall. Yip quickly closed the gap and executed a rapid-fire six to seven blows into Wong’s body just hard enough to let him know that he could have done real damage if he had wanted to. 

Wong was amazed at Yip’s speed and control. He knew he had found a master at last and asked permission to study with Yip. Yip, however, felt that Wong was not really sincere in his request and was just about to refuse him when a much senior student, by the name of Yip Bo Ching, arrived. Bo Ching was in his mid-30s, five-foot, ten-inches tall, and strong as an ox. Everyone had named him “Big Scrub-brush” (dai chat) because he was so proud of himself that they felt he could wear down an opponent with his boasting alone. (in Chinese: exaggerating = scrub brushing).

Wong Shun Leung, Yip Man Wong Shun Leung Wong Shun Leung
Wong Shun Leung, Mook Yan Chong Wong Shun Leung in Hilversum Wong Shun Leung

Here was a newcomer for him to test his skills upon; so he decided to square off with Wong. This time Wong was going to get run through the washing machine. Bo Ching punched and kicked the daylights out of him. Not one to be discouraged however, Wong, on the eighth day of that same lunar new year, formally submitted himself as one of Yip Man’s students. Yip Man gave Wong the nickname “little scrub-brush” (sai chat), because Wong was obviously smaller and younger than Yip Bo Ching and also in the habit of exaggerating.